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May 6, 2010

Busting the Myth of Originality: Branding Basics

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My favorite band once told me to “come original.” While 311 is my life’s soundtrack, on this point I suggest otherwise. (Unlike my guys from Omaha, here are some musicians that may agree with me.)

So here’s a concept: This thought is not original.

But it hasn’t discouraged me. The truth is that most ideas aren’t. Trying to be original in the 21st century can be a paralyzing goal because really, what hasn’t been thought of at this point? Chasing after an original idea can lead to frustration and the death of a good idea, if not an original one. In the article linked to above, the author writes:

At this stage, most entrepreneurs will dismiss their idea because they believe “it’s not original or innovative” enough if someone else is doing it. Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap of killing off their ideas way too early before exploring all of the possibilities that can lead to true innovation.

So if there’s no such thing as originality, then why do marketer types put so much emphasis on communicating a unique selling proposition? And how can originality coexist with other desirable traits, like relatability and consistency? Actually, I think these characteristics play together quite nicely.

Here are some ideas (Unoriginal? Probably.) on how to make your special offering stand out, rather than driving yourself crazy and ineffective by chasing the impossibly original dream.

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Emphasize What’s Unique: From a business standpoint, you want to differentiate your offering from that of the competition. Highlight your differences to help you stand out from the crowd. Your product or service doesn’t have to be the next light bulb — it can be a version of something already in existence, but better in some way. Then market the heck out of that unique something. Safer? Less expensive? More convenient? Better range of colors? Why should I care about you again?

Relate to Your Customers: From a consumer relations standpoint, you want your brand and message to resonate with your audience. One of the best compliments I ever got was that I write like a real person. Not a really smart person, or a really experienced person — just a real person. You can maintain a professional tone, dependent on the usual tenor of your industry. Just communicate in a way that’s natural and genuine so that people connect with your business, and think of you like a friend or a neighbor. It can be enough to give your offering an edge in the marketplace. I think relatability may be a factor in why brands active in social media are so likely to be recommended by their followers.

Be Consistent: Nothing hastens the red flags quite like insincerity. A sure fire way of having your sincerity questioned is by sending messages that don’t jive. Call it a unified brand or extending your core values to all that you do. Your customers want to know what to expect from your products or services. If you can prove yourself dependable, you can win some long-term relationships.

So yeah, you’ve probably heard this all before. But I packaged it up, fresh and different for you. And I explained it in a way we can all relate to it. And it fits in with the other thoughts I share here on the blog. It’s almost like my advice in action!







One response to “Busting the Myth of Originality: Branding Basics”

  1. Alex Pokorny writes:

    Great article!

    So lets take this to the extreme.

    Lets say there is a Saint Paul Plumbing Company (a hypothetical example)
    Reliable, consistent are perfect traits. Making this company look too unique could actually be detrimental. The unique trait could be the most consistent, the most reliable. In reality there is nothing really unique about the service, every company states that they are the most reliable, professional, etc. So unique doesnt count here.

    Ok and now lets look at a clothing company, skater clothes, a single mall store and online sales.
    Reliable, consistent clothing? Or unique? I would put emphasis on the unique traits of the company. The coolest designs, newest look/style, etc. In this example if the company is not known as unique would it really succeed?

    So is uniqueness just a factor in certain situations and not all? Is uniqueness required in some?



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