Differentiation vs distinctiveness

Are you clear on the unique qualities that make your brand stand out from competitors? When it comes to conveying the individual qualities of your brand to potential customers, two key approaches are important to consider: differentiation and distinctiveness. 

Both are essential tools for businesses seeking to capture the attention of and relate to their target audiences and carve a niche in competitive industries.  

In this blog, we explain how to use the two approaches effectively, and why we feel the pair can work in tandem, rather than in competition. 

Brand differentiation 

Brand differentiation relies on highlighting any unique qualities that set an organisation, product or service apart from its competition. When you look to differentiate your brand, you can consider what your purpose is, what’s different about your approach, and whether you have groundbreaking products, services or things you do differently. 

We’ve worked with many organisations over the years to unlock what truly makes them, their products and their services different. If you are unsure on what differentiates your brand, rest assured that often, there are some hidden gems – they just need uncovering! If your approach is largely the same as competitors then you can either create a way to differentiate, or you can focus on being distinctive instead – which we’ll cover shortly in this article.

But, for now, here are some of the pros and cons of using a differentiated brand approach: 


Competitive advantage: Differentiation can provide a competitive edge by offering something that others can’t, meaning customers with specific needs are more likely to choose your product. 

Enhanced perceived value: A differentiated product or service can often command higher prices if customers perceive it as better quality than its competitors. 

Loyalty and customer retention: Differentiation fosters customer loyalty by creating a strong bond between the brand and its customers, who will keep coming back due to your product’s unique features or your unique approach. 


Costly: Developing and maintaining unique features or qualities can be expensive as you need to continually invest in and innovate your infrastructure, talent, and technology. 

Limited reach: Differentiation can sometimes limit your target audience if your product or service becomes too niche. But this can also be an advantage if an untapped market is there, with limited or no current competitors serving it. 

Risk of copycats: Competitors may try to copy your differentiating elements, meaning your product may lose its unique appeal over time. 

Brand distinctiveness 

Brand distinctiveness is all about crafting a memorable brand identity that goes beyond any physical products or services. When done right, distinctiveness can make your brand instantly recognisable. Having a distinctive brand is key for every B2B organisation, but if you are finding it hard to differentiate your brand, then making sure it’s distinctive is even more important!  

Here’s a look at the pros and cons: 


Brand recognition: Distinctive brands can be more easily remembered by customers, potentially making them more likely to choose your products over less distinct competitors. 

Enduring appeal: Brands that focus on distinctiveness can maintain their appeal, even as trends and market dynamics change over time. 

Versatile marketing: Distinctive branding can be applied to various products or services under the same brand umbrella, so your success can extend across multiple products or even industries. 


Risk of oversimplification: Oversimplifying your brand identity in the name of distinctiveness could make it appear bland, reducing its appeal. 

Time-consuming to build: Building distinctiveness requires a well-thought-out brand strategy and can be a lengthy process. 

Initial investment: Creating a unique identity and maintaining it is a tough task and may come with increased costs if there isn’t a point of differentiation to focus on. 

The balanced approach 

The good news is, businesses don’t have to choose only one of differentiation or distinctiveness, and the most successful brands know how to strike the perfect balance between the two.  

Understand your audience: Understanding the needs of your target audience will help you strike the right balance and create a brand that really resonates with your customers. 

Invest in branding: Develop a strong, distinctive brand identity while maintaining differentiation in your product or service. 

Continuous innovation: Remember to keep updating your products or services so they always feel fresh and unique, while also maintaining a consistent and memorable brand image. 

Adapt and evolve: Even if your service or product is performing well, don’t be afraid to be flexible and adapt to changing market conditions. Balance your brand identity with evolving customer preferences. 

Remember, differentiation and distinctiveness don’t have to compete, but striking the right balance is a delicate process. By weighing up both approaches, the two can work together in harmony to create powerful brands that truly stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on their audience. 

Are you interested in developing your brand strategy for differentiation, distinctiveness and ultimately brand equity? Embrace Marketing has extensive expertise in brand strategy, value proposition and brand identity development for B2B and not-for-profit organisations. Email hello@weareembrace.com for an initial chat or visit our branding page for more on our approach. 


This latest thinking article was written by:


Jack Lenton
Content Manager