Own Your Word, But Own Its Meaning Too


In the business of branding, nothing speaks truer to the work that we do than industry legend, Al Ries’, immutable commandment: the Law of Focus. It is a pivotal point, one that allows the purpose of a brand to be actualized in a more tangible way. 

What makes your brand different from others of its kind? Is it more luxurious, or more at the cutting edge of technological innovation? Is it environmentally-friendly, or is it tightly aligned with a unique social purpose

Our point is that whatever distinguishes your brand from the rest of the pack is the driving point your branding endeavor should aim to build upon. And with the marketing industry in a state of perpetual evolution, it is a true testament to Ries’ authority that the Law of Focus remains a true cornerstone of branding excellence to this day.

As Ries writes: “If you want to build a brand, you must focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect’s mind. A word that nobody else owns.”

So, step one involves getting to the core of what drives your brand -- what it ultimately aims to be synonymous with. Only then can your company and its products truly begin to transcend a likely oversaturated (and, really, what industry’s isn’t?) marketplace creating a uniquely authentic opportunity for consumers to connect with your brand.

Perhaps one of the hallmark case studies that highlights this very point is car manufacturer, Volvo. The marketplace is inundated with German automobiles, and the reason so many can maintain relevant chunks of the market is that what differentiates them, defines them in a way that renders the others obsolete to the right consumers. Mercedes Benz is synonymous with prestige, and BMW is for driving. Audis are intrinsically German, but only one thing comes to mind when one contemplates a Volvo: safety.

So while Volvo is also German, by all accounts a great car to drive, and is definitely luxurious, their conceptual namesake for consumers continues to be that they’re the ultimate in safety. For consumers placing inviolability above all else when shopping cars, Volvo is a leader that has stood the test of time, even as the auto industry as a whole continues a trend in revolutionizing vehicular safety.

Since Ries’ heyday, new media have vastly shaped and expanded how and where branded messaging can be unleashed, so expanding your brand’s word into a fully realized concept in the minds of prospective customers will help that concept stay relevant in a vastly visual marketing landscape.

Once you have successfully defined your brand’s verbiage, only then can you own it. And ownership lends itself unencumbered to leadership in its respective share of the market. In other words, once you are synonymous in consumers’ minds as being the safety (or prestige, or driving, or, well, you get the picture) brand, you inherit leadership of the safety sector of the automobile marketplace. 

Now, all of this is not to say that once a market leader, always a market leader. In fact, time as our witness, no-visibility David beats iconic Goliath every day in marketplaces in industries all across the globe. 

Case in point: A little San Francisco start-up called Method that introduced a new line of household cleaning products to a global landscape inching ever more closely towards environmental collapse. As a direct response to the competition’s notoriously filthy carbon footprint, Method is the brainchild of two childhood friends who built their company with one goal in mind: sustainability. Their rapid success is further testament to their focus on that commitment to remaining cruelty free and environmentally friendly. Since Method’s launch, nearly every company in the home cleaning goods industry has tried their hand at launching similarly sound products. Yet despite the massive surge of new products that have hit the market, Method continues to dominate broadly because its efforts are singularly focused.

Our team at STARMEN would love to help you finesse your focus to create a truly compelling brand experience. Get in touch!

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