Branding Isn’t About Being Different. It’s About Standing For Something

Stand out, they shout.

Do something never done before, they implore.

Be different, they…urge.

See what I did there? Clever, eh? Because you know the theme is being diff…just kidding. I couldn’t find a verb that rhymed with different.

Moving on.

People say it’s imperative that a business’ brand be different, unique, have a competitive edge, etc. It’s sound advice, but sometimes I think people misunderstand what it means.

Branding isn’t about being different. It’s about knowing what you stand for.

Source: Shutterstock

A brand is the intangible dimension of your business. It’s not what you do or make—it’s your company’s personality, and how you make people feel. It’s what you value, what you believe in. It’s why you do what you do.

To illustrate my point, let me tell you a mini-story.

A month ago I wrote an article about how millennials are reinventing the health and fitness industry. (It’s hitting newsstands in September. Stay tuned).

Without spoiling the story (and pissing off my editor), I will say this: millennials are doing to gyms what they’re doing to every American industry: demanding products and services that affirm their values.

For instance, I found that Gen Yer’s love SoulCycle, a popular boutique cycling studio, because it oozes a point of view. It takes a spiritual approach to fitness, so classes begin with candles and a meditation, and mindfulness is emphasized throughout the session. Think: chanting.

Then there’s Flywheel, a spinning studio that Catherine Price of Slate dubbed the, “sadist’s version of Soul Cycle.” Flywheel is INtense. Coasting is discouraged, competition is promoted, and spinners work so hard they feel like they are going to die. Or maybe they are already dead, they can’t be sure because it feels like they are in hell.

I kid, I kid. I actually love grueling, sweat-drenched spin classes. Feeling your legs is overrated.


Both studios—therapy lite and sadist spin—are cycling gyms. Both sell a great workout, use the latest spinning technology, have an upscale facility, and they cost about the same per class (I think it’s around $30).


They feel radically different. Why? Because they have distinct personalities.

If Kesha’s music, a meditation class and the attractive, cool kids you envied in high school had a baby, it’d be SoulCycle. If CrossFit, the 50-yard dash, and Zac Efron’s abs shacked up and had a baby, it’d be Flywheel.

Here’s a break down of their personal traits (brand traits):

SoulCycle Flywheel
Feminine Masculine
Therapeutic Tough love
Recreational Competitive
Mind/body Sporty/athletic
Focus on spiritual experience Focus on physical and mental endurance

It’s not about being green when everyone else is purple. It’s about being crystal clear when everyone else is blurry.

Get it?


And now, because you’ve read this whole post, you get rewarded with this picture of a wee lamb. You’re welcome.

Source: Unsplash

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