I was speaking with the founder of a great brand last week. She was worried that one of the largest companies in the category had just launched a new product targeted directly at her consumer. “How can we beat them?”, she asked, “They are so much bigger and have a lot more money, it’s unfair.”
My response? “You beat them by being authentic, different, and quirky. You do it by leveraging the very real consumer connection you've created. You beat them by being you.”
It made me think of the article below that I wrote a few years ago. I feel the message is as timely today as it was when originally published.
In my opinion being different is a superpower both for a brand and for an individual. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
We compete, that is what we do. Some more fiercely than others. That competition can be internal, which is where I’ve spent much of my energy and focus. Most competition, however, is outward facing. Athletes compete against other athletes, business people do the same. Heck, there are millions of people just trying to keep up with those overachieving Joneses.
I don’t want to burst your bubble. On second thought, maybe I do. There can only be one number one. If it is not you or your company, then what are you? Is top 10 or top 100 good enough? If you Google the word “Greatness” you will find over 50MM results. We, as a society, as a species, are enamored with greatness. Here’s the deal, and let me be painfully blunt. You can spend your life in the pursuit of greatness, but that would be a fool's errand. It is rarefied air. If greatness was achievable by the masses, what would be so great about it?
All that effort, the angst, and the stress may only get to goodness or if you are lucky, above-averageness. Because, no matter how hard you work, regardless of how much drive and desire you have, as I said, there is only one number one.
Don’t fret, I have a solution to offer. I want to first tell you a story. My wife and I were invited to high tea. Not an everyday occurrence for us. In fact, in my nearly 50-years on this earth, that was my first high tea. It just sounds cool but has no real bearing on the story. What does, was the conversation we were having over tea. We were talking about people we knew and found interesting and enjoyable to be with. Do you know what? They weren’t those uber-successful people, or the ones chasing greatness. No, we were talking about how much we love “quirky” people.
You see, the people we remember, those whom we find interesting, they’re unique. The same holds true for the brands and companies we like and follow. The best thing about different is that we can all achieve it, in fact, we already have. There are no number ones there is just different, quirky.
Now, there is productive different and non-productive different, and I will leave you to figure out which is which. Productive differences allow us to stand apart. It is a much better and far more effective place to be seen and heard than mere goodness or above-averageness.
We forget about what make us different in our foolish pursuit of greatness. All that energy we waste on that misguided pursuit could be redirected to honing our differences and building our story.
I am not great, and I am completely cool with that. My mother might disagree, but that is fodder for a whole other series of articles. While I might not be great, I am different, unique, original. I look at the world differently, come at problems from a different angle, connect with people in a different manner. I wear it as a badge of honor and incorporate into my own narrative that I tell myself and others.
Jump off the hamster wheel. Embrace what makes you different as a person and as a company. Tell that story to the world. It will be you, your brand, your company that is talked about at high tea. Trust me, those chasing goodness, above-averageness, and greatness, they’re not very interesting.