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4 Disruptors That Made Superior Branding Their Competitive Edge When many companies offer similar products at similar prices the customer's feel for the brand is the crucial distinction.

By Larry Alton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Uber | Lyft

It's hard to stand out unless your business literally has zero competition. Even if you enter a market without any competitors, it's likely only a matter of time before someone else emerges to threaten your position, so it's unwise to bank on pure model distinctions for your core differentiator. Instead, you have to put some effort into defining yourself as a unique force in the market. Through new technology or innovative new practices, you can start to build yourself as a distinct establishment.

Unfortunately, that level of distinction simply isn't enough for most businesses. You also have to create a dynamic new image, one that's completely independent of your competitors, to appeal to your potential market and truly stand out.

This image manifests itself in your brand promise and overall brand characteristics. If implemented properly, it can give you the edge you need to overcome the competition. Take, for example, the four marketing disruptors below, who used the power of unique branding to reposition their companies and take over an entire sector of their respective markets.

1. Zappos: service and experience.

Back when Zappos emerged in 1998 online retail was barely established, and everyone who got into the game was regarded as a risk taker. An online shoe company was a pretty strange concept; wouldn't people prefer to try everything on before making the purchase?

Rather than focus on the convenience of online purchases or the quality of their shoe selection as differentiating factors from major brick-and-mortar shoe retailers (which they might have done), the folks at Zappos built a brand around customer service and experience. These brand promises -- making the customer number one and sacrificing everything else to make sure customers have an ideal, fun experience -- permeate the culture at Zappos, and the company's employees happily embody these qualities.

This has led Zappos becoming one of the most successful and popular online clothing retailers around, now that it's reached nearly 20 years after founding. The brand retains one of its original hallmarks, and a major reason why customers keep coming back.

Related: 3 Reasons Holacracy Isn't a Good Fit for Most Businesses

2. MedPro Disposal: a better deal.

MedPro Disposal emerged in an old industry that historically didn't change often or swiftly: medical waste disposal. Rarely discussed in the past but always needed, most medical customers had grown accustomed to the generic, massive companies that performed the service.

MedPro Disposal was founded in 2009 with one goal: to offer a similar high-quality disposal service for a much more affordable price. By cutting significant operating expenses and relying on talented contractors, MedPro Disposal was able to do just that … but there was one more step the company needed to take to establish market visibility.

It established a new, more appealing brand to showcase its unique brand promise: to perform a high-quality service for a reasonable price. Building new customer relationships based on mutual trust and flexibility, MedPro Disposal quickly attracted new clients, and currently operates throughout the U.S.

3. Wealthfront: trust and modern reliability.

In the wake of the market crash of 2008, prospective investors in the millennial group (as well as experienced investors in the older demographics) became distrustful of traditional banks and gun-shy about investing in stocks. How could a new investment tool rise to success in such a cynical and burned-out climate?

Wealthfront found the answer in presenting its brand as a differentiator in the industry. Rather than focus on constructing big buildings or touting individual financial advisors, Wealthfront builds trust by stepping away from the spotlight.

The company uses an algorithm to trade stocks, which theoretically maximizes the yield of investments while reducing overhead costs and the risks associated with human trading. This appeals to a younger generation and people worried about more recent market volatility. Wealthfront's brand is all about establishing trust, and learning to count on its thus-far reliable technology.

Related: Five Fintech Startups To Watch

4. Lyft: safety and community.

Though Uber remains the competitor to beat in the ridesharing market, Lyft has emerged to become a major competitor in its own right. It's attracted millions of dollars of funding, thousands of drivers across the country, and today the company enjoys a healthy user base.

It doesn't offer lower prices than Uber, it doesn't use a different approach or technology, and it doesn't have any unique services that set it apart. So how did Lyft rise to prominence?

The key to the company's current success is differentiation in branding, not unlike the other examples cited above. Uber's promise has centered on getting effective transportation for less, but Lyft has opted for a more personal approach by focusing on building a community and establishing trust. The company uses friendly, casual language, light colors and community events to connect riders with drivers to make all the participants comfortable and familiar with ridesharing. By making Uber appear cold and corporate by comparison, Lyft has done a solid job of rising to prominence as a competitor.

If you're struggling to stand out from the competition, or you just need a little more power in your marketing campaign, consider redefining your brand as a major differentiator in the market. The term "disruptor" has become a buzzword, but essentially, that's what you'll become. Offer an image and a company personality that no one else in your industry can showcase, which should give you the chance to draw more customers and brand loyalists as a result. Combined with a quality offer and a unique value proposition, there's nothing that can stop you from taking over the market.

Related: This Obsessive Entrepreneur Documented His 955 Rides as a Lyft Driver

Larry Alton

Freelance Writer & Former Entrepreneur

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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