I hear these statements all of the time, and they are rarely ever true:

“Our customers buy from us because of trust.”

“Our customers give us business because we have high integrity.”

“Our customers are loyal to us because we are a stable company.”

Yes, it’s important that you are trustworthy, stable and have high integrity.  But these are not enough to differentiate you, because many of your competitors are also trustworthy, stable, and have high integrity.  There is a difference between an important brand parameter and a differentiating brand parameter.

Imagine a chili cook-off, where every chef uses ground beef and tomatoes in his or her recipe.  You could say that, in this contest, ground beef and tomatoes are essential elements, just like trust, integrity and stability may be essential in your industry.  But nobody ever won a chili cook-off because of their ground beef and tomatoes. They are basic ingredients. The winners win on the details – the herbs and spices they use, the texture they create, the way the flavors blend in a unique way.

Your brand story appeals to customers in the same way.  The basics are just that – basics. Without them you lose, but you don’t win because of them.  The interesting details – the herbs and spices – are what help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.


  • Caroline Ceisel
    Aug 10, 2009 - 10:17 am

    I would even go as so far as to say that many of your customers or clients will initially expect that your are trustworthy and stable – especially if they had a referral to you. You only have these basic ingredients to lose.

  • Amanda Cullen
    Aug 13, 2009 - 09:31 am

    Cincinnati became known as a “chili town” because someone thought to add chocolate to his chili. That’s certainly a differentiating spice. Good post, Steve.

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