Different Fish Make The Difference
Developing yourself as a unique brand is what will make you stand out from the competition. I remember when my daughter's goldfish died. After a small period of grieving, daughter in tow, we visited the maternity wing of a local pet store on the Northern Beaches in Sydney.
Imagine a huge glass tank loaded up with hundreds of goldfish. Pick the one you want: seconds later you've lost it because they all look alike. Suddenly, from behind the fake Pirates chest, within the school of many, emerges a slim, shimmering orange fish wearing black goggles. He quickly stands out from the group, his distinctiveness apparent. He swims around with a unique confidence and a bold identity; the others just seem to fade away.
Different fish are memorable. Different fish command a premium price. Different fish exude added dimensions of value. Different fish make a difference. In business, understanding this metaphor is the difference between drowning in a sea of sameness and being a great brand.
Take a moment to look at the cross-trainer you're wearing - one look at the distinctive swoosh on the side tells everyone who's got you branded. That coffee travel mug you're carrying - ah, you're a Starbucks woman! Your T-shirt with the distinctive Abercrombie lettering on the chest, the blue jeans with the prominent Levi's rivets, the watch with the hey-this-certifies-I-made-it icon on the face, your fountain pen with the maker's symbol crafted into the end ...
You're branded, branded, branded, branded.
It's time for me, and you, to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that's true for anyone who's interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work. Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Plc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called YOU.
I was reminded of my daughter Ashleigh and her new goldfish after reading bestselling book Differentiate or Die whilst on holiday recently. Jack Trout explains that choosing from among multiple options is always based on differences, implicit or explicit. This concept is so simple, yet many business leaders struggle with applying it to their own personal brand. From experience, developing a personal brand requires a large serving of courage with a side order of passion.
You're every bit as much a brand as Nike, Optus, Coke or R.M.Williams.
To start with, ask yourself the same question the world's best brand managers ask themselves: What is it that makes me different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.
If your answer wouldn't light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from your staff, or - worst of all - if it doesn't grab you, then you've got a big problem. It's time to give some serious thought and even more serious effort to imagining and developing yourself as a brand.
Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors or your colleagues. What have you done lately to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength?
The good news - and it is largely good news - is that everyone has a chance to stand out. The leadership training programme gives you a chance to learn, improve, and build up your skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark. But remember, different fish make the difference!