Be Distinct or Become Extinct

March 15, 2021

By Ken Gasque

Tom Peters said “distinct…or extinct” in his book The Brand You. He was talking about personal branding, but the same tactics apply to businesses.

If your product/service is no different from your competition, why should the consumer consider it unless you are willing to compete on price? Will your business become extinct? Probably not right away. It will take a while to bleed to death from low pricing.

In an article about his book, Tom Peters gives five ideas to be distinct… (“for you the brand,” but four of them can also apply to branding your product/service):

  • What do I want the product/service to be known for?
  • Perform a Business Brand Equity Inventory – ask people you know to tell you three or four words or phrases they associate with your product/service. Do you like what they say?
  • Develop a core competence – be particularly good at something.
  • Develop a :30 second elevator speech differentiating your product/service.

When you perform a Business Brand Equity Inventory listen closely because you should be surprised. Don’t sell, or justify, or explain, just sit on your hands and listen. It can be very important information.

What do you want to be known for? What matters to you?

Act like your product/service is the brand you want to become. Write an accurate definition of what your brand stands for. Why are you bringing it to market? What will be the customers experience? What are customer personas?

Being first is the most important thing you can do to brand a product or service. If you can’t be first, change the category. If you can’t change the category. Be different. When Federal Express began in 1973, they positioned themselves as the only carrier that could guarantee overnight on time delivery. There were five competitors who could have made the claim, but Federal Express was the first.

Be consistent in promise and visuals. Be patient. It takes time to brand and you will become tired of graphics, and messages long before your prospects and customers. Be patient. Be consistent. “When it rains it pours” has been the branding statement for Morton Salt for over 100 years.

Or make your uniqueness visual. Appearance matters… everything you do visually to your product/service matters. Logo, website, social media, signage, name (yes visually), store front, ads, billboards, office, office furniture, office location, business cards, letterhead, etc. “We buy with our eyes™” and everything visual is part of your branding experience.

Think design. Think graphics. Because it is faster and easier to rebrand beginning with good design than any other way. All of the points (what to be known for, brand equity inventory, core competence, and articulating differentiation) are important but first and foremost is visual… “We buy with our eyes.™”


About Ken Gasque

Ken is a brand developer, marketing planner and designer. He works with small and large companies who recognize the need to differentiate their products and services to stand out in a cluttered market. His work reflects his belief that “We buy with our eyes.™” He writes and lectures on his experiences developing brands (good, bad and funny).