one question every business, branding, and marketing consultant asks is
“what makes you special; what makes you different?” If you want to grow
your business and get to the next level, defining what makes you
special is a good place to start.
Most businesses are copycat
companies, selling the same thing, in the same way as most of their
competitors, making for a real challenge in providing an adequate answer
to the “what makes you so special?” question. But fear not, it is
easier than you think.
A Rose Is A Rose, Until It’s Axl Rose
or Pepsi? Which one do you prefer? Here are two products that are next
to indistinguishable, that serve the same purpose, and are sold in
substantially the same way. Now I can hear the Coke and Pepsi lovers
screaming into their monitors that their favorite is better, but are
they really all that different? Perhaps the taste of one is slightly
sweeter, but in the grand scheme of things they are substantially the
same. So why are people so loyal to their brand, so adamant that it’s
their brand or nothing?
It’s branding, the end-product of a
marketing communication effort that delivers an emotional value-add that
distinguishes one product or service from another; and once that brand
identity is established, it is hard to break. No matter how many times
these soft drink behemoths are convinced by their ad agencies to change
their slogans, to me, and my generation, Coke will always be “The Real
Thing” while Pepsi represents “The Pepsi Generation.” What makes these
companies special is not what they sell or how they sell it, it’s how
they communicate the emotional value their products bring to the table.
we are talking about is brand communication: the process of
identifying, developing, and communicating the emotional value your
company, product, or service provides. It is the one thing that can make
any company different, no matter how many me-too competitors it has.
What About Conventional Wisdom?
it’s so simple why doesn’t everybody do it? The answer is fear, fear of
making a mistake, fear of going against conventional wisdom. What
people forget is the phrase ‘conventional wisdom,’ coined by economist
John Kenneth Galbraith, was a derogatory term used to describe the way
politicians and pundits reduced complex issues down to digestible
sound-bites based on what people wanted to hear, rather than explaining
the complexities and implications related to an issue. Does the phrase
“read my lips, no new taxes” ring a bell; no matter how discredited a
concept, politicians still promote the idea that government can do its
job without people paying their fair share – it’s what people want to
hear, what they want to believe, even though it makes for
counterproductive public policy.
Today’s mad dash to join the
Twitter craze is another example of conventional wisdom gone wild. Just
because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it an effective marketing
communication tactic. Everything you ever wanted to know about
everything in 140 characters; it’s anti-marketing, and the height of
non-communication. The “Cluetrain Manifesto” concept of a global
Internet conversation has been corrupted beyond recognition. True
communication implies meaningful dialogue, not instant messenger
pseudo-speak and Twitter twaddle.
Just as a matter of interest,
the Web-video on Twitter’s home page used to explain the concept, and
promote the service, is two minutes and twenty-four seconds long. Too
bad they couldn’t have done it in less than 140 characters of text. You
think maybe they know something their users don’t.
What About Slogans and Taglines?
slogans and taglines are pithy little statements that like logos,
convey a brand personality in an instant, but these short-form symbols
and catchphrases are merely reminders of the emotional benefit of the
product, service or communication they are attached to, and are the
result of ongoing, consistent marketing campaigns that portray the brand
in an emotional context. The meaning and value of phrases like “Tastes
Great, Less Filling” and “Where’s The Beef?” are the byproduct of
long-term consistent campaigns that connect on a human level.
So What’s The Problem?
Web has created a whole new class of business executives that never ran
a business that didn’t have the Internet available. Technical know-how
and engineering expertise has replaced human understanding, while market
research, surveys, focus groups, metrics, and statistical modeling have
replaced good old-fashioned business savvy and experience. It’s a
wonder anybody sells anything any more.
Conventional wisdom states
that to sell someone your product or service you need to align your
sales pitch to your prospect’s thinking. In other words, tell people
what they want to hear, but what if what they want to hear is wrong,
counterproductive, and not what they need, or more importantly what they
The average Web-based business entrepreneur tries to
think and act like his mega corporation counterpart but without the
financial resources to shape and mould public opinion. When a business
website fails, it’s because it does not deliver what its audience really
wants, it delivers what the company thinks that audience wants.
Zaltman, professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School is a
founding partner of Olson Zaltman Associates, and author of “How
Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market.”
states, “Most of what influences what we say and do occurs below the
level of awareness. …The goal of advertising should be to engage
people with a message that has an emotional impact. And that requires
actually grappling with the means by which they have experiences and
react with emotion, sentiment, and feeling….”
In order to take
advantage of this insight, the Web-based business must change how it
thinks about websites and how it presents meaningful, memorable
experiences that tap into the emotional underbelly of audience desire.
The value proposition you offer must be found in the audience’s
emotional connection to the Web experience you provide