The entire point of branding is to stand out - be different - set yourself apart from others in your market. That’s what great brands do. If you blend in and play it safe, you'll end up on the lower end of the market where the only way to stand out, is to compete on price.
When you start a brand new business or organization of any kind, you’re already taking a huge risk. You’re leaving behind a steady paycheck and the security of a support structure and you're taking all the pressure and responsibility on your shoulders.
It's scary, and your risk-taking threshold is probably already at an all-time low. So I get that it can be really tempting to play it safe with the things you’re not an expert in. Like branding for instance. If you’re not extremely comfortable with branding and storytelling, it can seem really scary to go out on the bleeding edge and do something radically different with your brand.
I absolutely get the temptation to copy someone else’s brand that’s doing something “similar” because, you figure, if it worked for them, it will probably work for you.
The only problem with copying is… you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. Because the entire point of branding is to stand out - be different - set yourself apart from others like you. That’s what great brands do. When everyone else zigs, they zag.
The brands that blend in, play it safe and fail to figure out what makes them different, will always end up on the lower end of the market, always struggle, eventually fail.
Take the recent nightmare in the sleep industry. Mattress companies for decades have failed to stand apart from each other in any significant way until Casper came along. (Then Leesa, then Tuft & Needle, then Purple.)
Casper took bold bets not only on the business model - bringing the buying experience online and shipping directly to homes — but also on their playful, unexpected branding and marketing. Those two things combined created explosive growth for the company and annihilated the existing competition.
The brands that take bold risks and double down on not only product, but brand execution, are the ones that win.
Let's talk about WeWork. They’re not the first co-working space that ever existed. There were plenty before them, but none that doubled down on interior design the way they did. That was risky - to invest that much in furniture, lighting, high-end finishes and architects…before they knew it was going to work.
But it set them apart from everyone else.. it made them impossible to ignore.
Or consider Starbucks - Howard Schultz once shut down every single location for a day to re-train their baristas to make better lattes. Because he knew that Starbuck’s brand was only as strong as the quality of their products. That was incredibly risky, but it helped bring the brand back from a dangerous decline into mediocrity.
The entire point of investing in brand is to stand apart in such a big way that people tell 10 friends about what you’re doing.
You can do it through excellence, you can do it with transparency, you can do it through authenticity or you can do it through humor. You get to choose, but you have to do it somehow.
If you’re not taking bold risks, if you’re not creating interesting content or if your Instagram feed looks generic and similar to everyone else, you’re probably building a boring brand.
Bold brand moves can be scary, but nothing is scarier as a new business than being forgotten.
In our fast-moving online world, the simple truth is, you get 10 seconds of my attention at most before I decide whether i’m going to spend my money with you or your competitor. And the only thing that will convince me in those 10 seconds, is the quality and uniqueness of your brand.