Talking about the Grateful Dead, rock promoter Billy Graham once said, “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”
Whether you’re a Deadhead or not, it would be hard to argue that the Grateful Dead was not unique. It only takes a few minutes of listening to figure that out. In a world filled with thousands of bands, the Grateful Dead found a way to be the only ones who did what they did—the only ones with their sound and image.
The problem facing brands today is, in many ways, exponentially harder. How does a brand excel when millions of others are publishing similar things? For that, we turn back to Billy Graham and the Grateful Dead. Don’t be the best in the world at what you do. Be the only one in the world who does what you do. Here are a few ways to make that happen:
- Find your “one word,” and own it. What word can you own the way that Volvo owns “safety”? It’s probably not “professional,” “good,” or “ROI”—everyone uses those. It should be the word that best describes you. You should stand for something, not everything. And once you know what your word is, own it. Use it as your focus everywhere, from Twitter to your blog. With that sort of focus, you’ll know exactly what you need to say, and why you need to say it.
- Stay relentlessly committed to what makes you great. Which carries right over to this point. What makes you great? Is it your safe cars? Your human approach to marketing? Your sleek products that seem to just fit in your consumers’ hand? If what makes you great is immediately clear to you, take it and run with it, if you haven’t already. If you’re not sure, that’s okay. Spend some time trying to nail it down. This likely won’t happen overnight, but when you know what you’re good at, you shouldn’t be afraid to double down and make sure what you’re great at is reflected in all of your content. You don’t have to state it explicitly, but your value prop should at least be implicit in everything you write.
- Don’t compare yourself. If you’re good enough, you’ll never have to. There’s one more thing you need to do: be great on your own. The Grateful Dead were the only ones at what they did. Even if Billy Graham wanted to compare them to someone else, he would’ve had a tough time. If you’re selling yourself as a cheaper Apple or as a better McKinsey or as a more creative IBM, you’re entering a race to the bottom. Your value prop and your word, described above, should be clear without ever having to compare yourself to someone else. If you’re good enough, you’ll never have to. So don’t.
I don’t want to pretend that making your brand distinctive is as simple as following three steps. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. What I do mean to say is that there are tangible steps you can take every day to get your company started down that path.
Second only to your product or service, your content is the biggest determinant of who your company is. By staying laser focused on great, strategic content, you can help make your brand less like it happens to be today and more like an ideal version of itself.
There are millions of links tweeted, photos shared, and blogs published every day. If you don’t make yourself distinctive, in today’s world, you’re bound to lose. Don’t like the Grateful Dead? Doesn’t matter. They figured out what they were good at, honed in on it, and rode that skill right into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with lots of money along the way.
Photo Credit: by CC Social Media Contractors