Don’t be different!

A unique position is what every marketer dreams of. If your brand occupies a unique position, it can’t easily be copied or challenged by a competitor. The market is all yours.

The pitfall is that “unique” is often taken to mean “different”.

Different is pointless, though. Different has no meaning to your customer. It’s an entirely selfish motive.

If only because your customers are most likely not looking for a different solution (most of them actually like known and proven much better). Customers are rather looking for a specific solution. If you solve their specific problem in a specific way and if that specific way makes sense to them, you’re going to earn the spot for this specific solution in their mind.

This spot is often not the result of spontaneous creative work (what many marketers love) but of rigorous revelation work (what strategic marketers do).

The irony is that while everyone else is busy trying to be different, you are automatically going to end up actually being different. Thanks to rigorous focus that led you to a deep understanding of your specific customers’ domain, you’re going to come up with solutions that no-one else could discover and that are therefore unlike any other solution. Usually, also way more thoughtful and useful.

Don’t be different. Be specific.

AMP up your communication

What, who, how. If you can’t answer these questions properly for your communication, you’re leaving impact to chance.

The usual advice is to MAP these questions out:

  • Start by clarifying your Message (the what).
  • Then adapt it for your Audience (the who).
  • Then flesh out the Presentation (the how).

M-A-P, Message – Audience – Presentation.

Yet, while a MAP is a very useful thing, an AMP provides way more bang:

When you start by clarifying your audience, you start by asking all the right questions. Why did they show up? What are their exact struggles? How does life look like for them? What are they looking for?

After that, you can craft a Message that’s the perfect fit for this specific audience with their specific needs.

Then you know everything you need to know in order to flesh out a Presentation that delivers exactly the right message in the right way for this specific audience.

A-M-P, Audience-Message-Presentation

In order to amplify your impact, I suggest your crank up the AMP.

Just for today

What if, just for today, instead of reading 100 posts on social media, you read one chapter in a book?

What if, instead of scratching the surface of 100 ideas, you dug deep on one idea?

Or what if, instead of seeing a tiny snapshot of 100 people’s lives, you picked up the phone to have a long conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while?

Leave out the boring parts

Storytelling is rather simple if you follow this advice from writer Elmore Leonard:

“A story is real life with the boring parts left out.”

Simple, right?

Just leave out all the boring parts and voilà: your story is ready.


What if you can’t leave out the boring parts? Because, let’s say, it’s a really dry topic … with lots of facts …

Sounds like bad luck, doesn’t it? I mean you can’t just leave the facts out when it’s about the facts, do you? You’re basically doomed to be giving a boring talk.

Well, unless the premise is wrong.

Which it is: Facts are facts. In and of itself, a fact is neither boring nor exciting.

But if the facts relate to our lives, if the facts have an impact on our lives (even if it’s just an impact on your business’ bottom line), then we’re back in Leonards domain: Leave out the boring parts, i.e. those facts that don’t relate to the point we’re trying to make about our lives.

Facts make for a boring story if (and only if) you write real life out of the story and if you waste your time on the facts without making the connection to real life.

When people should care, but don’t

One of the problems with Malaria is that it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s actually not that hard to protect yourself from getting infected.

The real problem is that those who are affected by Malaria can’t do much about it (because they can’t afford it) and those who could do something about it are not affected – which is why they don’t care.

Now, how do you make someone care for something they (quite likely) know a lot about but still don’t care.

Here’s what Bill Gates did when he took the TED stage in 2009. He was facing an audience of people who you’d imagine could potentially do something about Malaria (a ticket costs at least $5000) but were not affected by it.

A couple of minutes into the speech Gates walked over to a table that had an empty glass of jar standing on it. He stopped. Then he said:

“There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience.”

… and lifted the glass to let the mosquitoes fly.


Only to add that the mosquitoes were, of course, not infectious.

This short moment was stronger than any professionally designed excel chart could have been. It was stronger than any photo of a suffering patient or a mourning family would have been.

Because it brought the experience close. Gates didn’t just speak about the severity of Malaria. He didn’t just show it. He let his audience experience the feelings. Suddenly, they were affected.

And so he made them care and opened their minds to listen to what he had to say with completely different ears. It wasn’t just the generous thing to do, anymore, but the human thing to do.

The best part: it didn’t cost a fortune. It was not an expensive wow effect. It cost an idea. Which is actually cheap once you know what you’re trying to achieve.

How can you bring your audience closer to the feeling.

“We have never needed to do marketing.”

I’ve met quite a number of businesses who told me that they have never needed to do marketing, all of their business would come from doing great work and being recognized and recommended for it.

Which means that most of these businesses are actually doing quite a lot of marketing. They make useful things that beautifully solve people’s struggles and they make it easy to spread the word.

That’s the foundation of any good marketing.

Advertisements and other forms of communication are amplifiers. They work best (and are way easier) if the foundation is great. But it’s not all of marketing. It’s the topping.

Rule no. 2

I often speak about the brutality of the first rule of communication: The audience is always right. If they didn’t get it, they didn’t get it.

But don’t forget that there’s a second rule, too: You get to choose your audience.

You don’t have to please everyone. You don’t need everyone to get it.

Some will not even want to get it. For example, when they don’t like you. Or it’s against their beliefs. Some have budget constraints that they don’t tell you about. Others might like pink better.

Which is really good news. Because it means that you can stop wasting time on (and being frustrated about) these people and focus your effort on the ones who do want to get it.

This is a choice. The clearer you are on the people you want to reach, the clearer you can make your message for them. It’s ok that the others don’t get it.

Different vs. specific

Good marketers make their marketing different.
Great marketers make their marketing specific.
Which is why it’s different by default.

Great marketing doesn’t bother to make anything different. They make a special product that does special things for special people. And that’s why it is different.

Good marketers get creative. Great marketers get specific – about the people they serve, their struggles, their desires and a solution bridges both.

Great marketing is largely rigorous revelation work.

Is YouTube acting dishonestly?

Last week, a study by Mozilla was published to show that YouTube’s “dislike” buttons don’t seem to do much.

The study found that YouTube continues to display similar content to users even though they have clearly expressed their disapproval.

Technology review concludes in their reporting about the study:

“a new study finds, those tools don’t do much. Instead, users have little power to keep unwanted videos (…) out of their recommendations.

I would like to suggest a different conclusion.

First of all, YouTube doesn’t serve you what’s in your best interest but what’s in their best interest. Almost certainly, they will try to keep you engaged for as long as possible so that you stay on their platform for as long as possible.

This can only work if you keep engaging with what they suggest.

Which leads to the question why they wouldn’t honor your feedback? In other words: If you say you don’t like something why do they keep recommending you similar things?

Two explanations seem plausible:

First, YouTube explains that the algorithm behind the “dislike” button works different than you might expect. It means “don’t show me this video again”. So, it doesn’t extend to similar videos.

Second (and this is a guess), they might optimize not based on what you say you want (or don’t want) to watch but based on what you actually watch.

So, an important question seems to be how often users who said that they “dislike” a video kept clicking on similar videos. Because, if they keep on clicking those, YouTube might – correctly – assume that that’s engages them.

In other words: Unlike what Technology Review suggests, users do have power over what gets recommended: By taking action. If you don’t want to see a specific genre of content, don’t click on it. Resist the clickbait, stop clicking on it. I bet that, sooner or later, YouTube will take notice and stop recommending this kind of content to you.

(Or, why not just pick a book?)

All amounts to something in the end

A golden rule in storytelling is that anything the author spends much time on will amount to something in the story.

If it didn’t, the editor would certainly have cut it out. It’s just bloat that makes the story longer but not better. It adds detail without adding meaning.

Now, look at your website. Does anything you spend much time on amount to something in your story? Or is there content that makes the page longer but not better, information that adds detail without adding meaning?

A good editor would cut it out.

Spread the Word

Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz