Never be ordinary

Published 03.06.2018

It’s a while since I’ve put pen to paper for my blog (finger to keyboard)… but I’m getting back to it with the bit between my teeth on a subject that matters to brands. So much so, it’s the difference between life and death for start-ups or established brands alike.


I am not talking about USPs. The USP is practically dead in its original form… and only the most disruptive of brands can claim TRUE USP status, and often only in their early stages.

One of my favourite quotes on this subject comes from a BRILLIANT economist Kjell Nordstrom who believes we now live in a surplus society.

“The ‘surplus society’ has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, working in similar jobs, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality.”

And he is right.

Ironically, this is where the opportunity exists for smart brands – both new and existing, those that take a risk and find new ways to improve and differentiate – maybe not to the point they can claim absolute revolutionary and status at the peak of innovation.

Not everything can be new. Sometimes differentiation can simply come from doing things better. Finding an advantage in the margins.

There’s another great saying that I believe in: “Imitate and die. Innovate and you may survive.”

But teams within brands often get caught out trying to push the brand, product or service into places that they just can’t go. And they forget that, just as in every-day life, sometimes it’s the small things that can make the biggest difference.

Knowing your customer better. Pushing the limits of expectation, or even regulation. Stretching and repackaging services. Sometimes, not innovating – and staying true to what your brand stands for is the most potent form of tangible difference.

I have a saying. Never be ordinary.

I mean don’t be me-too. And let’s face it there’s enough people and brands being ordinary already. Same with agencies. So much me too out there it’s a horrible process to scan most sectors – where differentiation comes from price, incentives, reputation or shit simply rolled in glitter.

I believe it’s important when creating any kind of value – for brands or people. No one ever paid more, got excited about or fell in love with anything because it was a ‘bit like something else’. There’s no future in me too – apart from one of ever decreasing ROI.

I’m not saying for one second don’t disrupt. Don’t innovate. Don’t challenge convention. Far from it. Where there is space or opportunity – make new. Dare to differ. Tear up the rule book. Go for it,

But there’s always an opportunity to differentiate in whatever space you operate, at whatever stage your brand may be. But the answer for you may be in the margins, not in the clouds. Critically, it must be relevant. You must solve problems. You must make your customer’s life better. You must improve.

One last truism. A critical one. Different isn’t always better. But better is always different.

Never be ordinary.