Stand Out … Unless You’re OK with Being Just Another Face in the Crowd

“We want to stand out from the competition. We’re really different, so be as creative as you can so we can stand out.” This, in a nutshell, was what a client told us once. We had done the discovery, thought we had really honed in on who they were, and what their story was. They weren’t shy about telling us how different they were, and that was exciting for us! We really got our creative juices going, and came up with some great concepts that differentiated them from others in their industry.

Then came time to present. The client looked at our messaging and proposed campaigns with dismay. At one point during our presentation, they said “yeah, we know this is what we told you, but what we really want is to look just like the 500 pound gorilla in town.”

In the end, while the client really didn’t end up standing out from the competition at all, we realized that the process was useful to them in some way. It helped them realize they didn’t want to be too risky, and felt more confident with a conservative approach. They were OK being one of the pack.

Many business owners and leaders, however, want to do everything they can to stand out. They tend to follow a marketing and PR plan that includes things like:

  1. Taking risks: They’re not afraid to be contrarian in their industries, or go head to head with the 500 pound gorilla. We once had to talk a client (with no fear of risk taking) out of getting himself arrested for his “cause”. We applauded the dedication, and in the end, developed an alternate tactic that allowed him to stand out, get attention, and keep his rap sheet clean.
  2. Forging a new path: Is your industry already crowded? Don’t want to compete with the big guy? Create your own path. Be the company known for providing goods or services to a niche market. Develop a new way to provide that service. We have a client who bucked all conventional wisdom in his industry and began offering a service in a way, and for a price, that no one had been able to do before. Because he stands out, he has gained not only direct customers, but also a great deal of referral business from others in his industry.
  3. Being creative: This isn’t just about your ads, or trying to come up with what you hope will be a viral video. Being creative involves allowing yourself the intellectual freedom, and introspective strength, to shape your story in a way that’s truly you – and to live that story every day. We do a whacky Christmas card for a financial firm each year. Does this diminish their credibility or expertise? No! It means they’re telling their own story and showing they’re real, approachable, and relatable people.

While these are things that frightened one client, they’re things that many businesses striving to identify and live their brand each day embrace with passion. Which path is for you?