How Will You Be Judged?

[Cache – #152]

You’re different.  In a good way.  But most of you will do a poor job of expressing your difference to the world.  As a result, you will not be recognized for your unique talents nor be able to use them, and share them, on the scale you would like.  And therefore your potential will go unfulfilled.

Those were the key messages I conveyed last week to a group of young entrepreneurs, members of an organization called Startup Toronto.  Yet I would speak those words to pretty much any group of people, anywhere.  Because, despite the inevitable variety imposed on us by the 7 billion billion billion atoms of which we are made, we use a startlingly narrow range of language and imagery to describe what makes us different – and thus more worthy of more and better customers than the next guy – from the next guy.

Part of the problem is the sheer unwillingness of most people to exercise creativity in the way they talk about their business.  I suppose it must seem like hard work with insufficient ROI, especially when their business is already having success.  On this point, the best I can say is first, congratulations, and second, you’ve been successful despite starting work each day with the equivalent of white shoes, a white belt and a powder blue polyester suit.

Of course, the point must be made that some people, like my late grandfather John Thompson, can rock this look, and hard.  But he was a judge and covered up with a robe at work.  And anyway, the crooks’ impression of his brand was generally not a determining factor in whether they sat in his courtroom.

Another part of the problem is that, even though no two value propositions are identical, the differences between one brand and the next are slim.  Take the quick service food industry.  We should feel reasonably confident that the majority of players in this field are serving fresh food.  So how could a brand possibly build a global empire by saying that hey, we serve fresh food?

Ask Subway: with 41,000 units, the largest chain of restaurants in the world.  Do a word association exercise with anyone and their response to the word “Subway” will be something similar to “fresh” or “healthy.”

But Subway is not the only restaurant in the world selling fresh or healthy food.  They’ve simply been the most skilled and relentlessly consistent at talking about fresh and healthy:  whether through the Eat Fresh tagline (14 years old) or by backing it up with reasons to believe like Jared, the guy that lost 275 pounds eating Subway subs (campaign also 14 years old).

So, what have we learned?

1.  If you are a judge, your brand is irrelevant.  Feel free to do whatever you want.  As if I had to tell you.
2.  If you are not a judge, brand matters.  The way you say what you say matters.  Looking in the mirror matters.  You can get one cheap from a judge.

IN THE MEDIA:  Andris Pone comment on the Super Bowl, WestJet, Tim Hortons, Lululemon, Indigo and more.

BOOK:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter.

brand: it ain't the logo - The #1 Globe and Mail business bestseller - Ted Matthews with Andris Pone -

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