In a past McKinsey Quarterly, the authors used an easy-to-understand metaphor to explain brand relevance. They described it as “poker ante”—the small payment needed to play a hand of poker. In other words, relevance is the minimum you need to compete, the cost of doing business.
They explained that the most successful brands focused on both what’s relevant and differentiated from their competition. For example, “great taste” is fundamental for a beer. “Less filling” is what helped make it different and compelling for Miller Lite. The combination—relevance plus differentiation—sounds basic, but it’s not always practiced.
Take a look at McKinsey’s strategic framework for identifying relevant differentiation, too. It’s a useful tool for positioning development to filter relevance and differentiation into high and low quadrants to identify a brand’s relevant differentiation sweet spot.