I thank two people for inspiring this post — Nate Fakes, proprietor of Nate Fakes Cartoons; creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip, Break of Day (whence the image above derives); the illustrator of Thought Leadership, our popular, monthly comic strip; and our collaborator on BizComics — as well as my friend and partner, Jonathan Spiliotopoulos, who suggested the thesis of this post. I’m grateful for the privilege of working with these two good men.

Nothing is more important to a brand — a company brand, a product brand, or a service brand — than its differentiators. All brands have them. They must.

Brands are like snowflakes: No two are the same. They can’t be. They’re informed by different sources, forces, opportunities, and personalities. Why, then, do so many companies work so hard to fabricate differentiators?

If everyone knows what a hammer is, why call it a zooger? If you can sell hammers without having to tell people what they are, why create the extra step of having to define zooger? Why create a market for zoogers if one exists for hammers? Why alienate prospects by confusing them, by making them learn something they already know by another name, and by making them work harder than they should, simply to get what they want? And why would you want to work that hard — needlessly?

No brand is established without hard work, a high degree of commitment, and a fair amount of anxiety. With no guarantees, a brand is a test of courage. Weak knees and faint hearts don’t find much comfort in business. Nor should they. So, why compromise your courage and heighten your anxiety by creating misdirection and murk?

It’s your brand. Out of the chute, simply by virtue of its being yours — not mine, not hers, not his — it’s differentiated. So, identify the things that make you this — not that — and trumpet them. Find the truth, and tell it. Don’t bother with embellishments and fabrications that result in needlessly circuitous routes to awareness, recognition, and sales.

Your brand is your differentiator. Draw straight lines. Point to it directly and proudly. The scenic route is too costly.