What are you known for? If I were to ask one of your customers to explain, in a sentence, what you do and what you’re about, what would they say?

Are you known for providing a stable service at a predictable price? Or maybe for beautifully-designed electronics? Perhaps you’re known for your customer disservice. It’s all part of your brand, some of which you have conscious control over, and part of which you don’t (it’s in the hands of your customers).

Perhaps you’re Comcast, a company trying desperately to right its customer service ship. A good value proposition for them could be, “We reliably deliver video content and digital data at competitive prices to homes and businesses throughout America.” It’s a pretty boring value proposition, but it still works and defines the company’s customer goal. You know exactly what you’re in for if they truly follow it. But while they work on that, how would describe Comcast in a sentence?

Now maybe you got the new remote for your new Comcast DVR, flipped it over and noticed, “Designed by Comcast in Philadelphia” in the same style and Myriad font family as Apple’s products (a phrase familiar to Apple product owners). How does this fit within the Comcast brand? Maybe it’s a joke. Maybe the company is trying to reinvent itself (it is), but as an entertainment design powerhouse (baby steps, apparently).

But if you’re going to reinvent yourself, why do so in the shadow of another? Here’s what happens…you are no longer differentiated. Your customers now know you as an also-ran–a company that does not innovate, does not take risks, does not lead the way. It follows.

As you consider your own brand, are you showing your customers what makes you unique without invoking another’s name? Can you?

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. And a business only succeeds by leading.

Which are you doing?