In the past most businesses gained competitive advantage from size, scale or dominance. Whoever the biggest marketing budget and could sell the most stuff won. Success was more about what you did and much less about the way that you did it. But today it’s the way that you go about your business and how you enable people to attach meaning to your brand (soloist or Fortune 100 included) that matters.
It’s a lot easier of course to say that you’re an author, photographer or investment advisor. It’s much simpler to describe your company as being in user experience, the technology business or the transportation industry—the ‘this is what we do’ part. But what you make probably isn’t enough to create an advantage for you in today’s marketplace. Products and services without meaning are just replaceable commodities.
When you think of beloved brands like the most popular cafe in your area, what one word immediately springs to mind? Perhaps it’s consistency or community? It’s probably not coffee. Apple is immediately design. Samsung….er, let me get back to you on that. PayPal is convenience. Your bank is….probably something that you don’t want me to repeat here. Nancy Duarte is resonate, Simon Sinek, why. This word association seems even more powerful when you flip it the other way. Which market leader comes to mind when you think of tribes, the blue box, a tick?
If you asked the same question of your customers would they be able to shoot a word back at you without hesitation? What word would that be? If the answer is ‘no’ and it’s not the word you were hoping for then go change something. You get to choose what your work stands for and the meaning it creates.
It turns out that there isn’t room for more than one blue box in a category.
‘The way’ matters far more than we realise.
Image by Mairwen.