The secret to differentiating your brand? You.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde (Tweet!)

What makes your brand, business or creative endeavor uniquely you? 

When we’re insecure teens, it seems easiest to just copy someone else. At that age, originality is just too risky.  Or is it?

Let me take you back to 1988. My best friend and I were inseparable. Whether it was busting out dance moves to Whitney Houston’s latest hit, swooning over teen heartthrobs (she: River Phoenix, Me: Kirk Cameron – before he went all oddballs) or taping our own version of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies (hopefully lost forever), we found comfort in our shared interests and tastes.

But the scandal that threatened to rock our friendship? We bought the exact same denim miniskirt jumper.

I admit, it was adorable when she bought it and naively thinking it would fun, I went and bought one, too. It fit both of our lean frames to a T. But she was not pleased at all and as you can guess, the inevitable happened: we wore it to school on the same day. Now granted, out high school teemed with more than 2000 students, but still….she didn’t speak to me for a whole day, which back then felt as long as the Civil War.

And I realized I had messed up.

In trying to take a short-cut and simply copy her style, I failed to cultivate my own identity – and ended up coming off like a first-rate tool.

What works for someone else may not work for you. Either it’s not at all believable, or it just looks desperate and sad. Just think about all the Apple lookalike ads you may have seen for sub-par (and not as cool) technology. But the inverse is also true: what works beautifully for you may be laughable for someone else to even attempt. (Tweet!)

You need to walk your talk and authentically deliver what you promise. How do you do that? By embracing and owning who you authentically are. It’s your story. Only you – with your perspective, experience, world view, sensibility, taste, emotion and intelligence – can tell it the way you  tell it.

While visiting the UK, I caught a news program on an MSNBC-type network. The pundit shouting at me sounded an awful lot like Rachel Maddow, who I happen to like. But it was a sad attempt to mimic her success – down to the cadence and tone with which she spoke. It was clear she was trying to replicate someone else’s success rather than create her own.

Why do we think it’s easier to copy someone else rather than break new ground? Why do we feel that our story is not as valuable just because others have told something similar? If we all thought that way, another book would never be written, another painting never created, another innovative clothing design ever produced. (Tweet!)

Can you imagine? “Well, we all have enough shirts in the world, don’t we? No need to design another one.” Please.

When working with my branding clients, our process always starts with the unique spin, strengths, perspective and benefits they offer that no one else can, regardless of if they offer something that thousands of other people do. No one else can do it like they do it.

That is how you build a breakout brand  – find your uniquity and let it shine. I mean, there’s tons of branding strategists out there, right? But you’re here, now, visiting moi. Thanks for digging my unique style!

Photo by Levi Saunders on Unsplash

Why should I talk about your business?

Loved this recent post by Seth Godin about why ideas spread. This directly relates to benefits and why people should talk about your company, your cause or your brand. What is in it for them?  Do you know why they should care/recommend/buy? And if you do, is your brand set up to address it so they  know?

It’s one thing to know in your own mind why your business is so fabulous, your services so irresistible, your value so awesome. It’s another to connect the dots for your audience through your tone, words, visuals, elevator pitch and customer experience so that they will also know and understand. That, ladies and gents, is good branding.

Why I (heart) joy…and BMW


Photo credit:

What a treat to unfold my WSJ the other morning and have an 11×11 object fall out.  It looked like a color brochure, printed on heavy stock, and folded into squares.  The top square said the following:

We do not make cars.

We are the creators of emotion.

We are the keepers of thrill.

We are the guardians of one three-letter word.


Intrigued, I unfolded it to reveal a gorgeous  4 foot by 3 foot poster ad for BMW.  One one side, each square held a wonderful vignette of people interacting with their car, with captions like “Joy is maternal” and “Joy is youthful”. Others read “Joy is who we answer to”, “Joy can be counted” and “Joy is timeless.” They interspersed what can only be described as “car porn” in some of the pictures, showing BMW’s latest models that are nothing short of breathtaking and modern.

This piece exemplifies all the best things about good brand marketing:

1) It’s believable: I really do believe BMW’s claims that their loyalists find joy in driving their cars, and that they find joy in making beautiful machines.

2) It’s credible: Hey, it’s BMW. They are no slackers.

3) It’s benefit-driven: They focused on a mission and an emotional purpose of eliciting joy in their customers. They focused on the thrill of driving a great car, not just the features and gadgets.

4) It’s differentiating: Others might be out touting fuel efficiency and safety these days, all noble, important benefits for many audiences. But instead of singing the same song, this piece caught my attention because it only tried to do one thing and did it well: it tapped into my emotional thrill for a gorgeous car

4) It’s gorgeous: Truly, the piece was visually stunning and also in line with BMW’s brand and what I would expect.

5) It’s unexpected: It didn’t show up in my overwhelmed in-box or as just a normal full page ad in the WSJ. It literally fell into my lap.  Could get annoying after a while if to many people start doing this, but for now it just made me pay attention.

6) It had a call to action: There was a 1-800 number on one of the squares to call for your nearest dealer. Not all brand advertising has to be as esoteric and abstract as perfume ads, ya know. After all, they want to sell cars.

Well done, BMW, well done. You caught my attention. And ironically, just when my husband and I were debating whether we would buy a Mercedes or BMW if we had a choice. Were you eavesdropping?!

Time, Time, Time….and how to sell it

Today’s WSJ has an excellent article on how companies can use time to their competitive advantage. In a world with only so many high-level benefits can be offered (you can have sub-messages at the 2nd and 3rd tiers down, but really most benefits either increase, decrease or improve something) this is a great way to differentiate yourself- if you can keep in mind exactly how your product or service manipulates time.

They grouped the time factors into 2 categories:

1) Managing Time as Price. Helping people do things faster, thus saving time and helping people do more in less time. The reporters found 4 approaches to this benefit statement:

Doing it for them (ie, Roomba vacuums)
Picking up the pace (drive-through windows)
Shrinking the time committment, if that has been the obstacle to purchase (lunchtime facelifts)
Ending the wait (redesigned check out line processes for faster service)
2) Managing Time as Product. Turning time into something people will buy. For example, all the home-based cooking offerings out there, like Washington’s own Dream Dinners. It enables you to prepare a home-cooked meal ahead of time, pick your entrees on the web, and then stop by their local Dream Dinners on the way home to assemble the pre-chopped ingredients. They estimate they save people 20 hours a month in all the tasks involved in planning, prepping, shopping, preparing and clean up. So customers essentially “buy time.”

The article talked about giving people a choice on whether they prefer to save time or enjoy their time more. They cited Blue Nile, where you can buy jewelry and engagement rings online, as one who employs a choice strategy. He can research as little or as much as he wants, but once the selection is made, the transaction is pretty quick.

The article goes further to say companies need to continually check in on this strategy and benefit with their customers, as needs change over time. Their assessment of time costs changes as well so you must continually test new approaches. The goods and services that customers may have been willing to invest time in when they were new, may now require time-saving approaches and redesigns today just to stay relevant – and to meet changing expectations.