"We are in a very competitive, me-too industry. Our brand is not differentiated or distinctive enough to break through the noise, sustain growth and attract the right employees."

How do we create a brand when all our competitors do basically the same thing as we do? How do we differentiate?

This is an eternal conundrum for many companies dealing with product parity. Branding in this circumstance usually consists of very expensive awareness-building campaigns in pursuit of sales goals, market share and NPS scores.

Such companies are dragged into a price war or discounting where only those with the deepest pockets can win and long-term brand differentiation seems illusive.

Successful brand building in these circumstances has to go beyond the making and selling of products or providing a service. These days, people not only want to know the “what”—what you do—but also the “why”—why do you do what you do and why should I care?

Consider Microsoft. At its most basic, Microsoft develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Many other technology companies could, and do, say the same thing.

Microsoft, however, makes public their objective “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Here, Microsoft has taken the higher ground and described a distinctive, over-arching purpose that people can relate to and support.

To differentiate in a me-too category, it’s more about distinction—owning a position in the market based on a higher purpose that connects emotionally.