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Is Your Brand Unique?Greeting You From Unique, Iowa!

Last month, we began our 2016 Road Trip to A New State of Marketing in a city that played a leading role in the historic West Coast lumber trade: Eureka! Located in Humboldt County, Eureka sits along the coast in the Redwood Empire region of California. We talked about how finding lasting success has always been about strategy, both when Eureka was founded in 1850 and today.

This month, you’ll be riding along as we travel to the Midwest — specifically UNIQUE, Iowa. We’ll admit we chose it for the name, but it’s a place that says a lot about what makes a business distinctive to its customers — even if their products are similar to the competition’s.

If you build it, they will come. Or will they?

Many folks in our business believe that creating something great is enough to attract business. Sadly, merely existing isn’t a competitive edge.

if-you-build-it-will-they-comeLike many of America’s great manufacturers, Unique was founded to take advantage of an opportunity. Back in the 1870s, the hot new thing was the railroad, and a few sharp operators were certain tracks would soon be laid through their lonely patch of Iowa marshland. This idea gave birth to Unique, and soon there was a post office, two schools and a church.

Unfortunately, what Unique didn’t have was a distinctive Identity that made it stand out from every other hopeful railroad boom town. Unique’s founders figured they just needed to build a great whistle stop to attract business. It wasn’t enough. The railroad never came, Fred Harvey never built a restaurant here, and the post office closed for good in 1902 after just 24 years. All that remains of Unique today is an illegible rusty sign at the corner of 230th & Florida Avenue in Humbolt County.

Brand identity isn't about what's on the outsideMany people think identity is about what’s on the outside — like what color your car is or the size of the fins on the tail — but all that’s basically window dressing. Your identity is more like your license plate, because nobody else can use the same one.

But at the end of the day, what’s most important is who’s driving the car. Nobody can copy that.

In the same way, your identity is more than your logo and your company name. What matters most is what’s on the inside — the stuff that makes your brand unique — and how your distinctive strengths align with what’s important to your buyers.

When you take a road trip you don’t just discover new places, you also learn new things about yourself. New surroundings give you a new perspective that helps you see yourself with new eyes.

give-your-brand-a-tune-upGiving your brand’s identity a tune-up has similar benefits. You may not know what makes your company special, especially if you’ve been around for a while. When you live with a person (or a business) for a long time, it’s easy to lose track of what makes them great — things a stranger might notice in the first five minutes.

It’s also tough to stay unique over time, because your buyers aren’t waiting for you to tell them about your company, products or services anymore. They’re researching you extensively before they call. By the time you hear from them, they already know what you sell and how you do business.

That means your identity can’t just be about you. Today it’s more like a crossroads, a place where what you have to offer intersects with what’s important to them. So if you’re still using the same identity strategy that worked when your company was the only game in town, you’re effectively driving with one foot on the brake.

A strong identity is the difference between selling a profitable brand instead just selling a commodity. It helps you stay up to date with what’s motivates people to buy from you. To learn more about how it works — and how it can protect your business from going the way of Unique, Iowa — let’s talk.

We’re having a coffee emergency, but the closest Starbucks is half an hour away in Fort Dodge. Time for us to leave Unique in the dust!

See you down the road,

Your friends at FELT

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