It turns out Greek philosopher Aristotle may have been the first brand guru. Way back in 350 B.C. he introduced the concept that would later be popularized by 14th century French thinker Jean Buridan. The story of Buridan's ass goes something like this: Place a donkey directly in between a bucket of water and a bale of hay, it will be unable to make a decision and, eventually, die of hunger and thirst.
Turns out brand relevance works along similar principles. If your brand is as relevant to your customers as a competitor's brand, it will be hard for your customer to choose you. Without a brand advantage, you run the risk of having to win on price. Commoditizing to close a sale is a tried-and-true method, but compromising margins to win a sale isn't sustainable.
Instead, imagine your customer placed between you and your competitor. This time, because you've taken the time to get to know your customer and what matters to her, your brand is more relevant. It's more relevant because your customer feels greater affinity to your brand. She feels she means more to you than she does your competitor. The distance from the customer to either brand is no longer equal; her path to your brand is shorter. She opts for you.
When you place the customer at the center of your organization, and focus everything you do on her, you defeat this 2,500-year-old paradox. And you gain brand affinity and customer loyalty, which in term give you higher pricing elasticity and the ability to add to the top and bottom line.
While Aristotle's tale wasn't written as a cautionary parable for brand leaders, it offers us a simple, powerful message: Stay closer to your customer than any of your competitors, and you can and will be chosen by that customer every time. And in that scenario, it's your competitor who will slowly die of hunger and thirst.