People Power: Seeking your uniqueness - June 2018
By Sam Allman
Often I stand in awe and am inspired by the beauty of nature; be it a sunset, a flower, a mountain, a vista, a living thing or a snowflake. We take pictures of them, paint or draw them on canvas in an effort to share or prolong the experience. What makes the beauty of nature so awe-inspiring to us? Maybe a better question is, what causes us to stop and take notice? Recently, I watched the movie The Greatest Showman. P. T. Barnum started his career in show business by getting people to take notice and to pay to see the unusual and the unique.
What causes us to stop and take notice? The answer is uniqueness. Uniqueness is one of the great lessons nature teaches us. The unique and the unusual stop us in our tracks and grab our attention. However, when they cease being unique and unusual, our awe wanes, and we stop looking. “Familiarity breeds indifference,” wrote Aldous Huxley, an English writer and philosopher. You may be wondering, why is uniqueness a great lesson nature teaches us, and what does it have to do with People Power?
THE VALUE OF UNIQUENESS
First of all, genetic diversity or genetic uniqueness within a species plays an important role in the survival and adaptability of that species. When a population’s habitat changes, the population’s survival is based on its ability to adapt. Genetic diversity increases the odds of adapting to a dynamic habitat.
The lesson nature teaches us is not only that uniqueness is vital for our survival as a species, but also that it is vital for profitability in business. We live in a world of similarity. Similar businesses are competing with each other by manufacturing and selling similar products, at similar prices and with similar warranties. When I was a kid, I could readily tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevrolet. Today, I’m not so sure. Here, similarity breeds indifference for me. I don’t even look at cars unless I see a unique, unusual or vintage one.
Our industry has struggled with uniqueness. Prior to the 1950s, carpeting was a luxury; only the rich could afford it. The development of the tufting machine and synthetic fibers allowed carpet to become available to everybody. The demand was so high that if you had enough money to invest in a tufting machine, you could put it in your garage and become a carpet manufacturer. At one time there were more than 350 carpet mills producing similar products and similar colors. But, as the carpet industry started to mature, demand for carpet started to level off. Carpet became a commodity. Profitability became more difficult. Excess inventory and capacity forced prices down.
In an effort to increase profitability, some mills became more innovative, producing unique products and styles. If they were successful, the profitability of the manufacturer went up. The problem, of course, is that these innovative products didn’t remain unique for long, because copying each other’s unique products was the norm for many carpet mills. The copying reinforced the fact that carpet was a commodity.
BRANDING VS. UNIQUENESS
It was not until several of the fiber manufacturers in the ’70s and ’80s started implementing branding strategies that the flooring industry began moving away from being a commodity. At that time, the most recognized brands were the resilient brands, Armstrong and Congoleum. Consolidation and the acquiring of other types of flooring by the major carpet manufacturers has facilitated the use of branding, instead of the low-priced strategy as a way to market flooring to the general population.
However, making a unique or better product is not enough to maintain profitability. The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door,” is a myth. The Sony Betamax video cassette was better than the VHS format. But, VHS ultimately emerged as preeminent. And so, the copying still goes on within this industry.
Besides being unique, what makes a branded product different is that it comes with a promise. The promise is that it will do something for those who buy it and use it. In addition, it is meant to become the business version of patriotism. A well-branded product is meant to create customer loyalty, and developing customer loyalty is the most important foundation for ongoing business growth. Having a branded product eliminates comparison-shopping, and that facilitates buying. Think about the brands you buy and are loyal to. How often do you compare prices? In virtually every industry, the most trusted brand is the most profitable.
A brand signifies a relationship with the customer. It’s a company’s most valued asset. It’s the main differentiator, the best defense against price competition and the key to customer loyalty. Competitors can copy your products, feature-by-feature and benefit-by-benefit, but they can’t steal your brand.
Besides a promise, there are two dimensions that raise the value of branding over just manufacturing a more unique product. The first is the brand perception, which is the marketing message a company chooses to position the product in the customer’s brain. Positioning has been called the “fight for the customer’s mind.” It is a fact that two different products cannot occupy the same position in the customer’s brain. That’s why a marketing message must be chosen carefully and be tied to what the product’s uniqueness will do for the customer. More importantly, a competing product cannot have the same promise or message. A great marketing message has something good to say; it is said well, and it is said often.
Second is the brand experience-the experience the customer has with the brand. A company’s brand is shaped by its customers’ personal experience not only with the product but also with its employees. That’s why employees must be part of the branding process. Companies must hire employees who care. The problem for many companies is that their brand message is not always congruent with the brand experience. They must match. Great marketing is the art of building things into a product or service worth noticing. If a product or service is not worth noticing, it is invisible. The fact is, when branding a product or business, you cannot over-communicate your uniqueness or differences. If you got it, flaunt it!
IDENTIFYING YOUR UNIQUENESS
So what does nature teach us about uniqueness, and what does it have to do with People Power? I believe that human beings have the power and ingenuity to shape their futures, become all that they can be, and most of all find happiness and fulfillment. I do believe that most of us can be anything we want to be. To me, it’s learning how to focus our minds and our efforts. However, if what I want requires me to beat out others, the odds are that I will fail. There will always be someone who is faster, smarter, better looking and more capable than I. I can learn to be a good boxer, but the odds are I will never be a world champion boxer.
Our gifts are nothing we learned. They are something with which we were born; they are that which make us tick and determine our successes and failures. The message we are to learn from nature is this: yes, we are different, and it is our responsibility to discover how we are unique. Isn’t that what the ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” meant? The phrase was later expounded upon by the philosopher Socrates who taught that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Why should we examine our lives? When we do not examine our lives-what we do, how we live and how we feel-we get stuck doing the same things over and over again as we expect life to improve for us. I’m sure you are aware of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. Is that what Henry David Thoreau meant as he talked about most living lives of quiet desperation?
As we reflect and examine our life’s journey, we gain insight and answers to some of life’s greatest questions. As we discover our uniqueness, we find out why we are here and what we are supposed to do with our life. Flourishing in life requires that we develop our gifts and talents and live by purpose. Doing so stokes the fire that we have burning inside us.
As you begin to truly know yourself and to live accordingly, you begin to create your personal brand. What you do and say becomes your marketing message. How you interact with others becomes their brand experience with you. If you want to have the power of a brand, you must care about people. A “branded you” creates loyalty and trust among your relationships. When your message and your actions are congruent, you become authentic-the real thing-because you are living by your unique purpose. Authenticity expands your personal power because you are living with a passion that is lit from within. Authenticity expands your People Power because people notice that passion, are influenced by it and your authenticity, and are attracted to it. People will stop and take notice. Nature knows that there is power in our uniqueness. When will we discover our own unique power?
Copyright 2018 Floor Focus
Related Topics:Armstrong Flooring