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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  What If You’re Not That Hot?

What If You’re Not That Hot?

Posted on January 17, 2012 and read 7,859 times

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Steinbio What If You’re Not That Hot?Stein Janssen
Strategy Director
BSUR Amsterdam

In nearly every marketing speech or column, examples from the likes of Apple, Virgin, MINI or Google are thrown at you. And yes, it is inspiring – great brand philosophies, remarkable heritage, impressive campaigns and ditto results. But not only have we seen them before, they’re also out of reach for most brands. I mean, they are extraordinary brands, which is what makes them interesting examples. But let’s face it, most brands are not. Like in school, there are only a few cool kids. That’s the whole idea of popularity – they are cool because the rest are not.

So what if you are not that hot? What if you are just an ordinary, everyday brand? Nothing against you, but nothing really going for you either. No unique or remarkable philosophy? No ground-breaking design? With you just being an average CMO? Good enough, but not quite the wunderkind Mark is, nor a face like Richard’s, and perhaps dressed even less excitingly than the late Steve? What if your whole brand is, above all, really nothing too special?

Then what do you do? Give up? Well, maybe that’s a bit extreme. You are not alone – the vast majority of brands are run-of-the-mill. But the good news is that the only way is up! There are opportunities galore. And now let me give you three that will do the job…

Skittles Touch Cat 150x150 What If You’re Not That Hot?First: Carry on regardless. If you’re not one of the cool guys, try anyway. Just give it your best shot. It is no longer the quarterback who’s getting all the girls. Those days are gone – Johnny Depp said it himself: There is great potential for weirdness. Today it’s more valuable not to fit in, than to attune. And it’s true, programmers are the new rock stars, nerds the new hipsters; weird is hot and left field is right. Think Gaga, queen of weird-cool. All she did was just try. She wasn’t born wearing a dress of jerky…  and yes, it does take balls. Remember the mad capped ‘Man Your Man Could Smell Like’? Like it or not, it was above all a very brave approach. And it worked. The same goes for Skittles, those peculiar ‘Touch the Rainbow clips’ brought home gold in Cannes last summer. Okay, Skittles isn’t a stranger to quirky campaigns, but if even sleepy ol’ Old Spice can do it, then surely you can.

Nevertheless, if such eccentricity is a bridge too far for you, or for your Board, here is option number two: Don’t try. If you can’t pull it off, then don’t. Nothing worse than half-hearted attempts. Then actively choose to remain your not-so-remarkable self, be as you are. Why? Because it will make you authentic. Genuinely authentic.

The beauty of authenticity lies in the fact one cannot try to be authentic. It is nothing more than consistently staying true to your beliefs. However, being a buzzword for so long, “authenticity” has wrongfully been mixed up with originality. Yes, they often go hand in hand; independent artists for instance are regularly perceived as authentic. Yet this is not because they are original or creative, but because they stay true to what they believe is best, or most beautiful, or to whatever it is they might think. So if you are not artistic, and you don’t want to be artistic either, remaining uncreative makes you just as authentic as, let’s say, Campbell’s Soup.

merkel 150x150 What If You’re Not That Hot?Look at Angela Merkel. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, Angela has been confronted with the same criticism: she is indecisive, dull (lacking the bravura of her predecessor Gerhard Schroder) and slow, in short; unfit to lead the country. Merkel however, stood her ground, didn’t budge, and stayed away from forced efforts to be liked. She embraced her tedious image, and no less important, created an über-consistent appearance: emotionless face, ageless haircut, all fingers characteristically touching each other, and, to top it off, always the same pan suit. Today however, ‘Iron Angela’ is suddenly praised for these same criticisms, though now seen as firm, anticipating and deliberate, making her the de facto leader of Europe. Not bad for not trying too hard.

So in today’s turbulent times, staying true to your beliefs – especially if those are about stability, consistency and ordinariness – could very well just give you that special, authentic edge.

If you happen to like neither of the above, I’ve got one final option: Stop talking about yourself. Change the perspective. Stop tiring your audience with a mediocre story and start listening. Show that you are there. Allow the only thing you say to be that your customers are being heard, and understood. That’s all. Beautiful in its simplicity, yet possibly the hardest of all. Let me give it a try: “What do you think?” …I promise I’ll listen.

  • Maxwell A. Davis

    Wonderful article. Nothing to add. Just read or shut up and go.

  • Jenny Kan

    Very  nice, comprehensible article, thanks for sharing!




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