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  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

3 Things Your Startup Must Sacrifice to Become a Strong Brand

Updated: Apr 21

You’ve probably already heard some version of the old adage that, “You must give in order to receive.” Well, one of the reasons why that adage has remained so relevant for centuries is due to the fact that it’s true in every facet of our lives. In order to attain most of the things we want—we must be willing to give something in exchange for them.

That exchange could consist of something tangible, like money, gifts, or labor. But it could also come in the form of things that while aren’t tangible—nonetheless, are still very important things that you must be willing to risk in order to get something that you want.

In other words, you must be willing to make some sort of sacrifice to attain them.

When it comes to the procuring process of building a strong brand that can withstand the test of time—sacrifice is certainly required. These are the top 3 things that your startup must be willing to sacrifice in order to be beloved, respected, and admired by its target audience.

1. Popularity

Merriam-Webster defines popularity as: “Of or relating to the general public; suitable to the majority.” In the grand scheme of things, I must admit that as a person, being popular certainly does have its share of cool perks.

However, when it comes to building a truly strong brand that is to be beloved by its target audience—seeking popularity is actually a bad thing.

That’s because strong brands are contrary to the very definition of popular. They do not aim to relate to the general public. And they definitely don’t aspire to be suitable to the majority. Instead, strong brands sacrifice mainstream popularity in order to resonate with, as well as lead their ideal customers. As opposed to attempting to lead the masses.

“In fact, in nearly every case, trying to lead everyone results in leading no one in particular.” Writes author and marketing icon Seth Godin, in his book, Tribes.

Look, I get it, just about everyone yearns to be popular and adored by the masses. But to build a truly strong brand—you must resist that yearning to become popular (at least with your startup) and only seek to appeal to your core audience.

2. Companionship

Imagine, if you will, that if tomorrow—somehow, a group of scientists announced that miraculously—they resurrected a Tyrannosaurus rex (the movie Jurassic Park probably made that much easier to imagine). And while it would be cool to be able to see the fierce beast in the flesh, in all actuality—the Dinosaur would be the loneliest creature on earth.

That's because the T. rex was so different (and extremely dangerous)—it could not coexist with any other creature in its habitat.

Envision your startup along those same lines. If your goal is to build a brand that will disrupt, innovate, and leave an imprint on its respective industry—your brand must be distinctive. Which means that it must be so different—it cannot fit in with competitors in its industry.

Known as one of the most innovative and disruptive CEOs of all time, Apple co-founder, the late Steve Jobs, put it best, “You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently.”

Innately, human beings are prone to wanting to fit in with desired groups. But in order to build a monstrous, distinctively fierce brand; like the great T. rex—you must be willing to sacrifice your startup not fitting in with others in its industry. Thus, embracing solitude.

3. Accolades

Explaining in an interview why he hadn’t received many industry awards despite his huge sales success as a recording artist; rapper, executive producer, and entrepreneur Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, once said, “I got the checks, I didn’t get the trophies.”

Fans of 50 believe that the reason he hasn’t won a plethora of Grammys in his career as a hip-hop artist is because his lyrics were considered much more aggressive than those of his contemporaries. Therefore, 50's content made the recording academy so uncomfortable—they chose not to give him due awards.

Aggressive brands also make people uncomfortable. Particularly those that do not adhere to industry norms. But in order to build a strong brand, you've got to be perfectly okay with your startup not being understood by its industry's gatekeepers. In fact, you and your team should take it as a badge of honor that your brand is so disruptive—it makes others uncomfortable.

Keep in mind that most people will not easily embrace change. Especially industry gatekeepers that view change as a threat to their normal way of life. But as previously stated, strong brands only focus on appeasing those within their target audience. And that target audience rewards them handsomely for it.

By building a strong brand that’s strictly for a selected audience—your startup may not get the attention, accolades, or awards that others in its industry may receive. But as 50 said, it will get the checks. Which is even better.


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