Our People Make the Difference (Yea, Right) and Other “Unbelievable” Claims

April 7th, 2008 Posted by Positioning 1 thought

For kicks, I tried Googling this tagline. On this particular day, the results produced several construction companies, a few carpet cleaners, realtors and brokers, hospitals, therapeutic clinics, a TV station, a web page from Deloitte Touche, a security firm, machine and metal fabricators, a change management consultant, staffing firms, a used car dealer, various banks, a plastic mold die maker, a dentist, an old WalMart uniform patch (with the slogan) for sale on e-Bay, a chemical company, a full-service boatyard, and a boatload of other indistinguishable, undifferentiated manufacturers, services, and firms in untold other industries. Unbelievable! (Granted, not in all cases were they necessarily using the line as a corporate positioning or tagline per say, although more did than not.) Doesn’t matter. They were using it as a point of differentiation in some form, and differentiating it is not.

Actually, I do believe that people can and often do make the difference, particularly in B2B and especially when there is parity or commoditization of products. I’ve encountered many people who truly make the difference at various companies I patronize loyally-both as a consumer and as a business professional who buys products and services from other businesses. I’ve also encountered plenty of people at other places who made the difference-and I’ll never be back! Sorry. That’s another blog posting. I digress.

Back to “people make the difference” as a tagline, a positioning line, or however the above-mentioned and untold others are using it. I’m not buying it if I haven’t actually experienced it. And if I’ve never considered, shopped, or bought from any of them-then I haven’t experienced the difference their people make. I’m not convinced they will. And I’m not sure I’m willing to take the risk. It obviously does nothing to differentiate, distinguish, lend credibility, or elevate anybody’s corporate positioning, let alone compel one to try or buy. (What I mean is, the line pretty much sucks. Okay, I’ll concede that it probably makes a few employees feel good.)

Landing on an honest, genuine, positioning that communicates HOW you, your product, your company, and your brand is actually different—and then developing a relevant, meaningful, believable, concise positioning statement and a tagline to help quickly convey your difference—is hard work.

Let’s clarify. A positioning statement is not a tagline-but often taglines are where business organizations start. And that’s the problem.

You need to start with a positioning statement first. In two to three sentences, your positioning statement needs to identify what you do, for whom, and what you bring to your customers that your competitors can’t-or don’t. Properly positioned, your company, products, and services will have few credible substitutes in the marketplace. If you can take your positioning statement and just as easily associate it with your competitors’ names, keep working. Only when you’ve identified that clearly unique point of differentiation and use it consistently, will you will begin to effectively build your brand. And usually, from a powerful positioning statement will come a strong, meaningful, credible tagline-and chances are, it won’t be “our people make the difference.”

So now that we’ve put “our people make the difference” to rest, could we ban the use of “home of the (fill in the blank) “any kind of solutions people”, “exceeding customer expectations since (some year from pre-historic times.)” Come on, they didn’t screw up once in all those years? Oh, don’t get me going. Got any favorites you love…or love to hate. Send them to me.

Richard Hatch
(No, not that Richard Hatch. The one that keeps his clothes on and pays his taxes.)
A Marketing Survivor

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