Branded Yoga: How to Stand Out in a Crowded Field

Did Bikram Yoga pervert an ancient spiritual art form, just for the sake of making money?  Religious people, business people, and the Indian government are all weighing in on this debate, according to new research by one of my favorite professors at Harvard, Rohit Deshpandé.  The research looks at several examples of businesses creating proprietary versions of commonly available things.  (Think $4 bottles of premium branded water).

Personally I don’t think it’s sacrilege…I think it’s a great business practice that we can all learn from.  Many businesses I work with are in very crowded fields, and they struggle to stand out among the competition.  There’s a ton of dentists out there, a ton of burger joints, and a ton of unknown yoga studios.

Bikram Yoga is now a household name, with 5,000 Bikram Yoga studios worldwide.  It all started with Bikram Choudhury coming up with a unique way to package and market a widely-available product.  Similarly, Evian now commands $4 for a bottle of water…and Voss water is as high as $6!  For something that’s free from the tap.  How do they do that?

How to Stand Out

You must first identify what makes your business unique, and then make this an important part of your sales & marketing.  You will then be building your uniqueness into your “brand”!

You may be struggling to come up with the things that make you unique, so here’s some ideas to help.

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  • Unique Customer Experience: Do customers feel different walking into your store or office?  Think flying Virgin America vs. Delta.
  • Lower Price: If it’s true and that’s what makes you stand out, make sure it’s clear!  Like the store brand vs. the national brand.
  • Unique Service or People: Is your team just especially awesome to work with?  American Express built its reputation on better service than Visa or MasterCard.
  • Unique Process: Do you have a special way you work with customers?  Bikram Yoga developed a unique sequence of poses, and even got a copyright for it.
  • Unique Story or Heritage: Is there a “why” behind your company that is unusual?  Or a great story about how the business came to be?  Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started HP while tinkering in their garage.


Action Plan

Make a list of things that are special about your business  Write down whatever comes to mind–make the list as long as possible to start out!

Now circle the top two or three things that you think your potential customers will care the most about.  These are the keys to your unique brand!  Integrate these into your website and other marketing materials as soon as possible.

Let me know what you came up with in the comments below!

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