Crafting Your Unique Brand Promise: Finding the Big Idea


Do you want truly competitive differentiation for your company—with a value-added extra that makes the products and services you offer resoundingly unique and clearly better than your competitors? You can find it in The Big Idea—your unique brand promise.

A compelling brand promise is essential for creating a powerful marketing and sales engine. In fact, this is one of the most misunderstood, unappreciated, and neglected parts of the marketing process. Advertising visionary David Ogilvy was right when he said that “positioning” (his term for creating the brand promise) is the most important decision made in promoting a service or product. Ogilvy was also correct when he said that successful positioning has more impact on the results of a promotion than how an ad was created.

Because of this, I urge our clients to devote time to crafting their brand promise—especially before starting a new campaign. It is essential to define your brand promise because it will act as a guidepost against which you can track all of your tactical activities. Determine your brand promise, communicate it well and then keep that promise to clients and customers consistently. When your activities faithfully reflect your core promise, you know you are on-track. .

Every company or organization, and each product or service they offer, has its own unique brand promise and position. A company can hold different marketing positions among different target audiences. In addition, people can have their own unique positions, which are often built upon and reinforced through social media. Companies can gain major benefits by properly positioning their key executives through different marketing positions and social media..

What is a unique brand promise? The unique brand promise is what you promise people they will receive when they do business with you—what are you giving them in terms of product, service and customer experience. Your marketplace position is defined as “the manner in which an organization and the products or services it provides are perceived by prospects and customers.” People often use the terms interchangeably, but there is a big difference between the two ideas. You control your own brand promise, while the marketplace controls your position. If your brand promise is based on what truly differentiates your company from others, it is much easier to align the brand promise and marketplace position.

Of course, it is hard to be all things to all people, so I suggest that you get rid of the “me-too” approach— that is, entering the market echoing the same value propositions as your competitors. Instead, focus on a Big Idea.

The best way to think about your own Big Idea is to consider how you would answer if a prospect asked you the question, “What’s the big idea about your company?” Your answer to this question is, in essence, your brand promise. It is true that prospects ask themselves this question every time they consider your offer. And the reason many of them don’t buy from you is they don’t think your offer is a Big Idea. Why? Because you don’t tell them why this is true.

The “me-too” approach may be safer, but just repeating what your competitors are saying can also make you appear to be a commodity, and companies that act like a commodity will not be successful in a time when consumers have myriad choices.

There is a simple lesson here: be different; be unique. It is fundamental to your marketing success to find the Big Idea in your company and capture it succinctly. When you do, it will help your team create the best and most effective marketing strategy for any medium. Doing so will also help your customers find your products and services more easily in a landscape cluttered with competing messages.

Pull Marketing vs. Push Marketing – The Shifting Battleground

Even though I make my living as a marketer, I get as bothered as any other consumer by the constant intrusiveness of unwanted promotions. The abundance of unsolicited marketing pitches from TV, radio, Internet ads and other media exasperates me daily.

Yet, as hard as we try to get away from it (using tools like TiVo, Sirius Radio, cable, and voice mail), persistent marketers continue to find new ways to track us down and share their messages, regardless of our needs or receptivity.  Here are a few examples of irritating push marketing techniques:

1. Anyone showing up uninvited.  Whether at the office or home, this is particularly irritating.  The exceptions are neighborhood scouts or sports teams.

2. YouTube now requires you to watch short commercials prior to viewing their content.

3. Newspapers that contain ads that are wrapped around the editorial content, so you have to go through multiple gyrations to get to the news stories.

4. Online, floating banner ads are becoming more intrusive and harder to ignore. They follow your cursor until you can find the ―X or “close” button.

5. Unsolicited telephone calls are still an annoyance — except they are now from so-called “market researchers” and charities, who are exempt from the privacy requirements. Who came up with that loophole?

Here’s the problem. Push marketing is intrusive and often ineffective because, at any given time, a majority of your audience—whether they are listeners, viewers, or readers—have no interest whatsoever in what you are promoting.  They may be interested in the future, but if you come on too strong when they are not receptive, you may turn them off forever.

In some cases, you may have a lead requirement that can only be met with push marketing techniques. If so, by all means use the necessary techniques to meet your lead objectives.  But often, you have a choice, and a more effective alternative is to practice pull marketing strategies.

Pull marketing centers around the idea that you actively draw clients or customers to seek out your product or services. You do this by discovering where your prospects congregate, making your information available to them in educational and entertaining ways and giving them incentives to come to you when they have a need for what you offer.

Instead of having a monologue (as evidenced in push marketing) with your clients or customers, you create a dialogue with pull marketing—a dialogue between you and the prospect.

Transitioning from push to pull marketing strategies is a subtle shift in thinking, but it is also quite powerful. Instead of asking: How many people can I sell to today?, the question becomes: How can I help people solve their problems? In the first scenario, you are a seller, almost an adversary. In the second, you are a helper whose expertise (and wise placement of messages) sells itself. Instead of just relying on ads pushing your value proposition, you produce valuable content (through social media and at your website) that solves problems. In other words, you become a trusted resource and thought leader who circulates a carefully crafted message that attracts the people who need you.

Nevertheless, there will always be an ongoing battle between consumers and push marketers. The latter will continue to try new and clever ways to force the former to pay attention and respond to their promotions. But I submit that a much more effective plan is to uncover a way to attract a larger share of the people who are already interested in what you offer and then convince them to do business with you.  It’s always easier and more pleasant when you can fulfill an existing need instead of trying to create a need.

In the push model, the marketer is seemingly in charge of everything—the timing, content and frequency of promotions. However, in reality, your consumer is the one in charge, because only he or she can decide whether or not to read or listen to your promotion and whether to respond.

When you are deciding how much of time and financial resources to allocate between push and pull marketing strategies, keep in mind that the battleground has shifted and the prospect is the one who holds the high ground. Rather than fight this reality, just accept who has the real control—and find the best ways to help people buy in the way they want to buy, instead of the way you want to sell to them.

If you enjoyed the perspective in this article, you might want to read another recent blog post on the subject of pull marketing strategies and timing.


B2B Pull Marketing Takes the Guesswork Out of Timing

One of my favorite bloggers, Paul Castain, posted an excellent article titled The Patience/Urgency Conundrum in Sales on his Sales Playbook website. Using the “courtship” metaphor, Paul explains that sales relationships, just like romantic relationships, have a natural timing, and that it can sometimes be counterproductive to disrupt that timing by forcing the issue during the sales process.

The topic of proper timing applies in spades to the marketer or salesperson. Smart marketers understand that all prospects are not the same, and to treat them as such is dangerous and ineffective. Prospect A may be at the initial stage of the education process, while Prospect B is close to making a purchase decision. It is naive to believe that you control the process—in fact; the buyer holds most of the cards because they are the ultimate decision makers. Use pull marketing strategies that make it easy for them to buy; meet them (online, by telephone, or in person) wherever they are in their buying journey and nurture them to an inevitable decision to do business with you.

Back in the late 1980s, a friend who was (at that time) something of a playboy type met a young lady at a Friday night party. He proposed that Sunday and they were married within two months. That’s not the way I would have done it, but 25 years later they are still going strong. Other friends have had very long relationships before walking down the aisle and most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

marketing funnel

The goes to show that the maxim “Different strokes for different folks” still holds true, regardless of whether you are talking about your eventual life partner or the customers that fuel the growth of your company. Like I said earlier, you need to meet prospects where they are, not where you want them to be. The point is that no one likes to be sold, but most people enjoy buying. This is why we are strong advocates for the buyer-friendly pull marketing process, which is composed of four parts:

The Pull Marketing Process

  1. Attract – Ensure that your company is highly visible through a strong website presence. Make it easy for them to find you.
  2. Educate – Have plenty of quality content to educate your prospect. Make it easy for them to learn about you.
  3. Convert – Include multiple relevant offers that are related to your area of expertise. Make it easy for prospects to engage with you.
  4. Sales – Create sales channels that are in alignment with the needs of your prospects. Make it easy for them to buy from you.

Smart marketers don’t jump to the fourth step in the process, but rather use their online presence to cover most or all of the first three steps. When you do this, your close rates go up and the “effective sales cycle”—the time you actually spend working with the prospect—goes down. In other words, you increase your marketing and sales efficiency in a way that generates more revenue at less cost and effort.

Daily business life for the marketer or sales person is much easier and more effective when it is based on the natural timing of the buyer’s sales cycle. Follow the pull marketing principles I covered earlier: upgrade your website, attract more people at the top of the funnel, give these people plenty of great content, provide offers to turn visitors into leads, and have a solid plan to convert leads into new customers. That’s a plan that’s always right on time!

Why Your Long-Forgotten Boilerplate May Hold the Key to Your Marketing Strategy

Perhaps some of you have participated in scenes like this: your B2B company needs some marketing boilerplate copy—you know, the stuff that appears at the bottom of press releases, in the “About” section of your home page or on some evergreen sales collateral. You convene some hasty brainstorming sessions and your marketing or PR person (if you have one) knocks it out like a quick and painful homework assignment and, after a few revisions, it’s baked. Then nobody thinks about it ever again because you’ve all got more important things to do.

Months and years go by, and as you produce more content for your company, each addition deviates slightly from your messaging more and more, based on whatever inputs are strongest at the time: the most recent strategy, the latest hot trend-related blog post, the most recent “A-ha!” moment from leadership, or what have you. Congratulations. You have now succumbed to “message creep.”

The core of a marketing plan is the diligent hours that you spend with your team analyzing your product and service in the marketplace and formulating your unique competitive position. The first and most important reflection of this position is a statement of 50-100 words that crystallizes this position. Any potential client, investor, partner or journalist should be able to read it and quickly grasp what you do, whom you do it for, and why you’re the best at it. If it’s just a bunch of vague buzzwords and non-essential, self-congratulatory information you came up with on the fly, you’re wasting the interested party’s time.

Boilerplate isn’t the end of the document; it’s the center of all documents

Your boilerplate is a guidepost for producing strategic content for your brand with less brain damage and more strategic punch. I’ll give you an example: last year Fusion Marketing Partners did an overhaul of our core messaging. As part of this effort, we got everything we knew about ourselves up on a whiteboard and distilled all those thoughts, through multiple revisions, into a single, polished gem. When I’m working on a page for the new website, the first thing I do is cut and paste that boilerplate into my Word file. If how I’m describing our services doesn’t align with the company we described in that boilerplate, then I know I’m going off course.

I didn’t reproduce the boilerplate verbatim; I translated and expanded on the differentiators there. As a result, the new content lines up with the positioning we chose, and, as we add more pages to our new site, we’ll have more and more content that consistently expresses the key differentiators that make us a unique choice in the marketplace. That’s the strategic essence of the boilerplate. And it’s a time saver for when you’re writing. Why reinvent your company from scratch each time you sit down in front a blank page? Define your position as a key part of your marketing strategy and then mercilessly reproduce that value message, in some form, every time you’re developing new content.

Take a look at the universe of material that your company has generated. Do you see the expression of your core positioning reflected in each web page, each sales sheet? Does it even sound like the same company from instance to instance? If not, you have a messaging and positioning problem. Take the time with your team to succinctly define your strategy in words. Then staple those words to the forehead of everybody on your company team who has to write market-facing copy for your company. This turns your boilerplate from a long-forgotten homework assignment to a vital strategic tool that helps you fashion a coherent, compelling brand and market more successfully together.