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the bare naked truth ABOUT brand DIFFERENTIATION!
Differentiation is KING in business, but also in life itself.
Here’s why it means so much to me...
My first big lesson in differentiation began when I was a little girl. Way, way back in the 70’s (shhhhh!). My family was ‘different’. Now I know that there’s probably no such thing as a typical family, but there were clearly stark differences in my family compared to everyone else's. For a start we had what seemed at the time a huge house. Big enough that it didn’t even have a number. Just a name... The Columns, how grand is that? But, despite our enormous house, it was tatty and rundown because we had very little money. Back then my parents had a cool ‘Good Life’ vibe going on. They kept chickens, and grew plants and vegetables to sell at the roadside. All of our clothes were either hand-me-down, jumble sale or handmade in wool that I’m convinced was coated in itching powder! There’s also the fact that I spoke the distinctly unpopular lingo of ‘posh girl’. Add to this that my grandparents lived with us, my grandfather was pretty eccentric, my mother's American (oh how I was teased about my PB and J sandwiches) and at that point my parents belonged to a mysterious church which meant we were disciplined quite strictly (never allowed out to play) and didn’t get to celebrate Christmas until I was much older.
It wasn't that I was unhappy, far from it, those were golden years! But, we were virtual aliens compared to the traditional English families that lived in our sprawling suburban village and our differences were as plain as day. I found myself being bullied at school when all I wanted was to fit in and make some friends to have fun with. To live in a normal terraced house, speak like a ‘ruffian', carry cheese sandwiches in my lunchbox, knock about in the streets like everyone else, and to totally rock being that angel with the wonky tin foil halo in the nativity play. So, as soon as I was old enough to do something about it I did the worst thing possible…
I tried to conform!
Dropping my t’s and h’s at every opportunity. Wearing ridiculously tight pinstriped jeans that stopped me climbing trees and running free (yes really, pinstriped!). Skipping out of the house to hang out and chew gum. Not doing so well at school. And generally trying to be like every other kid my age. Doh! And it worked, I actually made friends! But perhaps unsurprisingly those friendships were flawed and fleeting. Too often I ended up getting hurt. Essentially I was a fraud! I wasn’t connecting with those kids on any real level. Deep down I couldn’t understand why people were so reluctant to accept me as I was. But oh how I wish I'd held my head high and stuck it out instead of trying to change just to fit in. It took me a long time to find and value my individuality again.
So what does all of this have to do with business? And branding?
Well it’s no surprise that I’ve come to learn that we shouldn’t shy away from being different. And we certainly shouldn’t edit or erase our identities just to fit in. Our individual quirks make us awesomely real and unique, which in turn makes life so much more interesting.
In business, differentiation is what everyone strives for… the uniqueness that separates a company and lifts it high above the noise. But it goes deeper than that, we need to be authentic too. We shouldn't try to copy others no matter how amazing and successful they are. Even if they wear pinstriped jeans! But equally we shouldn’t try to be different in ways that we’re simply not just to attract customers. It doesn’t work. There is no value or depth in relationships built on a mirage. They are flawed from the start, impossible to pull off for long and won't last. The fact is, when we are our true selves, with all of our talents, quirks and imperfections we will attract exactly the right type of people. The people we should be working with. They will genuinely gravitate to us for who we are and the relationships that develop will be deep, enriching and hugely rewarding as a result.
Not to mention… positively liberating!
Branding is our portal to present ourselves to the rest of the world. And that branding can either give us a license to be ourselves, or it can trap us in an endless cycle of trying to live up to something we’re not. With authentic branding you and your company will attract customers simply for being who you are and doing what you do best. And what’s even more exciting is that a transparent and differentiated brand can help you to be more profitable! Not only because you’ll attract more of the right customers, but because you are unique enough to be able to charge a premium for what you do. Plus you'll retain those customers for longer. If there are no smoke screens and everyone knows what they're getting before they buy, when you deliver exactly that they'll fall in love with you and be inclined to stick around.
Warning! You need balls of steel!
Yep putting the real you out there for the world to judge is scary stuff! It’s kinda like skinny dipping in an aquarium... at Sea World! We need to be brave to lay our souls bare. (Believe me, I’ll be quaking in my boots when I hit ‘Publish’ on this blog!) Of course, it goes without saying that not everyone will like us. And quite frankly some will avoid us like the plague. But the reward for being courageous and getting metaphorically naked is the complete and utter freedom to become truly successful just by being ourselves. And I for one can’t think of anything better!