In the September 12 issue of Advertising Age, industry exec Al Ries examined an important topic: the confusion between product brands and company brands.

To illustrate his point, Ries hailed the brand strength of two companies: Apple and Disney. Both capitalized on being first in their respective industries – Apple as the first to deliver high-capacity and user-friendly consumer technologies, and Disney as the first (in the ‘mind’ of the consumer, as Ries aptly notes) in animated motion pictures and fantasy amusement parks.

Both organizations have also remained focused on those deliverables.

Companies like Procter & Gamble, General Motors, and Unilever, Ries observes, lack such a focus. Consumers rarely develop brand-loyalty to their products, or at least not intentionally. Depending on the audience, however, the product brand may not be as important.

For life sciences organizations, it isn’t easy or in some cases even possible to be first. But they can be focused. And in an industry where mergers and acquisitions are a fact of life, staying focused becomes an even greater challenge for both the parent and child companies. And which company – parent or child – is to be positioned as the brand is a critical decision that must not be overlooked in the early stages of the new familial relationship.  Read more about Marketing Challenges During Mergers and Acquisitions.

In today’s rapid and virtual business climate, branding and differentiation are more vital than ever. It’s not uncommon for companies to position themselves as all things to all customers and end up looking and operating as masters of none. By promoting non-differentiating attributes like “value,” “dedicated workforce,” or “quality,” they can quickly get lost in the crowd.

Putting a stake in the ground by focusing on a finite area of expertise may feel risky, but it’s a bold move that truly differentiates an organization from its competitors, and one that ultimately reaps generous dividends.