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“The most wonderful thing about Tiggers is, I’m the only one!”

This line from Walt Disney’s Winnie-The-Pooh pretty much captures the essence of branding. My point is this: can you say the same thing about your company, product or service? If so, you cannot be commoditized. Those who are truly unique are by definition immune. This, then, is the anti-commodity—the discipline of defining and articulating your absolute uniqueness. It’s differentiating yourself convincingly from any and all competitors.

There may be imitators or knock-offs, but there is only one Rolex. There is only one Coca-Cola. There is only one IBM, one Target, one Volvo. On a smaller scale, there is only one Cirque du Soleil, one B&H electronics retailer, one In-N-Out Burger, one Peet’s coffee, one Pep Boys automotive store. Does this mean these companies don’t have to compete? Of course not. The Big Boys may have to compete harder than anybody because they’re so big. Does it mean these companies don’t have pricing pressures? Don’t be silly. They’re working as hard as anyone to deliver a competitively priced product and service. Does it mean they don’t have to continually innovate and improve their products and customer service? Absolutely not. Nothing about a unique position and a great brand frees you from running a great business. 

Fundamentally, the two are one and the same. When you have developed a strong and compelling brand, price won’t go away as a competitive issue, but you’ll certainly have a weapon to help you support your margins. Does Starbucks have to convince you a latte is worth seven bucks – even though you can buy a good cup of coffee for one dollar? No. Does Tylenol have to explain why you should pay twice what the very same acetaminophen costs in the generic package? No, and Tylenol still maintains twice the market share of the next leading pain reliever. Did Nike have any trouble getting you to pony up more than one hundred dollars for a pair of sneakers made in China? May I rest my case? These are extremely strong brands – the poster children of branding. But strong brands are being built in banking, in health care, in industrial engineering. The key for middle-market and small players is utilizing the tools proven with great big brands to develop and grow your own brand. You can do it. Hundreds of small businesses have.

Brands defy commoditization. Have you ever asked yourself: how can we attract better customers? How can we recruit top talent? How can we support our margins? How can we clearly target the appropriate niches? If so, it’s time to start developing and articulating your brand. It’s time for you to develop your own anti-commodity. Can you echo Tigger’s sentiment about your company? If so, you’re beyond commoditization. True uniqueness grants immunity. If not, let us help you get there.

Author Thoma Thoma

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