A marketing myth is that if you establish a difference between you and the competition, you’ll become dominant in the category in which you are different.
In reality, being different isn’t enough. Why wouldn’t your audience see your differentiation as just a desperate attempt to carve out a niche? I’m not saying that it never works, just look at Ragu. Years ago they wanted to create a difference between them and their competitors. Jarred tomato sauce was indeed everywhere, and they all tasted the same, striving for that creamy-ish consistency grand-ma-ma used to make.
Despite focus groups and audience surveys, they found that many of their audience actually preferred a thicker, more coarsely blended sauce and “thick and zesty” Ragu sauce became a hit. They found that niche and made the most of it. It wasn’t that Ragu truly believed in thick and zesty sauce.
But lets take “My Pillow” as a contrary example. Mike Lindell, the company’s owner, doesn’t strike you as an appealing pillow spokesmodel by any means. That is, not until he tells his story. Confounded by a lack of good sleep, Mike determined that his pillow was the primary cause of his sleeping discomfort, so he set out on a mission to create the perfect sleeping pillow. True or not (and I don’t know and don’t care about the truth here), his story is believable. If I had sleeping issues, I’d certainly consider us to have shared a condition, one about which he is passionate enough to stake his reputation upon.
He proudly claims to have solved his sleeping problem and now wants to share this perfect solution with the rest of us. And his claim is believable! His passion is believable and many are glad he is sharing that solution with us.
It isn’t his differentiation that sets him apart. To be honest, I’m not sure how his pillow is different from any other, but his passion hits in a way that delivers a sound emotional appeal to those who share his affliction.
Don’t stop at achieving a differentiation. Instead, have a passion, then introduce your differentiation as the conclusion of that passion.
Branding requires several steps to be done right. Start with your purpose, then on to the USP, build your branding, yadda, yadda, yadda. But all along, I still have to make a living. As do those I employ.
The real world rarely offers you the chance to put the steps all in place properly. Then what?
You shut up and deal with it. So many times I see what is wrong with a brand an am tempted to change it immediately. The first problem is that it isn’t my problem. No matter how it is build, a brand reflects the environment that grew it. Before you can change a brand’s aspects, you have to change what has built the brand as it is, and change the surroundings that came up with the reality we have to deal with.
You don’t really rebuild an existing brand, you end up changing the thinking and giving a good brand a more fertile environment. Just as you can’t plant tomatoes in the middle of a bed of weeds, you can’t plant a brand in the middle of its own misunderstanding.
If you try to impose a new brand in an unprepared environment, you will be seen as a failure because the new brand doesn’t show immediate results. When you change the thinking within the brand, you can plant one in that more fertile ground. If you do that, you can begin to see results as the new thinking grabs the environment. It will seem as if the brand and the internal thinking are taking hold together.
The Financial Choice Act is being finalized in Washington and is expected to be enacted in the coming weeks. It allows small banks to escape the debilitating regulations of the Dodd-Frank law. Dodd-Frank imposes such detailed regulations on financial institutions that most small banks were forced out of existence. The new act is said to replace regulation with capitalization. Meaning that if your bank is financially strong enough, you can ignore the regulations that delve into the minutia of your product offerings.
That means small banks won’t have to spend great sums of money just to make sure they are in compliance. It will allow new banks to be established, and existing ones to grow. In essence, whether or not your bank will take advantage of the new law, your competitors will. That means more competition for the finite amount of money in your area.
To take advantage of the new law, existing banks should work toward solidifying their customer base. The most important way is to sell a new product to existing customers, especially those who currently hold only one product. Those second and third products are typically the most profitable for the bank, thereby contributing to raising that Tier One ratio. It currently looks like 10% will be the point at which a bank can opt out of Dodd-Frank.
Bringing in new accounts will likely be more difficult after the law’s passing due to the new competition it is expected to unleash. New banks will be desperate for new business, since they don’t have an existing customer base. That means they will provide stronger reasons for new customers than existing banks are likely to be able to deliver.
My bottom line advice to existing community banks. Cross-Sell and start right now. Don’t wait for the law to do so. The details of the law are just details. The principle is baked in. Before those new competitors are allowed to start, solidify your customer base.
To really reach a prospect or customer, take what you have learned about sales technique, and do it backward.
The traditional method stresses the concept of being different. Specifically, find the category in which you lead, and stress those differences to the right audience. Lets take Michelin as an example. Goodyear is the most popular tire out there. Michelin recognized that and knew it had to lead a sub-category. So it stresses safety. Who can forget the image of an infant safely enjoying sitting in the protection of a Michelin tire?
So introduce your product (the tires), then explain why your offering is different (the safety USP). That is the formula for a USP driven marketing message.
Reverse marketing introduces what your company believes first. It might suggest that your family’s safety is our concern. We use the best materials and build catastrophe out of our products. We make the safest tires on the market. That appeal introduces the company as being concerned about safety first, and the tires are an outgrowth of what they believe, not a way to carve out a niche.
This emotional appeal will allow Michelin to stand out in the mind of the audience. We want to establish a single thought in the mind of our audience. One that transcends words. The emotional appeal is the best way to do that.