Brand Differentiation, Inbound Marketing And Mistakes To Avoid


Table Of Contents


How Brands Set Themselves Apart And Inbound Marketing

In marketing and advertising, distinguishing your brand from others is perhaps one of the most important tasks at hand. It doesn't matter how great the product or service you offer is if it doesn't have a quality that sets it apart from competitors.

The personality and the drive behind it appeal so strongly to consumers that it's imperative for your brand to identify the best way to make it stand out. Recently, our CEO Stacy Jones met with a marketing expert to provide us with knowledge of how to get started in developing brand distinction and how to to craft a brand that stands out from competition. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded shares insights on brand differentiation and inbound marketing from the expertise and experience of Hult Marketing's Jim Flynn.

Brand Differentiation With Jim Flynn

A Little Background On Jim Flynn

Jim Flynn is the president and CEO of Hult Marketing, an agency that is 62 years young, quite an accomplishment. Hult Marketing crafts marketing solutions for a broad portfolio of industries, including healthcare, medical devices, insurance, outdoor, apparel, corporate recruiting, construction and utilities and so many others.

Jim is one of only 30 certified brand strategists in North America and has served as the Board Chairman of Taan Worldwide, a global network of independent marketing communications agencies that operates on every continent. Jim's own experience has crossed over thirty years of B2B and B2C marketing, and shines across all things brand and inbound marketing - where he and his team help marketers recreate their own brand image to make a better and bigger impact and develop inbound marketing and lead generation programs to bring in sales.

Jim is a marketing expert with knowledge of how to get started in developing your brand distinction and shares his advice for companies who are interested in upping their game and crafting a brand that stands up from competition, while also leverage inbound marketing.

New call-to-action

Highlight Q&As From Marketing Mistakes Podcast

Question:  You have quite the background in brand development and inbound marketing and have been doing this for over 30 years. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background, how your love of differentiating brands first started, and how that evolved into inbound marketing and lead generation?

Answer: So, probably my first and earliest brand experiences came from a couple of different things. The first one is my dad. I grew up in the South Side of Chicago, and my dad had a gas station called, Flynn's Friendly Service, that he ran for 37 years until he retired. So, he started right after World War II in 1947. It was one of the few remaining independent service stations in the city, and it was, it competed with all the Standards and ARCOs and all of the big brands. 

Dad differentiated his place by being independent, one, by selling the same gasoline that everyone else did, which people don't understand that it all comes from the same refinery, and just being different from the standpoint of the way he operated. I mean, when we got somebody on the driveway, you ran out on the driveway and took care of them. You always checked their oil, and you always washed the windshield.

Those are things that certainly today doesn't ever happen with the world of self-service, and matter of fact, when he retired, it was one of the few stations in the city that was really all full service. Everything had moved to self-service. So, it was really differentiated things. He and his brother owned it together, and they ran it like a family business. It was interesting to see the Flynn service station brand and how it was different than competitors. It was very distinctive.

dreamstime_l_Product Differentiation

Question: So how did that parlay into where you're at today, where you came into an agency, you took ownership of it and you changed, I think, the direction? Because, first of all, I mean maybe brand differentiation was there, but inbound marketing's pretty new as is the forms of lead gen that most agencies work with brands to do today. 

Answer: Right. As you well know and as all of your listeners know that we are living in a different world than we were 10 years ago in terms of the customer journey. So, inbound marketing, content marketing, call it what you will, has obviously been a big buzzword in marketing circles for going on 10 years now. The ideas, the concepts of the processes that you build inbound marketing campaigns, that you use to build inbound marketing campaigns are similar across industries, across B2B and B2C. The tools are similar.

But I have found and what has taught me and served me well in my career is that everything is stronger when there's differentiation. There are categories, certainly, that are growing categories, but most categories aren't necessarily growth categories, which means that the way that a brand can win is by stealing market share from another brand. Well, if you're differentiated from another brand, that certainly makes that job easier. So why would you not start with differentiating your brand?

New call-to-action

Question: Okay. What's the first step? So, you say, great, "differentiate your brand." How do you do that? I mean, would a brand do? What is the process that you work with brands to take them through to help them get from "Well, our logo is blue, we're different?"

Answer: Right. Okay. So that's a really good point, and so the common misconception in and outside of this industry is that your brand, it's your logo. Everybody knows the Nike swish ... Nike swoosh rather. That's their brand, right? Well, no, that's not their brand. McDonald's, everybody knows the golden arches, but that's not their brand.

McDonald's brand is being consistent. Whether you like their burgers and fries or not, it is consistent if you have a Big Mac in Southern California or if you have it in Munich, and I've had Big Macs in both of those places and don't like them in either place, particularly, but they're consistent. Experience is consistent. The bathrooms are clean. The tables are generally clean. The personnel are generally uninformed and unenthused, but it's consistent from location to location.

So, really, I think it comes down to brands have to identify their differentiation. I look at it as is really coming down to three key things, and you can't do this alone. So, what I recommend is having a summit off site where you're not being bothered by the day-to-day operations of your business regardless of the type of business. Get a conference room at a hotel or whatever makes sense and pull together your leadership team. Now, that's different for every organization. Leadership team in a very simple organization might be the front desk person, the receptionist, and the owner of the business and the guy that works the counter. Obviously, for more businesses that we work with, it's more complex than that...

dreamstime_l_Our Mission, Our Vision, Our Values

Question: So you go through this brand differentiator process, you build this out, you come back with your suggestions and then they need to implement it. And when they implement, now, that goes into content creation, leveraging that so that you can actually have owned branded content, which you can then share. And one of the best ways of doing that is through inbound marketing. Is that how you have kind of evolved where you started with the brand differentiation process and is that the lead into when a brand is actually ready to start an inbound marketing program or how does that work? And what brand should do inbound marketing? And for anyone who is listening who doesn't know about inbound marketing, can you talk to us a little bit more about that too?

Answer: Inbound marketing, if you're not familiar with it, I'm going to describe a little bit of it and all of a sudden you're going to say, "Oh, yeah. Okay. I know what that is because these people have been nurturing me with content." So the idea of inbound is first off being found online for your content. So if you look at this from a ... It all needs to emanate from the customer journey. So first off, just figuring out who are your best customers, whether that's a consumer coming in for bread or that is somebody shopping for insurance, you have to figure out who is the best customer? What do they look like? What do they think like? What are their demographic profiles? What makes them different from other customers? Why are they your best customers?

Question: That whole world of personas is what you're kind of touching on right now?

Answer: Absolutely, the whole world of personas. And when you look at the personas, you're really trying to paint a picture of the type of person and the questions that they ask. So we do that with our clients in again, similar to the brand summit, we want to have an off-site ideally. And this is only because then the phones aren't ringing and the people in the office aren't bothering you and trying to get question answered.


To learn more about the importance of brand differentiation, you can listen to the full interview in our podcast.

The Next Step...

Want to broaden your horizons even further with more tips to effective marketing campaigns? Check out some other blog posts our team has written on other key strategies to marketing success... 

Want access to even more insights from industry pros and their experience in brand marketing? Subscribe to our Marketing Mistakes podcast and listen to every episode!

New Call-to-action