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Marketing 101 | Distilling Your Unique Brand

Sometimes to find the right things to say about what makes you unique, you have to ask the wrong questions.

I always hated writing research papers for school, despite the fact that I loved creative writing. Thanks to my family's love of word games, I had a decent vocabulary, so even if I wasn't good at the research and opinion part of a paper I could at least make it sound like I knew what I was talking about. I perfected the "fluff" method of writing which involved padding paragraphs by essentially repeating the same statements, framed slightly differently for emphasis, as well as an overabundance of adjectives and quantifiers. My motto was "why use three words when you can use nine?"

Creative padding and word counts don't matter much when it comes to branding your small business, however. If you're not careful, your unique talking points can get lost in a deluge of information when you're trying to connect to a customer for the first time. You want to distill your brand image into a single statement or idea, but how do you decide what is important?

Coming up with what sets your business apart from competitors can seem like an exercise in self-flattery. There are only so many times customers can hear something described as the "#1 best" before it stops feeling genuine. How do you promote yourself while staying grounded?

These four questions might seem counter-intuitive, or like the wrong approach, but when it comes to creating a real, relatable brand image, sometimes you have to be transparent. These 4 steps, created by Pia Silva of WorstofAll Design, force you to be honest about what makes you different and turn it into something you're proud to share with the world:

  1. Embrace the Negativity. Forget flattery and fancy words. Start by asking what you DON'T like about the rest of your industry. Trash talk, complain, and vent - in private, of course. Capture that negativity in writing and use it for the following steps to help you find your focus.
  2. Mine for Gold. Sift through that rage and find the points that you're most passionate about. Look for repeated words or ideas that evoke the strongest emotional response and highlight those.
  3. Find the Broken Record. Take a look a the statements you highlighted. What is the overall big idea from those points? Distill it down to a single thought - but don't worry about making it sound nice yet. It might still be something negative, a problem in your industry that you feel like you can solve.
  4. Put Lipstick On It. Take that big, negative idea and spin it into something positive. If this is the problem, how are you the solution? Feel free to add back in some of that fancy language, but don't get too flowery - remember the idea is still all about transparency and honesty. If you're doing it right, there should be no need to exaggerate.

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