To Grow Your Business, Don’t Be Bland


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When I think of great brands … megabrands like Apple and Harley-Davidson … I don’t think of bland.  My mind swirls with images that are in vivid technicolor!

But what about smaller businesses, without mega-agencies and megabucks behind them?  How can they create killer brands?

I am inspired by 3 stories this week, featuring smaller businesses who found creative ways to stand out in their markets.  The best part: a good idea doesn’t have to cost a bundle, it just has to resonate with your customers.

1. Miami Beach parking garage owner Robert Wennett essentially redefined his category, with remarkable business results.

As Bill Taylor describes it:

“…this parking garage truly is breathtaking, so much so that it has become an in-demand venue for charity events, wine tastings, even fancy weddings. The top two floors were designed to both hold cars and host events, and they rent for as much as $15,000 per night. “This is not a parking garage,” owner Robert Wennett told the Times. “It’s really a civic space.”  

(The link to the full story in the Harvard Business Review is here)

As marketing pros Alan Deeter and Rich Goidel from The Dangerous Kitchen say, …”when a brand acts as a cultural leader for the people in its market, it’s a killer brand”.  By rethinking the category, Mr. Wennett did just that.

2.  The Shepard Group insurance agency owner Neil Shepard created a company blog with a dramatically different personality than you’d expect.

The underlying message is that TSG is an agency that is fun to work with, and is capable of solving customer problems by thinking outside the box.  Bonus:  by being unique and memorable, they gain competitive advantage. (story via blogger and publicist Danny Brown, here):

3. The Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Austin,Texas created a series of PSA’s that have gone viral on You Tube.  By creating a brand that is so cool, that just liking it confers status to the end user, they separate themselves from every other theater out there. (Story via The Communicatrix blog, by Colleen Wainwright).

The Bottom Line:  Say No to Bland!

Purple cow, point of difference, unique selling point… whatever you call it, one thing is clear: be different and we will remember you.  Be awesome and we will tell others about you.  Promote your difference in a way that no one else does, and you create a killer brand, leaving your competition in the dust.

If these businesses can break out of a sea of sameness, you can too.  All it takes is just one powerful, creative idea!

PS: Know a brand that became memorable with 1 great idea? Share your stories here!

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About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/people/rhondahurwitz/
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7 Responses to To Grow Your Business, Don’t Be Bland

  1. Danny Brown says:

    Hi there Rhonda,

    Thank you so much for sharing The Shepherd Group with your community, really appreciate it and so glad to see someone that’s being so different – in their industry especially – get recognition.

    You make a solid point – you don’t need the multi-million dollar budgets to be creative and awesome. In fact, I’ve often found the larger the budget, the lazier the creativity. Neil and Michelle at The Shepherd Group took a brave step when they decided to break out of the “boring suits” that the insurance industry is known for. And it’s working.

    Here’s to more brands like the ones you feature here. Have a great weekend!

    • Hi Danny,

      Thanks for your comment. I enjoy your blog and insights on marketing.

      I love when someone takes a brave step, as you put it … we need more stories about that! What’s the expression? “You have to stand for something or you stand for nothing”.

      Have a great weekend!

      Rhonda

  2. michtrem says:

    Thank you SO much for the shout out Rhonda. Neil has made it a priority to make being different a key to our business. In an industry that it full of the “same old, same old” for years and years, it was time for a change. We were told by so many in the industry that what we were doing was “risky” that we were “taking a huge chance” and are you sure you want to do it so drastically. Neil’s response, there is no easing in to this, you either jump right in with both feet, or don’t bother at all. No point in just dipping in a toe, as that’s not going to do anything. End of the day, he isn’t afraid to take risks – and this is what sets him apart from the rest!

    • Hey Michele,

      Thanks for commenting. Besides the business thumbs up ( see previous reply to both you and Neil) I just wanted to add that I have always considered myself lucky that I had good mentors and smart bosses in my career, and after reading your comment, I see that makes two of us! It is good when you have a postion where you can contribute and also learn from the best!

      Have a great weekend —

      Rhonda

  3. sheptsg says:

    Hi Rhonda,
    It was great to read your post and I am grateful to you for including myself and my business in it. I love the title as bland is something that the Insurance Industry is so full of. It’s the exact thing that I have been fighting against for years, which is why my logo being a black sheep is very appropriate of my own personality! No point in running with the herd – as it’s certainly not going to get you anywhere. Thanks again for recognizing what I have done, and taking the time to write about it. Much appreciated!

    • Dear Neil (and Michele),

      It was my pleasure to write about your business! I’m so impressed with your creativity … and I hope that you see great results from it.

      I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you actually had people warn you against this approach. I’ve had clients ask me “Who else is doing it? in response to a new idea … when the whole point is to define yourself in a way that others aren’t!!!

      I love the fact that it is so consistent with your personality that bland just wasn’t an option:) Authentic is the best marketing of all. Thanks for the insightful comments, and have a great weekend.

      Rhonda

  4. Fantastic line-up of winning, personable and entertaining approaches to being real! Thanks, Rhonda.

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