Be bold or go home!

September 22, 2006

Yesterday I talked a little about apathy and that I believe it is the #1 killer in business today.  I believe employees are apathetic today because they have no idea what their company stands for.  Either the company has not made a brand promise or even worse yet — they have made a "safe" brand promise.  You know the ones I mean:

~ The difference is our people
~ Your success is our success
~ Quality is job #1

My translation of those kinds of brand promises is:  We have no idea why or how we’re different from our competitors so we’re going to say something safe.  Who can argue with good service or quality?  The problem is the business owner or marketing manager’s flawed assumption that either the competition has only hired morons and boobs or that the potential customer can actually tell the difference between an A- product/service and an A product or service.

At my shop we call those types of taglines or brand statements — weasel words.  Why?  Because they are so vague that they mean absolutely nothing to the consumer.  So why bother?

Branding is for the bold.  If you aren’t willing to stand for something concrete and make a substantial promise that makes you a little nervous — then don’t bother.  Be bold or go home.

How’s that for being direct?

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Beware of the duh factor

September 2, 2006

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 peopler, ergo great customer service. And the truth is…most of them do.  To break through the marketingplace, 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’re 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?

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