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There’s no “and” in “brand”

A great brand can only be one thing.  You can’t sell yourself as fastest and smartest – people don’t know how to process those conflicting ideas. 

Many entrepreneurs and consultants get stuck on this. They want to be fitness trainer and nutritionist or marketer and strategy advisor.

Here’s why it doesn’t work:

  • You can’t sell it. Your sales material can’t convince people that you’re the best at A–and, by the way, you also do B.  Not believable. 
  • You’ll never be the go-to guy.  People call Andy Sernovitz for word of mouth advice. They call Guy Kawasaki for startup advice.  Until you are the obvious answer to "I need to call ___" you’ll just be one of hundreds of random names. 
  • You’ll never get referrals. Your friends and clients don’t know what to say about you.

Here’s the test: Say what you do out loud.  Is there an "and" in there?  If yes, you lose.

Cut, cut, cut, cut until you are the #1 go-to person for _____.  Cut until everyone knows what you do without hesitation. 

This is really hard to do.  To become the word of mouth guy, I had to kill a perfectly good email strategy business. I had to stop advising startups.

Pick something great and stick with it. When you do, referrals will jump, sales will get easier, and people will start calling and asking for you.

More reading:  Dan Schawbel, Al Ries, Bill Schley, Seth Godin

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  1. Leigh October 9, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    Hi there…
    IMO your looking at branding from a very traditional context. While it’s important to have a focus (i.e. the traditional brand promise) if we want to dimensionalize brands and expand them beyond this one promise in order to make them experiential and operationalize them across an organization, we have to go beyond the ‘focus’ mass media approach 60 second TV spot (the one singular message fantasy medium)….”and” we shouldn’t be limited by not having an “and”if required…. :)

  2. David Howse October 9, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    Leigh makes a good point but I think Andy is talking about a brand rule of thumb. There are almost always exceptions to rules. If your company has an image problem then a little research might show that brand confusion, as Andy suggests, is at the root.
    I’m starting a project with a tire company that is actually better at the mechanical side of things but the market only knows about his tire side.
    Something along the lines of “You trust us for tires but we’re even better at repair” is where the brand will be re-focused.
    I don’t think people are willing to believe multiple bests. Unless you generalize the best, best at all automotive but then you might have dilution problems. It’s really tricky.

  3. Dino October 9, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    well leigh took the words right out of my mouth! nicely put leigh, dead on.

  4. Lewis Green October 9, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    I get your point and Leigh’s, as well. But I think you are talking about separate issues. If I read you correctly, you are talking about the brand message: You create WOM for business; Guy gets startups running. At my business, we get companies noticed. That’s our brand message.
    However, we are a company of “ands” not “ors.” To get a business noticed we use a variety of tools: direct marketing and social media and internal communications and press releases and web site content development and graphic design and story telling. The tools don’t represent our objective (our brand message), they represent how we achieve the objective, to get your business noticed (our brand message).
    Am I getting your message?

  5. Andy Sernovitz October 9, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    I think we are talking about slightly different things. When I wrote this I was thinking about all my friends who are trying to build a consulting practice or a small business.
    Example: Many do some mishmash of ecommerce/social media/search/etc. When you’re in that jam, there’s no way to stand out from the crowd. You need to pick one thing that you can be amazing at, something you can build a brand around, something where you’re the first call for someone who needs that one thing.

  6. Jeremy October 12, 2008 at 12:18 am #

    Here’s my effort at the answer (for my business)


  1. 10 Hunting Website Truths You Can’t Ignore - September 17, 2009

    […] all of the “ands” out of your Website vision. As Andy Sernovitz says, “A great brand can only be one thing“. Focus on solving your customers’ questions and problems relating to one specific area […]

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