The One Man Brand – Love Him or Hate Him


The One Man Brand – Love Him or Hate Him

(He’ll Love You Either Way!)

How does a company become the Harley-Davidson, the Starbucks, the Dallas Cowboys of their category? What makes a brand stronger than three acres of garlic?

The answer is two-fold – and it’s an answer you’ve heard me give it before, particularly if you’ve seen some of my SGI presentations at Expo.

#1 – How do you achieve substantial differentiation in your category? How do you stay out the commodity trap? For instance, in the used car business, if there is no substantial difference between cars for sale or prices for those cars, the challenge then becomes how is the DEALERSHIP different? How do you not get painted by the same brush by your competitors?

#2 – And how do you become more relevant, not only with your product mix but in the way the messages are delivered to the audience we most want to serve?

Differentiation and relevance are the prime ingredients of a strong brand – especially with the growth of the internet and the way people are communicating. Brand platforms, video and podcasting are changing everything about the way your message is heard in so many different arenas.

There is immense potential for your company’s story to take a brand to the next level. If you can find the compelling story that sets your brand apart, fill it with drama, suspense, comedy, and surprise, you can create a substantial differentiation as well as amplify your brand’s relevance. As to how to deliver that story, the internet has changed that so much: podcasts, YouTube, hosting a radio show. For instance, in my office, I’ve started my own syndicated radio show that doubles as a podcast to promote my One Man Brand…brand! There are just so many new and interesting ways to take your story to fresh ears and eyes, not just in your city, but all over the world!

I remember one Expo when I brought up loyalty to sports teams as an analogy. I asked members of the SGI audience about their college and pro football team fandom. There were enthusiastic responses (and not just from the guys!) Someone brought up the Steelers. Great team! Six-time Super Bowl Champs. But, I asked, what if every player on the team was traded to the Cleveland Browns? Would you start cheering for the Browns? The response was not just “No!” but “HELL no!” Truth is, people would rather fight than switch to another brand!

It’s because they are vested in the story and heritage behind the team – not the individual players.

Canadian Trainer of the Year Gair Maxwell was a guest on my radio show a few weeks ago and we were talking about this very thing. Gair told a story about how he was in a Sacramento coffee shop and ran into a guy with an Oakland Raiders tattoo prominently displayed on his arm. He was a 21 year U.S. Army ranger who KNEW intellectually that the Raiders have been a terrible team for the last 2 decades or more. Yet, he’s showing off this tattoo that’s got a scar running right through it because apparently he got into a knife fight with a Dallas Cowboys fan and, darn it, he’s got the scar to prove it. People who love their brand – whether it’s Harley Davidson, Starbucks, Nike, Ferrari – if they love the brand, and they love the story that supports it, they would rather fight than switch. They will defend it with their blood! Because it’s not about the product or services. It’s not about the players. It’s about the story, whether it’s the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Cowboys or what the Raiders represent. That’s what it comes down to.

So how do you find that story that will differentiate you? According to my Creative Director, Monica Ballard (who is an accomplished storyteller herself,) your story is hidden within how you answer the questions: “Why this business?” “Why here?” “Why now?” and “Why with these people?”

These are the elements with which you can tell your unique story. This is different than a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition because you’re not trying to sell anyone anything. Rather than selling, you’re telling your audience what drives your company and how it varies from anyone else in the same line of work in your town.

When you create a brand, it doesn’t matter if it’s small business, big business, you’ve got to be relevant enough for people to love it or hate – as long as they know it! Worst place to be is in the mushy middle…the Land of Indifference, as Gair calls it!

I like to use the example of the horseshoe magnet: Truth is, many of the business owners we work with, with a few exceptions, voice a common refrain that no one wants to be controversial. No one wants to turn anybody off. But it’s the polarity of the North and South of that horseshoe magnet that is necessary to have a strong powerful pull to your brand. You almost have to put something out there that you stand against – negative polarity – that is equal and opposite to the positive feel-good message that just anyone can have.

Remember, a message or story with no power or potential to offend conversely has no power or potential to persuade.

As for a relevant channel to broadcast that story? Well, it can be different for everyone, depending upon the size of their company in relation to their market. We have a few ideas there, too. While it’s called, “The One Man Brand”, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone and fight the good fight single-handedly.

The One Man Brand means it’s a vision of singular distinction that is shared among many: with your team, your loyal fans and yes – those who shake their heads each time they hear your name. Make your brand so strong that you cannot – will not – be ignored. Until next time, stay out of the mushy middle.

Onward and Upward!


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