Being Outstanding Means Standing Out

Being Outstanding Means Standing Out

It’s officially fall, which means a change of music for me. The cold, gray, rainy weather makes me discard my usual musical lineup and break out one of my favorite bands, Modest Mouse.

I’m probably reading too much into it, but there’s a lyric in the song “Satellite Skin” that reminds me of my daily struggle to build strong brands for companies:

“How the heck did you think you could beat them,
at the same time that you’re trying to be them?”

Building strong brands is difficult, and it’s something we try like hell to do for our clients every day. Strong brands are the brands that are doing something unique in their respective categories, and while that sounds good, it can be scary to change the way you talk about yourselves — especially if you’ve been doing it one way for a long time. Why? Because it’s new thinking, it’s untested, and (if it’s any good) it’s never been done before.

Watch and Learn

When most businesses begin, they want to be better than and different from their competitors. But when the time comes to brand and market themselves, they start by emulating the companies that lead their category. They put their competition on a secret pedestal. They measure their own image against their rival’s. They admire and despise them at the same time.

This is normal, by the way. This is how most things in the world are learned: by mimicking the people that have done it before, and who have done it particularly well. You admire these people. But in business, you often compete against them as well.

This scenario doesn’t make for very unique marketing. Think of how many brands in the same category look similar and sound almost identical. “We have the best service!” “Our people make the difference!” Maybe it’s true, but it’s hard to prove, and it’s far from unique.

I’m biased when it comes to their branding, but look at St. Louis-based CPA firm Anders. They recognized that their market was saturated with competitors who offered similar services, designs and messages. Anders rebranded their firm in a way that didn’t just put them ahead in their category — it redefined what someone in their category could be.

Turning Pro

I think most businesses hit a point where they outgrow the need to conform to their category and are more willing to embrace “what could be” rather than “what is.” They shed the safety of conformity for the potential to rise above the competition. It takes courage and a little abandonment. After all, being outstanding by definition means standing out. This is something a lot of brands try to do marginally. Very few go all in, but for most of those who do, it’s worth the risk.

Stay up to date on the latest marketing insights from Atomicdust.

Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you weekly marketing tips from our team, as well as the latest news and events from Atomicdust.

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

More posts by Mike Spakowski