Value proposition differentiation. You either have it, or you don’t. And those who don’t, once you know what you’re looking for, are pretty easy to spot. They’ve joined the march of the sloppy and samey me-too marketers. Clones, driven by the reassurance and security of the herd, that all churn out the same wallpaper in a slightly different shade – similar website, similar headlines, similar navigation.
They act like a supermarket’s own brand shampoo seeking ‘easy on-shelf recognition’ by looking a little bit too much like Head & Shoulders. But what works in Tesco is the wrong strategy for a business that needs a clear value proposition differentiation in a crowded and competitive market.
SO WHO OR WHAT IS TO BLAME FOR THIS MARCH OF CLONES?
For me, it’s fear and ease.
Businesses hammered by the recession have developed a bad case of avoidant procrastination that’s left them afraid to innovate beyond “Let’s see what the competition are doing”. And the agencies have simply stopped pushing value proposition differentiation for fear of pissing off clients and losing revenue.
Proposition differentiation. Let’s not forget too that the cost of having a technically high-quality website has dropped. Templated self-build kits with ready-made content can be put up in a matter of hours. This is exactly the way the internet should be. But how does a start-up know which template to pick when faced with a million options?
Answer: they copy.
There’s comfort in copying a more successful competitor, for sure. But where will being comfortable get you? And who’s to say that they’ve got it right anyway?
I often meet prospects that have recently re-branded at vast expense to look like the competition, and my question is always the same. “How’s that working for you? Have seen a significant uplift in sales, margins and market share?”
Cue lots of looking up to the ceiling.
Fundamentally, if the business is not enjoying a significant uplift in price point, trading, profits and positive perception – it is not brand development. Without differentiation, nothing has changed, and users will still vote with their feet.
And don’t think that just saying you’re different is a way around the problem. Garnishing cloned gloop with ‘market leaders in this’ and ‘award-winning that’ isn’t differentiating anything. You actually have to be different to stand out. Consumers B2B and B2C all seek authenticity consciously or subconsciously.
WHO DO I CHOOSE?
WHO DO I TRUST?
WHY SHOULD I LOVE YOU MORE?
Proposition differentiation. Of course, there is some positive sunshine in all of this. If you do brand development properly, in a structured way, and commit to constant iterative development, differentiation and story, you’ll leave the clones behind in a genuine wake.
Best of all, they might even start to copy you. But by then you’ll have already moved on – taking a tasty chunk of their market share with you.