Lewis & Clark didn’t load the canoe with Mojitos!

Socrates said, “Know Thyself”, one of the most profound philosophies ever spoken about human behavior. H ave you thought about what it might mean for your business?


The night sky is etched in vivid black and white tones, and in the back seat of a chauffeured car prowling the streets of Hoboken, N.J., a lawyer for a mob-connected union boss confronts his brother, Terry Malloy, about testifying against the mob in court.

Malloy, despondent over these threats, is stunned when his brother pulls a gun to emphasize his point. Their relationship had reached a nadir, and Malloy was distraught that his brother helped dismantle his fledgling boxing career.

In his dark lament, he delivers this memorable line:

“I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody … instead of a bum.” – Terry Malloy (played by Marlon Brando in the legendary movie, On the Waterfront)

What did Mom Say about Being Somebody?

Our moms also told us to “be somebody” – although our behavior at any particular moment may have altered her tone when she really meant …

  • “Be somebody better than you’re being right now”, or
  • “Get off the couch and quit loafing.”

What does it take to BE SOMEBODY?

To be “somebody,” though, means you first have to figure out WHO that somebody is.

And, as business leaders, we need to remember our companies, too, need “to be somebody” – to our customers, employees, suppliers.

Your business needs to stand for something that is clear, articulate and specific so your customers can tell you apart from others … so they can differentiate you from your competitors.

“Lewis & Clark didn’t load the canoe with Mojitos!”

Is this an ad for a canoe or kayak company?

An outdoor clothing company? A rum producer?

An adventure tour operator?

Nope. It’s Jim Beam, the proud purveyor of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey since 1795, celebrating bourbon as America’s “official native spirit.” (I left it out of the image above, as you can see below.)

I love this tagline from Jim Beam.

The Jim Beam line says that we know who we are … and who we’re not … we’re proud of it … and if you don’t like it ….


They’re making a statement about brand identification – that it’s a drink for rugged individualists and outdoorsmen who might wear a Carhartt and carry a hatchet to fetch their own firewood – certainly not someone who would drink a “Mojito” (which is actually pretty good, if you ask me, but then, I’m not packing the canoe).

First, KNOW IT. Then, BE IT!

[pullquote]If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising. ~David Ogilvy[/pullquote]

Jim Beam is committing to a very specific target audience.

They understand it’s a death wish to be so confused with other businesses that your customers can’t pick you out of a crowd. Yet, companies resist clearly defining their market segments because they fear losing potential customers.

There’s great danger, however, in diluting your message to customers, employees and suppliers.

The essence of the quote from the master of advertising, David Ogilvy, is this:

“… nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else … ”

Jim Beam focuses on a very clear proposition.

They know who they are, who their customers are and what they expect from each other.

Could they sell whiskey to others? Sure, and they probably do, but that’s not their core market.

It might be stated as simply as this:

If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing.

If customers don’t understand why they should buy from you, chances are they’ll buy from someone else.

They’ll have no loyalty to your brand or products.

What Do You Stand For?

Know your core market and “stand for something” is always better than trying to be all things to all people.

Try it sometime. Grab your favorite beverage and retire to an armchair with a blank sheet of paper and pen, and think deliberately about who you are and what your business stands for.

Your real customers like to hear you understand the core values they’ve come to respect in your products and services … and you’ll be able to extend your appeal to people who want to buy from someone who knows who they are and will make them part of something greater.

It’s simple.

Just make damn sure everyone knows who you are and what you stand for.

Question: In the comments below, can you write what you stand for in 10 words or less? Why not join the conversation and share your thoughts and comments? You can add your message easily by clicking the link to our Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter. I visit them every day and look forward to discussing these ideas and concepts with you.

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