This small business owners’ take on how those words should influence your brand strategy.

First….I have to say it… “Different” is being used as an adverb when it is actually an adjective and should have an “ly” at the end to be grammatically correct. Thanks for being patient. I had to get that off my chest.

Despite the intentional faux pas, Steve Jobs used this phrase to redefine the Apple brand, and to differentiate his company from his competitors by sharpening his focus on what made Apple Apple (at this point in tech history, it definitely wasn’t their balance sheet). The slogan came to encompass everything about Apple…their corporate culture, their dedication to creating insanely good products, their focus on creating the customer experience. It not only described the company, but drove its employees to live up to its’ message. The goal of “standing out” from the competition was eventually won as evidenced by the fact that they have become one of the most valuable companies on the planet and have competed and bested every other tech company on every level except one…price.

And they still won.

Their strategy makes a bold statement about the importance of branding and how it can influence customer perception and behavior, and give business owners an advantage when competing for market share.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

Therefore, it makes sense to understand that good branding is not just about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your customers, potential or otherwise, to see you as the only one that provides a benefit or solution to their problem. Great branding, on the other hand, is so much more, and this is where Apple made the leap with ‘Think Different.’ and continues to do so. It’s more about building brand value, equity and brand personality by creating and leveraging those intangibles that a brand should deliver (emotional and psychological benefits).

Think about this for a moment: if you had a choice of a free laptop computer, and your choice was between a brand new top of the line Apple Macbook Pro and a brand new top of the line Dell, Lenovo, IBM, Microsoft, etc etc, which would you choose? Since price is not an issue, in all likelihood, it would be the Apple Macbook Pro, no? Well, why is that?

The prevailing wisdom is that Apple products are generally perceived to be the best product (i.e., the computer most suited to solving your computing problem), the most valuable, AND the most expensive. But the Apple brand is really an ‘experience’. Equity has been built into the Apple brand given its ability to successfully deliver unique benefits on a practical, emotional and psychological level.

Yet, despite declining PC sales around the globe (mostly because of Apple creating the iPad), PC computer sales are still robust. I’m sure you’d agree that this didn’t happen by accident.

Building unique brand equity is unbelievably important for owners of any size business as there will always be competition for market share at every level and the battle for customers is daily and ongoing, more so in industries with parody products and claims and no perceived differences by consumers.

The moral of the story is that it’s important to take the time to identify and to define those things that make your company unique and to start the process of developing a brand, building value and equity overtime. It should be the foundation of all of your marketing communication and represents the sum total of your promises to your customers. A clearly defined brand, carefully crafted, will shape the perception of your company, and the experiences your customers have with it.