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Dumbing Down Distinctiveness

By Jack Lettenmair

Making a brand RED is the ultimate goal of marketing. Relevant, easy, and distinctive. Relevance? Makes sense. Ease? Straightforward and clear. But DISTINCTIVENESS? Why is this third element of RED shrouded in so much mystery? Why does it feel so unattainable?

Distinctiveness is the closest thing marketers have to the holy grail. Nothing is more powerful in creating mental availability than distinctive brand assets. Distinctive Brand Assets (DBAs) are triggers that make the brain flash “THIS BRAND” and consequently create salience in the mind. Salience makes the brand top-of-mind. Top-of-mind leads to tip-of-the-tongue. If you build distinctiveness, you build salience. At the end of the day, brand salience is brand superpower.

But for some reason, while some marketers are catching on that distinctiveness is paramount, it can often feel more like climbing Mount Everest.

MYTH: a distinctive brand campaign can be created only by the world’s premiere, most talented creative agencies, capable of creating a hyper-unique, completely ownable, one-of-a-kind brand world.

TRUTH: A kick-ass agency sure helps, but distinctive brand campaign can be created only through a clear strategic vision and relentless consistency.

It’s time to dumb down distinctiveness. The real secret sauce of distinctiveness is consistency. Repetition. Staying on course and never wavering, even when you feel tempted to switch things up. If you prioritize consistency over all else, you’re on your way to building a distinctive brand.

While being culturally and socially relevant are great for improving brand perceptions, the reality is this: attempts at creating relevant communications are often the very enemy of distinctiveness. The marketer’s desire to “refresh” the brand, do something new to “make noise,” or reimagine the brand with a “modern tone/look/feel” … this is the death of distinctiveness.

Think Geico. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. And that freaking Gecko. From 2009 to 2018, their auto insurance market share jumped from 7.7% to 13.4%.

Think Progressive, with their use of Flo. Since implementing the character Flo in communications in 2009, and by staying the course over 10 years, Progressive improved its share of the auto insurance market from 6.9% to over 11%.

Think Gorilla Glue. That damn gorilla in every single piece of communications, on every piece of packaging, year after year after year. After years of consecutive growth, now trailing only Elmer’s glue.

These brands aren’t relevant. They’re not modernizing their image every 3 years, or reimagining campaigns. They’re consistent, above all else.

So are we saying to not strive for messaging that’s relevant? No. Of course relevance is important! All we’re saying is to not let relevance get in the way of your distinctive brand assets. When in doubt, be you. If there’s two choices, breakthrough or be you…BE YOU. And be you over and over and over and over again. This may not lead to you winning at Cannes, but you’ll be winning mental real estate in the minds of consumers, and isn’t that better than champagne on a yacht?

(Keep in mind that all the views expressed in this post and on this site are personal views. They don’t represent the views of Yum! or any other person or organization except the authors themselves.)

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