Why do we feel the need to keep things so focused on features and benefits?
“I’m cute” or “I have a great personality” or “My company has a gizmo that does this better than any other.”
Seriously, I saw an ad in Bon Appetit for Sur La Table that said, in bold,
“We teach more cooking classes than anyone else.”
Now I am sure that was not an inexpensive piece of advertising, and so I have to wonder, who the hell let them say that? There is no way on earth in today’s world that any one company can make such asinine claims so impossible to validate. It’s like the “World’s best cup of coffee” joke made in the movie Elf. Companies are still puttering around spending millions saying huge things that are entirely unbelievable and absolutely not unique. That statement is not provable, and our minds have been lied to so much that we are beginning to realize that we have toxic shock.
Ladies and gentlemen, the news is out, the common man knows about marketing and knows that there is manipulation afoot.
And yet everyone just shouts their bravado louder and louder. Bigger, badder, more expensive. “We are the best, just trust us!”
It’s time to call the bluff, and it feels like in the next 50 years, the market will do so too. Granted, there are always those folks who choose to stay in the matrix. They hang on to brand attributes that are long-since dead, but as my mother-in-law so aptly noted, “Sears products aren’t what they used to be.” She can see very clearly that stores are closing, they have nothing unique about them, no passion, no drive, just boxes filled with stuff that you can just as easily ship to your doorstep in 2 days from Amazon.
The landscape is changing and I’m sure there will be some new artifice coming along shortly to continue the deception. We humans are cunning at taking advantage of each other.
I propose a different future. Truth and Belief.
Yes, it takes some incredibly strong internal character to make this a strategic plan for your business. Authenticity is meaningless if you are not an authentic person at the head of your company. But if you are a person of substance, and you keep trying to tell the world about yourself in the old-school way, you are absolutely wasting your potential.
The native environment of deceit and puffery have left people drowning in a sea of indecision. People are looking for something solid to grab hold of. Their hearts yearn for it a much deeper level than “features and benefits”. People want to land on something they can trust, and trust for a long time.
Enter the long-term play.
I met with a friend/client last night and got a 2 hour download on the way he and his partner run their business. It was like being in one of those bud-light commercials where the freezing cold train bursts into the hot-as-hell desert scene with brimming, freezing amber beauties. These guys run their business like this:
- We are honest, always
- We pay attention to the details
- We do whatever it takes to maintain a relationship
Did you hear any talk of ROI or Earnings projections? When I asked them about their vision it was more about lifestyle than anything, which was pretty dang simple by the sound of it. Sure, they pay attention to the bottom line and are financially savvy across the board, but they will never let the ledger dictate how they essentially run their business. If it’s between a human being’s well-being and the money, they pick the person.
Imagine a world of these people? Imagine if Sur La Table had said instead, “Food is the best way to build community, we want to help you build yours from your own kitchen. Come take a cooking class.” Wouldn’t we all have a sigh, wouldn’t we feel the refreshment, wouldn’t that have cut the clutter? Hell, it would have at least fit far better in the context of Bon Appetit, which on subsequent pages told a story of a group of friends cooking a simple meal on a blanket on a rocky beach. Skip the ad, let’s get to the authentic storytelling…
Your product or even your personal interactions can’t be driven by narcissism. It’s not all about you. People are attracted to genuine, outward, vision driven relationships. We love being around generous people, why wouldn’t we buy from generous companies? Why wouldn’t we buy into a vision? I would feel so much better knowing that my dollar not only bought me a good product, but associated me with something bigger.
If you haven’t read the first 100 pages of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, it’s worth the time and energy. He’s a bit repetitive, but that’s a publisher’s job to make books longer (who wants to buy a thin and brilliant book these days…sigh) but otherwise it’s a clear observation of how we tick.