Have you heard of a branded bobsled?
In Wednesday's February 10 issue of USA Today I found a great example of how to move a commodity to a distinguished product that generates power for an unfair competitive advantage. Here is what I see for you in the story:
Steve Holcomb won the 2009 World Cup title for four man bobsled racing. He rode in a new sled created by a US team of designers led by Bob Cuneo, a race car designer. World-class bobsled races are won on sleds created in Europe -- until Cuneo offered his new creation to Holcomb.
It was "love at first ride." He wanted it on the World Cup tour starting in one week, even though it had just a coat of dull, black primer on it. So he called it "Night Train" after a mostly chrome-less Harley-Davidson motorcycle model.
Holcomb added a few hastily created decals as the sled was pushed into its transport container.
In its first race, Night Train won the bronze medal, amazing the crowds with its unusual design and strange paint job. The mystique grew and grew. People began rumors the paint was a secret coating designed by NASA.
You can read more of this fun story later (and cheer for Holcomb and team, they have a shot a bringing home the Gold, the first for this event since 1948).
Today my point is this: Note how the naming of a thing (a sled) branded it.
Would you rather race in a Night Train or a bobsled?
A brand is a noun with a capital letter, a word that stands for something. It distinguishes the thing from the rest of the things. It makes it a standout. It is what people say "Wow!" about. It is intensely psychological.
With Night Train, Holcomb quickly gained a following of fans and fearful respect from competitors. It became part of his unfair advantage in a sport dominated by Europeans.
He won the bronze medal in its first race. And went on to win the season title in 2009.
BOTTOM LINE: Night Train is a great example of the power of branding. It makes your product stand out when compared with the rest of the herd. Do that with your startup and you'll be on your way to success, with your competitors whining "that's unfair!"
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!