By Jack O’Grady

A brand can be much more than an identity for your business; it can be a key difference-maker that sets you apart from the crowd. Brands that go that extra mile are competitive brands, and a lot goes into putting one together. 


A competitive brand happens when a business specifically gears its branding to meet an unmet need of consumers in their market. Just as businesses create products or services to offer what no one else does, they can create brands that fill a previously vacant position in consumers’ minds. 


The process for building a competitive brand is all about identifying the intangible. Not an easy task, but if you follow these steps you’ll find your edge:

Start your competitive brand at the ground-floor

Before you look into making your brand competitive, take a moment to check that you’ve got a solid foundation. A competitive brand starts with a developed brand, one that’s true to your values and accurately reflects the unique qualities of your business. 


Rushing into a brand transformation could leave you with a sports car and no engine, so take the extra time to define who you are before thinking of how you can make those qualities a selling point. 


As a quick checklist, make sure that you can answer these questions before you think of a brand transformation:


All of these questions are paramount to answer, but the last one is a critical building block for competitive brands.  


Getting a birds-eye view of your competition

From an owner’s perspective, it can be easy to identify your business’ unique offer. Unfortunately, your consumers don’t have the same insider view, and might not even connect with what you think makes your brand special. 


Bridging this gap and finding where the consumer wants your brand to be is the key to creating a competitive brand. And it starts with thoroughly assessing your market.


Most business-owners know plenty about assessing their competition, but brand-building asks you to look at more than just what the other guys are offering. Take those same questions you asked about your own brand and apply them to your competition. 


You can make these evaluations on your own or conduct market research. If you have the time and resources, conducting real research is always preferred. Surveying consumers about your brand and its competition can lead to illuminating insights that create winning brands.  


A useful framework for organizing this evaluation is the classic SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You should be identifying what internal strengths and weaknesses your brand has in relation to the other guys, as well as what your competition is doing that you could capitalize or keep an eye on. 


How to find the white spaces that work for you

The goal of this research is to find your consumers’ unmet needs. Once you know what your brand and all of its competition offers, as well as what the consumers are looking for, white spaces should start to emerge. 


A white space is a consumer desire that no brand is fulfilling. In the world of branding, these white spaces are much less tangible. For example, a wine company might identify a white space when they find many consumers wish there was a more “laid-back” wine brand that didn’t feel cheap. If no brand is giving that experience, they’ve just found a white space. 


White spaces are where competitive brands are born, since they’re open market space that you can move into and claim as your own. While other brands might move over to copy you, being the first one to make the change is an immediate and usually long-lasting advantage. 


While white spaces are exciting opportunities, remember that every competitive brand starts with a good brand that knows itself. If you identify a white space that your brand is equipped to move into, consider holding back or approaching it from a different angle. 


Consider the wine example. If that wine company was a well-known manufacturer of high-end beverages, it may alienate too much of their loyal base to move into this new white space. Instead, they might launch a partner brand focused on less-expensive, quality wines with a relaxed attitude. 


As always with branding, don’t rush and stay honest.