Conform, fit in, think inside the box, don’t blur the lines…. We have all been told from a young age, that it is important to fit in and be one with the majority-blend in, not blur out; Fade into the crowds not stand out in the blue ocean. We try, try, try so hard to be like the others and do as the Romans do while in Rome. The paradigm shift in your mindset that will thrive in this new digital economy, is not to fit in but to stand out.
Differentiation provides unique positioning which in turn leads to brand equity, power and enduring smiles on Main Street first and then on Wall Street. It’s OK to be different-it’s OK to stand out; in fact, it is desirable and required to be heard among the “me too” cacophony. What you are speaks so loudly, that I cannot hear what you say. Brands, individuals, corporations, universities, governments, military’s, neighborhoods and lifestyles have spent enormous resources (time, effort, money, capital, labor) to create a unique positioning and a distinct and growing piece of real estate in our psyche’s and our minds. As Philip Kotler, and the leading brand luminaries of today so lucidly enunciate, a brand provides comfort and reduces the cognitive dissonance that is inherent in a purchase decision and the resulting action that occurs when we engage with a brand.
Brand value can be a sustainable competitive advantage worth its weight in gold on the balance sheet, the income statement and most importantly in the inter-temporal, additive stock value. Art, music, fashion, jewelry, lifestyle and every other facet of life that appeals to any of our five senses, flirts with our emotion and intellect, in many instances by first being different and standing out. People buy emotionally and then justify logically. The ensuing dance begins with the brand and the consumer initially noticing each other from among the crowds. Differentiation leads to Attraction, that leads to Interaction, which in turn leads to xLV (customer/brand/organization Lifetime Value)-the nirvana and elixir, we are all frantically searching for both in the physical world, and in its digital counterpart.
The first step to customer intimacy and customer delight is to have a customer. You cannot pull a cart forward without first having a strong horse. You cannot have a strong horse that will pull the cart, without first taking care of the horse with the right feed, vaccines, maintenance and tender loving care (TLC) that provides a firm foundation to the edifice of positive and sustainable relationships. Take the first step. You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take. On many occasions, opportunity comes dressed up in overalls and is covered with dirt, grime and grease. Most people will not spot it and will miss out. But a few of us, who are different and do stand out, will be discerning enough to look beyond the obvious, see the vision, Believe, Have Faith, Keep the Faith, and paint the path to the future. If you do what everyone else does, you will get results like everyone else does. Do you want to be average or do you want to be the outlier?
Malcolm Gladwell, in his famous book The Outliers talked about how the outliers created that differentiation and what they did to be the exception rather than the norm. Don’t be average, be distinct. Have the rough edges, be proud of them and keep moving. There is no need to smooth out the rough edges and reduce everything to its lowest common denominator. Motion creates emotion and emotion creates an involved exchange (time, money, interest). Continue to create that differentiation, the uniqueness and stay hungry to stay ahead. That will build on this foundation and empower you to keep moving forward. (time, money, interest). Nothing worth gaining was obtained without effort, hard work, toil and sacrifice. There are no shortcuts or quick-fixes to success. It’s not easy, but so worth it.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken-Oscar Wilde