Whatever happened to..?

"What makes us that we're different" was probably a low point. It was something a law firm once proclaimed on their website. They've since merged into invisibility, so perhaps I malign them too quickly - they might have had a unique vision for being different.

But at least they had a go. If we looked at 10 commercials for car marques together, I defy either of us to distinguish one from another. Same for most other sectors. It feels like "the idea" is now more about creative effects or techniques, rather than the brand. And yes, I know how old I'm sounding now.

Perhaps I was spoilt by working in what I still consider the best advertising agency ever, and then two brilliant brand strategy and design consultancies, but somewhere in a brand is an essential truth that can distinguish it from its competitors. And, because it's a truth, it will endure, which means it will grow and be capable of embracing new products or services. In fact, it will enable - and even drive - innovation and development.

Here's an interesting challenge: the best form of differentiation is superiority. What can you say you do, that is demonstrably better than your competitors? It might be how you do it. Some clients have real difficulty answering that, but they get there - as one advertising agency used to say, it's about "interrogating a brand, until it confesses to its truth." But, if you don't believe you're better than your competitors, why should anybody else? Remember the old coaching advice: to be different, you have to do different.

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