Strategy & Marketing

Jerusalem’s Arab Market and the Power of “Unique”

I’ve written a great deal about the branding principle of simply being unique. In fact, I believe it so much it’s the focus of my book “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” In another of my books, “One Big Thing” I tell the story of my visit to the Portobello Street Market in London and meeting a charming woman I called “The Bread Plate Lady.” She personified the importance of owning a unique niche.

Not long ago, Kathleen and I spent the day at the Arab Market in Jerusalem, and discovered the exact opposite.

Kathleen and I have an old Muslim friend who owns a stall in the Arab market. We’ve known him for at least 15 years, and he’s been a big part of many of our films and TV productions we’ve produced in Israel. As I sat with him today, drinking coffee and watching tourists, the thought occurred to me that in that single market, there are literally hundreds of stalls, all selling pretty much the same thing. If you’ve been to Jerusalem, you know what I’m talking about. You pass by stall after stall with absolutely nothing unique.

So what does that mean? It means they have to be more and more aggressive with marketing. They call out to tourists, they step in their way to force them into the stall, they try every come on you can think of. (“What a lovely lady. I have some wonderful items you’d like.”) It’s gotten so bad that it’s a miserable experience walking through the market, and you feel exhausted once you get to the end.

Granted – haggling, bargaining, and aggressive trading are part of the Arab business culture. But when you have nothing that separates you from the pack, you have to resort to hyper-aggressive marketing in an attempt to connect to your customer.

So which will you choose? Being unique and standing out with little effort? Or following everyone else, forcing you to be ever more aggressive to get your customer or donor’s attention?

It’s a choice you will have to make.

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    1. I’m not actually a big fan of what most people call “waiting on the Lord.” While I seek his guidance and direction, I want to be out there doing everything I can do to move the project or organization forward. Being unique and different is a key part of that…

  1. Reminds me of the first time I went to Singapore. I carried my DSLR around my neck at the markets, and wow, did I regret it. When I walked past a photography store, the seller used every old trick in the handbook to try and sell me accessories. He even got to the point of saying, there were no more photography stores around the area. Minutes later I came across another photo store, which was A LOT cheaper. Thankfully I wasn’t gullible enough to fall for his desperate tactics.

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