The 4 Pillars of Brand Relevance: Inspired Difference

Jim Huebner
17 October, 2022

Differentiation. Creating your own category. Disrupting the market.

These are all big buzzwords in modern marketing and notable goals for brands that want to make the biggest possible impact. In my experience working with brands over the last 30 years, I’ve come to understand this “X factor” as an “Inspired Difference.”

It’s the second of 4 pillars of brand relevance in my “G.I.V.E. Manifesto.” Last week, I shared the first pillar: G is for Grateful and GenerousThis week let’s unpack the second pillar with another snippet from my new book, The Irrelevant Old Brand.  My hope is that by highlighting these pillars in brands that last, we can help other brands avoid the pitfalls of irrelevance and find a path to becoming more meaningful to both their customers and the people around them.


Relevant Brands have an Inspired Difference


The goal of “differentiation” is a cornerstone to great marketing, challenging companies with opportunities to focus on product or service attributes that distinguish them from their competitors.

But from our vantage point, the idea of “Inspired Difference” takes differentiation to a new level. It reflects maximized relevance, helping a brand create a category of one. Many articles have been written about this idea over the years, let alone dozens of books. Think “Blue Ocean Strategy”, “Made to Stick”, “Purple Cow” or “Differentiate or Die” among others. However, few companies actually implement strategies to take their brands to true “like none other” status. 

Relevance in Action: Airstream

One company that HAS been doing it right since 1929 is Airstream. Yes, we’re talking about the silver-bullet campers that have been gracing American highways for nearly a century. Not only do they offer a one-of-a-kind look with their aluminum exteriors and aerodynamic shape, but Airstream has recently and relevantly tapped into the segment of customers looking for retro and nostalgia. In fact, they’ve built an entire culture around it, all the while harnessing a bit of prestige for those wanting to make a true statement in the campgrounds.

While Airstream is owned by THOR, a public company, exact profit margins are not readily available. But with retail price points that are often triple or quadruple that of products with the same features and size, there’s no doubt Airstream enjoys some of the best margins in the business. Combine that with the fact that they are built like fortresses, have an unmatched owners club, and they hold their value significantly better than any other RV on the market, and the Airstream difference is truly inspiring.

Inspired Difference—A company’s relevant difference CAN make all the difference