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Brand Relevance vs. Preference

If your customers can choose a product from you or from your competition and only compare prices, quality, customer experience or service, your business is faced with a Brand Preference Competition. In other words, you are operating in the exact same market with your competition without having a real unique selling proposition. In this case, you have only been making incremental innovations to your products or services, and you only win over your competition because your brand is better than the competition.

However, if you can make substantial innovations to your product or service, your brand wins because there is no competition. Your improvements have become a must-have to your customers. David Aaker calls this Brand Relevance Competition. He says companies should look at underserved segments and watch their customers closely to find out what substantial improvement can increase their brand's relevance. Marriott has done just that by observing hotel guests and developed a substantial improvement in several areas. They stepped in the shoes of guests to find out where their pain points were.
Aaker also mentioned cases where companies partnered up with a customer or a business partner to create a new substantial improvement in the industry.
Following this strategy, Steve Jobs has created six sub-categories in the 10 years while he served as CEO of Apple. These were:
  1. News and Newspapers  
  2. Computers 
  3. Television 
  4. The Music Industry 
  5. Transportation and Accommodations 
  6. Photography 
  7. Apps for Business and the Business of Apps
But timing is important.
Chrysler Mini Van went 16 years without competition
Sub Category Exemplar defines and connect
Market the sub category and not the brand
You don't need to be the first but the early market leader
You need to be an Authentic Brand trust reliability
Create barriers for competition: execute over the top, continuously innovate and get beyond functional benefits
Brand relevance is not only an opportunity but also a threat because you have to defend your position.

You do not merely want to be considered the best of the best. You want to be considered the only one who do what you do. 
By Jerry Garcia, the grateful dead


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