Imagine that I showed photos of the seafronts at Brighton, Bognor Regis and Bournemouth and asked you which was which. It would not be easy for most people to tell them apart. Now suppose I added a photo of Blackpool. Nearly everyone would recognise it. Why? Because it has an enormous iron tower which is well-known around the world. The tower is not modern, not used by most visitors to the town and not particularly attractive but it is easily recognisable. Blackpool has something unique and memorable and that is part of the reason why it gets 12 million visitors a year – more than any other seaside resort in the UK.
Try this simple exercise with your marketing team. Write the following phrase at the top of a flipchart, ‘Only we can………’ Each member of the group then has to complete the sentence. They might describe anything from a product, a service, a feature, a market segment, a geographic area, a personality, a patent etc. But it must be something that only your organisation can do or offer. What is your Blackpool Tower?
If nobody can think of anything that fits then you have a problem. It means that you do not have anything that significantly differentiates you from other similar organisations. That would then lead to the questions, ‘What can we do about this? How can we offer something unique?’ As Seth Godin argues in his book, the Purple Cow, it is more important to be different than to be better. If you have a hotel which is a little better than most other hotels then that is a good starting point. But to boost your business you need to find something that makes you different from other hotels – even if it is something silly like a large plastic purple cow in the reception area.
If you do not have a differentiating factor then you should create one. Lager beers are very similar. To differentiate themselves Heineken ran an advertising campaign with the slogan, ‘Heineken refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach.’ It was a patently ridiculous claim yet it was highly successful. The adverts were humorous and memorable. The campaign ran for many years and the slogan became very well-known.
Maybe you can think of a short list of different things that only you can do. You should focus on these and ask these sorts of questions;
An ‘Only we can..’ for the Virgin Group is that only they have Sir Richard Branson. So they use him extensively in promotion activities.
We are all trying to move away from the cut-throat competition of commodity products and services. The ‘Only we can…’ exercise helps you to focus on how to do that. Why not try it at your next marketing meeting? Create your own Blackpool Tower.
Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.