The title of a recent post by Contently asked the question, “Can publishers convince consumers to trust native advertising?” Unfortunately, I think Contently is putting the onus on the wrong party.
Publishers like The Globe and Mail or New York Times shouldn’t have the sole responsibility for trying to convince their readers to trust native advertising – they shouldn’t even have the majority ownership of that problem. It should be the primary responsibility of the companies who have developed the sponsored content. It’s their job to create a brand that is so trusted by the market that readers will still trust that the sponsored content has their best interests in mind, because that’s the real problem. When a reader sees that content is “sponsored”, they immediately think someone’s trying to sell them something – I know I do. Without that trust in the brands themselves - or in other words without trusting that the brands have the readers’ best interests at heart - it will be difficult for any publisher to convince a reader that native advertising isn’t there to sell them something.
Amanada Lang, co-host of CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange and senior business correspondent for CBC News, has a unique perspective on competitive advantage.
Over the years of her business reporting and interviewing, she’s come to believe that curiosity is a key source of individual and organizational competitive advantage. In her recent book The Power of Why, she outlines why curiosity is so important to success and how you can leverage it in your personal, and business, life to achieve your goals.
As you can tell, I believe that understanding and communicating your BIG Diff is one of the most important things an organization can do.
In my last post, I talked about how Toyota is able to align with a greater purpose – something that’s only distantly related to cars – to differentiate itself. This is a real feat considering that many people would consider cars in Toyota’s competitive set (e.g. Honda, Kia, Hyundai, etc.) as overall being “generic” or “commoditized”, i.e. there’s little to tell them apart (that wouldn’t apply to Toyota’s Lexus brand though).
So here’s an example from another “commoditized” category – beer – that should act as a warning of what NOT to do. This TV ad is filled with generic scenes (golf, the beach, a patio) and talks about generic things that really mean nothing (“you’re a complicated diverse creature”). You could substitute Michelob beer with a host of other low-calorie beers and you wouldn’t need to change a thing about the ad, in either look or content. The only reason I noticed it at all was because my business background gives me a different POV on ads. At least Coors Light creates a somewhat differentiated personality for itself.
So how do you avoid becoming generic? Once again, it comes down to defining your BIG Diff first. It could be found in the product itself (as Lululemon or Canada Goose do), the personality (as Coors does), in a higher purpose (as Toyota does), or the experience (as Porter Airlines does), but you need that defining idea first before anything else. Once that’s done, you then have a clear understanding of what makes your product/service different from the competition, and you can execute your marketing to focus on those things to build your business.
That’s not news and it’s not a lot different from what Honda and other quality car makers do.
But once you’ve watched this video, I bet you’ll feel differently about Toyota than you do about Honda (and the rest). It has little to do with the cars themselves and it may even influence your next car purchase.
So why is that? What does this video do that helps Toyota differentiate themselves from the competition in a way that their existing and prospective customers will value?
As the title of this post suggests, it comes down to associating Toyota’s “BIG Diff” to a greater purpose. One of Toyota’s “BIG Diff’s” is its approach to making cars (aka lean manufacturing). That, in itself, offers consumers a great reason to buy Toyota because it ensures high quality cars at low cost. But when they apply that same manufacturing expertise to helping those in need – a greater purpose beyond cars – it elevates the company in the mind of the market to a different place, a more emotional place. And considering how important emotions are in the buying process (research shows it’s responsible for at least 50% of any decision), this ability to create an emotional connection is critical. Now, Toyota can be associated with not just great cars (rational) but also with enabling a better community, society and even world, and its this emotional link that is differentiating and valuable to the market.
The question of how to do this is complicated and warrants its own post. But, at the simplest level, you can ask yourself how the net benefits of your product/service can be expanded to positively influence your community or society. For example, if you run a hair salon, you could tie your company to the greater purpose of helping people improve their confidence, instead of just focusing on cutting and styling hair.
It may at first seem a small thing but I’d argue that it’s a critical difference in an economy where there are so many options for your clients and prospects to choose from, and one that can help you develop your BIG Diff to grow more profitable.