Stop chasing the unicorn. What it really means to build a unique brand?

Way too often when starting a brand new business you hear what inevitably fills you with dread from others. “You need to be unique to succeed,” they say. “There are many businesses like yours,” they caution: “why will people buy from your business instead of others?”

And while they (maybe) want you to succeed in your new venture and have your best interest at heart, (though you know there are those who wish you’d just stay in your safe 9-5) their questions are a bit misleading and short-sighted.

These well-meaning others suggest your business needs to be something really special to succeed.

They’d say your services or products need to be the only one of their kind.

They would have you believe that your brand needs to look super original to be remembered.

And if that isn’t way too much pressure I don’t know what is. {sigh}

Why having an unique brand & standing out from the crowd doesn’t mean being one of a kind?

I live in New York City, and I see more than 10 cafes within a few blocks of one another. We New Yorkers do love (need) our coffee.

However, these cafes are not competing by being overly different at first sight.

Let’s be honest, coffee shops usually have similar products and prices. Seriously, how differently can they really prepare drinks that include coffee beans, sugar and milk? If you’re like most people, you aren’t selecting your coffee based on their brand visuals. I mean, do you choose where to get your morning coffee by researching local cafes based on their Instagram feed? Didn’t think so.

And hey, I see you arguing “But Zuzana, I would definitely go to Starbucks over Dunkin’ to get my cafe mocha or skim cappuccino.

And to that I say “Me too!”

But not because I like their logo better. Also not because their coffee is that much better.

Starbucks didn’t become a world-wide success for their drinks – though the drinks are delicious – and it definitely wasn’t for their logo.

I’d go to Starbucks for their service; wi-fi, a comfy place to work from (pre-Covid) and also because they are that friendly brand that makes the effort to personalize my drink by using my name.

Even though it may be spelled wrong every single time. Every. Single. Time.

Starbucks is also known for creating a positive experience for their employees and their customers. And that’s something you will come back for.

Of course being different always helps to stand out more, especially if your competitor list is long and pretty. But it’s not the only way to stand out.

Being different doesn’t mean you need to have a one of a kind business idea.

And it definitely doesn’t mean trying to compete on price either. The fact is, there will always be those who will charge less (and more) than you do, and it’s a losing battle to compete on price alone. And underselling or discounting your offer will discourage you, so please don’t do it.

Your brand doesn’t have to BE that different, it just needs to FEEL different.

What if I told you the answer doesn’t have to be that hard?

Let’s shift the point of view a little bit to help you find your own uniqueness. Instead of sitting down now and trying to discover the one thing that makes your brand the unicorn among horses, try this short exercise.

👉 1. Make sure you understand your brand

Ask yourself these simple questions

– What are your strengths?
– Would you hire yourself/buy your product and why?
– What problems do you solve for your customers?
– Why is solving their problem important to you?

Don’t be too uptight with your answers, write everything you can think of.

Have some testimonials from previous clients?

Look at what they mentioned, appreciated & praised about your services or products. When you see feedback that more than one person said; believe them. Then embrace what they said because if they loved it – others will, too.

Take this customer review of IKEA as an example:

This is like the Disneyland of home decorating. I could spend hours in an IKEA searching for just the right thing and then realize there’s something that I missed the next time I go. It’s so inspiring and each visit to an IKEA is an adventure. Plus, the food there is downright elevated cafeteria food and there’s a comfort about that. It reminds me of home so it’s an all encompassing experience.”

From this feedback, you get a sense of what this IKEA customer likes about the brand. When this person comes to IKEA, it’s for inspiration, comfort and because there is trust for the brand. There are other furniture stores in the world, but IKEA customers are loyal to the brand because of the consistency and trust IKEA has built.

👉 2. Define your USP & UVP

I’m sure you know your business’s ins and outs, yet you probably never sat down and put your thoughts on paper in some unified way. Which is why questions about your brand and business can be stressful for many business owners like yourself.

So I’m here to help you with defining your USP (unique selling proposition) & UVP (unique value proposition) based on the questions above so you have the answer about what you do and what makes you unique every single time someone asks.

👉 3. Remember, the brand magic is in the details 

Once you know what you do and what value you bring, focus on what you want people to say about your brand. No need to chase the unicorn when even the smallest details can make you stand out from the crowd.

Here are some ideas about what makes people brag about your unique brand. Click here to read about examples and ideas for each of them.

The Lesson:

Remember, being “unique” is always in the eye of the beholder. People buy from those brands who they feel will solve their problem. The brands who can communicate this to their customers in the most effective way are the most successful.

This is whether they are offering a product or service that has never been done before (unlikely) or they’re offering something that thousands of other brands do.

That is the secret of a unique brand.

I hope that this gives you courage, knowing that your task is to effectively communicate what you help your customers with, rather than doing something incredibly unique and unicorn-like.

For more tips on building a personality-driven brand that you’re dying to share with others, follow me on Instagram

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Stop chasing the unicorn. What it really means to build a unique brand?

Zuzana Zapletal

Brand Strategist, Creative Designer & Recovering Perfectionist on a mission to help you become more confident about your brand.

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