Pick me

 

It’s important for brands to differentiate themselves. We all know that. But why is it that ‘different’ often takes on the same form?

To my, albeit non-expert, eye it looks like almost everyone wants to be “more”. More funny. More on-trend. More innovative. More open. More consumer-focused. More trustworthy. More of an expert. More creative. More bespoke. More specialised.

But is that really the truth?

On the flipside, there are those who stand out by being “less”. Less corporate. Less stern. Less financially-driven. Less typical. Less ordinary. Less one-size-fits-all. Less secretive. Less stuffy.

But is that the truth either?

Being distinct becomes a game of top trumps: pick me; we’re the ones for you; I’m your guy; we’re more this, or less that than the rest. But with all this focus on how you’re perceived vs. the competition, where is the time to discover what you actually are?

What’s wrong with “this is who we are and we’re an entirely credible solution to your problem”? It might not sound sexy, but ‘who you are’ is all that matters in this game.

Marketing and branding should magnify the truth, not manipulate the message. The aim isn’t to get people to believe us. It’s to give the right people something to believe in.

Sam


Thanks to Bernadette Jiwa and Rory Stewart for this inspiration on this.

Emotional impact

Every day I drive 1hr15mins round the M60 to work. It’s funny the patterns you start to see by doing the same journey on the motorway every day.

When it’s dark in winter, there’s a game I play. The aim is to try and spot the headlights in the mirror and guess the make of car, judged purely on the way it’s being driven before it comes past to reveal the answer. It’s surprising how often I’m right.

At least 20mph over the speed limit? Mercedes, maybe Audi.

Aggressive cutting between lanes? BMW.

The same but bigger? Range Rover.

I jest, of course. But it is interesting how certain people, all with a tendency to drive a certain way, opt for the same manufacturers more often than not.

Do people buy these cars because they’re angry or impatient? Of course not. Most people who drive them aren’t those things anyway*. But for those who are, the brand speaks to them in a way others don’t.

They tap into human emotions. People’s vision of themselves. The lives they’ve always imagined living. Because BMW or Mercedes or any other brand make them feel a certain way.

Cars, fashion, mobile phones, trainers, restaurants, handbags – they’re all symbols of who think we are and the things we value. They are a very human way of letting the world know something about ourselves. A signal to those whose opinions we value.

The brands that make the biggest impact are the ones that connect most intimately with our emotions. The ones that go on to dominate, back it up with action.

But hey, I drive a Citroën C1 so what does that say about me?

S

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*Just for the avoidance of any doubt! Please don’t hate me…

Show, don’t tell.

I once took an audio recording of myself doing terrible impressions to ‘show and tell’ at primary school. I must have been about 10 years old and I’d recorded it on a cassette on the stereo in my room. I’m not sure why I did it, but I did.

I thought it was excellent. Unsurprisingly, everyone else did not.

Mentioning a cassette tape isn’t an attempt at showing my age. After all, I’m not in the slightest bit old. It’s more of a clumsy segue into the difference between show and tell.

As a brand, it’s the ‘showing’ bit that counts. Showing your customer you care. Showing how you do things differently. Showing your dedication to excellence. Showing you mean more.

It’s being able to back up what you say about yourself with behavioural evidence. It’s building up a strong track record of sticking to your word and ‘doing’.

Advertising and social media are ‘telling’. Branding is ‘showing’.

Everyone can do the first.

The second is what true brands do.

S

Try Something New

The other day I read one of Seth Godin’s excellent blogs on ‘overwriting‘. It’s the idea that we all tend to write in overly-complex language to make what we’re saying sound a little more true. Instead, it’s far more effective to ‘simply write and write simply’.

As a frequent sufferer of ‘overwriting’, I’m going to give his advice a go.

What does that look like? Well, I’m going to trial these shorter, bite-sized thoughts and post them (sort of) daily to see how it goes. You know, just to try something new.

Without trying something new, how can you know what works best? It’s a trap that many fall into through fear of the unknown. Of course, it makes complete sense. But ‘trying something new’ doesn’t mean constant upheaval and revolution. It’s more ‘give it a go’, and test and learn – constant evolution if you will.

So, here’s my attempt at trying something new by seeing if this type of post appeals to you more than the others. If not, I’ll change – there’s no shame in changing direction. But, there is danger in standing still.

Take a look at your business, try something new, and see what you learn.

How did I do?

S

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I’ll still be aiming to publish a more substantial piece regularly too, but think of them as the main course. These are the snacks.