David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, said all products (in a given category) were the same. It wasn’t about a unique value proposition but a unique selling one. The brand (and the perceived differences) was what sold your product or service not the actual differences in your product. (I, too, came to the same conclusion as an Economics major in college I could never get past the assumption that the consumer made a rational purchasing decision. I gave up majoring in Economics because of it.) When Ogilvy was king, many products subsisted on their brands alone and consumers were very brand loyal. They were also less cynical when it came to dealing with companies and marketing/advertising. 70% of customers trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family, 55% trust online reviews (written by total strangers), while only 32% trust information on websites of brands or companies. (Additional resource: Check out these trust ratings for ads.)
Did you catch that? Customers trust complete strangers over the brand/company. It’s not logic that drives a purchase but referral. In absence of a referral, emotion drives purchasing, loyalty and joining. Many smaller businesses worry they can’t compete with a larger, branded mega store. While it may be difficult from a cost standpoint, small businesses have something the larger million-dollar branded companies do not – flavor. This is the secret weapon of small business. Your product and service is unique because you are unique. If you’re not playing to that strength you’re missing out on an opportunity.
Traditionally, your business needed marketing for 2 main reasons:
1. Customers can’t buy from you, if they don’t know you exist. This is where SEO, advertising, PR and other marketing is extremely important.
2. Knowing you are out there is important, but so is knowing what you do. I might need a printing company but it doesn’t do me any good to know you do printing. I need to know if you do huge Madison Avenue type displays or if you can print a poster for my Boy Scout troop. Your marketing collateral, branding and copy should help me understand your offerings.
Today, your marketing must also help me decide…
why/if I should buy from you. This is a step many customers will get to on their own but your marketing should make it easy for me to identify with you.
All marketers should be able to get the first two done for you, but today’s successful marketing requires less finesse and spin and more connecting. The third kind of marketing is relationship marketing. It requires opening up, becoming part of the conversation and talking about what your customers want to talk about. For someone to help with this sort of marketing, they need to get to know you. If they can’t do for you, what they are helping you do for your customers, you need to look elsewhere.
As much as those of us with products or services to sell hate to admit it, David Ogilvy had a point. In the eyes of the customer, all of our products and services look the same until we package them. Branding begins to form the customers impressions of a product, while content marketing forms our opinion of the company behind it. You need to be strong in both categories to be competitive today.
Travel note: The sheep building pictured can be found in Tirau, New Zealand, a town of approximately 778 people. The town has a trend of using discarded, corrugated iron to create art. This building located on Main Road is not the only one of its kind. There’s also a dog building that houses the town’s information center. If you’d prefer to design your building to fit your offerings, you may be able to avoid creating memorable content. But which one do you think is easier?