Brands mostly look alike. I wrote last week on how industry standards are a commodity trap, but there is another more-common commodity culprit: the customer.
|Image courtesy of nickfarr|
Die Crowdsourcing, Die!
Would you let the crowd choose your spouse? Why not? You will spend as much, or more, time with your business as with your spouse. And if you brand a business to please the crowd, why not choose a spouse based on what the crowd wants? So take a survey, ask your friends: “If you were choosing a spouse, what features would you want?” All spouses would look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and we see how that’s working out.
That’s the danger of listening to customers and trying to build something they might like. You get predictable answers and a predictable brand. Listening to customers eliminates the chance that you will surprise your customers. A crowd of customers cannot surprise and delight a crowd of customers, because they’re thinking like a crowd, not a brand.
I think this is what has happened to SXSW Interactive, the largest annual gathering of social geeks and marketing gurus in the world. SXSW lets the crowd vote on the speakers and panels for the conference. Their crowd-sourced panel of speakers yields predictable speakers and predictable topics, and sessions with predictable content with predictably clever titles. I decided not to buy a ticket this year because the subject matter and speakers looked a lot like last year’s event. In fact, a parallel series of mostly free unaffiliated SXSW events now takes place in Austin simultaneously with SXSW, presenting information predictably left out of the big show by the crowd.
Contrast that with an event I attended last week, Mobile University 101 that had zero crowd-sourcing. You can tell because there were no sessions with “Kick-Ass” in the title. The event was organized by the Heartland Mobile Council and featured authoritative speakers and industry experts hand-picked to deliver specific information and an intentional learning experience. I learned a lot, and would buy that ticket again.
Filling the Branding Hole
Donut shops mostly look all the same because they’re branded from the outside in. They are created to look like donut shops so that people will be attracted to them and consequently they all look like Dunkin Donuts and Shipley Donuts. But occasionally you get a donut shop that is branded from the inside out. That’s when you get surprising brands like
Gourdough’s in Austin, that proudly makes “Big. Fat. Donuts.” They’ll even make your donut to order!
Ronald’s Donuts, Yelp’s top-rated donut shop in Las Vegas. Where more than 70% of the selection is Vegan. The owners don’t even bother with a website.
Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, home of the infamous artery-clogging Bacon Maple Bar. It’s where the owners proclaim “They started with nothing more than a dream and good looks.”
Build the Brand You Like
The final point here is you. You want your business to be around for a while, to be sustainable. If that’s true then you darn-sure better build a business that pleases you. Can you imagine running a business that was built on what everybody else predictably thought they wanted? Yuck.
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