Better Than Special or Superior? Be First

Everyone wants to be the best product or service in their respective industries. It would be easy to advertise measurable superiority, wouldn’t it? But that’s not always feasible — after all, there’s only room at the top for one. In fact, maybe you’re too niche to ever hit the top of a broad industry. Some services can’t even be quantified and qualified in the traditional ways — everyone’s opinion on the “best” hair salon, the “best” art gallery or the “best” pizza parlor is bound to vary.

OK, so maybe you’ll just stand out by being dramatically different than your top competitor. If you’re strange and diverse, you’ll surely scoop up a crop of individual clients or customers who aren’t seeking that same old thing. You can be the healthy pizza shop, or the one with the craziest toppings. But maybe you’re simply not in the business of reinventing the wheel. Maybe you’re just trying to sell competent, capable wheels. (Or a yummy slice of classic cheese pizza.)

Now you’re not some standardized “best.” You’re not even unique. So toss out those oversimplified ideals of advertising angles. Here’s the great part: It’s even better if you do. According to this week’s piece in Advertising Age, “Differentiation will only get you so far; for long-term success, you need pre-emption.”

Maybe that sounds like a bunch of buzzwords, so let’s break it down. Ad Age is saying that the best way to stand apart from your competition is to be the first at a new angle. No matter how basic the premise, if you pick a strategy to advertise your brand in a way others are likely to echo, you’ll always have the stigma and success of doing it first.

One example in the article is Volvo being the first car company to bank on “safety” as its keyword. By focusing on this one token feature out of thousands, the brand began to stand out and attract a new audience. Even though most car companies followed suit with safety-focused commercials, people still think of Volvo as the forerunner and trendsetter — not to mention, the safest.

Similarly, Apple capitalized on setting its technology apart as a “high-end” brand. It was a risky move, since people tend to think of high-end as expensive — but instead, they saw it as exclusive and even inferred that it was better, regardless of performance specs. Other IT brands copied the concept, but none has surpassed the first. Across devices and campaigns (iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac), Apple is consistent with its image of being the premiere — and premier — high-end tech product.

This reasoning easily translates to companies of all shapes and sizes. Take a few minutes in your next marketing meeting to come up with obvious angles that have never been the focus in your industry and how you can associate that image with your brand in a big way. And hey, if you need a little help, reach out — Mad 4 Marketing is sure we can discover some advantageous “pre-emptive” ideas that are perfect for you.

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