Has Your Brand Graduated From Kindergarten, Yet?

Me too, me too, me too… is a common phrase heard in kindergarten and in today’s business world. I firmly believe every single company in existence today and in the future is a “me too” company. However, being a “me too” company is perfectly okay. Let me explain.

For example, in the late 1990’s countless companies sprouted up that sold books and services teaching the “secrets of the Internet.” In fact, I owned one of these companies. I wrote two books that included all of the latest and greatest online marketing strategies of the time. I sold these books online and traveled the State of Michigan teaching online business marketing strategies and promotion courses. But despite all of my hard work, my venture failed.

One of the main reasons I failed was I was a “me too” company. My company didn’t offer anything different than my competitor’s. Like everyone else at the time, I offered a few books, a website and opt-in email courses. In essence, my brand didn’t graduate from kindergarten.

The companies that survived were also “me-too” companies. In a sense they also had a few books, a website and opt-in email courses, however they put their own personal “touch” into their brand and they succeeded. As I wrote in a recent article: “your ‘brand’ is the personal perception each individual customer experiences every time they interact with your company. An interaction is defined as when a person receives a “touch” from your company. A touch has multiple definitions including your website, your TV commercials, your Internet ads or talking with your customer service team.”

What makes your brand special is what makes your brand different. I am firm believer in creative thinking and developing critical thinking skills. Creativity and critical thinking will help any brand graduate from kindergarten.

I believe there are 6 degrees of me-too companies. However, for the purposes of this article I will include 3 of the 6. The three degrees I will discuss are:

Degree 1: Industry Level

Degree 2: Geographical Level

Degree 3: Product Level

You do not have a choice not to be a me-too company in the 1st level. However, you do have a 50% choice in the 2nd and 100% freedom of choice in the 3rd level.

Industry level: You can’t avoid this me-too level. This is the only level that it is okay to be a me-too company. For example, if your company is in the computer industry, the me-too component of your brand is the fact that you and all of your competitors are selling computer technology. The industry you are in is the computer industry.

Although you can’t avoid being a me-too computer within your industry, here is one technique to use that will infuse new ideas into your company. By using this idea, you will be able to begin to separate your company from your competitors in your industry.

This technique is simple and easy. All you need to do is to subscribe and read publications outside of your industry. The benefit of this technique is that it will introduce new and creative ideas from different industries into your business. It will provide creative insight how other companies are achieving success.

For example, I subscribe to magazines from dozens of different industries. Some of the industry magazines I subscribe to include do-it-yourself home repair, fashion, investment and money management, skateboarding, hunting and fishing, self-help, writing and the entertainment industry.

Do I read every page of these magazines every month? No, of course not. I usually flip through each magazine on a Sunday afternoon, look at the pictures, read a few articles and then give them to the local doctors office. I have gathered invaluable insight and ideas that I have applied to my business models.

Geographical level: Today the Internet give companies the choice to either compete head-to-head with other geographical competitors or reach out to the rest of the world. The choice is yours. That is why you have a 50/50 choice.

Product level: You have a 100% choice for this option. Your products are one way to “touch” your customer base. You have the complete freedom to select what products and services your company offers.

How your brand can graduate from Kindergarten?:

For example, if you own an auto supply store, here is how your company can graduate from kindergarten.

Since you are in the automotive industry, you are stuck in the automotive industry. As stated earlier, you can’t do anything about that. – Unfortunately, you’re still in kindergarten at the Industry level.

However, geographically speaking, in addition to your retail store location, you can have a company website, sell your products on eBay, export to other countries and even apply to become a supplier to the governments. By applying a little creative thinking and critical thinking strategies, your auto business has now graduated from kindergarten.

Finally, you could also put simple color-coded stickers on all of your retail packaging. These colors correspond with a simple color-coded guidebook which customers can see when they enter your store. This guidebook is in your retail store and on your website. The purpose of this guide is to be a silent salesman and guide to your customers.

For example, all tire related products have a black sticker on the outside of the box. The color black represents the color of the road. If the customer has a problem with his tires, this simple technique makes it easier for him to go directly to the “black” section of your store/website. This section only sells tires and tire related products.

This simple technique also gives you the ability to cross-sell other tired related products. If the customer needs new tires, why not suggest a tire repair or tire cleaning kit. All of these cross-sell products are also coded with a black sticker.

Your brand has now graduated from kindergarten.

Andy LaPointe

Andy specializes in building brands and developing fully intregrated marketing campaigns. He is the author of 7 books. He writes on the topics of branding, online marketing and strategic brand intergration.

Andy's website site is www.andrewlapointe.com.

Comments

  1. I think that an angle to your topic is backdoor approaches. Thinking out of the box. When marketing to a consumer for a home cleaning business a few approaches could be employed. One approach would be to have direct contact with renters or homeowners thru some type of media. Another would be referrals (the best). A third method would be what I would call a backdoor approach. That is networking with tradespeople and other service industries. Service companies that have regular maintenace accounts with households or have freguent visits. Lawn Care companies, pool cleaning companies, construction trades people. They can be your eyes and ears out there for people that need cleaning services. This is a trememdous referral source.

  2. I agree with your points about the personal touch a company must have. This touch should represent the person or business’ values, beliefs, objectives and personality. It should be clear and concise and communicated appropriately through different channels. Also, it must be consistent, so that the same message is repeated numerous times.

    I dedicate my whole blog to Personal Branding if your interested.

    http://www.personalbrandingblog.com

  3. rahul chawda says

    in this new consumer economy, the most imporant form of differentiation – of being a ‘me only’ business brand is to inspire an emotional connection with your consumer.

    emotional connection with your consumers is the most effective and long lasting approach to building in ‘preference, choice and patronage’ for a business.

    businesses, no matter what size, country of origin, industry, need a better understanding of consumer needs and motivations and develop all aspects of their business’ offering based around these stated/ latent needs, desires and motivation; and not the other way round. a consumer centric business brand approach is what will ensure your business success in this dynamic new consumer economy.

    surprise her, charm her and she will continue to choose ‘you only’.

  4. David,

    Thanks for your comments. You’re right on target with the backdoor approach. The purpose of my article was to make the point that business owners/management teams need to think outside of the box. It is very easy to just do what everyone else is doing, which is good. We learn from other’s success. Why reinvent the wheel if it already has been created.

    However, we also need to put our own personal touch on our brands. This is how to truly be the leader in your industry.