The primary reason that most advertising fails is that the message sounds remarkably similar to most competitors in the marketplace. With all the advertising noise competing for consumer attention these days, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for the market to differentiate one brand from another. This translates to a waste of precious advertising dollars. It’s the equivalent of flushing your marketing budget down the drain.
Why do so many brands struggle with “me too” messaging? The two culprits are typically the lack of a differentiator and a fear of standing out.
Breakthrough differentiation is defined as meeting these four essential criteria: (1) No other competitor is claiming it, (2) it’s an important and relevant point of distinction to your customers and prospects as confirmed by them, (3) it’s a point of difference that is easy to prove, and (4) your brand can consistently deliver on it.
Determining your differentiator is harder than it sounds, and most businesses struggle with it. If you don’t have one yet, find it. A great way to start is by surveying your customers, prospects and even your employees to ask how they think you’re truly different from your competitors—or how you could be.
Differentiation isn’t achieved with a catchy tagline. You must identify something that truly matters to your target audience. Once you’ve found it, aggressively mark your brand territory before a competitor does, which gets to our second culprit of “me too” messaging: the fear of standing out.
In marketing, choosing the safe strategy rarely breaks through. In fact, there is much greater risk in playing it safe. You must create dissonance in your messaging that stops consumers in their tracks and communicates, “Slow down! This is special and worth your time.” This is done through truly unexpected messaging, the kind that generates an emotional reaction among consumers. In fact, the definition of “dissonance” is a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious elements.
Dove has done this extraordinarily well by taking a stand for authentic beauty. Layne Bryant’s “I’m no angel” campaign, has a similar effect, as it pushes back on unrealistic body image stereotypes perpetuated by industry rival Victoria’s Secret. They’ve successfully built in personality and an unexpected edge to their messaging, creating a dissonance between what is expected in the fashion industry and what could be.
It’s actually difficult to remove personality from communications, but companies often do this out of fear customers won’t understand or appreciate their personality. Also, we’ve been trained to believe you must be serious in business. We have managed to depersonalize communications to the point that no one wants to read them, and if your customers are ignoring your messaging, you are wasting money.
Big brands are reaping big rewards by taking risks and creating dissonance with their messaging. You can do the same.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.