"One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you're absolutely...right! "
As marketers, were we having a "timeout" when other kids were learning this Sesame Street song and life principle? I think yes.
Whether it's the world of automobiles, airlines or retailers, we have so achingly little differentiation in our brands. What happened to the excitement people?
This weekend, I walked into no less than 13 shoe stores in one of local malls. Let me ask you - how many of them had - women's one side, men's the other, a central bank of chairs for sitting, rows of shoes on the side wall - 4-8 rows high, 2-4 awkwardly smiling sales clerks hovering, a clumsy sizing tool and angled stool for fitting and a fenced off register area toward back of store. Check. check. check. check. check. check. check. It was an ode to podiatric conformity.
No digital displays, no innovative store setup, no foot models, no coffee bar, no his & her couches, no running ticker on how many shoes were sold there today, no employee faves wall.
Yawn...if shoes are this boring, how do we make other more staid categories sing....and more importantly why is this happening?
Young & Rubicam may have the answer. They evaluated that 40 out of 44 categories have seen less differentiation than a decade ago with consequently less brand affinity and loyalty. With the recent economic downturn, this has almost reached crisis proportions with some major brands losing as high as 59% of their highly loyal users.
So after testing a battery of 50 attributes linked to brand value, here's Y&R's scoop.
The top 8 attributes linked to brand value are:
#1 High Quality
#3 - Good Value
#4 - Reliable
#5 - Original
#6 - Simple
#7 - Fun
#8 - Leader
A wonderful and noble set of attributes to be sure, however if you put these attributes on a scale of differentiation, these attributes average rank sits at #36 on attributes that make your brand appear different.
Here's the problem - the attributes above are table stakes, the price of admission for getting in the game. Years ago, they may have actually meant something. Nowadays, everybody can claim some title to these attributes and even if you could uniquely, it can be quite tough to prove or raise to the level of consciousness in the customer mind and perception game.
No, here's what your "best practice" consultants aren't telling you. In order to truly drive brand value in a distracted, underwhelmed and over-sensated marketplace (and in my world, to get your brand noticed and talked about), you need to be maxing out on Y&R's top 8 differentiating attributes:
Dyson. Virgin. Westjet. Vespa. Zappos. Calvin Klein. Apple. This is the very DNA of their brand's existence.
So brand owners, please stop playing a game of "me too" and start singing the song we want to hear "one of these things is not like the others..."