Why a boring uniqueness is not a bad sign

Posted by Sean D'Souza on 24 Apr, 2014
View comments Marketing
Who says boring uniqueness won't sell? Sean D'Souza teaches you how to use your uniqueness to attract.

Let's say you're a language company like Rosetta Stone.

And you're in somewhat direct competition with other language teachers like the Pimsleur Method, or Michel Thomas.

You want to stand out in the marketplace, and of course you can pummel your way through with endless advertising and publicity. Or you could stand out with a factor of uniqueness. But this is easier said than done, right?

Despite every brainstorming meeting you seem to come up with terms like "easy to use", "comprehensive" etc. And although you may try to get this message across to your audience, it seems more like jargon—stuff that no one really pays attention to in the first place.

So how do you stand out with a "boring" uniqueness?

Uniqueness isn't boring.

Or rather, all uniqueness is boring to begin with.

Let's take our beaten-to-death uniqueness of Domino's Pizza: 30 minutes or it's free. Well, it does sound exciting when all those ad books tell you how it made a billion dollars for founder, Tom Monaghan. But was the uniqueness interesting? No, it wasn't. All they were saying is that they'd deliver "faster". And then they got more specific.

Ah, the specifics—now that's what matters

Without the specifics, "faster" means diddly-squat. But add "30 minutes", drop out the "free" and you still have an extremely exciting uniqueness factor in place. In fact, all uniqueness is, is boring without specifics. Take the Psychotactics article writing course for instance. Today, the high-priced course fills up within hours, but that wasn't the case before. It was a "tough" course, but how tough is tough?

We didn't bother to be specific and our clients didn't bother to find out why (why should they?). Then we changed it to "baby tough". As in: as hard as having a newborn baby. When doing the course, you don't get much sleep (or rest) for about three months. Now you'd think that would put people off, right? But it didn't. Clients are always looking for specifics and when you don't provide these specifics, your uniqueness becomes boring.

But often, it's not enough to just state your uniqueness

In the world of Dominos Pizza, the sheer weight of advertising and sloppiness in the industry propelled them forward. At that time you pretty much died of hunger before your pizza was delivered. So just by virtue of being first off the blocks, helped Dominos tremendously. Of course, the launch costs of such advertising would also give most of us a nose-bleed. So considering that your competition is more or less similar, you've got to clearly state your position against your main competition.

When we look at three core language courses (that I've been using), there's a clear difference.

  • Michel Thomas: Teaches you the core of grammar in under 10 hours. All tenses, past, future, present—done and dusted in 10 hours.
  •  Pimsleur Method: Pronounce like a native speaker: They actually say the words backwards so you get the exact tone.
  •  Rosetta Stone: Powerful vocabulary skills. You will never be lost for words as it covers a ton of words that you're going to need for sure.

Now this is where uniqueness comes into play

But all of them are likely to say: But, but, but we also teach you to pronounce like a native speaker. And yeah, we do teach you the core of grammar very quickly and vocabulary too. And if they were to follow such a strategy of trying to get it all, they get nothing across. The core of uniqueness is about ONE. One, one, one, one, one, one (Ironic that it takes six ones to get that message across).

So when the Michel Thomas Method is being driven home, they need to position themselves against the competition

They need to stay with their specifics: 10 hours. And then explain why those 10 hours are important. When Pimsleur markets themselves, they need to drive home the "words backwards to get the exact tone". When Rosetta Stone drives home its point, it needs to stress that it covers the "3000 core words" needed to run a language (thus stressing vocabulary). But at the same time, they need to stress how they stand out against the competition.

With the Article Writing Course, that's what we had to do

We had to say: Other courses promise instant article writing skills. We don't. Our course is "baby tough". There's no easy road here and you'll have to work extremely hard for three months to be able to write outstanding articles. But once you put in the graft, your work will stand out against all other articles.

The comparison needs to be in place

You may choose to single out the competition (I think it's unnecessary to name names because it makes you look petty) or you can simply state what the competition does vs. what you do. Combine that with a measure of specificity and the "boring" goes right out of the uniqueness.

Suddenly not only does your marketing material shine with an incredible luminance, but your clients are also able to buy in to your product knowing fully well what they're buying into. What's more, a great uniqueness is easy for the clients to pass on to their friends and associates.

But does that mean that the clients will stop buying from competition?

Do you buy one type of computer? Only one brand of shoes? Well, I do but then I also own Rosetta Stone, the Michel Thomas and the Pimsleur Method. Like any consumer, I'm going to try them all and if I find one is consistently better than the other, then that’s what I'll be sticking with in the future. Uniqueness is about attraction.

Clients want to know how you're different before they buy from you, but once they buy, it's your job to do such a great job that they almost never buy from competition.

Ok, time to summarise, eh?

  • Uniqueness is not boring. Well, yes every term is "boring" but only because it ain't specific.
  • Specifics matter. "30 minutes" mattered. So does "baby tough". So does "grammar in 10 hours".
  • Positioning yourself against your competition? Yup, that's a good idea. You don't have to name your competition. Just describe (briefly) your point of difference.

If you start off with a seemingly boring uniqueness, you're on the right path

Every uniqueness is boring.

Until it's not.

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