We often talk about differentiation in branding with such a hype that we forget the basic objective of differentiation. Why do you need to be different? Is it just for difference’s sake, or are there other reasons behind it?
You need to be different so that the difference catches your customers’ attention, they value those differences as important to them, and thereby customers start preferring your brand over others (result of desired positioning). How about if you copy the differences of other brands and paste those in your brand? Then your differentiation propositions are as same as theirs. As a result, you get attention, value, and customers’ preference, right? Wrong, unfortunately. If one man shaves his head and draws attention (keeping all respect to such men), then surely he gets attention. How about everybody shaves their heads to draw attention? It will confuse onlookers for sure. If you try to copy differences, it would not qualify as a unique difference(s) at all. It will only benefit the stronger brand, rest of the brands will just add to confusion.
Even unique differentiation is not enough. I have seen a few brands differentiating in a unique but laughable way(s). An air conditioner brand, in the last year, promoted one of their models as having Vitamin C in the air filter! In our culture, we are not accustomed to intake vitamin C from air that we inhale. This differentiation proposition might fit in other cultures, may be just not suitable in our case. Merely a unique differentiation is not adequate, differentiation proposition must be valued by customers as well. Copied differentiation may work only when we can change the magnitude of differentiation and make it stronger than competitors.
Once we ensure that differentiation would create value, and then we can try to be different in ways that are different from those of our competitors. Copying similar differentiation in the same magnitude will not make you differently different.