6 Solid Ways To Differentiate Your Brand

In Cleveland, Ohio there are more than a dozen EXCELLENT coffee brands that provide exceptional service, environment, and product. The coffee scene in Northeast Ohio has become quite developed in the past few years and the sense of healthy competition between shops is not surpassed by the genuine respect and community among the owners and baristas of CLE. It’s something truly special, but it is not without its challenges.

In a market that is becoming saturated, how does a brand prove its worth over another? It’s coffee! You roast it, you make it, you sell it… the product is relatively similar, shop to shop. This is not a struggle unique to the craft coffee industry. It is an issue that every brand must work through in order to gain traction and success.

When we talk about differentiation, the term USP or “Unique Selling Proposition” comes up, right? Yeahhhh… Millenial entrepreneurs talk about USP all the time! (eye roll… not!). Ok, jokes aside, this concept is incredibly helpful and also incredibly common sense (the power combo!). Let’s define it…

Definition:  “The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”
–More on USP from Entrepreneur.com HERE

Having a reason why your product/service is superior to your competition is not only useful but essential.

Working with Six Shooter Coffee for over a year now has given us the opportunity to think deeply about how to differentiate their brand in a crowded marketplace. There are many helpful insights to draw from their example.


Here are 6 practical lessons in differentiation, taken from Six Shooter Coffee, that you can implement right now!

Killer Brand Identity

Creating a unique brand identity is essential to the success of any company. Six Shooter has differentiated itself by creating a visual vibe that is rugged, approachable, and straightforward (or should I say, “straight shooting?”). Inspired by his cowboy great-grandfather, the owner, Peter Brown, steered clear of trendy designs and minimalism; Instead, he used a classic western motif. From the logo and branded menus, to the shop furniture and location, to the bean packaging and handcrafted mugs, a strong and unique experience is built for the consumer.

The Lesson: Your brand must build a complete and branded visual experience for your consumer so that the encounter transcends the product.


Distinct Target Market

If you can position your product or service with a unique set of consumers in mind, you are setting yourself up for some remarkable differentiation in the market. In the coffee industry, there exists a wide array of consumers (we all need this elixir of life) but Six Shooter has created their own special segment of consumers by connecting with active and outdoorsy Clevelanders. As personal values of the owner, Peter, and an extension of the rugged appeal of the brand, Six Shooter often encourages consumption of their Kickin’ Cold Brew before or after exercise, on the go, or out in nature!  This has allowed for notable partnerships with local trainers and fitness brands like Tremont Athletic Club, Harness Cycle, and NEO Cycle, further connecting them to the active-lifestyle of their target audience.

The Lesson: Developing a relationship with a distinct segment of the market will strengthen the differentiation of your brand.


Unmatched Customer Experience

No matter how life-changing your product is, your customer won’t be happy or loyal if the service is terrible, so you’re probably striving to build your company with quality customer service. However, using customer service to differentiate your brand takes it beyond an interaction and turns it into an experience. Six Shooter has done this in a special way by creating a comfortable space in a “craft” industry that often intimidates those with less knowledge of the “art” or process. [Basically, if you walk into a fancy coffee bar and order a frappuccino, you might be ridiculed just a bit, but not at Six Shooter!] Their friendly and incredibly knowledgeable staff are happy to explain the differences in drinks or tell you what flavors are present in different kinds of coffee beans. The baristas are well trained, not sacrificing quality, and patient, leaving each customer feeling cared for, satisfied, and educated! It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

The Lesson: Elevating relationships and building an experience that will impact your customer can create game-changing differentiation for your brand.


Irresistible Pricing

This point kind of speaks for itself. If you are offering a great product at a lower price, you win. We’ve seen Six Shooter gain success in both wholesale and retail sale of coffee beans because of their affordable prices. By keeping expenses lean and running a tight ship, Peter has maintained pricing that is lower than most in the region!

The Lesson: Sell a quality product at a lower price than your competition and you’ve set your brand apart in the market!

Convenient Accessibility

In our fast-paced and demanding culture, the most convenient option is often the go-to.  We’ve seen Six Shooter provide accessibility to customers in an outstanding way: Six Shooter Coffee’s Kickin’ Cold Brew! This insanely delicious, highly addictive, bottled goodness is sold all over Cleveland. Six Shooter is also the ONLY local coffee roaster selling bottled cold brew. The fact that you can get a bottle of Six Shooter Coffee in any neighborhood in the CLE provides a distinct convenience factor that differentiates them from their competitors.

The Lesson: Positioning your brand as the most accessible is an excellent way to differentiate yourself in the market.


Strong Partnerships

Two is better than one! When you team up with another brand you gain access to a whole new audience and develop an unrepeatable brand fusion. By joining forces with breweries like The Cleveland Brewery and Masthead Brewing Co. to create coffee stouts, Six Shooter has not only expanded their brand impression but also gained noteworthy press like this amazing article on the “bean to bar” trends in the beer industry.

The Lesson: Collaborating with other brands will differentiate you from your competitors by expanding the range of what your product or service can accomplish and who you can reach.


As you look at your own business, it is imperative that you continually develop a strategy for differentiating your brand. Ask yourself these questions to determine which approach is best.

  • Is the visual identity of my company different than my competitors?
  • Can I serve a distinct group of people with my product / service?
  • Can I develop an experience around my brand that no one else can replicate?
  • Can you offer this product or service at a lower cost than your competitor?
  • Is your product the easiest to obtain? How can you make it more accessible?
  • Are there like-minded brands with whom you can partner to create a distinct product?

I’ve seen Peter work so hard to turn his coffee company into something special and successful in Cleveland and I hope that these lessons will help you do the same in your industry! Remember, you are doing this for a reason and you do it like no one else can… build that into the core of your brand!

By Mallory Phillips

Mallory is a native of southwest Florida where she was raised and homeschooled for 18 years. Her unique, personalized and independent education continued in college at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles where she graduated with an honors degree in Visual Communications. Planning events and creative projects began early in Mallory’s life. As a teenager she was creating programs for her community, coordinating local concerts and fundraisers, participating in international internships and running conferences for national organizations. This passion to help others through “outside-the-box” solutions began to make an impact in Los Angeles as she worked freelance for international non-profit organizations, Beverly Hills corporations, marketing firms and Hollywood event planners. In 2013 Mallory, along with two partners, opened an event planning company, which she auspiciously ran until 2015. During her 4 years in Los Angeles she gained a strong and distinct perspective that led to a remarkable aptitude for marketing. In the Fall of 2015, she decided to step out on her own and pursue her growing passion for marketing in Cleveland: The Land of Dreams.

Comments (1)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Straight up dream fuel.

Become inspired and empowered to build the brand of your dreams through our email project.