The number-one thing that’s killing your brand is that you’re not saying anything. You look like everyone else. You sound like everyone else. You’re slaving away. You are working away. You think you’re the greatest thing in the world, yet no one even cares.
I get it. When you are a business person, it is hard to know what to say and how to say it. So the first thing that you do is you go and see what everyone else is doing in your industry. What are they saying and how are they saying it? What does their website look like? Then you just take little bits and pieces, cobble something together, and say, “Here I am.” But guess what, now you are just one of the pack. You are one of the crowd. You are just like everyone else, which means there is no reason that anyone should pick you out. There’s nothing that makes you special, and you just blend in.
When I was younger and I was getting out of film school, I just wanted desperately to be seen as good as everyone else. I didn’t think that I was very good. I was young, and I was inexperienced. I would just work, work, and work. And what did that get me? After years of hard work, it got me to the point where I was as good as everyone else. Great, now I’m like everyone else. Then I had to switch gears and work and work and work to get better than everyone else and to be different. I spent years trying to blend in only to find myself now having to spend years to try to separate myself.
So I promised myself that the next time I took on a new venture, when I switched my brand, and when I went into something new, I was not going to waste any time or any energy trying to be perceived as competent or capable or like everyone else. I was going to leap-frog that, and I was going to go to the place where I could already be better than everyone else. The only way to be seen as better is to be different.
This is a subjective world we live in, but it takes courage and inner fortitude to be able to say, “You know what, I am not going to do the safe, comfortable thing. I will go through all of my competitors and grab the bits and pieces and all.” Everyone in my industry looks this way. Everyone in my industry sounds this way. We all wear suits. You have to stand out and get used to being different, and that feels uncomfortable. That feels like a risk.
Gee, how often I sit down with marketers and talk about the brands we love, the campaigns we love, and the entrepreneurs we love. Everyone points to those who stand out. Think of great entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. We look at them, and we say, “That’s who I want to be like. That’s how I want to run my company.” Then the time comes to decide how to spend the money, invest the time, put yourself out there, and do the things that are a little bit risky. And guess what happens? People back down. They get scared. You don’t want to offend people, so you say nothing. You don’t want to put those dollars at risk because it’s easy for the big brands to risk it for you. It’s not that you don’t risk anything or you don’t test anything or you don’t try anything. We look at these companies and these people that do the most amazing things, and we get inspired by them, and we start to take action. If we back down and we blend in, it destroys us.
You have to be willing to risk offending people. Do you want to say something bold? Do you want to say something different? Well, guess what, some people are going to love it, and some people are going to hate it. You can’t market and advertise to everyone. You can’t build a brand that’s attractive to the old and the young or to men and women of every socioeconomic class. You can’t do that. You have to get specific and to do that, you need to be comfortable ignoring whole groups of people. That’s just the way it is.
In my business, we run an agency. I love working with corporate people in big and small companies and startups, entrepreneurs, salespeople, marketing people, and others. However, it’s really hard to market and sell to all those different people in all those different industries. You have to water down your message. No one knows who you’re speaking to. If we go speak to entrepreneurs and medium-sized companies, does that mean we’re missing the big guys and the small guys? Yeah. Does it mean that we’re missing the people in corporate clients? Of course. Does that bother me? Yes. But to be able to build a brand that stands out, you have to stand for something.
What do you stand for? What makes you unique? What makes you different? What can you say that only you can say? How can you say it in a way that is 100 percent authentically you? If you spend all your time worrying about how you look compared to others, you are focusing on the wrong thing. You know what your unique selling proposition is? It is you — your voice, your perspective, and your tone. Take the best elements of that. Take the essence of that, and triple down on it. Make sure that in every message, in every part of your website, in all of your photography, in your branding, in your advertising, and in everything you do, you take that essence of what makes you you, and then just go all-in on it.
Stop worrying about how you compare to those in your industry. Stop being afraid of the fact that everyone wears suits and you’re not. Stop trying to blend in and start building not only a brand that is worth listening to but also a brand that you love to love.