It’s many years ago since I last had to buy transport services but I was sad to hear of the death of Eddie Stobart on Thursday March 31, 2011.
Eddie Stobart (the company) has become an iconic firm for one simple reason – every cab was given a women’s name.
I guess this is an unusual twist on “differentiation by who”.
The company has its own fan club with 25,000 members and spotters collect the names of the cabs they’ve seen. The first truck was named after the sixties model Twiggy.
There were other differences too – the trucks were clean and the drivers wear ties. Eddie Stobart‘s is a company to be proud of.
From the outside, it doesn’t seem much to give each cab a name but it was a bit of magic that created the public’s attention – and built up probably the UK’s only nationally known transport company. It would be an interesting exercise to stop people in the street and ask them to name a transport company and see how many people say Eddie Stobart.
Did this create buyer preference?
Maybe not but I bet it got the Eddie Stobart company into a lot of buying situations when it would otherwise have been treated as just another transport company.
And to win the game, you have to be in it in the first place.
I adore classic rock music from the late sixties and the seventies and Ted Nugent is one of the stars that burst onto the scenes in the mid seventies when I started liking my music loud and heavy.
Differentiation By Who
Although I’m currently working with a young soul singer in the UK who has released one album so far to develop a more distinctive sound, image and general presence, you don’t have to want to be a rock or pop star to benefit from developing a strong personal brand.
It’s what I call differentiation by who.
I see it in the world of business advice and self help but it’s also there with celebrity cooks who can build chains of restaurants based on personal celebrity.
In fact, differentiation by who in terms of personal branding is open to any business which can build a strong element of “know, like and trust” with the business owner or key staff members.
Ted Nugent Is A Great Example Of A Personal Brand
According to his website www.tednugent.com
“In the past 50 years, Ted Nugent has done things that most musicians could only ever dream of, including setting attendance records at venues worldwide in 2005 and ’06, was the top grossing act in the world in 1977, ’78 & ’79, and has sold over 30 million records worldwide.”
The Void In the Hard Rock World
In the mid seventies the big British hard rock bands of the early seventies were in decline – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath had all peaked and while punk rock was the “in thing” in 1977 – there was a gap for someone to fill.
That someone was Ted Nugent with his blockbusting first three albums – Ted Nugent, Free For All and Cat Scratch Fever along with other acts like Kiss who are also worth talking about in terms of differentiation.
Ted Nugent – The Wild Man Of Rock’n’Roll
I always saw Ted Nugent as the wild man of rock’n’roll but his main nicknames were:
The Detroit Madman
The Motor City Mad Man
I think it’s time for an example of why – this is Stranglehold from 1976.
If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old
That’s Ted Nugent’s music philosophy summed up in a few words and the phrase was used to promote on of his mid seventies tours.
I must admit that I turn the volume down a few notches now but his music still gives me an adrenalin rush. His typical sound was fast, heavy and raw.
He’s still a top performer now as this video of Cat Scratch Fever shows from 2010.
Ted Nugent Had A Strong Visual Image
A key element of the Ted Nugent personal brand was how he looked.
Long hair was a hard rock requirement and facial hair was common but no one else wore animal skins and loin cloths.
Ted Nugent And His Controversial Views
Another part of his personal brand was the way he courted controversy with some views that people found offensive while others lined up in support.
A strong anti-drugs and anti-alcohol stance
Pro-guns and the right to bear arms
Pro-hunting – he even owns a hunting lodge according to Wikipedia. I can’t agree with him on this as I believe canned hunting is sick. I can admire the bravery of the old Maasai warrior tradition of killing a lion on his own before he can become man because I know how big lions are and I wouldn’t do it but shooting a defenceless animal that can’t escape is wrong.
Right wing political views
In The World Of The Bland, Ted Nugent Stands Out
You don’t have to like Ted Nugent or his music but he does create a lasting impression and stands for something.
His enduring success show that what he does works.
“Paul I don’t agree with your idea that you have to be different to succeed” said a business owner I was speaking to last week.
His idea was that if he could make his business as much like the market leader as possible, he’d get some of the sales.
And his logic was fascinating because it was based on the idea that most of us would date a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie lookalike (depending on your sexual preferences).It’s an interesting idea.
Since Brad and Angelina are busy keeping each other warm at night and if you have a big crush on one or the other, then the best you can do is to date a lookalike.
It’s not genuine of course… and you’d know it.
Nor would your life come with the money or the celebrity lifestyle (happy to give that a miss).
So you can imagine that a Brad-alike or Angelina-alike would be very popular on the dating circuit.
But it doesn’t work so well in business for two very important reasons.
Brad and Angelina are unique – each is a one-off.
Demand massively exceeds supply.
That’s not the case in business.
If you have a resemblance to Brad or Angelina, then strengthening that resemblance should work fine in the local pick-up bar but things are different when it comes to customers.
Businesses don’t usually sell one-offs – they sell products or services that they can duplicate again and again.
And that means that supply isn’t so out of balance with demand.
In fact, if the star business isn’t working at capacity, it can keep on supplying because people prefer to buy the real thing rather than a lookalike unless there’s a huge price difference. Why buy a $25 imitation Rolex if you can afford $10,000 for the real thing?
The lookalike strategy works if the star business can’t supply any more. Buyers will turn to the next best alternative to what they really want.
But you’re in trouble if the real Brad and Angelina walk into the bar and have a blazing row in front of you and one dumps the other very publicly. The lookalike doesn’t seem so hot any more.
So if the star business gets capacity (either because they’ve expanded because of the unsatisfied demand or trade turns down because of the economy), they win the business back because the lookalike isn’t as good as the real thing.
Do you want to bet your business and your future on the fact that your competitor whom you’re copying is going to stay too busy?
Or do you want people to choose you because you’re unique? The best you can be.
Sure there may still be a passing resemblance to Brad or Angelina but if you’re nicer, kinder, friendlier, more interesting…
Buying usually involves taking a risk so if you can again a trust advantage, it can be enough to tip the balance from not buying to buying.
Recent research by Li Huang and J. Keith Murnighan published in What’s in a Name? Subliminally Activating Trusting Behavior (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 111, no. 1) finds that trust can be gained from the people you are associated with.
This is an example of differentiation by who.
It seems that the process of trust often starts early and the names of associates is a form of shortcut decision-making. It saves the time and trouble about having to do our own due diligence.
And unfortunately it is this factor which leads to financial disasters like Bernie Madoff and his enormous Ponzi scheme. The fact that his family and friends were among the investors encouraged others to trust enough to commit large amounts of their own money to his fund.
Obviously I’m not saying you should use this trust factor to rip customers off but who you are seen to associate with and who recommends you can be a powerful differentiator. It shouldn’t be abused.
I was a consultant, small business coach and advisor based in Birmingham, with over 35 years business experience, including more than 20 years as self employed.
My main business qualifications are:
– Chartered Accountant
– Certified Guerilla Marketing Coach
My main interests are in helping business owners who are stuck get unstuck by thinking more clearly about their issues and possible solutions.
I no longer provide professional business coaching but I will be sharing more ideas on my blog and will continue my popular business book reviews.
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