Building Your Brand By Never Talking About ItIn an overcrowded marketplace where there are hundreds of other competitors threatening to steal your consumers, brands have two options.

The first is to try silencing the competition.  Yeah, that’s not cool, and it’s also pretty much impossible in a technology-driven world. But that hasn’t stopped some brands from trying. According to marketer Jay Bear’s latest novel, Youtility, some retailers are disabling Internet access or using sensors to detect if a consumer is accessing the site of a competitor, and then providing a counter offer of their own. In doing so, these retailers hope to retain a person by forcing them down the purchase tunnel in a creepy, tyrannical kind of way.

More than being creepy and tyrannical, it’s also just flat out naïve about consumer behavior. Consumers today don’t want to be in an exclusive relationship with a single brand. They want to do some testing and quickly move on to the next thing that provides a better product or service.

The second option is to differentiate your brand … by not talking about your brand. Rather, it’s all about focusing on the customer. As Baer writes, providing a unique value to consumers that goes beyond what a company is offering them is the key to success. By connecting with the target audience, brands gain the advantage that will help them stand out against the competition.

Beauty retailer Sephora, for example, created a multi-faceted personalized shopping experience for consumers who shopped in their stores. By embracing technology, Sephora provides in-store shoppers with iPads that connects buyers with their personal shopping history and other information. If a shopper forgets what mascara she last purchased or wants to read reviews for one she’s never used before, she can easily search this information via the handy dandy iPad.

So which company would you rather be—the tyrant that’s blocking the Internet, or the innovator that’s using it for its advantage?

Thought so.

Keeping the Consumer First

You don’t have to invest in a bunch of iPads to make your brand stand out—it can take a variety of forms, such as content marketing or even a useful app. Whatever it is, it’s vital that it remains completely audience-centric.

To do so, you need to forget about the appeal of being sensational. Today, all brands are competing to be the funniest, craziest, coolest, fill-in-the-blank-est just to get their 15 minutes of fame. But these guys are missing the point. Instead of focusing on the next piece of attention-grabbing, viral content you can create, you must direct your attention on what’s going to be more substantial and longer lasting. And it all comes back to discovering what consumers need—sometimes even before they know it exists— and providing it to them.

Content marketing is an “all or nothing” kind of deal. You can’t embrace the name of it, re-write the rules, and expect to still create trust and expand your reach.

So be different. But do it in a way that benefits your consumers, because in the end, they’ll choose you.