Differentiation Won’t Differentiate You

Differentiation Won’t Differentiate You

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 in the Real World

Branding in the Real World

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 and Your Bank Marketing

The Financial Choice Act and Your Bank Marketing

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.

When Reality Messes With Your Marketing

When Reality Messes With Your Marketing

If you read all the junk out there on marketing (including my own) you’ll conclude that your situation is messed up.

Your logo doesn’t really tell your story, but it is too expensive to change. Your name doesn’t address your brand, and that is too late too. There is no time nor budget to do research, only to potentially hear what we already know, and I need results fast to not get fired.

My answer to any of that is lets get going anyway. Sure there will be a price to pay if our brand message is even a little misdirected. We surely are stuck with your name and logo, and we can’t justify the expensive inaction as we research your situation.

The fact is, every situation has greater needs in some areas than others. There is more currency in some names, and logos even when they are no longer quite relevant. Compromises in the process are expected.

The important thing to do is get on the right path, and maintain that direction. Get there as best as you can. Certain areas will delay you, others can be skipped through and still others will be undesirables, yet given.

We will speak of a North Star that the brand has to follow. But following a star ignores all the terrain and political difficulties that will arise on the journey. Just be relentless as you take the path. The direction is the important thing.

The Genius in Creative is What You Don’t See

The Genius in Creative is What You Don’t See

“Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan”. It is true of great creative. Great creative starts with a daring client who understands that as long as the marketing and branding goals are met, be as outrageous as you dare.

It takes a marketing plan that everyone believes in and makes realistic sense for the brand.

Finally, it takes a creative mind capable of getting into the mind of the audience, then is able to interpret the benefits of an offer, and blending it with the rules of the media used, the brand and psychology delivers an impact.

All that has to go into it for it to be good. It wasn’t just a useful brainstorming.


Put an End to Logos

Put an End to Logos

Widget Maker: We are a new company. We have a great location, a recognizable name, a solid market that will love us, and now we need a logo.

Marketer: No you don’t.

Widget Maker: That is silly. Of course we do. We need something to put on our building, business cards and stationery.

Marketer: Why not just put up this recognizable name of yours? Why make people go through the steps of visualizing your logo just to recognize your name. Just put up the name instead.

Widget Maker: Get out. You don’t know anything about marketing.

Marketer: I know about human nature. You don’t need your name to be read aloud, you need that name to mean something. Surely one of the best ways to deliver the meaning of your brand is through a logo. People will recognize it in a snapshot, but that is only useful if they recognize the meaning of brand that logo represents at the same time. Your brand doesn’t need a logo, your brand needs meaning. Without that meaning, a logo is useless.

You will get a logo. But it is only a tool to convey the meaning we will help develop for your brand. If I were to give you a logo first, I would be providing you no service.