Two retailers, one across from the other, had the same schedules, sold more or less the same merchandise, and at more or less the same price. Every morning John, the owner of the shop on the western side of the street, prayed, “God, I am a good person, so please tell me, why is James doing so much better than I?” Year after year after year, John continued with his prayer until he died and went to Heaven. When he finally saw God face to face he asked Him again: “Dear God, I am happy to be here, but I still don’t understand. If I was such a good member of the flock, why did James do so much better than I?” God looked at John and responded, “I have no idea. But, I imagine that if you had spent less time looking at his store and more looking at yours, you would have done a better job.”
Over and over and in almost every category we see brands looking at each other and blatantly adapting the same strategies.
I’ve given plenty of examples of this in the past, such as the Ad Council video that is shamelessly similar to the Girl Effect and the use of the same trick in every single insurance company ad to name a few.
This syndrome is not restricted to TV spots. Verizon, AT&T, TMobile and Sprint have really creative and strong ads. But, when you enter a retail service or sales outlet of any of these brands they all have the same counters, displays and long waits. The innovation goes as far as a 30-second spot. And “Everything is possible” or “Can you hear me now?” become empty taglines.
A truly successful brand has to be unique to remain relevant. This means that only they can sell what they sell in the way they sell it. Think of brands like Coca-Cola, Ikea, and, of course, Apple: all truly successful empires whose identity is clear, authentic and completely different to that of their competitors.
Mercedes may try to incorporate safety as part of their marketing strategy but, even if their cars are safer, Volvo will continue to stand for the most secure vehicle manufacturer in the industry.
A brand must provide a clear, strong, and powerful value proposition and remain authentic to it. Like the caricature of God astutely pointed out in the opening story, a business must look to itself to find the answer.
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