Jack White, Quentin Tarantino and Equivalency Branding

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Jeff Segal, Message Therapist

Today’s guest post is brought to us by Jeff Segal, Content Manager of Kauzu, a social venture that’s changing the way jobseekers and employers connect. An experienced marketing professional and disciplined writer with creative flair, Jeff also consults for businesses under the moniker of “Message Therapist.”

Something occurred to me recently when I heard Jack White’s cover of “I’m Shakin’” on WXRT: Jack White is the Quentin Tarantino of rock.

They’re both obsessive fans who push well-worn genres beyond their traditional boundaries—low-budget crime, martial arts and western flicks for Tarantino; blues, rockabilly and R&B for White. They’re both unapologetically indulgent—Tarantino’s movies are rarely short of three hours, and White’s guitar solos can singe the hair from your ears—but find forgiveness with fans and critics alike. Both Tarantino’s movies and White’s music can feel like parody and homage at the same time.

Golly, Jeff, that’s some fascinating media criticism. What does it have to do with branding?

Say you’d never heard of White but you’d seen most of Tarantino’s movies. If I told you, “Jack White is the Quentin Tarantino of rock,” you’d have a pretty good idea what to expect from his music.

If you’d never heard of Jimmie Johnson, but I told you he was the Tiger Woods of stock car racing, you’d probably guess Johnson was the favorite to win every race and championship—even though Woods himself hasn’t won much of anything in years.

If I told you Sub Zero was the Ferrari of refrigerators, you’d probably guess it would be beautiful, high-performance, and staggeringly expensive.

If I told you Mr. Lee was the McDonald’s of China, you’d probably expect to see Mr. Lee outlets selling fast food on every street corner in Beijing.

You get the point. The human brain has a hard time understanding new concepts, but less trouble associating a new entity with a known entity. If you’re marketing a new concept, try to describe it as the equivalent of a known entity—in other words, a recognized brand—and you’ll get the idea across faster. It’s a branding shortcut.

Let’s call it Equivalency Branding.

When Kauzu introduced the employers’ portal to its hyperlocal, mobile job search tool, we had a hard time summarizing its benefits—until we called it “The Help-Wanted Sign for the 21st Century.” Then employers understood: it attracted jobseekers who were already in the area, with the added reach, mobility and analytics of a modern web platform.

The founder of a Chicago startup with an innovative online video editing platform sometimes describes it as “Shutterfly for video.”

Promoting a legal environment that helps Chicago startups pursue business models with a positive social impact, a successful local entrepreneur says she wants to “make Chicago the Delaware of social enterprise.”

Equivalency Branding doesn’t work in every situation, but it’s surprisingly adaptable with a little creativity.

Say you’re an independent operator in a field dominated by a massive competitor called Megajumbo. Here’s how you might leverage the well-recognized Megajumbo brand to position your own:

  • By niche market—“the Megajumbo for medical office management.”
  • By locale—“the Megajumbo of River North.”
  • By specialty—“the Megajumbo of custom-designed micro-widgets.”
  • Or by competitive advantage—“like Megajumbo with better customer service.”

You might not want to use Equivalency Branding for your official marketing materials—for one thing, Megajumbo’s lawyers might not appreciate it. But it can be a great way to introduce yourself in a small group, networking or sales situation.

Hey, and if it catches on, I’ll be the Steve Jobs of Equivalency Branding.

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