Industrial Branding: Differentiate From Your Competition

Posted on May 9, 2013 by Kerry O'Malley


EVERY company has a differentiator.

Take 3 brands of high performance, industrial lubricants.  Let’s assume that each company basically does the same thing.  However, a potential customer may see one company as the most innovative; another as having the best quality products; and the third as the most flexible, the most in tune with their customers’ needs.  Each of these companies probably possesses the 3 attributes to a certain extent, but there can only be one company in the position of “leader.” Having the leadership position for any significant value to the customer offers an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.  It is the same whether it is pump OEM’s; corrosion control companies; safety service companies – it makes no difference.  If there are competing companies that do the same thing, each “brand” will be seen differently and will have a position on which to differentiate them.  Even if your value is that your products are the least expensive, this is still a differentiator.  There will always be buyers who are only interested in price.

Why don’t more industrial companies take advantage of the opportunity to separate themselves from the competition?

This is Marketing 101, but it’s surprising how many B2B industrial companies do not look at the marketing side of their business strategically, or have a plan to manage their brand.  As I said in the first installment of this series, most industrial companies are low on the branding ladder.  They struggle to keep a consistent look across their business cards, forms, brochures, ads, website, and social media pages.  Forget about having a brand identity that is reflected in everything the company does.

The most likely reason for this is the very nature of a manufacturing, or industrial service company environment.  They are operating lean so everyone is stretched; there are engineers or other technically trained individuals who are responsible for sales and marketing (an oxymoron); there is an inherent disregard for marketing in general, probably because these companies are dominated by left brain individuals; the director or VP of marketing is probably traveling a great deal and doing more selling than marketing.  This is just a partial list of the things I’ve seen in my 30+ years of marketing within this environment.

It’s simple: but it’s not easy.

Although the example I gave at the beginning seemed simple (and sometimes it really IS that simple), going through a differentiation (or value proposition) process is not the easiest thing to do. There will be many differing opinions within a large organization about exactly WHAT the company’s differentiator is. If the process is managed internally, more often than not, it will go off-track. Why? There will be individuals who want something that is more goal oriented, and those who want something based in today’s reality.  Some will want complexity while others prefer to keep things simple.  There will be those who want to keep the process internal, while others want an outside or independent viewpoint. In short: war of the worlds.

The smartest way to handle this process is to let an outside marketing professional manage it for you. I know, it sounds like I’m plugging my own company; but I spent 17 years in manufacturing companies before I started my own business.  I don’t say this solely as a marketing consultant.  I also say it from the perspective of someone who has BEEN in executive marketing roles in manufacturing companies.  The process will produce the best results if you let an outside marketing expert BE a marketing expert. Do your research and find one who understands your industry and industrial branding.

How does “differentiation” relate to a brand strategy?

How you differentiate your company will determine your value proposition, or brand promise.  Your value proposition should answer these 3 questions:

  1. What objectives or unmet needs does your company provide its customers?
  2. What is the quantifiable offer that your company provides to meet customer needs?
  3. Why would a customer select your company over your competitors?


Your value proposition is the core message that should be communicated through your brand strategy, which is how you plan to manage your brand.

A purposeful industrial branding strategy is certainly not the be all and end all of a successful company’s marketing efforts. However, in a world  where there is so much competition that everything begins to look the same, determining your differentiation and executing a brand strategy can certainly help a business stand out or at least look a little different than its competitors.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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