Remember when you were an impressionable kid, and you hung out with some new/older kids – maybe some fresh arrivals at school who’d moved from somewhere wild and exotic, like Peckham, or Shrewsbury? And they talked differently – they had different accents, and different names for snot or underpants?
You were somehow impressed. Perhaps, without even knowing it, you adopted their vocab, lilt and intonation. And then you went home.
At the dinner table, your mum pulled a puzzled face… maybe smirked a little… and asked….
Why are you talking like that?
Your reply (probably in your new accent, without even realising it) was…
That, folks, is my long and clumsy analogy for businesses and brands that say weird things that don’t ring true, and don’t sound like them. Turns of phrase that others use, but sound a bit daft when you do.
It’s born of excitement and an eagerness to impress. Nothing wrong with that. But when your brand’s communication cues come from anywhere but the brand, its values and its people, it simply doesn’t sound right, and can set off the ‘insecurity alarm’. As in my analogy, though, you don’t always know you’re doing it, or how much. Or perhaps you think it’s a good idea…
‘They sound cool and confident… let’s use the same lingo.’
Alas, this just makes you sound like someone else. And in any context, apart from maybe fraud or acting, that isn’t a good approach.
Of course, there’s a fully understandable desire to attract, inspire, and persuade. There’s also an equally appreciable belief in your product, expertise and service… and how it’s better than the alternatives. Yet saying things you wouldn’t naturally say, isn’t how you stand out in a competitive marketplace.
That’s the crux of it, really. Differentiation. As individuals, we are unique, despite being comprised of the same bits and pieces. It’s our experience and our personality that define and distinguish us.
The same applies to brands and businesses.
It ain’t what you do…
Unless you’re in the unlikely and enviable position that no one else does what you do, it’s the way that you do it and how you communicate it that really matters. That is what differentiates you… and beyond the purely transactional, it’s what potential customers, partners, employees and advocates will choose you for. So if you’re using the same buzzwords and cliches that your peers use, you’re missing a trick. A big one.
…it’s the way that you do it…
Be yourself, and be proud of it. Be your own brand, and reflect its values in how you communicate. Don’t be the kid who comes home from school speaking the latest slang in a different accent because you think it’s cool. People seek integrity and true personality, so why hide it behind things like ‘solutions’, ‘delivery’ or ‘going the extra mile’? Unless, of course, you supply bottled water to remote rural communities.
…and that’s what gets results.
Whatever line of business you’re in, the clincher in securing new contracts or customers is almost invariably the sense people get of who you are (as people and as a brand) and what you’re like to deal with. Cost and credentials aside, they simply want to do business with people they can relax with and relate to. And they can identify authenticity and consistency more than you might give them credit for.