How to Be Different: “Dominant Selling Idea”

 In Be The Leader, Build Awareness, Marketing Plan, Resource

In their book “Why Johnny Can’t Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea” Bill Schley and Carl Nichols Jr. share their idea of the dominant selling idea (DSI) and how to create a #1 brand. While you may be familiar with product differentiation these fellas talk about both product and brand differentiation.

Who: Bill Schley and Carl Nichols Jr.

Authors of “Why Johnny Can’t Brand”

What: “DSI” (dominant selling idea)

It’s your “motivating difference” – the one difference that tips the scale in your direction versus all others at the moment of purchase. It’s what defines you as the #1 in a desired specialty… They say you have to satisfy these “Five Selling Ingredients” to make this happen…

Questions to Qualify Your DSI
You need to ask if your company or product…

  • Superlative – is best in class – better than the competition. Promise me something nobody else does.
  • Important – offers something that really matters. Something I really want or would be in the market for if I knew about it.
  • Believable – offers a logical reason, has credibility.
  • Memorable – has an emotional hook that sticks until purchase time. Do you have something not only that I need – but what I want. (This is the Free Prize)
  • Tangible – offers something real. Customers trust it because they’ve experienced it and it performed as promised. Must perform in a way that’s totally aligned and consistent with all of your claims.

How You Do It

There are several key steps that Bill and Carl suggest… I’ll outline them broadly below…

  1. Identify and choose your unique ownable specialty.
  2. Create a specialty statement… articulate your specialty.
  3. Create the five building blocks your DSI star.

1. Base + Extenders…

  • Identify your specialty by identifying or creating your ‘unique reason’ for being #1.
  • Add “extenders” to your “base specialty” until you separate yourself from the pack.
  • Base Specialty + (Extender + Extender + Extender) = Unique Ownable Specialty

Base Specialty = Lager Beer
Extender 1 = German (Lager Beer)
Extender 2 = Lite (German, Lager Beer)
Extender 3 = Non-Alchoholic (Lite, German, Lager Beer)

Non-Alcoholic, Lite, German, Lager Beer = Unique Ownable Specialty

2. Specialty Statement

Create for yourself a specialty statement which outlines what makes you #1.

“__________ (product/company) is the #1 choice for __________ (specialty). That’s because only __________ (product/company) has __________. (a unique reason why: a superlative ingredient, process, or service that other’s don’t).”

3. DSI Star

You need to complete all five of the star points to help us identify what our dominant selling idea (DSI) is.

1) Your name – Is it meaningful? Does it convey what the company/product is about? Is it catchy and memorable?

2) What is our unique ownable specialty? What do we do that no one else does?

3) What tagline (or mantra*) encapsulates what you do? *More on mantra in the next post in this series about Guy Kawasaki. This is your “DSI wrapped in a magic word package.”

4) What is our key image(worth 1000 words)? Not your logo… it’s an “indelible snapshot that demonstrates both performance and proof – you DSI – in a single flash.” This is your…

Drinking Straw in the Tropicana Orange

Marlboro cowboy

Krazy Glue guy stuck to the girder

The fried egg (your brain on drugs)
from the Partnership for a Drug Free America.

5) Define our DSI-Level Performance – this is walking the talk. Creating total consistent alignment within our business. Our ‘service-level agreement’ with ourselves to maintain our DSI.

Of course, these highlights only scrape the surface of what is covered in the book. With my clients, I use this DSI work in combination with Seth’s “remarkability” and with “creating a Zag” (Which will be discussed in the upcoming Marty Neumeier post).

Check Out



← Previous Post in this Series, Seth Godin and Being Remarkable |
Next Post in this Series Guy Kawasaki and Create A Contagion

Recommended Posts