Branding consultant Joe Calloway wrote a great 2003 book titled Becoming a Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity and Defy Comparison. He talks about how brands like Apple and BMW position themselves so that price is not even a factor in consumer’s decision making process. If you want to be successful, Calloway contends, you’ve got to get past people’s overly rational, price-oriented minds and forge emotional connections with people. If you want to become a category of one, you must do the following:

  1. Through your branding, you have to answer “Who are you?” You have to let your passion, your mission, your goals and your vision shine through. What you need is Vision, Focus, Commitment: these are things people connect with. Calloway reminds that you can have the best prices, the best products or the best quality service, but that is simply not enough in this competitive marketplace. These days, you need people to differentiate yourself by reaching out and connecting with people.
  2. The best way to put yourself in a higher price bracket is to create an entirely new category, where you are the only one in it. You have to do what others are not willing to do – or what others have simply not thought of yet. If you want to get people to stop thinking in terms of dollar signs, you have to give them something they can’t find anywhere else to even compare to.
  3. You have to first remember that talk is cheap. Ultimately, your clients will decide whether you deliver on your promises. There’s no point in bashing people over the head with hyperbole about how you’re “the best” or “the #1” in your industry. They don’t want to hear it. What you need to do is provide the basics – and provide them amazingly well.
  4. You need to rely on customer feedback to find out what your prospects want. Uncover their problems and provide the solutions. Know what your tiebreakers are and why people would choose YOU to solve this problem, rather than your competitors.
  5. Beware of complacency! You need to forget about any kind of past success you may have had. It’s dead and gone. Every day you should be starting over, re-branding and looking to differentiate yourself further.


People often lose their minds trying to look for a “wow factor”, Calloway says, when instead they should be focusing on the core business principles people expect and demand. First and foremost, just do your job. For instance, when Joe Calloway checks into a hotel, he doesn’t care about origami toilet paper or fancy soaps. He wants fast, hassle-free check-ins and a clean room. Once you’ve got the basics down pat, deliver the top caliber of service consistently. Be on time. Be reliable. Work your way up from the bottom. Become a Category Of One – or go out of business.