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A Landmark Moment

Most businesses have standard procedures and norms that define their industry. Take the world of banking. Most banks basically sell the same products; customer service, CD rates, online banking and so on, much of the industry’s marketing is geared toward selling what everyone else is selling.

Look around, bank-advertising looks like, well, bank advertising.

Here’s the simple truth. If you are selling something that your competition is selling, you are probably being redundant, spending your marketing money supporting the generic industry, not yourself. At Brandstorm we call this “me too” advertising, and try to avoid it, or at least relegate the generic messages to a secondary relevance level like support copy. If you are claiming something that your competitors can raise their hand and say: “me too,” you have a problem.

Terrific customer service is a “given” in most banks so why tell me this information in your advertising?

Don’t all banks have online banking? It makes me shrug my shoulders and respond: “So?”

Most customers see through these standard product selling points and assign the given brand to being just one of the pack and therefore ordinary. However, tell your customers something surprising (yet relevant) about your brand and they will place you in the “different” or “worth looking into” pile. Make your customers care about what you are saying and you can get them listening to every word.

The Holy Grail of brand differentiation is to find (or create) something that makes you stand out–and your message stick. The “USP” or unique selling proposition. If you have a differentiating point of difference it can be worth its weight in gold. Saying something unique just ads power to what you have to sell, even when you are struggling to say anything different from the rest.

To illustrate:

Landmark moments!

We were approached by a group of banks that had joined forces under the brand name “Landmark Bank.” In our first meeting they told us all the things they wished to promote in their re-launch.

Online banking: Check!

Customer service: Check!

Competitive CD rates: Check!

The more they talked about their needs the more we realized they were basically selling the category, not their brand. No amount of marketing dollars can help if you are selling like for like. It just becomes a blur in the consumer’s eye.

As it turned out their uniqueness was staring us all in the face… it was their name.

I proposed that being called “Landmark” offered them a unique proposition that could be used to sell the generic offerings in a memorable way AND be uniquely ownable to the bank. If you think of one’s financial life as a series of special events or “landmark moments” you can begin to see how this brand message could be created from nothing, in a manner that helped them stand out from the crowd of other me too banks.

  • New child! –Landmark moment

  • Retirement! –Landmark moment

  • Customer Service! –Landmark moment

  • Online banking! –Landmark moment

The client was stunned at their new found point of difference and a launch that resonated through every medium followed.

Every product and category can discover their “landmark moment” and these strategic gifts can come from some of the most surprising places… like in this case, a name. USPs are not always obvious and I have seen brands differentiate themselves with everything from a talking lizard to a long dead owner of the company (Leo Burnett). If the USP answers some universal human need you are usually heading in the right direction. This is in essence of what we at Brandstorm live for: the discovery of the brand differentiator.

When you have a client looking for a new direction for their brand be bold and ask: What makes you different? Why should the customer care?

The results can be massive and a landmark moment for any company.

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