Is your brand preferred? Or is your brand relevant?

Brand preference means the organization is attempting to add incremental functionality or reduce price (Aaker, 2012) to gain market share.  Organizations choosing to enter the brand preference competition risk becoming irrelevant because they are competing for a portion of a limited or stagnant market (Aaker, 2012).   Although it is not always the death knell for an organization, it does not trend towards growth.

Brand relevance means constantly innovating the product, program or servce to create a new market category or sub-category (Aaker, 2012).  The benefits of choosing the new product offering must be irresistible making other choices inconceivable to the customer (Aaker, 2012) or constituent.

Example in Practice:  An NPO offering language training for immigrants may want to identify avenues of competitive advantage over all other NPOs offering language training for immigrants.  It might begin by adding a new module to an existing business English course to make it marginally distinct from all other organizations offering business English courses (brand preference).   However, to create a significant competitive advantage, the same NPO might add an entirely new suite of courses currently not offered by any other NPO (brand relevance). This might mean offering courses for other industry sectors (trades or manufacturing) or other age demographics (immigrant youth or seniors) creating a new sub-category of language training courses for immigrants.

The Main Point:  Of course, the key to maintaining a healthy competitive advantage is to articulate a mix of brand preference and brand relevance strategies. Balance the resources allocated to existing programs and services (business as usual) with the resources required to take risks to innovate (let’s try something new). 


Aaker, D. A. (2012). Win the Brand Relevance Battle and then Build Competitor Barriers. California Management Review, 54(2), 43-57. doi:10.1525/cmr.2012.54.2.43.

Supporting Articles:

Win the Brand Relevance Battle and then Build Competitor Barriers


About Darcy McDonald

Exploring the intersection between social innovation and evaluation.

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