Focusing on a different kind of difference

WRITTEN BY DAN SALVA

It’s marketing’s job to find the real and believable difference in a brand. It’s their job to to get people to understand why the brand is a unique choice among all the other options. 

But look at what that has become today. Companies now quibble with competitors over mere degrees of differentiation. In order to make a case, the brand stories become complicated as they try to portray the fine distinctions that they are trying to own. As the stories become more complicated, any chance of capturing something that will inspire people goes out the window. Ultimately, we all become less likely to pay attention.

If we’re relying on a story that is not clearly unique, powerfully simple, and inspiring, then we are just adding to the ocean of white noise out there.

A couple decades ago that may not have seemed like a critical issue. But today, we are subject to a tidal wave of information that has shortened our attention spans. If we’re relying on a story that is not clearly unique, powerfully simple, and inspiring, then we are just adding to the ocean of white noise out there.

It’s time for a shift in thinking.

Making the shift

When we have a Big Audacious Meaning, we focus on the difference we can make in an individual life or a community. Or even the world. The difference that we are cultivating is not what makes us different. Rather, it is the difference we will make for someone else.

When we tell that story, it is magnetic. Because it’s no longer about us. It’s about them.

Here’s the magical part of all this. People look at us differently. And they remember us. By focusing less on ourselves, we actually create that difference we were looking to capture all along.

What is our big question?

Corporations are like lumbering giants. They aren’t going to turn on an dime. We’re not going to see the majority of all companies suddenly shift to differentiating around a Big Audacious Meaning.

It doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And it’s not just young nimble companies. We’re seeing some giants — global organizations — like Unilever that are discovering the uniqueness that a purpose can bring to a brand.

The movement is undeniable. We have to ask ourselves when we will be ready to make the move beyond focusing on degrees of differentiation and embracing real uniqueness.

We need to ask, “Is our big question, ‘What makes us different?’ Or, is it, ‘What difference will we make?’”

 

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.