Unique Marketing and Branding: Why They Don’t Matter

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How Brands Grow" by Byron Sharp. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for a better way to promote your brand? Is unique marketing the most effective strategy to use?

Unique marketing creates brands that stand out against competitors, but it won’t help attract customers in the long run. Instead, marketers should focus on continuing their brand that already works, considering most consumers don’t care about branding.

Keep reading for Byron Sharp’s reasoning for why unique marketing is a waste of time.

Don’t Rely on Unique Marketing for New Customers

If it’s impossible to find success by marketing to existing buyers or other specific demographics of consumers, what can marketers do to be more successful than their competitors? Consumers don’t care about unique marketing or branding. They just care about the product and its effectiveness. That being said, marketers should realistically look at what customers care about.

Consumers Don’t Care About Branding

According to Sharp in his book How Brands Grow, targeted marketing fails because consumers don’t care enough about branding for it to impact their purchasing decisions. Customer surveys reveal that consumers typically perceive all brands in a category to be roughly interchangeable—when the differences between brands are slight, consumers fail to see differences at all. This is especially true for the intangible features of a brand: Only a small fraction of consumers ever think about a brand’s image or personality. Even if they do describe a brand as more “trendy“ or “wholesome“ than its competitors in surveys, they frequently change their opinions if interviewed later.

For this reason, any unique marketing that attempts to prove a brand is different or better than its competitors misses the point entirely. Most of the time, consumers buy without ever deliberately comparing various brands and determining which is best for them. Sharp explains that humans have adapted to a brand-saturated world by completely filtering out the vast majority of branded messaging they encounter. Even if you’ve crafted the most convincing value proposition possible for a target demographic, it’s more than likely that your message won’t get past your audience’s mental filter, and they’ll ignore it completely.

Should Marketers Worry About Brand Dilution?

By arguing that consumers purchase without regard to the differences between brands, Sharp attempts to disprove the existence of “positioning.” In Positioning, Al Ries and Jack Trout claim that marketers can create their own market niches by way of unique marketing, which influences consumers to perceive their brand in a certain “position” within a market—for example, as more a luxurious jewelry brand than cheaper alternatives.

In some cases, these two contrasting perspectives lead to opposing marketing strategies. For example, Ries and Trout warn against brand dilution: when a brand weakens its image by offering a wider variety of products. Ries and Trout would claim that if a luxurious jewelry company added a more affordable line of products, they would seem less prestigious to consumers, reducing the demand for their high-end jewelry.

On the other hand, Sharp would likely argue that rolling out an affordable line of products wouldn’t hurt sales of the high-end line. Why not? Sharp would argue that because consumers filter out the marketing that “positions” the jewelry as more luxurious than its competitors, they wouldn’t think of the brand as more luxurious in the first place. There would be no brand image to dilute, so a cheaper line wouldn’t dissuade anyone from buying the expensive line.

Consumers Buy Whatever Brand Is Present

If consumers don’t rationally weigh their options, how do they decide which brand to purchase? Sharp explains that when deciding which brand to buy, consumers ignore the vast majority of options and decide between the few options that are immediately present. This not only means presence in the physical sense (in other words, the options in a consumer’s immediate surroundings) but also conceptual presence: When you think about a product, what’s the first brand that comes to mind?

What consumers think of your brand matters far less than how often they think about your brand. According to Sharp, if a customer recognizes your brand and considers buying it, however briefly, they’re already vastly more likely to purchase your brand than your competitors’ brands, whom they don’t instantly recognize and thus ignore completely. To that end, unique marketing can hurt your business’s chances of being recognizable. If your brand is new and unfamiliar, consumers are less inclined to buy your products.

Unique Marketing and Branding: Why They Don’t Matter

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Byron Sharp's "How Brands Grow" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full How Brands Grow summary :

  • Why everything you know about marketing is wrong
  • An unpacking of the unsubstantiated marketing myths that business schools teach
  • The psychology behind consumers’ purchasing decisions

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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