Ever feel like you’re pendulum-swinging between feeling excited by the progress your business is making and discouraged by all the people you see out there doing similar things?

If so, today I’m sharing one of the most important ways you can set yourself apart from other entrepreneurs out there doing same-ish things.


When I worked in corporate communications, one of the pillars of our communications strategy was to figure out how we wanted to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

During our weekly communications meetings, we’d brainstorm (pretty boring) lists like:

Our products are cheaper
We have a larger international presence
We have a higher customer service rating
Our backend technology is more sophisticated
We have partnerships with high-profile organizations

And then we’d go off and drop those (pretty boring) messages into our press releases, marketing materials, website copy, ad campaigns and briefing docs.

We were trying to woo people with logic.

In short: Nobody really cared.

As I would come to learn later, there’s a neuroscience-backed reason for this.

Turns out, when we get into what motivates us as humans to buy one product over another, we are more likely to buy from the brand that stands for something we believe in.

As Libby Sartain and Mark Schumann write in Brand from the Inside (great book!), “A brand is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond the product to represent an idea emerging from the soul of the business. Real brand power occurs when the brand reaches you inspirationally; when you connect with the ‘big idea’ the business and brand stand for.”

Here are a few examples of popular brands and the big ideas they stand for:

  • Life is Good: “Spreading the power of optimism”

  • Warby Parker: “Leading the way for other socially-conscious businesses”

  • Cuisinart: “Helping you savor the good life”

  • Virgin Atlantic: “Embracing the human spirit”

  • Whole Foods: “Supporting the health, well-being and healing of people and the planet”

  • Mine!: "Connecting people, human-to-human." 

See how much more deeply and powerfully you connect to what the brand stands for, rather than whether it’s cheaper or not, international or not, or more sophisticated or not?

When it comes to your own business, If you’re trying to differentiate yourself through just your products or pricing, the second someone in your industry drops their own prices or creates a similar product, you’re out of the game.

But when you take a stand for something, and you invite similarly-passionate people to take a stand with you, it’s much harder for another business to trump the connection you’ve created with your community through that shared purpose.

Make sense?

So, now the fun part:

What does your brand stand for?

In other words: What do YOU stand for?

You may be able to answer this question immediately, which is amazing. Now you just need to make sure people know that’s what you stand for by weaving it throughout your website, emails, blogs, etc. (More on this in weeks to come.)

If not, I created a quick exercise to help you dig into the guts of this question. Get it here:

Once you've got it down, tell me what your brand stands for in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you.