Some years ago, I was listening to a taped presentation by an educator, who was advocating the rather unconventional notion that we should adapt our teaching style to the child’s learning style.
She summed up her approach by asking this rather simple, but profound question: “What’s the point?”
The point, of course, is that the child learns. The “how” is quite secondary – if the student learns better by going out into the yard and digging up a root system rather than sitting still at a desk and reading a book, then by all means go out and dig! Just get to the point.
The phrase has embedded itself deep within my psyche, and has morphed to shape my thinking about branding, and my approach to consulting. Almost always, the first question that comes to mind when considering a branding challenge, a marketing initiative, a consulting project, or a written communication, is…”what’s the point?”
I would dare to say that, until you can answer that question with clarity and simplicity, it is almost impossible to succeed. In starting a business or growing a brand, in developing a message or solving a problem, there must be a very clear target that you are aiming for. Why are you doing this? What exactly are you seeking to achieve? What is your chief differentiator? What is the market need or desire? What’s the point??
When I started Impactiviti, my own consulting practice, in 2006, I had to wrestle with that question. My answers:
- My unique skills and desires were not being channeled in my current job position
- It was unlikely that any other company was going to create a role around my aspirations, so I needed to do it myself
- I aspired to increasingly apply my talents and creativity to consulting on client branding and marketing needs, after twenty years focusing more on sales and marketing
- I needed flexibility to work in a schedule that fit my lifestyle and family situation (which, in my case means starting before 6 a.m., when I am most creative and energized!)
- I had something to prove to myself – that I could take my ideas and bring them to life
In fact, it is that third point that explains why I am contributing to the Small Business Marketing and Branding blog. My consulting practice in pharmaceutical training and communications leverages my prior experience, but I also have a deep passion to apply the rather strange admixture of creativity, analysis, and drive to communicate what brews in my psyche. This blog, along with my own branding blog, provides an outlet, and hopefully will grow a network that leads to increasing creative work.
Seth Godin, in his book Purple Cow, makes the point that unless your offering is somehow unique – in some way differentiated from everything else out there – you may not have a “point” for being in business. To import a term from the world of electronics, we need to have a good signal-to-noise ratio – there’s a ton of noise in the marketplace, and our brand signal – our “point” – needs to be distinguishingly clear to rise above it.
Ironically, sometimes the key business stakeholder is the person least able to distill things down to the core, and identify the key differentiating message. I was meeting with a business partner just yesterday morning, and as she showed her new marketing approach, it was quickly clear that all the bullet points spread out in front of us did not contain a unique or compelling message. Because she was so immersed in the trees, it was far more difficult for her to step back and see the forest – yet for me, in a matter of minutes, the solution was plain. However, for that very reason, the hardest assignment I’ve taken on to define “the point” has been my own business! Too many trees, all of my own planting…far easier to objectively analyze someone else’s forest!
Sometimes, of course, “the point” of a business is actually there – it’s just not been clearly identified and effectively expressed. Those are the most exciting opportunities – an entrepreneur or business that has a great offering, but just hasn’t figured out a compelling and “sticky” message.
Here’s an example of a company that has pulled it off successfully – quick, how do you make one brand of wine stand out above all the other bottles on the shelf? Many companies lately have fallen into the “cute animal label” syndrome, but Ravenswood Winery has taken a great branding approach. They claim they produce No Wimpy Wines, and have built a whole campaign around this singular concept. Now, they could blab on about their particular vines, their wonderful bottling process, their storied history, and sound just like any other of a thousand wineries – but they have adopted a differentiating (and slightly cheeky!) theme that captures the imagination and impresses itself on the memory.
So, what is your point? What makes you unique? Are you trying to write your brand message with a blunt instrument, or a sharpened pencil? When you can express your unique value in fewer than 10 seconds and 10 words, then you’re truly able to “get to the point!”