How To Be Unremarkable

It’s doubtful that any small business owner sits down to compose his or her Business Plan, and starts the list with a #1 priority such as this:

Get lost in the crowd

Yet, it would almost seem that many, when naming their companies or coming up with a tagline, actually adopt that as a goal! Therefore, here are the Top Five Rules for those who would prefer not to stand out – who’d like to be undistinguished, unremarkable, and easily ignored…

1. Come up with a business name that means nothing. Ah, yes, Global Business Solutionsthat tells me a whole lot about what you do! Or, how about A & B Associates – catchy, definitive, truly memorable! Or, to memorialize the two partners who so brilliantly launched the enterprise, let’s go with Froghammer and Smith! That’ll tell the world what’s being offered! Remember – the goal is to keep the audience guessing – we wouldn’t want those pesky potential clients to immediately understand what the business stands for, would we?

2. Describe your business in the most generic way possible, so everyone will think they need you. “We supply business improvement products and services to the Fortune 5,000.” Hmmm…that’s unique. “We’re striving to improve healthcare around the world.” Wonderful – you and 50,000 other companies. “Our business is going about the business of helping your business gain more business.” Got it – you’ve just defined your niche neatly into the circular file.

3. Weave a less-than-meaningful tagline into your identity. OK, I made up the companies and phrases in 1. and 2. above (any resemblance to existing companies is strictly coincidental!). But now, let’s turn to some real examples. Pass by any UPS delivery truck and see this fog-inducing phrase: Worldwide Services. Well, that clears that up! Here’s a brilliant law firm tagline: Commitment to Excellence. Why, I’d rather have attorneys committed to mediocrity myself! Hilton is now rolling out a campaign under the ineffectual banner, Travel Should Take You Places (duh!). And how many companies have you seen adopting this ridiculously obvious and over-used phrase: We Mean Business! Now there’s an original and unique thought! Finally here’s a company with both a name and a tagline that truly embody the How to be Unremarkable rules: TIAA-CREF.

4. Look at what all your competitors are offering and saying, and mimic them. Be sure that when potential clients are looking for something, you pro-actively blend in with the crowd, and thereby be considered on equal terms. If Company A is talking about offering “complete end-to-end enterprise solutions to enhance supply chain productivity,” be certain that you adopt that message also, so that you can stand out along with the rest of the lemmings. Never lead – too dangerous. Follow!

5. Try to please everyone. Hey, it’s a complicated world, and lots of people get in on decision-making. So craft your message so that there isn’t a chance that a single person could possibly be offended, or (heaven forbid!) conclude that you have a different focus than what they’re looking for. Remember, all business is good business, so you don’t want to miss a single opportunity by narrowing your message to your unique core competencies!

Here’s a recent article taking Sears to task for introducing a new “say nothing” tagline. Companies and agencies both small and large can be guilty of applying the Top Five Rules!

On rare occasions, I forthrightly recommend that people not take my advice. This is one such occasion!

Image credit: Flickr

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Author: Steve Woodruff (19 Articles)

Steve Woodruff launched his consulting practice (Impactiviti LLC) in 2006, working with clients to create branding that sticks. StickyFigure, a division of Impactiviti, specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses that are seeking to make greater impact in their marketplace, but do not have the internal resources to brand themselves effectively. We also partner with larger organizations that need to borrow a fresh creative perspective. Steve also actively consults in the training/communications field, with a particular focus on healthcare and pharmaceuticals; and he serves as VP Communications on the Board of a local ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) chapter in NJ. LinkedIn profile: