The beauty of being literate is that it opens up the door to improve... always. That being said, a lot of startup founders and creatives overlook the fact that marketing masters and branding savants have put their thoughts on paper for the whole world to access. When it comes to differentiation and being rebellious, these are my top three choices:
Zag by Marty Neumeier
Neumeier is the granddaddy of all branding brooks. His cornerstone guide, The Brand Gap, set the record straight on what branding actually is and why it matters in business. He followed up with Zag to hyper-focus on differentiation. The significance of Zag lies in the step-by-step structure that walks readers through how to be different. Granted, he does not dive extremely deep into every step (i.e. crafting a logo or a name), but you'd be foolish not to follow the principles listed in these pages.
Positioning by Ries and Trout
An oldie, but a goodie. Nearly every 21st century marketing book I've read has referenced Ries and Trout's strategies within Positioning. A word of caution, this book is super heady and can seem boring at times, but the examples provided from actual companies within this book are eternally applicable. Expect to learn a lot of great terminology and systemized thinking that will explain all of the marketing efforts you see everyday.
This is Marketing by Seth Godin
This was the first Seth Godin book I had ever read, needless to say it did not disappoint and I rated it as one of my top five books read in 2019. Marketing has almost become synonymous with spammed advertising, clickbait laden emails, and down right annoying. Seth's definitions of service-oriented marketing and the frameworks for niching down are the most clear and articulated I've ever seen. Furthermore, he uses real-world examples to demonstrate how it is the most generous brands that win, not the ones with the sexiest ads or the most keywords.
The Startup San Diego team and I launched the new San Diego Startup Week website yesterday. We thought we'd covered everything. We had tested user flows, we'd checked all of our links, but we could not have anticipated one thing: how much engagement we got.
For an hour we had unresponsive voting features because our automation service was at max capacity (and we'd already beefed it up).
However, this paled in comparison to the fact that we had record breaking numbers of users, ticket sales, etc. Small bump int he grander narrative.
The point is this:
you can plan for everything in the world for your brand, a new website, etc. but you will not burst into flames from having small bumps in the road.
The startup world is cut throat. It seems like there is always some kind of monstrous competitor lurking around the corner ready to devour your company. At least, this is what a scarcity mindset would reinforce.
The sad thing is that even if that monster is beaten there is another one ready to take its place. Concerns about competitors are like a hydra. Cut off one head and two more take its place.
What are we to do?
Walk past them. Don't engage. Your brand has one enemy and that is who it was yesterday. The bliss embedded within such a mindset is that whether you win or lose, it's all up to you.