Tue, Mar 12, 2019
Read in 4 minutes
Years ago I was working in a marketing team for a film distributor.
When I look back at that time, I don’t really remember what I did, I don’t remember how long I stayed, in fact I don’t remember anything in particular, but I do remember – her, the most memorable coworker I ever met.
Seemingly there was nothing special about her and yet - everything about her was special.
She made everyone feel like they were the most important person in the world and yet she always had this aura of exclusivity.
Everything about her was cool - the way she would do a mini dance whilst listening to strange music like nobody was watching; the way she was holding a cigarette; even the way she expressed her opinions unapologetically.
I never knew what her job title really was, but between her witty emails and sharp remarks, no one even bothered to ask.
It felt like the whole office was madly in love with her.
But we were also mad.
None of my co-workers could understand what was so special about her - what made her shine.
I was no exception.
Always wanting to dissect things and measure them, I wanted to break it all down and understand what was it exactly what makes a difference between her and me.
After all, on the outside - we were very similar: similar age and height, similar sense of humour and I guess I could listen to some strange music in the office - it’s just no one ever cared if I did.
The answer to my question came to me years later as I was working on a branding project and I was finally able to understand.
She was not different to me.
She was more than different.
She was distinct.
If she was a brand she would be a distinctive brand and brands like this don’t ever measure up on the same criteria.
They don’t follow the same rules as anyone else.
Sometimes they don’t even follow any given rules.
They make their own rules and have their own playground.
What does it all mean?
Brands can be different in my ways: some brands have a blue logo, some have a pink one.
Then there are some brands that don’t have a logo at all - like Marlboro that used only their colours on Ferrari Formula One cars.
Simply seeing the red and white combination of colours triggers the cigarette cravings in the brains of smokers.
Therefore, some brands are simply distinctive and compete in their own competitive-less marketplace (and undoubtedly - enjoy all the benefits from that!).
So how can one become distinctive?
Being distinctive is not necessarily easy; you need to be lucky to stumble across an idea or work hard to create something new.
But the good news is that this is not the only way distinctiveness is made.
I will never forget the interview Tim Ferris made with Bill Watersone, the author of Kelvin and Hobbes.
Bill said he always wanted to be a painter, but his drawing skills were not good enough.
He always wanted to be a comedian, but his comedy was not good enough.
So he combined the two - drawing and comedy and became the world’s most famous - comic strip cartoonist.
He created his own distinctiveness through a combination of two more-than-average skills.
Combining things that seemingly have no connection at all is not a new concept either.
In fact, check out the way some people combine poetry and maths:
This was what my colleague did as well.
She was not the most exotic person in a foreign country, she was not the coolest, funniest or the smartest woman.
But she was a combination of many characteristics that ultimately made the synergy.
So there she was - shining whilst enjoying her 100% distinctiveness in a marketplace that was completely her own.
And needless to say - being memorable because of it.