Brand Differentiation

Standing Out When You Can Barely Stand Up – Brand Differentiation Lessons Via Rocky III

We all have that special, motivational playlist on our Spotify or Pandora app for when working out or going on that next run seems harder than usual.

But just like that potentially exhausting workout on your schedule, the business of differentiating yourself in your industry can seem insurmountable. Let’s face it, we have all experienced those times where we just weren’t motivated to take on that hard work. That’s when I turn to Rocky 3.

Fact #1: You’re Already On The Ropes (or on the canvas)

If you’re seriously considering differentiating yourself, or a foray into brand differentiation congratulations! You are among the few who have come to the realization that to stay competitive you need to make an important shift. Whether you’ve been disrupted by another player or commoditized by an army of players in your field, chances are you are not at this tipping point because you are already the champion of your industry. Maybe you once were, but the writing on the walls is clear. You’re in the unfamiliar position of being on the ropes and someone’s coming to eat your lunch or maybe they’ve already taken, chewed and swallowed it.

Fact #2: You’re Uncomfortable

For your entire career you’ve been killing it. Now you find yourself as the challenger, the underdog. What got you to where you are is no longer getting the job done. You’ve been playing not to lose, but now you must shift and to play to win.

When Rocky had to completely rebuild his skillset from the ground up, he was smart enough to get the outside perspective of Apollo Creed. Apollo was clear with him that the process for the former champ wasn’t going to be easy or fun.

Successful differentiation requires new skills and disciplines to reposition your business so that you are primed for outstanding results. Playing it safe or putting it “off until tomorrow” is always tempting, but like Apollo tells Rocky “There Is No Tomorrow!”

Fact #3: It Requires Sacrifice

If you continue doing things the way you have been doing them you will continue to get exactly what you have. Good news or bad news?

In your journey to get where you are, you’ve accumulated many skills and habits of how to do the things you do. But when your industry’s landscape changes, some of those skills and habits will also need to change, and some might even need to be abandoned. What skill sets no longer serve you? Which ones are you holding on to simply because they’ve become habits?

As champion, Rocky lost touch with the streets until his opponent, Clubber Lang, proved how soft he’d actually become via a vicious KO. While he got knocked out in the fight, the KO also served as Rocky’s wake up call.

Fact #4: Your Eye of the Tiger

“Oh my god, I stand for nothing!”

I’ve heard very smart, very accomplished people with decades of experience in their respective fields cry this out when asked what their contrasting or unique perspective on their industry was. It clearly represented a breakdown in their plan and motivation. What they realized, is that at sometime in their career, they got soft, went on autopilot and now, the rest of the pack had caught up to them.

While breakdowns can be petrifying, they are, when faced head-on with discipline and rigor, also opportunities for incredible breakthroughs, once you can find your own personal Eye of the Tiger.

Fact #5: You CAN Do This!

With the right guidance and strategy, any brand with enough courage and discipline can achieve distinction and differentiation in their respective fields. Sure, it’s easy to drive up to the edge of differentiation, maybe take a peek and wonder, “WHAT IF?” without actually ever finding out. Most people will step to the edge and wonder. But you’re not most people. Stepping past that edge and committing to differentiating yourself, without question, takes courage, guts, and the discipline to not look back.

Sure, you’ve been knocked down. But like The Champ says it’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and get back up.

So turn on your playlist because “I didn’t hear no bell.” Let’s get to work!

Jesse James Wroblewski

Differentiation Consultant

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