6 Steps to Differentiate your Brand

By Piers Schmidt

How should you develop a brand proposition that is truly special and different – special to your customers and different from your competitors? Here are six steps to achieve that distinction.

Opinion Piece

In a previous piece titled “The proliferation of lifestyle brands: Differentiate or Die”, the lack of differentiation among the rapidly growing number of new hotel brands was highlighted. I concluded the piece by counselling that new brands, regardless of segment, need to work harder to cultivate genuine points of differentiation. 

The question then arises of how to cultivate difference. 

How can you develop a brand proposition that is genuinely special and unique- special to your customers and unique enough to set you apart from your competitors? 

Here are six steps to achieve that distinction: 

  1. Pinpoint the white space

To differentiate anything, you need to identify from what. Understand the competition. Who do they target? What is their promise? Their points of distinction? How much do they charge? Using this data, map the market and pinpoint the white space. This is your opportunity.  

Cluster areas need to be avoided as it leads to a “me-too” concept. Rather, find and confidently occupy the gap. Herein lies the basis for a successful brand with inherent potential for longevity.  

2.  Know your customer 

To define who you are, what you do, how you do it and where you are going, you need to know your customer precisely. Too many brands fall into the trap of blanket targeting millennials, a large and diverse audience which serves poorly as a segmentation. A loose age range of people between the ages of 25 and 37 is not a target.  Customer profiles should be drawn using key psychographics: their attitudes, distinct wants, needs and behaviours that arise. 

Think about who they are, what they do. Where do they live, work and play? Do they have hopes, dreams and aspirations? Developing “personas” that are richer than loose demographic statements will enable the development of concepts that genuinely speak to customers. 

3. Uncover the unmet needs

For a brand to be authentic and unique, it should meet the needs that other brands do not or cannot. With a customer defined and their world explored, interrogate findings and research for fresh insights into the unmet needs of your personas. Be weary of being seduced by trend forecasters with their guarantees of future salvation.  You don’t need another generic report telling you that travellers prefer experiences over products or that wellness is the next big thing. This knowledge has become commonplace.

Genuine insights are hard to reveal and you will have to work the evidence over diligently. Trust your instinct and experience and revelations will eventually emerge.  In discovering unmet needs, you are onto something. 

4. Determine your brand purpose

A clear brand purpose relates to customer’s unmet needs. The question you need to ask yourself is what is your raison d’être and how will it change your customer’s world? Too many hotel brands seem to be founded on either an interior design or programming concept but these should really be the product of a clear governing purpose, not a purpose within itself. 

5. Making a promise 

With an inspiring purpose, you can prepare to make your promise. What will your brand offer the guest? How will it help you to fulfil your purpose? Think about how you will make them feel.  What will they experience if they stay with you? 

The purpose of LUX* Resorts is “to help people celebrate life”

The promise of the brand is a “lighter, brighter holiday experience”

This promise directly contributes to the brand’s purpose. 

Your promise does not need to be complicated or inflated but a simple statement to what your customers expect from your brand. 

6. Operationalise across hardware, software and service 

It is common knowledge that when you make a promise, you’re only as good as your word. But in hospitality, this principle extends to your every deed.  The last and most important step is to operationalise your brand strategy (steps 1-5) across all brand hardware (architecture and design), software (guest experiences and programming) and service (people and behaviour). 

For a brand to be more than just words, it must be activated and animated at all key touchpoints. Each encounter should be consistent with your purpose and promise. LUX* cannot open an outlet that’s dark and heavy and remain constant to its promise. 

The more each encounter, experience and engagement is consistent with a rigorously and creatively differentiated strategy, the greater the brand’s chance of establishing and sustaining equity and returns in the long run. 

This article was first published by Hotels on 18 July 2017 

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