Your Focus on the Competition is Killing Your Brand.

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This week’s article hits home. Many well-intentioned business owners kill their brands because of their competitive tunnel vision. This week’s words of wisdom are to stop focusing on your competition; they probably don’t know what they’re doing, and echoing them just brings you both down.

Being aware of your competitors is one thing and is essential. Have a pulse on your market and be mindful of where it’s growing. It’s a different issue to copy your competitors or change your business strategy because they are trying something new.

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. It’s a normal part of human cognition and can be highly beneficial for self-improvement. When you compare yourself to others, you gain information about what you want and who you want to be. The same can be true for your business. Scoping out the competition can give you valuable insight into what you are doing right or wrong.

Unfortunately, comparison can also be the enemy of progress. We can easily get distracted by what everyone else is doing and lose sight of what our brand stands for. When we lose sight of ourselves, you can guarantee that our clients do, too.

It’s a tricky balancing act. Without comparison, we create ignorance. If you want to be a leader in your industry, you have to be aware of your competitor’s goals, processes and strategies. However, keeping up with your competitors can foster feelings of jealousy and imposter syndrome that can be detrimental to your business and brand.

So, how do we use comparison to gain an advantage against our competitors without losing sight of who we are and what we stand for?

1. Look for inspiration when building your brand.

The best way to use comparison to your advantage is to do so from the beginning. When we build brands for clients, we like to learn as much about them and their business as possible. Part of that is getting them to share some of their favourite brands with us. You can learn alot from your favourite brands; if you write down a list of brands you love across industries, you will likely see overarching patterns and trends. These similarities can be tied to personality, experience, positioning or presentation. Go deeper than the logo and use case and look at the brand holistically and how they have conveyed their unique brand personality in a way that piqued your interest.

We can look for patterns and similarities across the brands you like to better understand the things you connect with. This helps us decipher which parts of a brand’s identity, visuals and values you find compelling so that we can create a brand that has similar elements.

This process is great for people with established brands and those in the ideation phase of a new business. Many established companies need a real ‘brand’ and could benefit from defining what they like in others to establish theirs.

Take time to look at the brands you love and even the ones you hate across all industries– map out what you love and what you like on a piece of paper, take a step back and see what you can learn from your lists.

This process will reduce the risk of flip-flopping or killing your brand. So many business owners are inadvertently changing and killing their brands because of the distraction of social media. Business owners see a competitor or influencer try something new or ride a trend and feel they must copy that execution to get quick hit virality. You may scoff when reading this, but most business owners do this without realizing it. New platforms/trends seem like easy ways to get more sales, followers, and attention, but brands are built over time and require consistency to stick. If you’re chasing trends that work for other brands that don’t align with yours, it can confuse your client, and you can lose loyalty and sales without realizing why. I call this Brand Death by a Thousand Cuts; I did a TikTok video on it here.

In short, inspiration is great– it’s a great way to stay creative and fresh and to evolve your brand correctly. It’s also a great use of time for establishing and understanding what your brand is versus is not. Look for inspiration and focus on investing in your brand. Brands grow and evolve but at a pace that’s slower than TikTok trends.

2. Understand that pulling inspiration does not mean carbon copying.

The problem with comparison is not that it’s never beneficial; it’s very hard to separate inspiration from action.

The definition of inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Being inspired by someone or something else should make you think outside the box. You should evolve whatever has inspired you into something completely new. Being inspired does not mean simply copying what inspired us in the first place. That lacks creativity and will cause you to lose every time.

It’s okay to look at your competition for inspiration, but it’s not okay to completely copy their strategy– because their plan won’t work for you.

3. Look for inspiration outside of your industry.

Another tip I love to give clients is for them to look for inspiration in other industries. Often, industries are so focused on looking inward, which stifles innovation and creativity. If you are a professional service provider, looking inward is one of the worst things you can do. If you were a dentist and you looked inward, your benchmark would be opening an Instagram account. However, if you’re a dentist and you look at medical spa doctors, your benchmark for inspiration and execution for a personal brand will be much higher.

When we start working with clients on brand builds, we always ask them to share brands or businesses from other industries that they are inspired by. This question stumps alot of clients because they never thought to look outside of their profession. Lawyers should look to Realtors and Medical Spa owners to look to Influencers– flipping your thinking and going outside of what makes sense will separate you from the competition.

While you may assume that looking for inspiration in your own industry is more beneficial than looking elsewhere, it can lead to copying your competitor. When you pigeonhole yourself to just your own industry, you’re more likely to become just another sheep in the herd.

When you look outside of your industry for inspiration, you can disconnect what you like and dislike from your industry’s norm. Maybe you’re a Realtor and can’t find a single example of another Realtor whose brand voice speaks to you, but you love how Patagonia says to its customers or how Apple has created an experience with their product. It’s entirely possible that what you’re looking for in your industry doesn’t exist, and you need to look at more mainstream brands or other professional sectors for inspiration to help you execute what feels right. Be the first in your industry by doing something different–that’s what works in the digital age. People want authenticity, they want a story that’s real, and they want to buy from who YOU are. Look outside for inspiration and execute in a way that authentically works for you.

Looking at all industries for examples of what you want can benefit you and your marketing team. If you’re working with an agency, it will help them better understand your style, goals, and vision for your brand. For yourself, it enables you to avoid copy culture and bring new light to your brand and industry.

Thanks for reading this week’s article! Look forward to seeing you again next week.

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