The black sheep gets blamed for a lot – being a loner, nonconformist, or contrarian. Through researching some of the most successful companies in the world, I’ve found that the black sheep is often one other thing: an example of what every brand should dare to be – different.
In my latest book on effective marketing strategy, Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market From the Core, I took a look at a brand that has a special place in my…stomach: Chobani, the Greek yogurt giant. Though it may now be a staple in the yogurt aisle of your favorite major grocer, it wasn’t so long ago that the idea of Chobani making a splash in the US was laughed off as an impossibility.
Through the doubters and naysayers, Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani, knew that his brand’s secret ingredient would provide the push the company needed to break through: the courage to be different than the competition. To dare to be the black sheep.
The Difference That Being Different Makes
Chobani, at the time of its debut in 2005, was a bit of an anomaly. In a market lead by non-Greek yogurts chock-full of artificial ingredients, Mr. Ulukaya decided to take another path. Bringing America the distinct flavor of Greek yogurt made with high-quality, natural ingredients and produced at Chobani-owned factories instead of outsourcing the product, as many others had. Within about 10 years, Chobani crossed the $1 billion dollar revenue milestone – not too shabby for the black sheep of the yogurt-making family.
So, does this mean that all you have to be is a contrarian to find success in your market? Well, not quite. Chobani’s brand strategy wasn’t born out of a desire to be different for the sake of being different. These pioneering practices in the yogurt industry were based on a belief that this was a better way to create a higher-quality product that people wanted. There was an opening in the market just waiting for a company like Chobani to have the courage to fill it – to do something markedly against the grain because the status quo was lacking what Chobani could bring to the industry.
Strategically different companies, like Chobani, can find success where other, more conformist companies fail for one simple reason: differentiators make all the…well, difference, in the world. Chobani had the courage to crack wise about ingredients like “Purple #40” in many traditional yogurts, despite it being the “norm” to use these ingredients. This brand strategy caused them to take center stage and break away from the pack – something highly valuable for any company in a crowded market.
Lessons Learned, One Spoonful at a Time
What can your brand glean from Chobani’s success story? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve pulled from my research, it’s that brands need to be bold. Find out what makes your brand, product, and process different, and shine a light on it – whether it’s the unique way your company manufactures better products, the extra care your brand takes in research, or the fresh ingredients your restaurant sources from local farms that make a lasting impact on your audience. In marketing, doing as others do is often the road to mediocrity. Embrace your brand’s uniqueness and share the benefits that come with it. These quirks may just be what gets your product off of the shelves and into homes. Just ask Chobani.