Pat Langton: Standing out

Standing+out (2).jpgA blog written by Pat Langton, creative director/partner of Magnum Opus Partners, Melbourne

Standing out. That's the point isn't it?

We all try to stand out in some form or another, whether it's the clothes we wear, the music we listen to or even the way we do our hair... if you have any. These are the things that make you you, and make you stand out. We're all about advertising, whether we like it or not.

Nature is a perfect example of standing out. Look at the peacock that wants to mate or a flower that needs to be pollinated - these are nature's ways of standing out. And if they don't find a mate or get pollinated then they just don't get noticed and eventually... well... they die.
These simple analogies apply to brands, too. If they don't stand out or differentiate themselves from their competition then that brand will die.

There's a great story I heard and I've heard a few variations of it, but I'll adapt it to an Australian audience. It goes like this:
There's these two men walking in the desert and they come across a pack of dingos. They both start running, but one man stops and starts putting on his runner. The other man says 'What the hell are you doing? You're not going to outrun those dingos'. He looks up at his friend and says 'I don't need to out run those dingoes, mate, I just need to outrun you'.

Brutal, yes, but the moral of that story is clear. You just need to be smarter than your competitors. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. There are many ways to outsmart the competition but most importantly it's by making sure your product or service is better than theirs, and if not, to stand out through advertising.

In "marketing-speak that translates as "If you haven't got a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), then you sure as hell better have a Unique Selling Personality."

Advertising is all about standing out, and there are a lot of techniques to do that. Whether that's a great headline, brilliant TV production, clever event activation or an amazing  lm/TV/social video, there are lots of ways. These are the things that will make a brand stand out over another.
But as I like to say, advertising will only ever sell something once. If the product is shit, consumers won't come back.

Hence something we tell every client we have: "Anyone can sell any shit. Once."

But if what you've got is actually good, then you need to think how to make it special, too. Rory Sutherland tells a great story about potatoes, it goes like this.

Frederick the Great of Prussia wanted his country to adopt potatoes as their primary crop. But people thought potatoes looked ugly, tasted funny, and farmers had no desire to grow them. Frederick realised his farmers would rather be jailed than forced to grow potatoes.

So he took a new approach, and decided to re-brand the potato - changing its perceived value. He declared that potatoes were only for the royals, he grew them in his own garden, protected around the clock by his guards.

People started to think, "if it's worth guarding then it's worth stealing." Not long after, people came together to create an underground potato market. And the rest, as they say, is history. Germans now love the humble potato.
This is a perfect example of using 'value' as a technique to stand out. If people think your product or service is worth something then people will want it.

There are lots of techniques to stand out but the first is getting your product to a point of excellence and then letting the advertising do the rest. Because there's one thing having a good product, there's another letting people know you exist.

So before you take a product or service to market, it has to be (a) good) and (b) projected as special. It's not an either-or. You need both.

So assuming you have something worth selling, then understand that, as in the famous saying by Stuart Brit, "doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark, you know what you're doing but nobody else does, and she sure as hell doesn't".

Remember if everyone who could use your product or service doesn't know about it, they never will and it will take years to reach them. And if people don't buy it, then you don't get the "pass on" effect of word of mouth recommendation, which is always the strongest advertising you can get. You have to start that snowball rolling. And how you start it is standing out.

Don't be the same. And don't be boring. Because you know the riskiest advertising you can do? Advertising that isn't noticed. You risk wasting all your money, and eventually killing your business. "Bland" is your enemy.

Standing out is everything. The famous, and now worldwide, agency BBH lives by it. Their logo is a black sheep and it came from their famous ad campaign for Levi's, where they simply showed a black sheep walking in the opposite direction to the rest of the white sheep with the line, 'When the world zigs, zag.' to promote black jeans in the UK. Suddenly everyone was wearing black jeans. Now there's two things that makes this story great: the fact that black jeans were a new, amazing, different product from Levi's, and the ad was simply, awesome. The fact they didn't show a pair of jeans must have freaked out the marketing department but to their credit they ran it and it was hugely successful.

In our experience, the reason brands don't stand out has a lot to do with being too involved with their product. Internally the advertisers see their product and the product benefits as simply amazing and want to tell the world all the specific details of that product. What they don't see, is nobody really cares about that, people really only care about what the product does for them. All over the world advertisers try and sell the features of their products and not the consumer benefits. It's the commonest mistake we see, as it loses the consumer's attention very quickly. It also makes boring advertising, which is the enemy of sales.

Whether it's '1000 songs in your pocket' (ipod) or more recently 'Shot on an iphone' (iphone), Apple is king at selling benefits. They understand what their products do for the consumer and they also understand consumers' low attention span ... they know if they focus on one clear, unmissable product bene t they have more chance at standing out.

So with your next lot of advertising, be single minded, and make sure you stand out.

Leave a comment