Delusions of DifferentiationAmong the most important and the most difficult skills to teach business people is how to differentiate their companies. Last week, Bart Cleveland discussed this issue in his Advertising Age blog. Cleveland asks, "[W]hat makes your agency unique? Tough one, huh?" Then he goes on to say:
I've worked for quite a few agencies in my career, and this question remains a malady that plagues all. Time to 'fess up to the fact that we, the experts in differentiating brands from their competitors, are not measuring up to our own standards.Cleveland's screed will be incorporated in my training on differentiation, to be supplemented by examples from industries outside of marketing communications.
We say the same things the same way. We give fancy names to our unique branding process and think that's enough distinction. We parade our award-winning work before prospective clients as if that alone could communicate our creative abilities. When pitching new business, we create a dynamic brand execution on spec to illustrate our superior insight. We do all of these things and still most clients eye us as one and the same.
It's apparent that who you are, not what you do, will set you furthest from the competition. An agency truly different in soul will reflect this sense of self in its work.
... Your identity must be about your approach, how you view your work.
Nike has just handed over a big piece of its brand to Crispin. Could it be they seek an agency whose own brand is constantly redefining the ad industry? It's obvious that agencies with identities connect more readily with marketers who have them, too.