Strength from 'Weakness'

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By: David Armano

When Arnold Schwarzenegger first came to the United States, he started a small bricklaying business with fellow bodybuilder and immigrant Franco Columbu.  The business wasn't off to a good start.  In fact, even though the pair undersold the competition—they were having a hard time finding work.

That is until the friends realized that they could turn their collective "weaknesses" in the form of thick accents and a "foreign first impression" into their strength.  They quickly re-invented their business model into a service that was much more expensive than the competition and sold themselves in a way that played up their European heritage.  They would seduce their LA customers by saying that their method of bricklaying was different because it was "Austrian Bricklaying".

During 1971, Los Angeles was hit with one of the biggest earthquakes in it's history and to keep the story short, let's just say that Arnold and Franco did very well before they pursued their fulltime bodybuilding dreams.

This is one of my favorite brand/marketing stories, because it demonstrates the following:

1. Sometimes the best marketing involves exaggerating certain "truths"
2. Occasionally brands are built not from strengths, but from turning perceived weakness into strength

What Arnold and Franco did was tell a story that the LA residents wanted to believe.  Was it accurate?  Well, not entirely.  Was it compelling?  Absolutely.  I can imagine the owner of an expensive LA pad chatting to her friends about the "European Bricklayers" she just dropped a pretty coin for.  That's a good story.

Similar to Arnold's story, the iPod Shuffle marketing strategy also turned a weakness into a strength.  The "Life Is Random" concept was born from the lack of a visual display on the device.  And like the "European Bricklayer" angle—it works.

Point is that we're ALL marketing ourselves even if we would like to think that we aren't.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  I'm a much better creative leader than I am a visual designer.  I figured this out early on in my career and pursued creative direction as a result.  I now "market" myself as a "strategic creative thinker" able to go from concept to execution.  Have you figured out what your weakness is?  Is there a way to turn it into a differentiating strength?

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