Tag Archives: differentiation

Elevating Everyday Chore to an Experience

Some people say that things don´t make you happy. I say that those people just haven´t yet had good things in their life.

One of the things I have enjoyed the most this year has been my newly acquired straight razor.

bismarck

Why any modern man would need straight razor?

Not for any rational reason and therefore it is just the right item for modern gentleman. When everything is becoming more and more like commodity, the way to differentiate is to make your product less accessible. We are taking so many things granted nowadays because they have been made too easy for us. Mass industry will continue simplifying things further, so we as consumers need to complicate things for ourselves, if we want to regain our appreciation to everyday things.

Here are five pointers you should apply to your own (mundane) product:

1. Create ritual(s) around your product
When shaving with straight razor, you cannot just start shaving. You need to “strop” your knife with leather belt to ensure that your straight razor is sharp. Then you need to soften your skin with hot towel. Lather cream to your face with the badger brush using a circular motion. Use hot towel again and also some expensive after-shave products. What used to be boring forgettable everyday chore is not highlight of the day*. This is a great example of “Ikea effect” when you put disproportionate value to things you have spent time on. I didn´t have any discussions about shaving before, but now my oldschool shaving regime is a conversation topic.

2. Build your own tribe
Before I started this straight razor routine I did not know how much there are information and shaving aficionados in the world. On global scale there are enough specialists to create sustainable business out of everything.

3. Be proudly old-school
My razor is actually a replica of Bismarck razors. The company was founded in 1852. For me vinyl records are the best format for music, not necessarily the most convenient and the effective for music listening. You cannot compare straight razor experience to modern methods on rational terms, because whole idea of using straight razor in 2016 is completely irrational.

4. Make your product hard to acquire
You cannot exactly buy your good straight razors in your local 7-Eleven. I had latently been trying to find a good razor for over a year and then scored one in Gentleman´s store in Amsterdam. Scarce availability makes you appreciate your product even more. The current manufacturer for Bismarck blades, Dovo, is not either that accessible. Their website is only in German and although I technically should understand it, the experience is not as smooth as your everyday Gillette. That is accompanied with only having product information as PDF. Old-school brand should consider do they need new-school website.
 
5. Have sense of danger in your product
Although we don´t need to wrestle lions anymore, it feels quite manly to take care of your beard with weapon that could theoretically kill you. That makes you humble and grateful after every shave.

Sometimes the secret to making your product desirable is to actually make it more complicated and less accessible than the competitors.

*Using straight razor is naturally easier for guys like me who need to only shave once a week. Current beard trend helps also in that you do not be that clean-shaven daily.

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God´s Hand and The Art of Differentiation

On recent work trip to Tokyo, I stumbled upon these products in Don Quijote:

godshand

Guess which one I bought?

The role of marketing is to make the product/brand desirable. That is something that quite often is forgotten while marketers spend their efforts on creating the first ever “smart shoes” and other “innovation” projects. More often than not, brands should go back to the basics to make their products truly desirable:

Have memorable name: When I start working with the brand, I always try to find ways to differentiate. Other handgrips don´t even have name, but the hardest (70 kg) is called God´s hand. That already sets the tone that this product is not for the faint-hearted or the weak.

Catch the attention with striking visual: Other handgrips have normal people showing the product, the hardest of the handgrips has the gorilla. You should always separate your spearhead product from the others (with the name and the visuals).

Fulfill emotional not rational needs: Before entering the store I didn´t know I wanted handgrips. There is no rational reason for me to even improve my grip. Although I play basketball and do CrossFit, the grip has never been a concern for me. However, because I am vain guy (usually women don´t have this problem), I am sucker for things that tests your strength. After seeing this video, I had to immediately test one-finger dead lift. 70kg is totally arbitrary limit to handgrip because you don´t have baseline to compare. They could have named the 40kg product as the God´s hand and I would still be happy with the purchase. If you target people with competitive nature, there are no limits on how far they will go to win.

Double the price: You should try to get customers who want the best. God´s hand costs the double of the normal handgrip. I don´t know how much handgrips should cost but when I saw the product I just had to get it. The price didn´t play any role in buying the product. The initial price was something like 10 SGD, which is actually really cheap. They should have asked even more, I would have happily paid it.

I have been really happy with the product as well. I use it almost daily during my workday, especially if I am feeling pissed off about something (usually daily affair). The biggest enjoyment is when people visiting my desk try to grip the God´s hand and cannot. God´s hand is 10 SGD, but feeling stronger than your friends is priceless.

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Advertising Can Make Even Baby Carrots Desirable

babycarrots

The fact is that majority of brands and products are boring. Being boring is a challenge, because your brand will not be noticed. You are not competing against the other products and brands in category, you are competing of mindspace of your consumer which is increasingly filled with Netflix, Snapchat and other way more interesting things than you brand.

The main role for advertising is to sell more products and how you do it is by making your product more interesting, desirable and thus noticed. Rational arguments don´t really work. Every smoker knows that he would need to quit. You know that you should hit the gym. And you know that carrots are healthy, but you still choose to munch on chips because they just taste good.

This campaign from few years back is a brilliant example of the true power of advertising. You have a great product, but it has an image problem. You fix it by going totally overboard. You appeal to heart. You beg, borrow and steal from other categories. You are bold. You make that product differentiated and interesting. If your category is boring, you reframe your whole category. You do what you are supposed to do:

If advertising industry has identity problem right now, it is because we have lost our focus on making the brands we work with desirable. We have gone too deep in rabbit hole of championing social causes or doing unnecessary technological innovations, that we have forgotten why we exist in the first place.

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Vodka From A Village and The Secret of a Great Brand Film

finlandialessordinary

I hate majority of brand films. They just revisit same old clichés and not even the employees get kick out of them:

The false deduction would be to conclude that if majority is shit, everything is. Brand film, when done well, can be truly uplifting experience. It can put your brand´s stake in the ground and convey your attitude in a manner that resonates both to your consumers and your employees.

This rebranding of Koskenkorva is a great example of a good brand film. The product consists of water and barley. It is coming from a small village. It is Finnish and we don´t brag or boast. The understated tone actually oozes confidence and in a minute shows what the brand stands for. Brilliant stuff from Bob The Robot:

Finnish vodka brands seem to have learnt something during the years, because the following example is from Finlandia vodka. Whereas Koskenkorva is the rural and rustic everyday drink, Finlandia has always been a little bit upscale. Upscale in Finland meaning still that you have weird attitude that other markets don´t understand. This is a brand film that is built around the desired attitude of the brand. After seeing this you are hyped up to grab a bottle of vodka and try your new deadlift record (this is done by W+K London):

Great brand film:

1) Tells something interesting about brand.
2) Is something that only your brand can do
3) Makes you feel something
4) Looks good (there is no such thing as lo-fi brand film)

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Major Keys to Success from Snapchat (that probably only work for Snapchat)

majorkey

Snapchat has surprised me. I mislabeled the platform way back as just a method to share nude selfies (although there is definitely a market for that). They are more popular than ever, valuation is through the roof and they are totally altering the way how millennials communicate and consume content.

As a company they have been really refreshing and bold on their approach in their business. Take the following lessons with a grain of salt, as they might not be right for you:

1.Ask for (too) much
Google made advertising accessible for pretty much anyone and Facebook followed a suit. Snapchat has taken totally different angle. Its ads are expensive, so essentially available to only big advertisers (even though they have reduced their prices). For example branded custom lens costs 450,000 USD. Almost half a million of branded puking rainbow! We will talk about puking rainbows later. They also provide sparsely data about the ad performance and target audience (which might improve in the future). Essentially Snapchat is expensive because it can be expensive. What they offer is that you can be part of the party if you pay the premium. If you don´t, you will be left out. The choice is yours.

Major key to success: Set your price high, as it is easier to go down than to go up.

2. Don´t try to attract everyone
Snapchat is not for the old people; expect if you are Dj Khaled. We will talk about him later.

“I’ll be honest, I had no idea what they were talking about half the time”
– David Gaines about Snapchat training sessions (Chief Planning Officer, Maxus Global)

If you are CMO, it is likely that you are not on Snapchat. Or if you are, you don´t understand anything that is happening there. However, your kids or younger colleagues probably are and that gives you signal that your brand should probably do something there. Snapchat is the ultimate access to one of the hardest target audiences in the world: teens.

If you are not teen, the interface of Snapchat looks messy, complicated and hard-to-use. Essentially they defy all the traditional belief of user design and the users love it. Rest of us don´t understand it but that does not matter. The enigma of Snapchat has probably added to its lure. You cannot compare it to any other app. That is also the reason why they can ask premium. There is no alternative for Snapchat.

Major key to success: If your competition is selling oranges, start selling apples.

3. Embrace the irrational
If you are snapchatting like boss, you have way too much time in your hands. What the success of Snapchat has showed, teens and millennials have lots of time in their hands. And although you are complaining how busy you are, in reality you have too much time in your hands.

The biggest star of Snapchat is Dj Khaled, who has six million followers. He is something like a Paulo Coelho for millennials and his stories are celebrated throughout the Internet. His days “walking on the journey to the path of more success” are filled with eating, drinking Ciroc, jet skiing and sharing his wisdom through major keys (for example key to success is to have lots of pillows).

Whereas Facebook is introducing utility (ordering Uber etc.) to Messenger, the hit function of Snapchat is filter that makes you puking rainbows. The success of Snapchat has prompted Facebook to acquire Masquerade. Its hit function is the ability to switch selfies. And yes, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat back in the day with three billion. Everyone thought Snapchat was crazy to decline the offer. Now they are valued for 16 billion.

pukingrainbows

Although Internet has transformed our life in many ways, you should never underestimate the irrational and random aspect of life. Our attention span is short and that short span is increasingly filled with puking rainbows and major keys to success.

Major key to success: People will favor mindless entertainment against thoughtful utility. Always.

Could you apply some of these lessons in your own business? Maybe, if you are attracting millennials. The challenge with certain successful businesses (that Snapchat is not yet even is, only with high valuation) is that their competitive advantage is hard to be duplicated. Truly phenomenal firms go against the grain and pretty much ignore what other competitors are doing.

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Anatomy of An Insight: ESPN New York Marathon Nipple Protectors

Marathon is insane both mentally and physically. That is the main reason I love it. Although I have already run 13 marathons, I am still scared shitless when I step to the finish line (next time is way too soon).

You also face lots of physical obstacles during the run. Knee pains, blisters, running to the bathroom with acute stomache, sore achilles tendon, having a heatstroke, getting a backache…And this is just a small recap of my trials and tribulations. One of the most annoying ones is shirt friction, which might cause bleeding nipples, if you forget to tape or put Vaseline to your nipples. Actually there is relatively big business built around that prevention.  Sometimes you might still forget your tape, and then you are in trouble. Therefore this ESPN activation from New York Marathon resonated well with me:

ESPN Nipple Protectors
Insight: Nipples bleed when you run marathon. We give you tape to prevent it.

Approach: You differentiate when you are not fighting with every other marketer from top-of-mind. Marathon swag bag is already overtly competed place. ESPN found a place, which was not populated by other marketing messages and provided also something useful at the same time.

This approach reminds me about our most successful festival promotion, when I was heading MySpace in Finland. Instead of trying to compete for attention in the actual festival area, we concentrated all our activities in camping area (where the real party happens in any case). As there were no other marketers or no real entertainment, people did not view our promotion as marketing communications but more of entertainment or service.

Good learning to keep in mind: go where the others are not going. You might win big. (Or the others know something you don´t and understand to keep away from it.) This example proves that you should not stay away from nipples.

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Are You Outrageous, Useful or Oblivious?

Catching people´s attention is increasingly more difficult. Skipping ads is easier than ever and the opportunities to enjoy truly great entertainment (which marketing communications seldom is) more vast than ever. People really do not care about majority of brands. Surprisingly they have more important things on their mind.

To make people care (even a little bit), you first have to make yourself known. In the current marketing climate, there is only two ways for that. You are either:

1. Outrageous
World´s most successful branded app is less popular than the most successful fart app. People love dancing babies, cats, crazy dances and many other inane things. If you want to create truly outrageous brand campaign, you have to benchmark the popular culture phenomena and be at least on the same level or go beyond that.
When to go outrageous?
When you want to get instant attention, maximize the eyeballs and virality of your campaign.
What it requires from the brand?
Balls
For what brands it works?
For lifestyle brands with edgy brand persona.

2. Useful
Moonwalking pony with Fleetwood Mac soundtrack does not work for all brands.
If you want to create something truly useful, first of all you have stop browsing all the marketing blogs (expect this, of course) and start browsing how the people are actually behaving.
You have to build your brand experience around the real experiences of your target audience. You should never assume that the audience would care about your brand a single bit unless you bring some value for them. Creating useful things is more demanding, difficult and than to shock people or get cheap laughs. However if you can truly become part of people´s behavior, it is much harder to break that relationship instead of jumping to the next outrageous fad.
When to go useful?
When you want to create something long-lasting
What it requires from the brand?
Patience & Investment
For what brands it works?
For what brands it would not? If you cannot create anything useful for your target audience, maybe you should do some deep brand soul searching.

Caution: Even though you create something truly useful, you have to still promote it. If you just build it, they will not come. 80% of branded apps have under 1000 downloads. Firstly because many times they are low quality marketing crap and secondly because they are poorly promoted.

If you are not either of the above, you have the one last resort for your brand:
Total oblivion.

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