When you are developing a marketing plan, it’s important to focus on the aspect of your product that you mean to be the selling point. You have to have that thing that makes you stand out from the pack, and that’s what you focus on.

You’re the cheapest. You’re local. You’ve got the highest quality product. Your staffers know more about the field than your competitors. It’s that edge that sets you apart from the rest of the market, and thus draws the crowd of buyers searching for your specialty.

But what if you don’t have that thing that makes you stand out from the crowd? It’s an important concern. Maybe you can’t afford to be the cheapest option in the field. Your product might not actually be the best there is. If you don’t have that thing, how can you compete? It’s simple: You have to be cooler than the competition.

Sounds silly, right? It really isn’t. Think of some of the industry leaders you routinely see. People will buy Nike running shoes instead of Asics, they’ll buy Beats headphones instead of Bose. Your product can do anything it wants if your brand is considered cool.
beatsadNike is not the top-rated shoe manufacturer in the world. Their shoes don’t actually last all that long. There are not the cheapest option by a mile. That said, how many people do you see in Nike shoes? I’m wearing them right now as I’m writing this, and that’s because my college basketball team wore them and so I had to get some because think of how cool I would be! Beats headphones are not the most durable, nor the highest-rated for sound quality. What do Beats have that other headphones don’t? They have Dr. Dre. They have co-founder LeBron James, the biggest basketball star of the day. Oh yeah, and all these guys. What Beats may lack in audio quality (and they’re quite nice headphones, just maybe not for their price range), they make up for in star power and cultural influence. The power of a brand comes in how it sells itself, not what it actually sells.

Still don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at Gatorade.

Gatorade, as I’m sure you know, is a sports drink company, owned by Pepsi, that was founded as a lemon-lime drink to help University of Florida athletes recover lost electrolytes and carbohydrates during competition. Scientifically, Gatorade is marginally helpful. Not as helpful as water, but hey, it’ll do. The product itself is a decent sports drink, and it’s not a bad drink to chug down during a game (just make sure to avoid that dry, sticky feeling in your mouth after you drink too much). So, Gatorade is a sports drink. Gatorade is a sports drink that owns over 75 percent of the total market share in the United States.

You might be surprised. I was. Powerade, a competitor you see on TV often enough to remember it exists too, is outsold by Gatorade three to one. Gatorade absolutely dominates its market, and it does so not because it is the best possible drink for athletes, but because it convinces you that it is.

Gatorade does not market sports drinks, it markets athleticism. Professional athletes working as hard as they possibly can, looking practically unhumanly fit and impossibly talented. Gatorade athletes win championship rings, title bouts, and gold medals.

gatoradebathAnd so could you, if you drink Gatorade! Hard work and Gatorade become linked, the drive that makes the pros who they are is also in the very Gatorade they drink. When a coach wins a big game, they are literally bathed in Gatorade to celebrate their victory. Gatorade is synonymous to victory—you cannot achieve one without the other. Those electrolytes, that water, and those carbs you burn up fighting for the title are given right back to you by Gatorade, just so that you can go that extra mile. Or so Gatorade wants you to think.

That’s what Gatorade sells. Similar to makeup companies, Gatorade is selling an ideal. Their slogan “Win From Within” lets you know that it’s what is inside of you that wins games, and what is inside of you had better be Gatorade or you won’t win. If a competitor’s athlete slips up, Gatorade makes sure people notice. 

It works. I am a college athlete, and you better believe I drink Gatorade during games. I chew my Gatorade Prime beforehand, and I convince myself that then—and only then—am I truly ready to perform. I follow the Gatorade twitter, and they are constantly motivating me to compete. Because if I compete, I will drink Gatorade. It’s brilliant. Gatorade dominates their market because Gatorade is selling victory. They are selling hard work. They are selling cool.

Gatorade isn’t shy about this. In fact, they are very proud of how they have managed to grow their company. In a video explaining their “Win From Within” campaign, they show how they countered being shut out of the 2012 Olympics by Coca Cola (makers of Powerade) with an underground video and hashtag campaign that actually grew their social media in all aspects by thousands of followers.

Marketing is not always about telling it how it is. Marketing is about telling it how you want it to be. You are the greatest, no matter what the competition says. You are the one and only product your customers should buy. Why? That’s for you to figure out. Once you have that, make your product or service not only seem like the best option, make it seem like the coolest. You don’t need to be the best to be the most marketable. More than a product, you are selling the idea of the product. You choose what the product stands for. Make your product stand for something cool, and your marketing will be easy.

Everybody wants to imitate the cool kids. Become a king of cool, and people will follow you no matter what.

Does your business utilize a unique marketing strategy? Do you sell cool, or some other attribute? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

AvatarRyder Cochrane

Ryder Cochrane is a student at the University of Oregon and a publications intern for Palo Alto Software.