Let me tell you a story about a friend; we’ll call him Tim for privacy’s sake. Tim got fed up with the way people did things. He tried to be different and discover an alternative way of living. So he grew a beard, rarely cut his hair, shopped in thrift shops, stopped eating processed foods and started cycling everywhere. He stood out from a sea of suits and sameness. It was great, he didn’t look like everyone else - he was special.
Over the years though, society changed. One day he was sitting in a café, sipping on his rice milk latte and he realised he was the same as everyone else. The beard, the vintage clothing, the fixed gear bike, the kale. Everyone was doing it. He now had a label attached to him; people perceived him as being a “hipster” and he didn’t like it. This had happened slowly of course, but on that fateful morning he realised it was once again time to make a change.
We see businesses have this same issue time and time again. They are originally created around a new product or service, to fulfill an un-met need, to tap into a neglected niche, or to approach a market in a fresh way. But things change. Other businesses catch on. The wow factor is lost and before you know it you’re not the only beard-faced, fixed gear riding, kale eating business. You’re viewed as being the same as all the rest. You’ve lost what made your business special, and if you want to keep competing you need to take another look at what makes you different.
Businesses in this situation need to think about repositioning their brand or developing a new proposition – taking a new approach to how they look, what they’re saying and the perception others have of them – while staying true to their original values. This is what Tim realised. He didn’t become a completely different person but he re-evaluated what was important to him, what his strengths and weaknesses were, and what made him unique.
Tim still rides to work, but he’s started cutting his hair and has changed the way he dresses. How he acts directly relates to his values, his strengths and his personality. He’s his authentic self and better because of it. Many brands could learn a lesson from Tim.