IT’S THE MESSAGE, NOT THE MEDIA, THAT SELLS.
You either stand out, or you fade into the background
All it takes is a competing product that’s much more highly visible in the market to kill your brand. Doesn’t have to be bigger or better, just a lot more visible in a highly appealing way …and you become irrelevant!
How to head off this unpleasant experience? Differentiate! Big time! Not just bigger type or bigger pictures. You need a message that resonates in a way your competitor never dreamed about. It needs to leap off the page (or screen) and grab’em by the eyeballs. And penetrate the brain in ways that nobody else is doing.
Also consider that Differentiation comes in two flavors. There’s the”real” Differentiation that comes from a product that is really different. Or there’s the “artificial” Differentiation that comes from an illusion of being different, often called “positioning” I’m going to talk about the artificial version as it much faster and cheaper than the real thing.
Beware the difference between REAL and ARTIFICIAL differentiation.
Briefly, on the topic of the “real thing”, if this is your preference, then you must read Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim & Mauborgne. They contend that you shouldn’t fake it, but make your product really different so as to create uncontested market space and the competition irrelevant. I wrote a white paper on Blue Ocean Marketing a while back which you may find interesting. The original book came out about 10 years ago, followed by an update a couple of years ago which has sold millions of copies. Their strategy is quite simple…rebuild the single most attractive element of your product to stand out from the competition. And then price it lower than any of the competition. Easier said than done. Then just few months ago they created a new book, Blue Ocean Shift. This one offers proven steps to inspire confidence and seize new growth. Both the books are worth their weight in gold.
But I digress, Real Differentiation can be expensive and time consuming. Artificial Differentiation, on the other hand, can be done overnight (slight exaggeration) with the help of a Creative Strategist, not just a freelance art director/writer but someone who has spent equal time directing CEOs in the development of their corporate strategies. Often Differentiation is referred to as Positioning, or the development of a USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Much has been written over the years on Differentiation but my favorite author is Jack Trout who published Differentiate Or Die in 2000 and who owns a worldwide consulting business troutandpartners.com. Unfortunately no Chicago offices. He also wrote Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, and The New Positioning. One of my favorite endorsements came from Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, who stated that, ”What I like about Differentiate of Die is the book’s emphasis on the power of logic, simplicity, and clarity—getting to the essence of the problem. In Silicon Valley, attributes like that can make the difference between having lunch and being lunch.”
Differentiate or Die offers a dozen ways to differentiate.
Here are few that you might file away and consider:
- Price is rarely a differentiating idea
- Differentiation takes place in the mind
- Being first is a differentiation idea
- Leadership is a way to differentiate
- Being the latest can be a differentiating idea
- Hotness is a way to differentiate
For most companies differentiation is treated as a two step process. Step one requires some serious thought regarding management of the bullet copy above (plus the other dozen). Step two requires applying heavy creative strategy skills to the conversion of the decisions made into theme/images that will resonate with prospective customers.
While the listings above require heavy thought and decision making the creative conversion of these decisions requires a totally different set of skills. And these skills fit well into my life long experience, some of which I can share with you as extracts from a fantastic book: Mindworks by Charleen Swansea. Several of these ideas I used in a blog I drafted a few years ago for the ITA (Illinois Technology Association) titled
What counts is the Message, not the Medium
The real target of our messaging efforts is not defined demographically (statistics), or psychographically (lifestyles) or even syncrographically (timing)…the target is the brain, and the challenge is to change attitudes or beliefs, which in turn change behavior. Behavior that says don’t put this off “buy it now!”
So now, the case for mind altering creativity.
The challenge for marketing creativity is to overpower, or alter, the belief cluster (sometimes referred to as the bullshit factor) that delays a prospect’s desire to purchase what you’re selling. Attitude changes occur through changes in brain chemistry … so think of yourselves, not as product managers but as chemists… working on penetration and retention.
And on the topic of social media and it’s impact on creativity consider this thought. Hollow pipes/conduits (social media) require messaging content …or they are worthless.
As a way to help put social media in its proper perspective I’d like to offer the following brief excerpts from the book Converge, a superb review of today’s creative vs. social media situation drafted by Bob Lord/CEO, and Ray Velez/CTO of Razorfish… “Creativity is no longer the exclusive province of marketing and creative departments. Great ideas might come from crowd sourced creative platforms…or from your consumer, who is using social media to give you an easily accessed, always-on suggestion box for your product or brand.”
“The role for the executive creative director—or any other very senior creative’s—has become curation, not just idea generation, and collaboration.” The feedback from social needs to be gathered, reviewed, edited and put back into circulation.
I hope this leaves you with an incentive, and some meaningful tips, to do some serious thinking about ways you must explore to differentiate your product or service in the market places you’ve chosen.
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IT’S THE MESSAGE, NOT THE MEDIA, THAT PERSUADES. For CEOs, CMOs in need of an Ad Agency, or a MarTech firm. Do this first… Accept the fact that traditional ad agencies often lack the consulting expertise to develop positioning and differentiation strategies while...