Challenge Convention

Jun 6, 2013 | Brand Differentiation

Not all companies are equal. Two companies could leverage the same strategy, but achieve entirely different outcomes. The difference is in their creativity and execution.

The devil is in the details. As David Aaker wrote, “The best ideas not executed well and consistently will fail.” But it’s greater than that. Bland and boring implementations fail too.

Companies that push the boundaries and test their limits immediately stand out, because they don’t let fear hold them back.

Professional isn’t good enough

Every industry convention starts somewhere. Usually the leader of a category made a decision early on to differentiate itself, but as the company grew their behaviors evolved into industry conventions.

Before Starbucks, coffee was served in brown paper cups. Now consumers expect “good coffee” to be served in a pristine white cup.

Before the iPhone, smartphones had keyboards—nostalgic memories of my Blackberry just came rushing back. Now smartphones are keyboard free.

Look at your industry. What conventions prevail? How do the companies position themselves? What stories do they tell? How do their employees dress? What colors do their brands use?

The conventions of your industry were defined by someone else. The leader of your industry decides what is professional and what’s not. Your job is to challenge those expectations.

Great marketing breaks away from the status quo, and finds new ways to be interesting and relevant.

Push until it’s scary

Fear is a great indicator to demonstrate if you’re on the right path and pushing hard enough.

Whenever I am nervous about a new initiative and how it will be received, I know I’m on the right track. The greater the fear, the more I know I have to do it.

Fear is a sign that you’re taking a risk, and challenging those industry conventions.

It’s a nervous excitement. You know it could be great, but there’s a “but.” Your internal voice is screaming:

  • “What if it doesn’t work?”
  • “What if I’m laughed at?”
  • “What if they don’t like it?”

“What if’s” and “buts” are signs to go for it.

If everything feels fine then your work is likely bland and boring, and falling in line with industry convention. Copying the leader won’t deliver great results. Use fear to help point you in new, innovative directions.

Fear is paralyzing

Take comfort in the fact that fear is paralyzing. Let it hold back your competitors. Your ability to overcome your fears and challenge industry conventions will immediately separate you from the herd.

Growing a sticky brand is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts to push the boundaries and innovate.

Take comfort that fear will prevent your competitors from copying you because:

  • Taking a clear stance is “too risky” for many firms
  • Strong creative (in design, writing and positioning) is rare
  • It takes a committed leadership team to try something new

Let the competition continue to follow the leader, and deliver bland, boring results. You can grow a sticky brand by overcoming your fears, and doing something great.

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Jeremy Miller

Top 30 Brand Guru

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