Most of us wear what we want and act the way we want to, then hope people like us. We dress in clothes that look fairly similar to what everyone else wears and wear our hair in one of a few socially acceptable styles. When someone wears something truly outlandish — a dress made out of meat, or a neckline that plunges to the waistline — it becomes news. Red carpets at award shows are watched by millions, and the clothing worn to these events is discussed for weeks afterwards. But would anyone pay attention to the red carpet if everyone just wore jeans and t-shirts? Celebrities — human brands — understand that they need to be memorable to get attention.
You may not like to stand out from the crowd but this should not be true for your business. If your business seems just like every other, why should anyone bother to come in? How will you get noticed? How will you be remembered?
Every entrepreneur must find a way to present her business so people can form a quick mental image of how this business is different from — and better than — all similar businesses. When there was only one grocery store or one auto repair shop in town your brand didn’t matter very much. If people wanted to buy food or fix their cars, they patronized the local grocery store or body shop; they had no other choice. But today we can get almost anything from dozens of similar businesses. And, for the most part, we can choose the type of purchasing experience we want: we can shop online, buy from catalogs, visit brick-and-mortar stores or watch the shopping channel. We live In an age of tremendous consumer choice. Brands make choices easier to understand. In today’s market, brands have become the critical primary driver behind our purchasing choices.
If I want organic groceries from a community-minded, progressive company, I can visit a local grocery store co-op. If I want familiar brands at the lowest price possible, I can shop at a massive national chain with extensive distribution channels. If I want to buy from a store that offers lots of convenient locations, I have that choice as well. We decide where to buy groceries (and everything else) based on what brands tell us: what each company has communicated about their products, prices, location and values. These communications don’t just come from weekly ads or websites; each brand communicates something about itself by the products it offers and displays, the number and type of available products, the number and locations of the stores in the chain and the prices it charges.
In this crowded marketplace, entrepreneurs must do more than decide what products and services to offer. They must define their offering in the context of the overall marketplace and communicate that position. This is where the personality of your business comes from; this is where you decide what kind of celebrity you want to be.
Once you’ve determined how you want your business to be perceived and how it fits into the larger marketplace, you must develop a brand that stands out from the crowd. If you find a way for your business to capture positive attention, you’ll have a much easier time luring potential customers away from your competition.