You can only be great at one thing

A new campaign by BMW is a timely reminder that you can only be great at one thing.

Finding that one thing. Focusing who you are and what you do around that one thing. Making decisions big and small to support that one thing. This is fundamental to building your brand.

Knowing what that one thing is will help you make and keep promises. It will help inspire and motivate those who work for and with you. It will make it much easier for customers to choose you and stick with you.

In the BMW campaign they state, “We only make one thing: The Ultimate Driving Machine…”

Big campaign dollars aside, underneath the hood, Bavarian Motor Works has always had a passion for great performance as captured in one of the world’s few enduring high-profile “taglines” – The Ultimate Driving Machine, it’s a passion that was visible back as far as 1918 when they were founded.

Your one thing is probably not high performance motors. But it might be great user experience design (Apple); or lowest prices (Walmart); or happiness (Disney); or amazing customer service (Zappos); or any number of “one things” that could define who you are, what you do and how you do it.

You know the companies that don’t know their one thing. They are the ones that flip flop all over the place changing campaigns, names, logos. Trying to find something, anything that will “stick”.

But a bit like the smile that doesn’t quite reach someone’s eyes, they might tell you what their one thing is, but you don’t buy it because it’s not really who they are, just who they want you to think they are.

So how do you find that one thing?

There are of course no shortage of processes out there to help you along, but the truth is, when it comes right down to it you are the only one who knows what your one thing is.

If you are truly stuck, here are a few different ways of looking at your one thing that I’ve used with various clients over the years.

1. Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept from Good to Great.
2. Fred Crawford’s Myth of Excellence model.
3. Kevin Starr’s Eight Word Mission Statement.

Or you can find your own way. A simple approach I like and use is to ask “why are we here?” Then keep asking why until you have an answer that falls somewhere between “making money” and “world peace”.

Good luck and if you know your “one thing” why not share it in the comments below or shout it out over Twitter using #ouronething.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments