Branding vs. Blending


My Cousin Vinny is one of the best movies of all time. Two college buddies, Bill Gambini and Stan Rothenstein, are arrested in Wazoo, Alabama, for a murder they didn’t commit. Vincent Gambini (Joe Pesci), a lawyer-cousin from Brooklyn with no litigation experience, arrives in town with girlfriend Lisa (Marisa Tomei) in tow to defend and free the two boys.

Here’s a snippet of dialogue between Vinny and Lisa, from when they first arrive in Wazoo.

Vinny: You stick out like a sore thumb around here.

Lisa: Me? What about you?

Vinny: I fit in better than you. At least I’m wearing cowboy boots.

Lisa: Oh, yeah, you blend.


Sound familiar? This social desire to blend, to fit in, not to stand out, is what has driven so much of our human behavior since childhood. The pressure to conform comes from parents, teachers, clergy, TV, magazines, bosses, movies, and each other.

Look at kids in school. They all feel pressure to dress the same; think the same; listen to the same music; and use the same, like, broken English. To a certain extent, kids never outgrow the herd mentality, as Vinny and Lisa’s exchange above underscores.

When Barack Obama tossed the first pitch in 2009’s All-Star Game, the fashionistas roundly bashed him for wearing “mom’s jeans” instead of in-style, tight low-riders. To his credit, Obama reacted with indifference — unusual because few people ever relish or take pride in standing out.

That’s precisely why so many companies are stuck in the white noise, where one is indistinguishable from the other: CEOs project their personal fears of standing out, their personal desires to blend in, onto their companies’ brands.

Rudov’s Rule: You can brand or blend, but you can’t do both. Make up your mind.

Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor™

Every CEO must fight the “blending impulse” in himself and in his staff, because it will kill the brand. Branding and blending are mutually exclusive.

  • Blend: get stuck in the white noise — if you want a high cost of sales and a long sales cycle
  • Brand: be a unique standout — to close business quickly and cheaply.


It might rattle your comfort zone to stand out, but that’s what it takes to win customers. So, are you branding or blending?


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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One Response to “Branding vs. Blending”

  1. Roger Sanford says:

    Stand out and stand for something! Marc you are so right about the importance of being MEMORABLE. Well said!