The difference is our people? Seriously….duh!



I recently saw an ad with the tagline "the difference is our people!"  It doesn’t matter what business it was for because many businesses claim this as their unique point of difference.  No offense to all of the businesses that think this is what makes them stand out from their competition – but duh. 

Everyone claims that they have great people, ergo great customer service.  And the truth is…most of them do.  To break through the marketplace, we need to be about more than good customer service.

Why?  Don’t people want good service?  Sure.  But they also expect it. It’s a duh.  A given.  If you don’t provide good customer service, you’re not going to keep their business.  Don’t you think most businesses are hustling to serve their customer? That’s not a brand – it is a cost of doing business.  An expectation.

Another popular duh is competency.  Companies will tout their expertise as though their competitors are completely incompetent. The reality is that’s just not true.  To create marketing materials or ads that claim "we’re good at what we do" is a waste of resources. 

Again – your consumer assumes you are qualified to do your job.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be even under consideration.  Skill-level or competency is a show me message, not a tell me.  It’s a little like honesty.  If someone has to keep telling you that they’re honest, pretty soon you wonder why they are making such a big deal about it. 

So why do companies rely on "duh" level taglines or promises?  Because it’s easy.  It doesn’t require digging deeper to find out what really does set them apart from their competition.   

Double-check yourself.  Are you taking the easy way out and making a duh promise?

7 comments on “The difference is our people? Seriously….duh!

  1. Very good point, Drew. I also see a lot of companies bragging about how few negatives they have (“Fewest dropped calls!” comes to mind).

    Both of these strategies come up a little short. If you have to boast about the obvious, it might be time to work on improving at a deeper level.

    Quick aside: Doesn’t it seem like the best companies never tell you how great they are? They simply let you discover on your own – and then brag about them to your friends.

  2. Shama Hyder says:

    The “Duh-Promise.” I love that Drew! It’s the same when companies say- “We are unique.”

  3. Ryan,

    Excellent point. Saying in essence, “we don’t suck” isn’t really a strong brand position.

    As to your aside, I find the best companies tell us who they are and why that matters to us. They stay at a higher plane — their reason for existing, rather than an attribute of their delivery or product.

    I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but your observation is right on the money.


  4. Shama,

    I think it can be argued that the “quality” message is another danger area in this vein.

    But….all around us, companies are wasting money by making that their headline.


  5. Bill Gammell says:


    I think most companies fall in this trap because in reality, most companies truly are different from one another and it is usually their people who make this difference (good or bad).

    However, this will remain an advertising trap because it is not something you can advertise effectively. The great people in your company is something I have to experience to appreciate and understand.

    Advertising about your people only adds to the appearance. But it’s the experience that counts. That’s why it’s called the customer experience and not the customer appearance.

  6. Bill,

    I don’t think it’s just the people that make a company different. I think it is the foundation under the people, the vision of the leadership, the reason why the business was started in the first place….all of those things influence the people to behave the way they do.

    I think good branding is digging underneath the common “quality or our people” sort of tagline to find what’s underneath.

    But then…you are absolutely right about the people are the ones who deliver on it or not.


  7. Cam,

    Very true…but very true of many a tagline/brand. I always counsel our clients — if your brand promise doesn’t make you a little nervous, we aren’t being bold enough.


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