‘I know everyone says this but…’
Here are ten things we’ve heard brands say umpteen times. (And a bit of advice at the end to help you say something that’ll make people sit up and listen.)
10. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… OUR PEOPLE REALLY MAKE US DIFFERENT.
In an annual report this means lots of pictures of people in suits (they’re professional), looking straight to camera (they’re honest), or in wacky poses (they’re different). Or ‘real’ looking people in verité natural-looking scenes around the workplace.
9. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… WE’RE GLOBAL, BUT WE GIVE OUR CUSTOMERS A PERSONAL SERVICE.
This is a roundabout way of trying to say HSBC’s ‘The world’s local bank’ without blatantly ripping them off. But it’s also a way for a global company to hedge its bets: they’re a really big joined-up company but they haven’t lost the personal touch.
8. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… WE CONNECT PEOPLE.
Technology companies get tied up in knots trying to explain that they don’t just make things, but that their gadgets let people er, talk, Twitter, email (or whatever the latest thing is) with each other.
7. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… WE JOIN THINGS UP.
The other thing technology companies like to say. The industry jargon for this is ‘convergence’, which is when a gadget like a phone does lots of things, or when a company sells lots of things at once like broadband, TV, phones (and anything else they can package up).
6. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… WE’RE ENTREPRENEURS.
We’ve come across two types of brands that use this idea: big companies with lots of people (who need to show more initiative) and companies that aren’t usually known for being money-minded, eg designers. The e-word gets used a lot because most other synonyms like ‘big shot’ and ‘tycoon’ sound too Gordon ‘Wall Street’ Gecko.
5. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… OUR BRAND IS ABOUT EXPERIENCES.
This is an idea that started in business books (‘The Experience Economy’ is the most well-known one). Suddenly, ‘experience’ was the new buzzword, replacing its close relative, ‘solutions’. Companies no longer sold toothbrushes, they sold a ‘teeth-cleansing experience’, and after places like Nike Town popped up, buying shoes became ‘an in-store experience’ (or, ugh, ‘environment’) – even if that ‘experience’ was in a shopping mall on an industrial estate in Crawley.
4. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… CUSTOMERS ARE AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO.
This is the modern-day branding equivalent of saying the ‘customer is always right’.
3. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… WE’RE ALL ABOUT EXCELLENCE.
This is what happens when a business and its people are good at what they do (and pay great attention to detail), but their clients struggle to say anything emotional about them like ‘I love what they do’.
2. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… WE’RE ONE STEP AHEAD.
This is what companies say when they want to be seen as cutting edge (but not too much).
1. I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THIS BUT… OUR CUSTOMERS ARE OUR BRAND.
Yes, it’s a new entry, straight in at number one. This is what happens when the branding world gets the wrong end of the stick about ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘social networks’. This has blossomed into a horrible trend of brands making up quotes from customers that they would never really say, like this: ‘I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea’.
OK clever clogs, what’s the alternative?
Well, it’s not always that these things aren’t true – they might be. The problem is that they’re too broad. So anyone could say them. They work just as well for a bank as they do for a company that makes shoe polish.
Where do I start?
First, don’t just say that you’re different. Show how – whether that’s through your tone, the detail you add, or the angle you take (there are all sorts of ways you can do it). If you’re ‘one step ahead’, say how, or why, or what, or who.
Second, make sure it only works for you. No one else can claim it.
Do everything you can to show what makes you different in practice. The more tangible, the better. One way into this is to start small. List the itty-bitty (but important) things like how you answer the phone, to how you welcome new recruits, and how you describe your company in your website’s ‘about us’ blurb.
Tell people the things they don’t know. The little things, not the lofty ‘inspired by excellence’ ones. Start there, and you’ll build up a better, more useful and more interesting list. These things might not make it into the final draft, but they’ll help you get there.
Once you’ve bottled your brand in a few words or sentences, test it. Could your competition say it too? If they can, start over. If they can’t, whoop.