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Building on Strengths

When you’re really stuck, when you feel like you don’t know what could possibly be different about your business, where do you turn? In an earlier posting I talked about how a brand can be developed from one word, the word emerges from the essence of the business. Another way to get there is to look at your strengths and use that strength or those strengths as the core idea for developing your brand.

A good clue to what your strengths may be is to look at what you feel competitors have learned from you and copied.

The key here is to realize that what everyone has copied is a clue to your true strength.

In recent work with a consumer-facing service business all competitors in this 400,000 population city borrowed from one another and eventually all became the same. One business, founded in the 1970s, started the business on the principles of exceptional customer service. Eventually everyone was talking about that. In the 1980s businesses opened up promising glamour, in the 1990s the promise was edginess, different for the sake of it. In the new millennium a business opened offering added value services and personalized care, bringing high-end sought-after product into the market. In the last eight years all the city’s businesses have now adopted this. So, what differentiates?

Here are the true strengths:

The 1970s business was founded by a man who was dripping with the charm and elegance of the old European world. His love of emotionally intimate relationships with his customers is his strength. Today, his business still misses the boat on this amazing and differentiated positioning for his brand.

The 1980s business perhaps was founded by someone with a keen sense of fashion and how to translate that glamour into their customer’s everyday lives. This business has abandoned that strength and is using the latest messaging to attract customers. It’s too bad, translating glamour into the everyday is magical and a differentiated positioning.

The 1990s business perhaps was founded by someone motivated and inspired by change.

The business founded in the new millennium? The added value services were inspired by a value system held deeply by the founder to share. Even the compensation system for his staff was designed on a system of sharing and not singularly-focused commissions like all his competitors. Today their brand is singularly differentiated. And, it’s a positioning that the competition will not be able to copy. Why? Because their brand positioning is based on a deeply held value system, it IS who they are, and you can’t just copy that.