So much of advertising today is a sea of sameness. It’s literally the same thing. If you go from industry to industry, you’re going to see almost identical executions (with only slight variations) when it comes to content and advertising.
If you strip out the logos of a commercial, billboard, or ad, you can almost tell with certainty within a couple of companies what the piece is for. You know if they’re trying to sell you a cell phone or if you’re watching an insurance commercial or whatever.
This is a huge problem.
If everything is saying and sounding alike, then you’re not really solving any customer problems with your content (which is what you should be doing). You should be identifying a customer problem and offering them a solution, whether that necessarily benefits your company or not (immediately; in the long run, it will).
For the company that’s paying for these ads, that’s a bad thing. If you sound just like everybody else, you might as well be everybody else, so—as a consumer—there’s no compelling reason for me to do business with you.
You need to break out of the whitespace, you need to be different, but what does that mean? How do you do that on a regular basis?
#1 — Identify your different
You need to identify and be able to communicate—in a short, concise way—what is inherently different about your message. This probably isn’t a pricing or feature type of thing. This is like, what is inherently different about the way you think about the customer’s problem?
I’ll give you an example.
Our company has experience. We have talent who have worked at the highest levels of our industry, with brands like The North Face, Georgia Pacific, Blue Cross, Miami Dolphins, L’Oreal, the list goes on. We’re able to take some of the expertise and the lessons learned of working for and with brand teams at that level and apply them to the mid-market customers we work for and below.
That is part of our value proposition.
We know how to think at that level and we want to apply it to people who don’t always get to hear how people at that level think. There are lots of people who think at that level and aren’t interested in this customer base. There are lots of people who are interested in this customer base and have never worked at the levels that we’ve worked at, so there’s a unique selling point there.
That’s inherent to our message and to our mission, so how can we take that and say it in a concise and compelling way?
#2 — Take that idea to its most extreme (yet logical) conclusion
How can you take the message you just identified to its most extreme (while a logical) conclusion? How can you take whatever it is that makes you different and creatively push it to its furthest extremes?
This could be things like…
- …companies or individuals whose founder is their differentiator so they have a daily vlog around that founder. Every single day, they show what he’s thinking, saying, and doing because that person is their differentiator.
- …a writer who knows she is better at her skill than anybody else in the industry, so she writes and publishes every single day for free in order to demonstrate the quality of her writing over someone else.
It may not be something that’s so voluminous. You have to think about this, but how can you take that idea, that core concept, and stretch it to its most extreme, but most logical conclusion?
#3 — What are the tactical components you can include to differentiate?
“Tactical” here means the touchy-feely type stuff, things you can touch, feel, smell, taste, and see. You’ve seen this. A few examples:
- Billboards that have the regular billboard, but then there’s a piece hanging off that demands your attention because it doesn’t fit within the normal billboard frame.
- Print Ads where 95% of their allocated real estate is whitespace and the remaining 5% concisely and attractively states their value proposition. It’s a stark contrast between everything else that’s going on in that publication, all the writing, everyone trying to cram as many words as possible. These folks are so confident in their message they’re willing to break the status quo.
Things like that. How can you find different tactical ways to play with the senses to differentiate?
The long and the short of it is there are a million different ways that you can do this but, as a brand, we here at Heard challenge you to find whitespaces rather than thinking of things as “too different” and trying to fit into the sea of sameness.