Differentiation vs Distinctiveness

Differentiation’s role in marketing strategy is rethought in this journal article (which builds on an earlier report for corporate members). It presents a small mountain of varied empirical evidence, including direct measures of perceived difference:

Romaniuk, Jenni, Byron Sharp, and Andrew Ehrenberg (2007), “Evidence concerning the importance of perceived brand differentiation,” Australasian Marketing Journal, Vol.15 (2), pages 42-54.

(Download journal version of differentiation)

Differentiation (a benefit or “reason to buy” for the consumer) and Distinctiveness (a brand looking like itself) are different things. This isn’t just semantics, as any lawyer or judge will tell you. Distinctiveness (branding) is legally defensible, while differentiation is not (other than time limited patent protection).



9 thoughts on “Differentiation vs Distinctiveness

  1. Pingback: Memories affect noticing – of brands and advertising « Marketing Science

  2. Pingback: ADVERTISING 2020: A POINT OF VIEW FROM HAVAS WORLDWIDE NEW YORK | Havas Worldwide Prosumer Reports

  3. Dear Professor,

    In the book Marketing : Theory, Evidence and practice , it has been mentioned that when we are advertising for new brands, it is important we should not talk about benefits of category codes as they are normally associated with Market leaders or other brands.
    So let us assume a hypothetical situation
    I have a new brand with distinctive brand assets like Logo, Name, colour and I advertise the new brand with pack shot, Brand name, consumptions shot etc. However I also mention the benefit of a new brand which turns out to be category code benefit. Will this increase mental availability of new brand or will it increase mental availability of Existing market leader ? Will be grateful if you can clarify.
    Thanks for a wonderful book ! There are critical questions/ case studies which are lovely. Will appreciate if there is any discussion/answer key available for the same !

    • Whenever we advertise we advertise the whole category, it’s unavoidable – as we do what consumers to know what it is we are selling. But we want to maximise the benefit for our brand, and that means making sure that we look like us, not a competitor brand.

      This is particularly hard for a new brand, as the value of its distinctive brand assets will be low – few people will know that the belong to that brand. So it become extra important NOT to look like another brand in the category. Stay away from using colours, shapes, fonts, style that already belong to other brands.


      • Hi all
        Let’s say you’re an existing category brand that has ideated / launching an added benefits/premiumised NPD with particular functional advantage, new to category, albeit still relevant to the category; and advertises this in it’s distinct style/assets etc does this then become a ‘Distinct advantage’ or even distinct differentiation – is that worth shooting for or preposterous?

  4. An old thread, but hopefully still plugged in…

    In Marketing: TEP, p,50: “Effective advertising often taps into existing memory structures consumers have concerning the product category. This is one of the (good) reasons why much advertising in a category shares many similarities…you will see that each different brand makes use of many of the same category-relevant cues.”

    Is it fair, then, to say that although you want to be as distinct as possible, you don’t want to go too far? Atom Bank in the UK recently produced some incredibly distinctive work, that doesn’t suggest “bank”. Is this bad practice? https://www.prweek.com/article/1660385/frank-creates-outdoor-ad-campaign-atom-bank

Please comment on this article if you wish

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s