Busting the Myth of Originality: Branding Basics

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).

The Myth of Originality

So here’s a concept:  Why You’ve Never Had an Original Thought.

“Have you ever had that moment where you feel like you’ve come up with a brilliant idea, only to have someone else claim that they had already suggested it? Well, it turns out that most of our thoughts may not actually be original to us. This phenomenon is known as cryptomnesia, and it occurs when our brains mistakenly convince us that an idea or thought is our own creation when in reality, we have encountered it before and forgotten about it.

Cryptomnesia is a form of cognitive bias that takes advantage of the brain’s tendency to inaccurately recall information in a way that benefits us. It can be as simple as unintentionally stealing a co-worker’s idea or accidentally recreating someone else’s art. In fact, even famous artists and musicians have fallen victim to this phenomenon.

But how does cryptomnesia happen? According to American psychologists Alan Brown and Dana Murphy, who conducted a seminal scientific study into the phenomenon in 1989, it may be due to a mental error in which the brain mixes up two different forms of memory. One type, known as semantic memory, includes general knowledge, such as the definition of a word or the capital of a country. The second type, autobiographical memory, deals directly with the circumstances of our experiences, recording the exact context in which events happen to us.

Cryptomnesia occurs when the brain mistakenly categorizes information, saving it as a purely semantic memory, with the larger context lost. This explains why we can recall information that we have encountered before but forgotten where we learned it. In fact, studies have shown that cryptomnesia can be induced quite easily, with participants frequently claiming other people’s suggestions as their own, even when offered monetary rewards for correctly attributing ideas.

Interestingly, plagiarism occurs more often in written tasks compared to oral tasks, and ideas that are expressed more frequently are especially likely to be stolen. Overall, plagiarized answers account for 7 to 9 percent of all responses in experiments, indicating just how prevalent cryptomnesia can be.

It’s startling to realize that some of our most cherished memories may not have happened or may have happened to someone else entirely, as noted by famed neurologist Oliver Sacks. This phenomenon also raises ethical questions regarding intellectual property and ownership. If we’re not always aware of where our ideas come from, how can we be sure that we’re not inadvertently stealing someone else’s work?”

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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Image via Wikipedia

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!

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FAQ: How can I master branding basics for business success?

Branding is integral to business success. Aside from creating an eye-catching logo or tagline, successful branding requires more. I can guide you through the essential basics for business success that are key to brand development.

  1. Understand Your Audience

The first step in mastering branding basics is to know your audience inside out. Conduct thorough market research to grasp their preferences, pain points, and aspirations. The more you know about your target group, the better you can tailor your brand to resonate with them.

  1. Craft a Unique Value Proposition

Branding is integral to business success. Aside from creating an eye-catching logo or tagline, successful branding requires more. I can guide you through the essential basics for business success that are key to brand development.

  1. Consistency is Key

Maintain consistency across all branding elements, from your logo and color scheme to your messaging and customer interactions. A consistent brand fosters recognition and trust. It’s the foundation upon which your brand identity is built.

  1. Quality Content is King

Content marketing is an integral part of branding. Producing high-quality, relevant content positions your brand as an authority in your industry engages your audience, and encourages loyalty.

  1. Tell a Story

The most successful brands tell compelling stories. Share the journey of your business, its values, and its mission. A well-told story adds depth and emotional connection to your brand, which is memorable and relatable.

  1. Online Presence Matters

Your online presence can serve as the first impression for customers in the digital era. Make sure your website is responsive to mobile users and optimized for search engine indexing.

  1. Build Relationships

Mastering branding basics involves fostering relationships with your audience. Engage with your customers on social media and respond to their feedback. Authentic interactions create a loyal customer base.

  1. Monitor and Adapt

Rebranding can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but mastering its key elements can set your business on an inexorable course to success. Your brand represents more than just a logo  —  it represents who you are as an organization.

Step-by-Step Procedure to Master Branding Basics for Business Success

  1. Begin by thoroughly understanding your target audience through comprehensive market research.
  2. Develop a unique value proposition (UVP) that distinguishes your business from competitors.
  3. Maintain brand consistency across all elements, including logos, messaging, and customer interactions.
  4. Implement a content marketing strategy to establish your brand as an authority and engage your audience.
  5. Create a compelling brand story that resonates with your audience.
  6. Invest in a strong online presence, including an optimized website.
  7. Foster relationships with your customers through authentic engagement and feedback response.
  8. Monitor your brand’s performance and adapt to industry and customer changes.

Following these steps, you can master the branding basics and pave the way for business success.

This article was updated on November 24, 2023.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (1)
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One Reply to “Busting the Myth of Originality: Branding Basics”

Alex Pokorny

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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