"No one really cares how clever you are. They're too busy asking themselves why they should care about what you have to say".
Whether you're a creative selling yourself or your agency, or a client selling your product or service, it's easy to get ensnared in the trap of thinking "We already have a great product. All we need to do is tell people about it."
If your client says this or a version of it, take my advice: excuse yourself and run, far and fast. If you're a client and you find yourself saying this, consider for a moment: If it were as easy as telling the world you have a better product - every innovative solution in the history of ever would be a great success. Yet history is littered with great, wonderful, life-changing new products and services that ultimately failed to catch on.
Now yes, there are a host of other non-advertising reasons why some ventures fail and others succeed, but ultimately history shows us that from a communications standpoint it's simply not enough to tell someone you have something better for them to buy. You have to SELL to hearts first, and minds second. That's right, no one cares how clever you are.
Designers and their clients are all equally susceptible to this. We're all human beings after all -- complete with egos and pride in our breakthroughs and successes. We want the world to see us and value what our efforts have created. And therein lies the trap: We too often waste our energy and money because we're trying to sell the value of ourselves, our company or our offering instead of focusing on something with 1000x the power to motivate someone:
The value of how what we do addresses a fundamental want or need for our audiences – at an emotional level that THEY CARE ABOUT.
That value has nothing to do with how clever we are, or how well made our product is, or how many experts worked on it, or how advanced our laboratories are, or how in love you might be with a 10,000 word abstract covering the basics of 4 years of groundbreaking research into revolutionizing the widget materials logistics industry. OR how award-winningly creative you or your studio might be. All those things are valuable, but they're just not as valuable to our audiences as we lead ourselves to believe.
Communicating a benefit to someone's life, or their business' bottom line in a memorable, compelling way is the clearest path to establishing, forging and reinforcing strong emotional bonds. Being empathetic and audience-focused should be the basis for everything creatives, communicators and businesspeople do. How does what we do, and what we produce, impact the people we serve? Are we asking this question nearly as often as we should?
Ultimately, this issue is why most market-driven strategies for communication and branding feel stale and fall flat. We know our markets, but we forget our audiences do too – in more sophisticated ways we often fail to give them credit for. So the collective noise our markets generate as they innundate people thousands of times a day with market-driven messages is deafening.
The people we serve, especially if they are Millennials or Gen Z, long ago learned how to tune out the same old ways of marketing, advertising and communicating. It's simply just not authentic enough for them. And for Gen X Boomers and older, it's just all part of the information overload of daily life. Either way, it has lead just about everyone we want to attract to carry just one fundamental question in their minds when we approach them:
"Why should I CARE?"
If your branding communications aren't being driven by this question, you're just chasing people in the hopes they will notice. No amount of data, or lists of benefits, features capabilities or services is going to inspire action of deliver customers as well as old-fashioned emotional connections.
How can you start the process of pivoting to helping your audiences care about what you do? One methodology I've found incredibly simple and useful for breaking old habits is The Job-To-Be-Done. If you regularly sort through mountains demographics, consumer personas and psychographic profiles, good news: The Job-To-Be-Done can change your life.
In essence, demographics matter much less if you could put your finger on the underlying situations, motivations and desires of your average customers. And if you could simply and powerfully state those situations, motivations and desires to your team, you'd create powerful lenses through which to guide and focus your marketing. Because if you haven't guessed the connection yet: The situation I'm in + the things that I'm motivated by + the outcomes I desire = What I Care About. It a powerfully simple formula. And a fun Mad-Lib style exercise that can have multiple insightful answers.
"When I _______," (the Situation)
"I want _______," (the Motivation)
"So I can _______." (the Outcome)
Try filling one out based on a project you'r working on. A good Job To Be Done should let all the jargon fall away and reveal a deeper insight into what might drive your audience to act.
You'll experience how powerful it can be to operate from an empathetic point-of-view, and be ready to start building brand experiences that will attract your audiences to you – instead of chasing after their attentions.