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.
"I want to be original," says the young startup founder. Well, I've got news for ya pal, you never will be and you will kill yourself trying to go down that road.
Everything is a derivative of something else. There is no new idea under the sun. Now, you can see this as negative or you can realize the opportunity you have to explore and put your spin on something already successful. The best creative work I come across is stolen. Meaning, the people that made it did not come up with the idea on their own, but they put it into a new context.
I'll give you an example, my friend Luis rebranded an agency a while ago. This agency's office overlooks a harbor in San Diego. So, he took the brand down a nautical path and turned them into a rebellious rouse of scallywags. They changed their name from Digital Style to VSSL, shifted all of their lingo to mirror a gang of pirates, and even named the rooms in their space after the places on a ship (the brig, the gulley, even the poop deck).
Here's the thing, Luis found every single element that went into that brand, he didn't conjure it out of thin air. The logo, the name, the language, the visuals, even the culture of the company is rooted in life at sea.
Find something inspirational and different, then steal it.
"What do you mean?" is the most common response when I tell people I work with rebels.
I proceed to tell my core belief that being different is more important than being better. But there's more to it than that. What drives this core belief home is that I live it. Perhaps not in gigantic ways, but here are a couple examples:
I refuse to be on Facebook and Instagram.
I don't drink or partake in other substances.
I rarely take calls or meetings in the morning.
I plan on staying a small company for the foreseeable future.
These are stories about who I am as a person that seep into my business as well. Stories like these are strong because they are genuine, I don't have to put on a face to live out the truth I proclaim.
When you build your brand, tell your story. Open up your ugly, the things people will think you are weird for. I guarantee there are people who will not like it, but the flip side is that there will others who appreciate it.
Tell YOUR story. Not the one you think people want to hear.