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In a branded world, how do you stand out? How can you make your product or company soar when you have hundreds, if not thousands of competitors in the market?

These are tough questions to answer. I was skimming through the first chapter of The Purple Cow, the other day, and that’s what inspired this blog post. So what makes a company great? It is because they are remarkable!

The analogy that Seth Godin uses is the one of the purple cow. Let’s say you were driving, and you spotted a field of brown cows. You might be interested at first, but after a few kilometres, you will quickly lose interest. Once you’ve seen a thousand brown cows, frankly, you will find it boring. But what if you saw a purple cow? Now that would be remarkable, right?

This analogy can definitely apply to branding. Why is the iPod so great? It’s not really because of the product. There are thousands of MP3 players out there that do the same as the iPod. And there are most likely some that are out there that are better! Really, if you drop your iPod, and the screen cracks and leaks, you pretty much need to get a new one. It’s really not that great of a product. However, Apple has convinced us that we absolutely need to have one by making it look cool and trendy! And they convinced us that we should pay HUNDREDS of dollars for it! Wow! Isn’t that remarkable!

Another example would be Starbucks. They sell coffee, just like any other place. Their coffee isn’t any better than other coffee shops. But they’ve convinced us that we should pay three times as much for a cup of java than other places. What’s up with that? It’s because they’ve created a certain experience around the brand. You don’t just pay for the product, you pay for the experience. Now that’s remarkable.

Seth also mentions that you do not have to be remarkable all the time, which is true. The innovation you created can lift you up high enough to be sustainable. Again, let’s use Starbucks for an example. Starbucks was remarkable a few years ago, but now they are kind of boring, just like every other coffee shop. But that innovation allowed them to expand, make lots of profits, create a consumer movement, and be sustainable.

Now why aren’t there more remarkable companies/brands out there? Why, when a company adopts an idea like Starbucks’ or Apple’s, does it not take off? It’s because they are followers.

“The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader precisely because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken — so it’s no longer remarkable when you decide to do it.” Seth Godin – Purple Cow

Let’s take Lady Gaga for example (yes, this applies to personal brands as well!). She is remarkable. She takes risk. She’s not scared of expressing herself. And that’s probably why she is so popular. Now, if someone else would come along, and try to pull off the stunts that she is doing, it wouldn’t be remarkable. They would only be seen as a copycat, because it has already been done.

So how do you differentiate your brand then? Akin (2011) argues that brand differentiation and competitive advantage can happen with brand personality.

So let’s look at what makes personality so special

  • Personality makes an individual different from others
  • Personality is consistent
  • Personality may change

Now wait a minute! That’s pretty much what I learned about branding in my Marketing Strategy course!

  • Marketing makes a brand different from others
  • Marketing activities and branding strategies are consistent
  • Marketing activities and branding strategies may change

“Rivals can easily copy a new product that is developed thanks to technological progress. This makes firms seek different ways, along with strategies, to develop new products and their features. Effective brand management is an important competitive advantage for firms under increasing competition (Akin, 2011).”

Isn’t that what Seth Godin was talking about in Purple Cow? Akin (2011) argues that by developing brand personalities, you can connect on an emotional level with the consumers. He also mentions that emotional factors surrounding a brand are more influential than concrete and rational ones in positioning a brand or product with a consumer.

“A successful brand differentiation can be possible by building personality. Thanks to brand personality, consumers see brands as a friend since it provides them with emotional benefits. A well-formed brand personality increases brand preference and usage. Also, a strong emotional tie built by brand personality ensures trust for a brand (Akin, 2011).”

So is Akin right? Is this the key to be remarkable? I was reading an example of Mike’s Hard Lemonade in one of my textbooks, and it pretty much fits the bill. When they created the product, they created a persona named “Mike” and give him his personality. That personality influenced what the logo looked like, what colours they chose, what tag lines they would use, etc. And it seemed like it worked.

So the moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to take a risk and make your company/ brand/ product stand out. Playing it safe, like everyone else is doing, might be the ultimate risk.

So, what do you think makes brands remarkable? How else can you make yourself stand out? Do you think that playing it safe is taking a risk?

Reference

Akin, M. (2011). Predicting consumers’ behavioral intentions with perceptions of brand personality: A study in cell phone markets. International Journal of Business and Management, 6(6), 193-193-206. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/872115758?accountid=12599

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