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How a Spotted Zebra Brand Can Give You a Huge Competitive Advantage

Eric Groves

By Eric Groves

What’s the advantage of branding? Ever wonder why zebras have stripes?

If you think it’s to dress sharper than horses, the answer is a resounding, “Nay!” Most ecologists believe that the stripes on Zebras protect them from predators when they’re blending in with the pack. Because when you blend in, it’s really tough to stand out. It’s a lifesaver for Zebras, but a death sentence for brands.

The best brands realize that they must stand out from the pack.



The best way to do this is by avoiding the temptation to play it safe (stripes) and instead create a brand personality that immediately stands out (spots) from your striped compadres.

We call this type of brand a Spotted Zebra™. A Spotted Zebra brand creates in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no product or service on the market quite like it. While the pack of striped competitors in your space is blending in, your Spotted Zebra brand will be standing out and attracting the prospects you’re wanting to connect with.

Spotted Zebra brands don’t boast about what they do, but instead, connect with what matters to the target audience with an attractive personality and style and laser-focused brand voice that makes them feel good. And customers are far more likely to remember and purchase products and services from brands that make them feel good.

Check out our FREE Rebrand Calculator to give you a good idea of the costs involved in rebranding your company.

Starbucks Taps Into the Emotional Connection

No brand does this better than Starbucks. Why can Starbucks charge $5 for a cup of coffee and people happily pay the price? It’s not simply about what’s in the cup, more importantly, it’s about what’s in the experience.

There’s an emotional connection that people have with great brands, such as Starbucks, that goes way beyond their product. Starbucks does this by selling an experience — a community-centric “third place,” which dictates every decision about the Starbucks brand: the furniture, artwork, and music, and more. And people gladly pay for that experience because when you’re connected to a brand emotionally, price won’t break that bond. The attitude and essence of a Spotted Zebra Brand like Starbucks transforms passive customers into passionate advocates.

What is Apple’s Appeal?

Perhaps the most notable Spotted Zebra brand is Apple, one of most iconic brands in the world. Apple has always focused its branding efforts on emotion placing a high priority on building a community of cult-like followers. Founder, Steve Jobs, said Apple’s branding addressed the question of “What are we here to do?” The answer to that question informed not only the company’s marketing and advertising, but every aspect of its corporate culture and its interactions with consumers.

Apple’s “Think different” brand mantra suckerpunched the sameness of every other technically-focused personal computer in the space. Apple also continues to separate itself from the pack by maintaining an aura of secrecy surrounding the inner workings of their brand. The hype surrounding their product releases is unequaled; creating lots of buzz weeks in advance of their launches.

Eric Groves is the Founder and Creative Director of Flying Hippo Brand + Digital. Should you decide it’s time to take your brand to another level, please reach out for a free consultation.

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