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You’re Selling the Wrong Thing

November 2, 2017

“NO PHOTOS.”

That’s what the sign said in front of this man’s booth at the Chelsea Market. He was selling shirts with fun quirky patterns on them, presumably made locally and in limited runs. You know, the kind of cool thing you’d expect to see for sale at an arts market.

When I see signs like this (and it typically is at an arts market) my reaction is always…

What are you scared of?

Are you scared someone’s going to steal your idea? That someone’s going to copy you?

If all it would take for you to lose customers is someone showing up and making what you make, but cheaper, you’re doing it wrong.

You’re selling the wrong thing.

You’re selling what you make instead of why you make it.

And in doing that you’re asking to be treated like a commodity. Like something that’s interchangeable. You’re asking to be compared on price.

If you’re doing it right, people aren’t buying shirts from you, they’re buying why you make shirts. The shirt is just a souvenir. Tangible proof that they were there, a signal to others that, “Hey, this is what I believe in.”

If your customer would buy from someone else because it looks like the same shirt but it’s cheaper, that tells you you’re in the business of selling shirts. There’s no loyalty in that business.

You don’t want to be in the business of selling shirts. You’re not in the business of selling shirts. Because nobody needs another shirt.

You’re selling a promise. An experience.

What does your brand stand for? What does it say about me when I wear it? What do I tell myself about it? What do I tell my friends?

You’re selling a story. That’s what I’m paying a premium for. I’m coming to your stand and paying a premium because this is the story I want to tell myself.

No one can steal that.


This wasn’t taken at Chelsea Market, it’s the Mociun Home store in Brooklyn. More importantly, it’s A WALL OF CERAMIC MUGS aka my true heaven.

You’re not spending $50 on any of these because you need a mug, you’re buying the way they make you feel. It’s the story. It’s all in the story. 

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