Don’t Let your Business Get Caught in the Middle

May 28th, 2008 Posted by Positioning 0 thoughts

A recent post by my colleague, Dick Hatch (about the slogan “Our people make the difference“) got me thinking. There are a number of common ad themes whose trite familiarity makes them invisible at best, laughable at worst. I’d like to nominate another candidate.

I’ve seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of banks, CPAs, furniture stores, builders, car dealers, and many other businesses claim in one way or another that they are:

“Big enough to serve you, small enough to care.”

Whenever I hear this, the very first thing I think is, “Wow, they need an ad agency. Or if they have one, they need a better one.”

Perhaps you think I shouldn’t feel this way, since our firm is so focused on positioning and repositioning companies. (After all, isn’t plopping yourself squarely at the center point of that big-to-small continuum a clear positioning?)

No. All that’s clear is that the company in question doesn’t know its positioning, or can’t decide. Oh, the deep thinking behind it is obvious enough. ‘People want personal service, but they don’t want to sacrifice the latest products/services/capabilities to get it.”

The biggest problem with this meaningless statement is that it speaks to no one in particular. If your company is known as one of the “big gorillas” in your industry, and you want a distinctive positioning that makes you the kinder, gentler big gorilla, fine. Conversely, if you’re a cute little friendly company, and want to make your point of difference—versus other cute little friendly companies—that you truly offer extended capabilities others your size do not, that’s also fine.

But this lame middle-ground attempt at “positioning” really says to the customer “whatever you already think we are, we’re the other thing, too.” To me, it is proof that they don’t really know WHO their customers are, or WHAT their customers really think, so they’re not taking any chances.

Pretty ironic. Because in my opinion, when you try to cover all the bases, you’re pretty sure to strike out.


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