Differentiate, or Die: Branding Basics from Hit TV Series “Billions”

Billions, TV Series from Showtime

Scenes from “Billions,” the hit TV series from Showtime, often contain nuggets of wisdom … if one can get past the profanity-laced tirades.

In a recent episode, a rant by protagonist Bobby “Axe” Axelrod systematically lays out a challenge that every organization should heed; how do you differentiate?

The scene, a powerful monologue during which Axe critiques his wife’s weak business plan plays out like this:

Axe: “What is it you do that you’re the best in the world at?
• You offer a service you didn’t invent,
• a formula you didn’t invent,
• a delivery method you didn’t invent …
Nothing about what you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven’t identified an isolated market segment, and haven’t truly branded your concept. Do you need me to go on? So why would an investment bank put serious money into it, (your business)?”

An additional benefit from Axe’s approach? Profanity wasn’t necessary to carry the scene. Spot on content drove the message. Perhaps this is a lesson to the writers at “Billions” regarding their own differentiation strategies; increase the frequency of witty dialogue, and reduce the frequency of noise-in-the-channel F-bombs.

How do you differentiate?