“It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.” Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple.
Image credit: Ilounge.com
The concept of being unique or different is far more important today than it was ten years ago. In the era of hyper-competition, people are overwhelmed by choice of ideas, products, and services. In this sea of choices, most customers have trouble making their buying decisions.
As a business, learning to differentiate yourself and create a unique and memorable brand within your market is key to grow your customer base. There are many techniques and ways to identify your differentiating attributes and position yourself through all your business practices.
One common way to have people remember you is to inject some of your own personality into your brand by including one of your “interests”, “passion” into all of your marketing efforts or by doing something out of the ordinary. I came across two examples that combine both tactics:
A Sanford truck dealership in Florida had an unusual offer last November in hopes of increasing sales: a free AK-47 assault rifle with the purchase of a truck. The buyer has to pass a background check to get the $400 voucher to use it at a local gun shop or as a discount off the truck’s purchase price.
The manager explained his choice of this promotion by stating “I wanted to be different and create buzz”.
The same promotion had run in 2009 by Max Motors in Butler, Missouri. Both dealerships confirmed that the program had been a success and had a positive effect on sales. Both promotion campaigns had been featured everywhere but had also generated some angry responses.
In 2006, Laura Parker, agricultural activist created a website called Taste of Place where she helps people explore soil tasting.
Nowadays, it seems to be a celebration of the soil and what it yields. Some chefs are so keen on communing with the soil that they are putting it in their dishes. Deliberately. Fine dining restaurants like Copenhagen’s Noma, San Francisco’s Marlowe, New York’s Gilt, and Silicon Valley’s Manresa are all using dirt for garnish and flavor, or to anchor components onto the plate.
These businesses seem to use their unique selling proposition (USP) and promote their exclusive features that other competitors can’t. But as a customer, I won’t be interested or curious enough to use their services or products even if they are presenting a more memorable experience. I definitely remember their offer, I applaud their promotional efforts but I won’t be listed among their loyal customer.
The goal is to be different. Effectiveness requires sacrifice. A business can’t be good at everything and it can’t go after everybody. Now, I wonder: can differentiation reach its limit? When does being different become solely a promotional buzz?