Cadpeople partner and CSO, Thomas Juel, continuously takes part in the Troubleshooter panel, in which challenges in business life are raised up for discussion.

The most recent challenge was a qualified answer to the following problem:

Many companies need to stand out from their competitors, but that can be really hard because one is seldom the only one with “good customer service” or “fair prices”. What do you recommend that companies do to differentiate themselves positively from their competitors?

Ohne Herz wären wir nur Maschinen…
Some years ago, I found myself at a football stadium in Frankfurt and happened to see the local pride.
Eintracht Frankfurt tries to secure a home victory over Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga. Alfa Romeo had just become the sponsor for Eintracht and had to launch its new sponsorship …All of a sudden it became dark in the stadium, and it got completely quiet.  Seconds later, the darkness and the silence were replaced by all of the LED banners and giant screens turning red, and the simple message “Ohne Herz wären wir nur Maschinen” – without a heart, we would just be machines – lit up the whole stadium. I got goosebumps, the home crowd went berserk, and now, a good six years later, I distinctly remember the experience and the feeling that it gave me and, not least, the company and the product behind it. But what was it, actually, that Alfa did?

Emotional differentiation
It was, by its nature, a bit of a task to market an Italian car brand in Southern Germany, where slogans such as “Vorsprung Durch Technik” and “The Best or Nothing” filled most of the automotive landscape at that time. So what do you do when you are not necessarily able to join in all of the rational arguments, and on the south German home pitch at that? Now, unfortunately, I was not at the table when Alfa thought out their activation of the sponsorship, but you bet they knew that they would have a hard time battling brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes on the rational arguments, and thus had to find something else?

In any case, they elegantly chose to play on the passion, the pleasure, the design, the road-holding qualities and, not least, the feeling of driving an Alfa. At the same time, they created a communications platform on which they could also meet the competitors’ arguments with a little twinkle in the eye: “Heart or only machine, you choose”…
It was also no coincidence that they launched the campaign at full speed at a football stadium, where heart, passion and feelings are mostly what fill it. In other words, the context was also in place!

We all cannot be best at everything, but we all are good at something
Research shows that many decisions are often made emotionally by one centre in the brain, after which they are subsequently rationalized (explained) in another.  If it exclusively dealt with the rational, i.e. being the cheapest, the best, the quickest or the most effective, there are rather many companies that would not exist today.

In fact, it goes without saying that not everyone can be the best at everything – have the sharpest price, the best quality, the best service or overall the best product – and, therefore, the concept of branding exists, among other things.  When we brand ourselves as a company, we create a narrative around the company and thus an identity, a mutual connection or an expectation of us as a company.

Before we can do that, it is important, however, to take three steps back to find our way into our real core story and the slightly harder USPs (Unique Selling Propositions). In the process, it is important to combine the rational arguments with the more emotional types. That also includes discussing how we pack that into good storytelling, offer possible experiences together with our brand, and create the associations and feelings that our company would like to be known for. That, in fact, helps to position and differentiate – or brand – the company – even if you are not the best at everything.

Brand Camp with MHI Vestas Offshore Wind
Every other year, I spend a couple of days together with MHI Vestas Offshore Wind at what we call Brand Camp (not to be confused with Band Camp). At an out-of-the-way place away from the company and without the everyday interruptions, we revisit the company’s strategy and discuss market, trends, target groups, competitors, opportunities and more. The output from these days is an updated communications strategy for the near future, which among other things can contain a revised communications platform, a list of possible topics and stories, and quite tangible, practicable ideas, all of which support the company’s overall “why” and the strategic goals and subsidiary goals. With this tool in hand, we ensure a common unifying thread in our communication, which we do not deviate from unless the game board changes.
At the same time, it is markedly easier to get creative ideas about the various projects that we, together, look into afterwards when we have a common framework for the generation of ideas.

The Troubleshooter panel in Erhverv+ | Thomas Juel, Cadpeople 14 June 2019. See the original article right here.