Business Branding: Imitate or Innovate?

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They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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When I was in the sixth grade, I bought a new parka. I loved it. As I recall, the jacket fabric was a black and white print; it was unique. I owned the only one in my school so I stood out. At least I did until one of my best friends showed up in the same jacket. Ugh. And I was not flattered; I was inconsolable. My jacket was no longer special; there was another one just like it.

A successful business brand stands out from the crowd. To make sales, companies must appear unique and innovative; seem different and better than the competition, not imitative. Businesses that have developed a specific niche and are supported with strong branding, do stand out. Think: Nike, Apple, Target, FedEx. Even though their products or services may be comparable, their logo, messaging, customer experience and the emotions that are evoked when their brand is displayed or mentioned, resonates with their target audience.

But many brands just blend in. Whether by fear or lack of ingenuity, poor design or marketing, many products, services or organizations are indistinguishable from others occupying the same industry or product sector space. Their brand is diluted and they become a commodity: the antithesis of a well-branded product or service. 

When branding your business, certainly research what the competition is doing and then innovate, don’t imitate. Refine your niche and then define your brand – visually, verbally and emotionally – to set your business apart from your competition. Reinforce your brand with consistent design, messaging and customer experience. You want clients to ask for you by name. Only then can you truly demand better projects, bigger sales and increased prices. 

Imitation may be a form of flattery, but being recognized as innovative is the ultimate compliment.

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