How Energized Differentiation Separates Great Brands from the Pack



“You were born an original.  Don’t die a copy.” — John Mason

In a world that’s over-crowded and over-flowing with competition, what makes some brands stand out?   I’ve been trying to answer that question, and then I came across The Trouble with Brands, an article by John Gerzema and Ed Lebar.

It turns out, the answer is Energized Differentiation.

That’s the term Gerzema and Lebar use for great brands that stand out in how they communicate excitement, dynamism, and creativity.

Why Does Energized Differentiation Matter

Why does that matter?    It’s actually a really big deal.

According to Gerzema and Lebar, “The unique measure of energized differentiation establishes a direct link between brand momentum and creativity, financial earnings, and stock performance. “

They also found that, “The more energy they have, the greater consideration, loyalty, pricing power, and brand value (as a percentage of firm value) they command.”

On the flip side, It’s also a big deal because it turns out that the classic way of measuring brand equity, by measuring 4 attributes (trust, awareness, regard, and esteem), just isn’t working anymore.

Whether you are a solo-preneur, a blogger, a company, or a corporate warrior, differentiation is the name of the game.  And Energized Differentiation is how you win.

3 Keys to a High Energy Brand

According to Gerzema and Lebar, the three keys to a high energy brand are:

  1. Vision – how the company presents leadership, convictions, and reputation.
  2. Invention – how consumers perceive innovation in the design or content of the product or service.
  3. Dynamism – how the brand creates a persona, emotion, advocacy, and evangelism.

Some examples of high energy brands include Adida, iPhone, McDonald’s, Nike, Walmart, JetBlue, and Virgin Atlantic.

Energy is Where the Action Is

Gerzema and Lebar write:

“But energy is where the action is. It reflects the consumer’s perception of motion and direction.

It sustains the brand’s advantages. High-energy brands create a constant sense of interest and excitement.

Consumers sense that these brands move faster, see farther, and are more experiential and more responsive to their needs.”

I like the visionary, fluid and flexible picture this paints.

Differentiation is Offering, Uniqueness, and Distinction

According to Gerzema and Lebar, differentiation is how a consumer perceives three brand attributes:

  1. Offering – the products, services, or content.
  2. Uniqueness – the brand’s essence, positioning, and equity.
  3. Distinction – the reputation of the brand.

You can take a look at your offering, uniqueness, and distinction in light of the three keys to a high energy brand.

Relevancy is Still Queen

Gerzema and Lebar write:

“Without relevance, the brand will languish. The brand may stand out with energy but have no meaning to consumers.

Relevance is the pathway to strong consideration, trial, preference, and ultimately share of wallet.

This is especially important in today’s downward-spiraling market.”

This makes perfect sense.  The way to stay connected is to stay relevant.

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  2. Wow this is dynamic information for me – I am watching Brene’ Brown just leap out in front with her work and presentation on getting calm and honest – right down to her recent TED talk…I am sharing much of the same material that Brown shares, but her 40 something humorous energy is truly presenting the material as something folks will want to achieve – finding wholeheartedness. I still think only about 20 out of a 100 will it make a difference in their lives, but Brown has caught their imagination with a different approach…

    I believe I have my reader’s trust but not enough dynamic energy…Oh I am thinking about this one long and hard…

    I used your agile results to push me towards paying off my debt…it really works…now I am using it to make a plan to be able to retire…and have funds.

    Thanks you on many fronts 🙂

  3. Hi JD,

    I love the opening quote “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.” — John Mason

    That is so important as it is easy today to get caught up in forgetting our own uniqueness. it is important that we say true to our own self and the gifts we have to offer the world.

  4. People can feel the energy behind a product. People love Apple because they care. They care about every step of the process. They may get it wrong in some cases, but people can live with the mistakes.

    People can see how much care (time and energy) went into a product. The more valuable the more likely they are going to share with their friends.

  5. Interesting points. I imagine it’s even easier these days to communicate excitement, dynamism, and creativity in the world of social media.

  6. J. D.

    This is really interesting. I’m not sure how it translates in my world, but I am very intrigued by it. Thanks for turning us on to this.

  7. @ Patricia — I underestimated the value of intensity and shaking the tree. Just like cycles of change are getting shorter, standing out with unique value is becoming more important.

    @ Suzie — You’re right and the irony is that a lot of things get easier if we unleash a version of our best unique selves.

    @ Karl — Energy is where it’s at. This really speaks to the power of taking action and making things happen. As you say, it’s not about getting things right, it’s about stepping up to bat. From there, it’s learning and responding.

    @ Vered — I would say it’s easier and harder. Because it’s easier, there’s more competition so rising above the noise can be tougher.

    @ GutsyWriter — I would have thought so, but that’s part of the surprise in the article. I think the heart of it might be that it’s necessary, but not sufficient. It’s like “Old Reliable” doesn’t stand out in today’s brand crowd.

    @ Sandra — From a brand standpoint, it’s got me thinking how I can inject some energized differentiation at work and into my blog to make my unique value pop.

  8. Hi JD .. it’s standing out in a crowd, being a leader, acting as a leader .. while being compassionate and helping others .. and promoting your own products or self, or brand .. without overegging ‘you’ .. “being there” all the time ..

    Energised and vital – essential elements of a fun productive life ..

    Enjoy tomorrow – Thanksgiving .. cheers Hilary

  9. @ Hilary — Well put. I think there’s a certain magic in finding your sweet spot for creating amazing value for your tribe, while funding your life style, and creating your growth.

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