Finding your love in the art of being different

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

Whether it is with advertising or new product innovation, brand leaders must embrace the art of being different.

Too many new product launches follow the same formula: conduct a basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass, meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do, re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily. Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad. Tell the agency you’re excited. They’ll tell you they’re excited as well. Ask for lots of options, as a precaution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want. Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide which one is best. That way, no one can blame you. Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice. 


Ah, we have our launch

You mistakenly think this is a guaranteed formula for success because it follows last year’s launch. You convince yourself that you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is successful. What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.

The best new product innovation and advertising has to be both different and smart

At some point, to a breakthrough in a cluttered market, you have to do something different enough to stand out: now, more than ever. It might feel like a risky move, but it is almost riskier not to take that chance. Push yourself to be different.  


smart different

Find the space that is smart and different

Smart but not different (our launch above) 

These do better in tests than in the market, mainly because consumers have seen a similar idea before. In the market, these launches tend to get off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar to consumers. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, this launch tends to falter because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.


Smart and different:


These launches don’t always test well: consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it can take time to gain momentum, having to invest in advertising to explain the story and you need to put in the effort to really make the difference come to life. Once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good.” This new product begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.


Not smart and not different:


These are the safest of safe, likely a complete copy of someone else in the market. This happens when the pipeline is dry. You go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it is not very good. They do pretty well in tests because of their familiarity. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.


Different but not that smart

This is what happens when marketers get focused on the product first instead of the consumer. This type of launch offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So you launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing because the consumers do not get it. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference, and it fails. This launch is the better mousetrap that no one cares about.

Advertising Testing Result

Push yourself to be different

Brand leaders need to figure out how to separate good from the bad. One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts. As Steve Jobs said: “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT.”

As a marketer, we tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion, etc), but the one I always wanted to know how we were doing on was “made the brand seem different.”

Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or new media options, always push yourself to do something that stands out. Don’t just settle for ok. Always push for great. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand? Afterall, the opposite of different is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.      

In case you need any added incentive: Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies and the place where most groundhogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.  

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