What does it mean if your communications are generic?

By evoke
April 4, 2011

On the radio last week, a car dealership bragged that it has been offering the best customer service, repairs and pricing for over thirty years. Which dealership? It doesn’t really matter because it could have been any of them. Almost all car dealerships make the same basic, unsubstantiated claims because they don’t know what else to say.

This is a classic example of how something tactical – advertising – is sabotaged by something strategic – not knowing who you are. In other words, when you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what to say. So the only option is to communicate generic features and benefits that are common to everyone in your category.

The good news about generic communications is that it is a highly visible symptom that you likely have the serious strategic problem of not knowing who you are at your very core. So if you are frustrated that your communications sounds like all of your competitors, you know the solution isn’t to fix your communications, it is to do the deep dive to figure out who you are at the DNA level.

This deep DNA dive is the solution to your communications problems because knowing who you are identifies what makes you uniquely and enduringly remarkable. This is not the same as a positioning statement, tag line or any other temporary marketing expression. What makes you uniquely and enduringly remarkable will be as relevant in 5, 10 or 15 years as it is now. When you know who you are at the DNA level, all of your communications will differentiate you because it comes from what makes you uniquely and enduringly remarkable.

Back to our car dealer. Since every company has its own DNA and all DNA is unique, even our car dealer (every car dealer!) has something that makes it uniquely and enduringly remarkable. If it discovers who it is at the DNA level, it will be able to tell a far more compelling and differentiated story, and customers will be able to make their shopping choices on the basis of substance and relevance, not empty, generic rhetoric.

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