Five Principles for Creating Brand Difference

(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

Harvard’s Michael Porter famously said that there are exactly two ways to compete: Cost leadership and differentiation.

Are you Walmart or Amazon?  No?  Then differentiation seems like the way to go.

Practical example: If you own an independent flooring store, and a Home Depot opens up half a mile away, do you really think you’re going to beat them on price?  Time to start thinking about playing a game you can win.

The trouble is, many products, services and brands have no real point of difference.  Which means they’re in trouble.  If you’re not different, you’re dying.

So here are five “first principles” – mindset, not tactics – to help you stand out: 

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Act With Purpose: Four Factors for Making a Difference

Act With Purpose
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

Last week, I shared five reasons why I’m at odds with the “Change or die!” fear-mongers.  Today I offer an alternate (and calmer) approach: “Act with purpose.”

I’ll begin with another rebuttal to “Change or die”: We’re already changing, without anyone shouting at us to do so.  As people, as teams, as organizations, we’re changing all the time.

Any time we adopt a new habit, launch a new product, or add even one new team member, we’re changing.  But change can be intentional or unintentional.  So the operative question is this:

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Starting My Company: Fear-Setting & Asymmetrical Risk

Fear-Setting & Asymmetrical Risk
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

My positioning & strategy consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, turns 23 today.

I started it from the second bedroom of my Cincinnati condo in 1997. I run it from the second bedroom of our Chicago condo today. Progress!

Back then, going solo was less common than it is today. “I can’t believe you’re doing this” was a typical response – not always in a flattering way.

Some people even said I should try it part-time first, as if that were an option. (“I can help solve your strategic challenges, but only after 6pm.”)

I was all-in from the get-go. Today, I’m sharing some background on how I chose self-employment over a steady paycheck, since this is a question I get often. Fun fact: I made this decision in about 24 hours.

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Three Levels of Brand Values

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

I submit to you that there are three levels of brand values.

Level 1 – “No Values”

Here, you’re saying, “Values are irrelevant – profit is what we’re here for.”  You don’t think about your Why; you’re focused on your What and your How. 

It’s unimaginative, but at least it’s honest.  If you’re up-front about your desire to relieve me of some of the money in my wallet, I can work with you on those terms.

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Don’t Waste This Crisis: How Strong Values Improve Strategy

(Reading Time: 6 minutes)

There’s a question that’s asked far too rarely as we develop brand and business strategies.  It’s simple but extremely powerful, since it shapes everything that you’ll do as a team or organization.

The question:

Who do we want to be?

It’s challenging to lead an organization in the best of times.  In a time of scarcity – like the one we recently, abruptly entered – it can feel impossible.

But navigating difficulty is one of the roles of a leader.  As FDR said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” 

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Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

Last week, I joined a client for a virtual brainstorm.  The focus: Our marketing next steps in these trying times.

We established a rule up-front: For an idea to move forward, it has to serve our customers.  In other words, if it benefits only us, it does not advance.  It goes to either the “rework” or “trash” pile.

This is a good rule for new ideas in general.  Two decades ago, Doug Hall and his team at Eureka! Ranch found that new-product concepts with a high level of “overt benefit” outperformed concepts with a low level by 3:1.

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How to Work From Home: Tips I’ve Learned Over 20 Years

(Reading Time: 7 minutes)

I first started working from home in 1997.  I definitely didn’t pioneer the concept, but I was perhaps an early adopter.  And I’ve had plenty of time to get things right and wrong.

In the name of showing up for others during this tricky time, the following are seven tips I recommend to someone who’s new to working from home.

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