Paradoxical thinking: Secrets to separating from the pack.

Originally Published on on by Steven Morris

A lot of business boils down to common sense. However, if every brand followed what’s common and sensical, we’d end up with a slew of copycat companies. Going against the grain—against what’s common and sensical—will set your brand apart from others. Think of some of the most valuable businesses in the world: Apple, Amazon, Harley-Davidson, Taylor Guitars, Patagonia, Google, Zappos, Burt’s Bees All of these companies, and many more didn’t follow the crowd or convention. They created their own path, forged their own way and separated themselves from the competition, by not following others.

With that, I offer some paradoxical brand commandments.

Unsell what you sell.

I’ve never heard a customer say they wanted to be chased or sold to. People want products and services that better their lives. Your customers want improvement. They want value. They want to be inspired. They want solutions. Don’t sell to them; solve for them.

Be the flame, not the moth.

Don’t chase customers with discounts, deals, and promotions. Instead, attract them with the glow that comes from the value in your products and services. A beautiful brand and business creates its own gravity and magnetism and attracts the right customers for the right reasons.

Honesty makes you vulnerable.

People want to buy from and join brands they feel aligned with. By being truthful, you’ll forge connections with your customers and employees. Be honest and forthright about what you stand for, and you’ll attract the right people—inside and out.

Create and sell what’s beautiful.

Instead of promoting your products or services, present what’s unique about how it positively effects peoples’ lives. Your customers want to be moved, delighted, and inspired. Build a beautiful business, and you’ll create magnetism.

Weird is great.

It’s likely that when your company started, you were hungry, fired-up, and ready to change the world. Then, you weren’t afraid to take chances and step outside of the norm. Risk equals reward. Risk is the doorway to innovation and, ultimately, profit. Those that risk greatness are the only ones rewarded with it. What makes you weird is also what makes you great.

By giving your audience your best, your competitors will know your strategy.

Don’t worry about what the competition knows. Instead be forthright, honest, open, and transparent. Truth is a rare and valuable commodity in the business world. Be honest, and you’ll gain trust. Gaining trust will create loyal customers.

Unfollow the herd.

If you want your brand to be a cow or a lemming, go ahead and follow the leader. If you want your brand and business to attract your own unique customers and stand apart, you need to stand on your own beliefs. All brand positioning lives in the intersection of relevance (what’s in it for your customer) and differentiation (how your measurably and remarkably different than the competition).

Scale is not the goal. Value is.

Contribute real value to the world of your customers and scale will come.

In case you missed them, here are some recent insights:

Persistence of Ambition.
If we’re going to realize our potential, follow our calling, do valuable work, live fulfilled and meaningful lives, we need a more ambitious definition of success.
Solving the Brand Challenge.
If you can solve your brand challenge, you can probably solve everything else in your business.
The beautiful thing about business. (a TEDx talk)
Business can be an intentional act of beauty, made perfectly imperfect by human hearts, minds, and hands. And the beauty is there is no limit to the amount of beauty we can put into the world.

Steven Morris, CEO & Founder

Over the past 25 years I’ve been a leader and innovator in the brand strategy, marketing and creative industries, including leading Mth Degree to be a nationally recognized brand and business evolution consultancy; and co-founding The Studio / Leadership Experiences Through Artistry.

I’ve been honored to work with more than 250 companies and 3,000 business leaders ranging from brands in consumer products, consumer electronics, education, government, non-profit, sports and entertainment.

I was born and raised on the east coast and lived in Delaware, Boston, Philadelphia, Salisbury (MD), and Washington, DC before moving to San Diego in the early 1990s. I earned a Bachelor of Arts (Magna cum laude) in Fine Art with Minors in Psychology and Philosophy at Salem State College and an MFA (Magna cum laude) from Temple University, Tyler School of Art. I’ve had the honor to work with some of the world’s largest and most progressive brands, with some of the finest agencies internationally.

There are two books that I have written and published, including Brand Love and Loyalty and Humanizing the Customer Journey, and my forthcoming book The Evolved Brand: How to Impact the World Through the Power of Your Brand will be published in early 2018.

Being an avid writer, I have written for Business WEEK, Brand WEEK, Conscious Company Magazine and Forbes as a contributor on branding, strategy and leadership. I’ve had the honor to served as a conference advisor for the MYOB and HOW conferences, and I’ve served on the Board of Directors for The Boys & Girls Club of Greater San Diego, MAGNET Global, La Jolla Country Day School (Trustee), Advisory Board Member for HOW Magazine, the MYOB Conference and Arlington Arts.

My firm has been honored by the AMA as Marketer of the Year and Mth Degree is a multiple honoree for the INC. 5000.

I’m also a regular speaker at numerous national and international conferences on branding, culture, leadership, and innovation topics. I’ve served as an adjunct professor at Salisbury State University, San Diego State University and San Diego City College. SDSU, USD, Northwestern University and MiraCosta College have all hosted me as a guest lecturer and presentor.