Tag Archives: differentiation

Be a Beacon Show: 2012-01-09 – Cubby-holes and such

When I was younger I used to get upset when people would pigeon-hole me. I would bristle at being labeled a math nerd, or later when an art critic would lump my work in with some known and established style.

It felt dismissive and lazy to me, but I look at it differently now. People are busy. They have their own problems, their own trunk full of stuff to lug around. They don’t generally mean any harm when they put you in cubby-hole. They just don’t have the time to thoroughly examine everything and every person that they encounter.

Putting you in a box that already has a label is actually a compliment: you’ve gotten enough of their attention to at least do that. It’s now up to you to do more. If you want people to “get” you then you have to build the bridge, you have to make the connection. You have to pique their interest so they want to know more, so they start to understand your context, so they can see all your marvelous differences in high relief.

Be grateful if someone puts you in one of their mental cubbies. And use that nest as a foundation for building a relationship, but also be grateful for the information you’ve been given: the label on the slot they used to categorize you is a reflection of how they understand your message, your story, your brand.

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Listen to The Be A Beacon Show: Personal Branding with David Cohen every Monday at 10:30AM Eastern Time on Blog Talk Radio.

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Disambiguate or Die

I first ran into the term “disambiguation” while hanging out with a few speech scientists at a speech technology industry conference. For them, it was serious business. When your product is speech recognition, the subtle phonetic differences between “Austin” and “Boston” can have a huge impact. Usually the fix is easy in theory, but can get dicey in practice. Asking a customer if they mean Texas or Massachusetts seems like the obvious thing to do, unless your customer is from Boston Township, Ohio, or Austin, Colorado. Not to mention that the average caller of a voice system is only going to tolerate a couple of “Did you mean _____?”s before they hang up or mash down so hard on the asterisk that they break a nail.

So the speech techies take disambiguation very seriously, but why should they have all the fun? I’ve never seen ambiguity listed as a desirable attribute for a brand, but clarity on the other hand is desirable. I like the term disambiguation because it implies a process for taking you from ambguity to meaning. It might take a few iterations, however, and you may only get a few tries before your customer hangs up.

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