Branding isn’t about being different

Branding isn’t about being different

People say it’s imperative that a business’ brand “be different,” “unique,” “have a competitive edge,” etc.

It’s sound advice, but I think people often misunderstand what it means.

Branding isn’t about being different.

It’s about knowing what you stand for.

Your brand is the intangible dimension of your business. It’s not what you do or make—it’s your company’s personality, how you make people feel.

To better illustrate my point, let me give you an example.

You’ve heard of SoulCycle, right?

It’s a majorly popular boutique cycling studio and it has locations all over the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. SoulCycle’s whole approach to spin is spiritual and meditative, so think: classes with candles, meditation, and chanting. Yes, chanting.

Then there’s Flywheel.

FlyWheel is also a boutique cycling studio, but it’s what Catherine Price of Slate described as the, “sadist’s version of Soul Cycle.” Because it is INtense. Coasting is a no no, competition is everything, and spinners work so hard they feel like they are going to die (because feeling your legs afterward is overrated, I guess?).

Both SoulCycle and Flywheel are boutique cycling studios. Go to either one and you will sit on a fancy stationary bike, pedal for 45-60 minutes, sweat a lot, and burn calories. You’ll spend the same amount of money too–both charge around $30 per class.

So how do two businesses that are basically the same–they’re both upscale spin studios–feel so radically different?

Because they have distinct personalities.

SoulCycle is your fit, chill, spiritually aligned yogi friend. They’re all about living in the present, listening to their bodies, and doing what feels right rather than trying to reach a pre-determined metric or goal. No matter what you do, you’re a winner. Meanwhile Flywheel is the friend you go running with when you need a kick in the ass. Someone whose pace is just a little faster than yours, and who will hit you with a take-no-prisoners attitude when you whine about your toe kinda hurting.

To further illustrate my point, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two businesses:

SoulCycle Flywheel
Restorative Athletic
Therapeutic Tough love
Recreational Competitive
Focus on spiritual and emotional fulfillment Focus on physical and mental endurance
Wants you to leave feeling blissed out Wants you to leave unable to feel your legs

See? Same business, but waayy different vibes.

So, in conclusion branding is not about being green when everyone else is purple. It’s about being clear when everyone else is blurry–clear on what you value and how you make people feel.

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