December Webinar Recap: Leveraging Your Unique Attributes – Brand Differentiation

By January 18, 2021Blog
Pink gold fish on dark blue background with text

Written by Hanedi Karajeh

In our January event Keynote Speaker, Author, and Workshop Facilitator Stan Phelps shared key learnings from his book Pink Goldfish introducing the FLAWSOM matrix made up of four quadrants. The four quadrants of the matrix represent the effort marketers put into advertising their brand and serving their audience, and help us understand our key points of differentiation and how to market in a way that helps us standout in what he calls “a sea of sameness.”

Stan’s matrix had 4 quadrants- on the x axis was a xxxx to xxxx spectrum, and on the y axis he plotted a yyy to yyy spectrum. His four quadrants represent different marketing strategies and are divided as follows:

  1. The Conform Quadrant is the Cow. In this quadrant, cows do less of what makes them different. Cows are unique because of their spots. In this quadrant, marketers do less of what makes them unique or different and stick to marketing their conforming attributes that are typically shared with other competitors. Cows don’t know they are unique, they just follow in the footsteps of others.
  2. The Strut Quadrant is the Peacock. Peacocks are not afraid to flaunt their strengths and they highlight what makes them unique. Marketers in this quadrant truly own who they are and they focus their messaging on what makes them unique or different.
  3. The Match Quadrant is the Zebra. In this quadrant, marketers do more of what makes them normal. A Zebra’s stripes are similar to the feathers of a peacock or the spots of the cow, no two are alike. Marketers look at who the leaders are in the market, start to benchmark them, and emulate the things that make them leaders. In this quadrant, a lion does not see multiple zebras in the wild. The lion sees only one zebra, making it hard for a zebra to stand out from the crowd.
  4. The Subtract Quadrant is the Polar Bear. Polar Bears go out on their own, effectively representing marketers who go out on their own to uniquely market their brand regardless of what the competition is doing.

Through his research, Stan identified companies that have competitive separation in the marketplace. Stan identified seven ways they did this and introduced it as the F.L.A.W.S.O.M method.

Flaunting sits between the area of the peacock and the polar bear on the matrix. It is a positive idea that marketers parade who they are and they own it without shame. 

Stan used Nebraska as an example of flaunting. Nebraska once went by a slogan that read “Visit Nebraska, Visit Nice.” After owning their status as being one of the least visited states in the US, they changed their slogan to “Nebraska. Honestly it’s not for everyone.” This resulted in an abundance of press for the state, including getting the attention of late night talk show host Steven Colber. A high demand for brochures related to visiting Nebraska followed.

Lopsiding is a peacock strategy. It is when marketers take what makes them weird, unique, and different and they double and triple down on it.

Stan uses the example of fast food restaurants’ reactions to the 2004 film “SuperSize Me.” After the film’s release, fast food retailers across the nation added healthier options to their menus such as salads, fruit, and yogurt. However Carl’s Jr decided to go in the opposite direction to make their menu items fattier than before by introducing items heavy in calories and grease like their thick burger. They chose to double down on the lack of healthy options. They made a unique move as their competitors all moved toward healthier menus.

Antagonizing is when marketers do more of what makes them different or doing less than what everyone else considers to be normal.

Stan used Alamo Drafthouse as an example. They capitalized on a negative voicemail message they received complaining about the no-texting policy in their theater. The publicity they received around the publicized voicemail resulted in the business pushing away consumers they do not want (those that thought the customer was right to complain about being kicked out and disliked the company), and simultaneously they created a better experience for the customers they do want (those who felt the no-texting policy was appropriate in the theatre).

Withholding is a polar bear strategy where marketers consciously pull back and do less than what is normal.

Stan used Black Friday as an example of a successful Withholding strategy. Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) decided to differentiate from other retailers by doing less on the national retail holiday. Since REI stands by their members, they delivered the message that their members should be spending time outside and with their families instead of visiting major retailers among many other shoppers on Black Friday. They closed 150 stores and shut down their website on this busy shopping day. They now stand by an opt outside movement during the most critical day in retail. This resulted in membership and sales going up for them. 

Swerving means to avoid emulating the leaders in the market. It is escaping the competitive herd and avoiding the sea of sameness. With swerving, marketers go in a different direction from everyone else to do more of what makes them weird and less of what is considered normal by others.

Opposing is the idea of doing the exact opposite of what other brands are doing. Brands do things that conflict with traditional strategies.

Stan uses the Boerne, Texas 0.5K race for charity as an example. This race is run differently than the common 5K race, but they still accomplish the same goals. The 0.5K race is made for people who do not like to run. It is a fun way to interact with the community and contribute to Blessings in a Backpack, a non-profit that feeds in-need children.

Micro Weirding is in the middle of the matrix. It’s the little things that brands do to enhance the consumer experience.

Stan uses the Magic Castle Hotel in California as an example. They have a signature popsicle phone line that makes them stand out and keeps people coming back every year.

Create a Pink Goldfish for your brand! Pink Goldfish is a seven-part framework for achieving competitive separation by embracing your company’s uniqueness. By using this framework, the FLAWSOM method, you will uncover the weakness and weirdness in your corporate DNA. You’ll be able to amplify your uniqueness and create competitive separation among other brands.

Use the four A’s to uncover your key points of differentiation.

Use Awareness to understand what makes you unique and different. Stan recommends talking to your customers, employees, and especially your suppliers. Suppliers do business with your competition and have unique insight on what makes you different.

Use Acceptance to identify what makes you unique, weird or different. These are the things that can separate you from the competition.

Use Alignment so that your differention comes through in all aspects such as on your website or in your office. Make sure everything squares up so you can communicate what makes you unique.

Use Amplification to turn the dial all the way up on some things or down to zero on other things.

Stan took a moment to answer any questions or take comments, and then left us with a story about Ashikaga Yoshimasa who shattered a tea bowl and had his bowl repaired with lacquer and gold. The bowl turned out even better than before now that the imperfections were illuminated and the bowl became unique. This style of bowl is now a classic and celebrated form of art in Japanese culture.


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