Have you seen the TV ad for Angel Soft?Â Where the guy gets a close shave from a â€œtoo roughâ€ roll of toilet paper, then has a â€œtoo softâ€ roll explode into fluff as he catches it?
When it comes to business, we all struggle to find that balance.
Some companies are too rough, too literal, too direct.Â If you only talk about what you do, it’s hard for someone to differentiate you from others in your field.Â Which means it’s hard to build relationships and foster loyalty.Â For instance, when a bank talks about offering checking accounts, or a lawn care service talks about killing weeds.Â So what?Â Why should I choose you?
On the other hand, more and more companies are going to the other extremeâ€¦ too soft, too much fluff, not enough substance.Â For instance, check out the new thing in paint colors, courtesy of Valspar, Sherwin-Williams, and others.Â Like Quietude, Rejuvenate, and Synergy, which sound like scented candle fragrances.Â Or Weekend in the Country, Cozy Cottage, and Old World Romance, which might be the titles of bad hotel room artwork.
Apparently paint marketers have decided that colors don’t need to have anything to do with, well, color.Â Instead, they want to trigger thoughts and feelings and memories and all kinds of warm fuzzies.Â The problem is, if you love the name but hate the color, you’re not gonna buy.Â The emotional connection is too far removed from the product.
So where’s the middle ground? Here’s an example: the American Cast Iron Pipe Company.Â If you visit their website, you’ll see plenty of pipes and valves and hydrants.Â But you’ll also see a company that has developed a brand focused on service and quality, effective points of differentiation for their industry.
Whether you are a one-man shop or a Fortune 100 company, whether the face of your company is a website or a brochure or a sales rep, you have to find the balance between too rough and too soft.Â By all means, be who you are.Â But don’t let what you do get lost in the shuffle.
Have you found the right balance?
(Disclosure: I implemented a marketing research initiative for American Cast Iron Pipe Company as part of their rebranding effort).
The paint color example is such a good one. So many times, the “behind the scenes” discussion about how to manipulate the consumer into buying a product is written all over the ad campaign.
Another good one? “Have a happy period”. Don’t even get me started.