Nine Compulsions That Keep Your Brand Mired in the Pack

It’s important not to be the same. But how do you get your brand to stand out, to break from the pack?

Oren Harari is my new favorite guru. I know, I know, he’s been around for quite a while but I just found him a couple of months ago and interviewed him for a podcast. You should listen to it, because he has some profound observations on branding a small business: Break From the Pack

That’s also the title of his notable book on how to compete and win in a copycat economy.

The first step to gaining business individualism, is understanding why you are mired in the pack. From Chapter Two of Oren’s book, here are nine compulsions that will keep you in commodity hell. Stop doing them.

  1. The Compulsion to Cut Costs. Harari calls this a “self-defeating compulsion,” because “You can’t shrink your way to success.” Cost-cutting methods should only be used as part of a well-executed growth strategy.
  2. The Compulsion to Cut Prices. This strategy says that the only way you can differentiate your product from competitors is not with higher quality, cooler design, better features, or great service, but with lower price. Instead of lowering price, Harari recommends on the value side of the equation: Look for services and extras for which people will spend a little more.
  3. The Compulsion to Improve Current Products. While this may be expedient and easier in the short run, Harari says “pouring money and time into improving what are becoming commodities diverts management’s attention from opportunities to take a renewed command of the marketplace.”
  4. The Compulsion to Concentrate on Sales. This is a short term fix (sometimes). “The reality is that pouring money into marketing and sales won’t compensate for an uninteresting or commodity product for long.” But and emphasis on sales “drains attention and urgency from the effort to develop break-from-the-pack products and services.”
  5. The Compulsion to Get Bigger. More than 50% of 1980’s Fortune 500 no longer exist. To find those who will break from the pack, “look at who’s got the quickest adaptivity and imagination, not who’s got the biggest numbers on the balance sheet.”
  6. The Compulsion to Control. There’s a belief that autocracy will somehow force efficiency and increase output, counterbalancing the impact of competing as a commodity. But Harari tells us that “competitive vigor depends on the leaders’ capacity to optimize employees’ intellectual capital for bold, dramatic, and ruthlessly efficient effect.” It means “having uncompromising standards and expecting people to take personal responsibility for their decisions.”
  7. The Compulsion to Ask Customers What They Want. While customers know what they like today and can tell you what they think about your product, Harari says “customers are lousy predictors of what they will like, prefer, expect, and need tomorrow, and that’s where the gold lies.” He advises that instead of responding to the customer, you “pull the customer to new places.”
  8. The Compulsion to Embrace Organizational Fads. If initiatives such as green marketing, diversity, and total quality don’t work for a company, at least it appears as if management tried and they care. But if you are trying to escape a copycat economy, why would you engage your organization in a fad? A fad by its definition is something followed by a group.
  9. The Compulsion to Do Anything, as Long as You’re Doing Something. All business owners are tempted to just “try something” to change their fortunes. Harari says this strategy “…arrests real results.” The effect he says “is like a runner injecting himself with a shot of methedrine before a race. The consequences: a quick burst out of the blocks, flashing glory, and collapses shortly thereafter. You can’t even stay with the pack.”

Harari encourages you to use unconventional wisdom in gaining a brand that is separated from the pack. That’s what the rest of his book is about. You can buy it on Amazon here: Break From the Pack: How to Compete in a Copycat Economy

Related posts on branding & differentiation:
How Stereotyping Can Bring Branding Success (or Failure)
Pancakes and The Art of Brand Leadership
The Psychology of Brand Leadership

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