Friday, September 7, 2007

What's Your Square Plate? How Differentiation Can Save Your Business

On a road trip recently, my family stopped at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I don't have any particularly strong affiliation to the restaurant. To me, it's a lot like Chili's and Applebee's. A good place to get a hot meal.

I hadn't been in a Ruby Tuesday in a few years, but right away I noticed a difference. The plates were square. And the tables were clear of the "drink special" clutter. The menu was basically the same, but there was a slight air of sophistication that I took note of. And now, that is what separates Ruby Tuesday from other restaurants for me.

It doesn't take much to differentiate yourself. In this example, you see that by changing the accessories (a very affordable expense, I imagine), Ruby Tuesday is shifting its image from an all-American hamburger joint to something more upscale. It's subtleties that count.

Think about your business. Likely you're not the only one of your kind. How do you set yourself apart from the competition? What makes you special? What are your competitive advantages? If you don't have answers to these questions, you need to find them out.

  • Survey staff and clients to see what the image of your product is. Use these descriptions (fun, professional, useful) as a springboard for the creation of a brand identity.
  • Look at your competitors. What are their strong suits? What are their weaknesses? Find ways you can excel where they are weak.
  • Create a slogan or character that enhances the image you want to present.
Marketing is more about presentation than product. Most companies don't sell truly unique products (dog food, software, hamburgers). But if properly branded and marketed, even the most mundane can of dog food can create excitement in the purchase process.

Gas is pretty unexciting. But BP has a campaign going on that has cute, kitschy characters and collectible trading cards. Guess what? I made an effort on my trip to stop at BP for gas. Remember Morris the cat? Who wouldn't buy 9Lives cat food from a talking cat? Or the California Raisins. You get my point. An everyday product can be made exciting with proper branding and marketing.

Make your product stand out. And maybe the next time I encounter your brand and take note of its uniqueness, you'll get a free mention in my blog!

Susan Payton is Managing Partner of Egg Marketing & Public Relations. She assists small businesses with marketing strategy and corporate communications. She is also the author of 101 Entrepreneur Tips, a handy guide that helps entrepreneurs make repeat customers, close the sale, and delegate work.

For more information on Susan and Egg Marketing, visit or email her at

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