Build Your Brand: “Be the first, be the best, or be different.”
January is often the time when business owners – having reflected on the past year – eye up next year’s targets.
Whether last year was a challenge, or your best yet; the goal now (and as ever) is to best the competition and thrive.
But, how do you do this exactly…?
A key business insight comes from what is perhaps an unlikely source…
“Be the first, be the best, or be different.”
Loretta Lynn likely didn’t realise this would become an oft-cited business mantra when she said it.
But that is exactly what has happened.
This approach, as a rule, is a great way to think about a few ways your business can stand apart.
And it’s especially useful when thinking about brands. Whether it’s your company brand in general – or the products and services you provide.
Offering widely desired products or services before anyone else is the ideal scenario.
You have zero competition, and customers clamour to buy what you and no one else is selling. You simply can’t lose!
Established “originals” can then be hard to topple. Think: Coca-Cola, Ford and Microsoft.
Primacy also has long-term benefits. Even when others enter the market – people see your brand as the authentic original.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, the only problem is; only one person can be first.
And if you’re not lucky enough to have invented the wheel – you might find yourself being crushed by it.
So, if you’re not first, what else can you do?
Being the best
You could simply be better than all the competition.
When you’re the best, your reputation exceeds everyone else – even if they were first.
This naturally resonates with customers who want the best possible product or service. (Generally, this also means they’re willing to pay a premium for it too!)
It goes without saying that any business owner worth their salt wants to be the best at what they do.
In reality, this is easier said than done – and it often takes a long time for businesses to reach the top of the mountain.
We all believe we are the best at what we do. But that, quite obviously, is impossible.
It’s important to take a step back and look at it from your prospect’s view. They will only have one “best” in mind – and likely won’t be as biased towards you as you might be (!)
If you’re honest with yourself and it’s not you (at least for now) then you’re an alternative.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing… The trick is to make sure that this alternative offers something else – and is not simply a lesser version of the market leader.
If you’re not first, nor the best in your prospect’s eyes – the best way to stand apart from the also-rans is to be different.
But: what does it mean to be “different”?
Unlike being first, or the best – how you differ from others is completely under your control.
This is great, because it means that you can stand out on your terms.
So, it’s important to take time to think about the best way to do so.
There are many ways businesses can approach this challenge of being different:
1. You can complete a competitor analysis, reviewing the other businesses in your sector. What similarities exist in all your competitors? Is there an opportunity to do something that contrasts?
TOMS are an for-profit American shoe company who have built a reputation for their unique business model. Founder Blake Mycoskie decided that the company would not simply sell shoes. Because of this TOMS operate on the “One for One” business model. For each pair of shoes made, a pair is given away to someone in conditions of poverty. For each pair of glasses TOMS sell, part of the profit is used to help restore people’s eyesight.
In this way, TOMS stands out from other shoe (and fashion) manufacturers who are often criticised for their supply chain. Generally speaking, a pain point for customers about clothes producers is that their goods are often made what are viewed as in unethical conditions. Not only do TOMS produce their products ethically – but moreover corporate social responsibility is prominent in their branding and communication.This made TOMS stand out from the pack in a big way by dealing with this pain-point face on. As a result, positive word-of-mouth around their campaigns have led to runaway success – flying completely in the face of the rest of the sector.
2. “Double-down” on what already makes you unique. Think about the things that make your business special now. The things that other companies could not copy – even if they tried. Is this a big part of how you present yourself to prospects? If not, why not?
Where Sony and Microsoft are serious – Nintendo’s appeal is different. It’s brand: takes itself a lot less seriously, and plays upon nostalgia. Much of this comes from Nintendo’s longer running status as a gaming company and a whole host of characters and franchises created decades ago. Over time this consistency has led to a lot a lot of trust in their brand as guaranteeing – above all – fun games that everyone can enjoy.
On two occasions Nintendo decided to stand apart from the crowd in action too. In 2006 they released the Nintendo Wii. This console was different from Sony and Microsoft’s shying away from “hardcore gamers”. Instead accessible games and motion controls encouraged people that didn’t usually play. Because of this it outsold its competitors, selling an astounding 101 million units. This success was echoed again with the grandstand release of the Nintendo Switch in 2017. In both cases, Nintendo focused on accessibility and fun – over the “power” of the system – which after years of warring between Sony and Microsoft had intimidated swathes off casual gamers.
Build Your Brand: Making the Difference
So, for most, the aim is to be different and stand apart from the others but in a way that plays to your strengths and reflects upon you positively in comparison to your competitors.
TOMS and Nintendo speak to ethical consumers and casual gamers, respectively. This difference is reflected both in their communication, their brands and their actions. And most importantly, they in both instances they met a need that was not being serviced in the market before.
The trick behind this is identifying a pain-point people have with your sector, and then addressing it with your branding, communication and actions. Nintendo and Tom’s did this, and it has led to their continued success.
And remember, you’re not trying to “stand out” in your own eyes – but in the eyes of your prospects. So be mindful of what the “difference” you’re championing means to them and research them thoroughly.
In time, you may even find this “difference” becomes what makes you the first or the best in the next gen of businesses in your sector.
Then, in each and every case this value and reputation is locked into your brands by registering your trade marks – which (like, the “Apple” logo) become a powerful way of communicating to the wider world what you’re all about.
So go out there and be different. You might just find that it’s the best decision you make all year.