You are constantly challenged to set yourself apart. But, with ever-increasing competition, how can you? If you can’t differentiate yourself from others who are competing for the same business, you can’t succeed, according to Martin Andelman, who addressed attendees at the NAIFA-California annual meeting in Anaheim earlier this year.
They’re all good
Andelman, the founder and CEO of Commemorative Life Insurance Services, took an informal poll to find out what ads people remembered from television or radio. With a gecko, a caveman and Shrek getting top mentions, GEICO and Disney seem to be doing OK for brand recognition. But Andelman related an anecdote about how brand loyalty has become a fiction. “It’s like a bedtime story now,” he said, adding that his father (“a GM man”) and his uncle (“a Ford man”) would debate for hours over the relative virtues and deficiencies of their respective preferred brand name—every Thanksgiving for as long as Andelman can remember.
But a recent trip to Circuit City on the quest for a flat-screen TV really made Andelman aware of how much brand loyalty has disintegrated. “I figure Sony spent, like, a billion dollars to get me come in and say that I like Sony. And the kid looks at me and says, ‘Oh, no, no, no. You don’t want Sony. You want Mitsubishi.’ You know what I did? I said, ‘OK.’ And a billion dollars worth of brand loyalty went flying the window on the word of a 19-year-old with a vest and a name tag, and I came home with a Mitsubishi TV, as well as a DVD player and a VCR and a bunch of other things that I can’t stop from flashing 12:00.”
SET YOURSELF APART
So. You have a brand. You have a logo. Now, what’s your position? How do you differentiate yourself? If you’re stuck, Andelman points to a favorite inspiration of his: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. When women traded in aprons for careers that didn’t involve baking every day, the good folks at Arm & Hammer had the brilliant notion to reposition baking soda as a cleaning agent, a refrigerator deodorizer and a toothpaste additive. With that example in mind, ask yourself what you can you do to position yourself and your business—and set yourself apart.
More than a brand
Branding isn’t enough, anymore, Andelman said. “You have to position your organization in the minds of your prospects,” he explained. Positioning is what you think of when you hear a brand. Often, it ties into a marketing campaign. For example, American Express positions itself as a membership organization rather than a credit card, because, according to what you hear about American Express, “membership has its privileges,” but it’s OK that VISA is a credit card because it’s “accepted everywhere.”
These are more than marketing messages, however: They are position statements, and that’s where you come in. For advisors, the key to creating a position statement lies in figuring out what problems you can help solve. In other words, what do you specialize in? “If you’re the agent in town that specializes in legacy planning, you can own that position,” said Andelman. Similarly, if your specialization isn’t in a particular line but in creating financial health for your clients, that could be your position. “The human brain can remember a lot of brands, but once a position is occupied, it’s full,” he added.