Trick or treat. It’s Dia de los Muertos.
Amidst costumes and candy, you’re focused on building your business. Can’t blame ya. If you aren’t, no one else will.
And today’s the perfect day to talk branding. It’s a day branded like none other where the strange and supernatural reign. But it’s also a day of lost promise… it could be so much more, like your brand.
Why is it that kids all dress up thereabouts the same? There will be princesses and pirates aplenty, superheroes and Star Wars galore, you want wizards and werewolves, you’ll see twenty… but who really cares, no big deal — you could be more.
The boys are dashing and dangerous, the girls, pretty and proper. Halloween is the day to live out your fantasy (keep it G-rated, kids), and yet, are all our fantasies are the same? Where is the creativity, where is the desire to truly stand out, to leave a mark?
Businesses — like parents — all fall for the same trap. They either do what they’re “supposed” to do, ie. putting out candy to rot their neighbors’ kids’ teeth, or picking the perfect pumpkin outfit for their little precious.
It’s all so bland and generic. And don’t get me started on skeletons and spooky ghosts.
The same is true in business. How many companies put out candy in exactly the same way? They see other businesses selling shoes, on Instagram or going organic… and want to do the exact same. It’s working for XYZ, so it will work for me.
But which house had the best candy last year? This year? What about the coolest costume?
Mundane isn’t noticeable, let alone memorable. You expect your waiter to bring a menu, your coffee to have a to-go lid, your dance clubs to have music.
But what happens when:
The restaurant only has ONE option — and perfects the hell out of it.
The coffeeshop forces patrons to sit and savor their drink — making it all the more enjoyable.
The club is silent, awkward as can be — until everyone starts talking, and actually meeting people.
The point is, different differentiates… that should be obvious. You shouldn’t even be reading this post. And yet, how many things in your own business are anything but unique? Use regular cardboard packaging? Are your invoices automated instead of interactive? Are your employees required to wear shoes…?
You can get kooky and get away with it if you create a culture your employees and customers love. Here’s how.
Being “different” is better
That is grammatically intentional. Thinking different and outside the box as Steve Job’s on Taco Bell would say, isn’t the means or the end. If being different was enough — or even always favorable — then topless Ruby Tuesdays and sexy time Starbucks would be a thing, but they aren’t.
Got you thinking though, didn’t it?
That is step one, thinking about your costume, about what to offer those trick-or-treaters. What makes your company — your house — better by leaps and bounds?
For Amazon, it was a customer-centric focus over all else. That and being cheap, like really cheap. “Your margin is my opportunity.” And they built a trillion-dollar business because of it.
And Apple, all about design.
But those are easy examples. It takes creativity to apply them to your own business.
Patagonia’s a private company committed to sustainable sourcing — not greenwashing its image — and have turned down MAJOR deals to maintain their morals.
CD Baby sent the funniest order confirmations ever, filled with “Bon Voyage”, lace gloves and satin-lined pillow sarcasm to describe the CD shipping process — and now, everyone knows Derek Sivers.
And then there’s Zappos, who made every employee start in customer service and act as a shoulder to cry on in unlimited-length calls, if, for instance, shoe shoppers needed to vent. Oh, and free shipping both ways — the customer is ALWAYS right.
We could go on and on. The point is, the great ones do things THEIR way. And often, industry tries to copy it. Microsoft tried to mimic Apple aesthetics… how’d that go?
Plenty of companies offer free shipping, but we don’t ADORE them for it.
And McDonalds may be turning towards healthy options, but…
You get the point.
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Your actions speak louder than words
Moms that dress their daughters like princesses in bows and ribbons are sending a message. So are the bodybuilder Thor outfits pushing boys to man up, or shut up.
What kind of message are we sending our kids? What kind of message does your brand convey to customers?
If you have robotic customer service with a confusing phone tree, you probably don’t care about customers, at least not their time. And if you’re always offering coupons on your site, your brand is anything but premium.
If another company could offer your product or service without customers realizing, you’re expendable.
And it’s this that drives a race to the bottom. Prices plummet when originality dies.
Trust me, my background is Amazon and ecommerce. I saw Amazon’s 3rd party marketplace degenerating fast. I white-labeled with the best of them, building a 7-figure business. But when a logo’s the only thing differentiating your product from the competition…
Brand strategies to consider
If everyone is going left, go right. It often comes down to exactly that. Fast food companies are fast and cheap. What would fast and expensive look like?
Airlines are all pretty much the same, unless owned by Richard Branson. Then, they’re a party.
Movie theaters show Hollywood mainstream. Could an 80’s classics theater survive?
When they go left, you go right.
But before jumping wholeheartedly into a full-service gas station with a car wash included, consider the direction of the industry. Is it a dying space, or a growing one? Fighting automation and technological change can be a great business model, but not always…
Imagine a smartphone without all the smart, ie distractions. Or a campground without a connection to the outside world. There is a movement towards healthy, natural living, towards our more ancestral roots. There are businesses aplenty to be built there.
If everyone’s doubling down on VR, I’ll betcha psychology bills will start to skyrocket.
And sure, your iPad has an art app, but nothing beats fingerpainting with the family.
Somethings change, somethings never do.
So, ask yourself this: are you riding the next fad, or defining the brand you’d like to build. And for every action: from brushing your teeth to your automated email signature, you’re constantly making decisions on how to live your life, and the values you exude.
I’m horrible about washing my hands after I pee. My son sees that, but he also sees me munching carrots and saying no to candies. The thing is, every action counts and leaves an impression.
Every customer. Every client. Every product.
So, how are you different? How do you stand out?
On the one day of the year where everyone’s choosing between M&Ms and fruity-flavored Skittles, why not dunk your strawberry in chocolate and call it a day? No one else is…
Closing branding thoughts
In a world of unlimited options, you need to stand out. What is your brand story? What makes you different? And why should your customers care? Tell them THAT story. Sell that! That experience is everything, the only thing and all else in-between.
There is no such thing as the next Facebook, the next Elon, the next Amazon… greatness is an originality all its own. And while mimicry is the ultimate flattery, it’s rarely flattering for the one doing the mimicking.
So, go make your mark, explore the dark and build something incredible to boot.
If you need help along the way in building your branding and marketing to maximize results, happy to chat.
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