Here’s the cheer of the modern consumer: “What do we want? NEW AND DIFFERENT! When do we want it? NOW!” To be a successful entrepreneur in today’s economy you have to find a way to respond to your customers’ need to identify with products that suit their individuality. Each one of them is unique and they are looking for unique solutions to their problems. So how do you attract their attention and convince them that you have what they’re looking for? You differentiate yourself from your competition with your brand image.

To have a unique brand image, you do not have to have a unique product. Let’s take Nike for an example. Nike makes athletic gear, specifically shoes, and they compete against many other companies who also make fitness footwear. Instead of trying to get potential customers’ attention by making claims or listing the features of their shoes, they chose to brand themselves by responding to the need that underlies a customer’s decision to buy athletic shoes. Think about it – do you want running shoes because you want to run? Maybe, but most people want running shoes because they want to be fit and feel good about themselves. At the same time, most people put off changing their habits even if they have great goals, like the goal of being physically fit. So what did Nike do? They thought about the emotions underlying why a person might buy athletic shoes and they chose a slogan to encourage people to “Just Do It!” This call to action caused Nike’s customers to feel as if the company understood them emotionally, which made Nike seem different than all of their competitors. So even if their shoes are similar to Adidas or New Balance running shoes, customers FEEL as if they offer a unique solution to the problem of not feeling fit and wanting to do something about it.

Nike’s slogan works because of the way the human brain works. We are bombarded with thousands of pieces of information every day, and our brain automatically sifts through this information constantly, even though we are largely unaware of the process. The brain uses the senses, especially vision, to sort information and draw our attention to that which seems the most important. What rises to the surface? The most visually appealing and different-seeming information is deemed to be the most important.

So no matter what kind of business you have, when it comes to your brand image you need to put in some creative thinking time to come up with a niche for yourself that separates you from the competition. Pick an aspect of your business that is unique, or something you do better than all the rest, or directly address the underlying reason why someone might need your products or services like Nike did.

Once you’ve decided upon your “angle,” you need to marry that idea to a visual concept (a logo or the look of your packaging) and content that matches the niche you just created for yourself. It is ultimately the look of your brand that will get your customers’ attention first, so this is another area where creativity is necessary. Hire a professional if need be, and come up with several ideas before you choose one because in this instance, looks matter!

Your brand image is the first thing a potential customer will see, and often they will be seeing you and comparing you to the competition at the same time, so it’s important to be different. And you are different – your business is unlike anyone else’s because you created it and you are an individual – so target the thing that makes you special and your customers will aim their attention straight at you.