Ever watch one of those nature shows where you see a herd of gazelle that gets spooked by a lion and they all take off running together?
In the ensuing chaos, the camera always follows that one gazelle that breaks from the pack. Why do they follow that one gazelle? The correct answer is “Good TV.” That gazelle is about to meet the business end of the aforementioned lion. Regardless of what happens to the gazelle, the critical moment is when that one gazelle breaks from the pack, isolated and weak.
These days we don’t run away from predators all that often, but as mammals, we can empathize with the gazelle herd because our brains are hardwired to understand their group dynamic. Our primal instincts are to stay with the pack, to alleviate risk and to survive. Our brains actually release a chemical created in the hypothalamus to ensure that we follow this instinct.
At the same time that our brain is creating chemicals encouraging us to follow the herd, our hypothalamus also produces a chemical that will actually slow down our perception of time when it sees something different. I call this our “Lion Recognition” instinct.
Our hypothalamus releases these chemicals in an effort to keep us alive but, ironically, it keeps us from being successful in business. In business we tend to adopt the herd mentality, mimicking the marketplace with what is known: If someone else is doing it then we know it is safe.
It’s strange how on one hand our brain is telling us, “For God’s sake do the same thing as everyone else or you will die.” And on the other hand, our higher reasoning is saying, “If you don’t do anything different how the hell am I supposed to see you?” I believe that this fundamental paradox is the root of the reason that many businesses fail.
As a business owner you must realize that in order to be noticed and remembered, you must be the gazelle that breaks from the pack. The camera will follow. The only difference is that in business, there is no literal lion. The only lion is your own fear of doing something different.
Great brands are different. Great brands aren’t afraid to break from the pack. Great brands have realized that the camera’s eye is more important to your business than outrunning imaginary lions.
Grant Gooding is a brand strategist & CEO of Lenexa-based Proof Positioning, a firm that uses consumer insights to show business owners how to build a powerful brand by knowing, not guessing. Grant is passionate about educating in the areas of entrepreneurship and brand philosophy.