Many branding maxims tossed about in the marketing world—and accepted as unquestionable gospel and law—simply are not valid. At least they are not valid for everyone and every business.
When I read a piece of business advice that confidently declares "always do this," or "this is true 100% of the time," or even "you should..." the warning lights go off. The Grand Poobahs of branding are particularly prone to heading down this all-or-nothing path.
So, I thought I would throw in my two cents and add to the list of branding absolutes:
- Always seek to understand the underlying dynamics of your own industry and company before making decisions on how to brand your business.
- Never forget that in the right situations laws are meant for breaking.
Consider the following commonly held branding beliefs that may be meant for breaking, especially if you work in a service or technology industry.
Maxim No. 1: Differentiation
"To build a strong brand, service companies must implement their brand with hard-hitting positioning strategies that differ significantly from competitors. In fact, most powerful differentiation strategies are directly opposite
from those of primary competitors."
—Terrill and Middlebrooks,
Market Leadership Strategies
for Services Companies
Terrill and Middlebrooks believe so strongly in this extreme differentiation theory that they refer to it as oppositioning. Think about the following types of companies:
- CPA firms
- Law firms
- Financial advisory firms
- IT consultants
- Strategy consultants
Of the companies in these fields, what are their positioning strategies? Additionally, which are directly opposite of the other? Do you really even care?
I pride myself on knowing a thing or two about service industries. I live in Boston, and to test my own assumption I reviewed the Boston Business Journal Book of Lists top 25 accounting firms in the city.