Don't Fear Differentiation | Sally Hogshead

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This is a podcast episode titled, Don't Fear Differentiation | Sally Hogshead. The summary for this episode is: <p>"Best in class" "Cheapest" "Fastest" </p><p><br></p><p>All of these "-est" words seem great to win in the moment. But that's all they are: momentary wins. If you really want to win as a B2B brand today, you need to create a relationship with your customers - one that survives on the longevity of the emotional connection you create by solving a pain point your customers have. People have a lot of different pain points, so how do you pick just one, and what differentiates your solution, or brand, from the others?</p><p><br></p><p>If you can answer these questions, Sally Hogshead, best-selling author and world-class branding expert, believes you'll be better than the rest.</p><p><br></p><p>In this episode of Revenue Talks, Sally explains the logic behind her newest book, <em>Different is Better</em>. She explains why B2B marketers shouldn't fear being different (in fact, why we should embrace it), why marketing can be a lot like online dating, and she physically draws out the chart that will help you decide what stage of differentiation your brand is in, and where you need to go, in order to win, in the Revenue Era.</p><p><br></p><p>Like this episode? Let us know by leaving a review! You can connect with Justin and Sally on Twitter @justinkeller, @SallyHogshead, and @DriftPodcasts.</p>

Katie Foote: Welcome to Revenue Talks. I'm Katie.

Justin Keller: And I'm Justin. And on this show, we get real about what it takes to build pipeline and successfully scale businesses.

Katie Foote: By having conversations with folks who have been there before, we explore what it takes to create strong, cross- functional alignment, how technology factors in, how different teams think about attribution and so much more.

Justin Keller: If you're looking to win in the revenue era, you're in the right place to learn how. Hello, everyone. I'm Justin Keller. Today, I'm honored to be here with Sally Hogshead. Sally is a world class branding expert, and no kidding, Hall of Fame speaker. Her books, How the World Sees You and Fascinate, which if you're just listening I'm holding up, it is a phenomenal book, I highly recommend you pick this up, were both New York Times best sellers. And guess what? She's got a brand new book that's about to drop called Different is Better Than Better, Sally, you and I met a few weeks ago in Drift's first event in a couple of years, FLASH Miami, and you gave one of the best talks I've literally ever seen. It had Luchador masks, it had explosions. It had the hottest takes of the whole event and it was all on topic of the book that you've got coming out.

Sally Hogshead: Get ready for the brand smack down. Who will be the winner? Introducing the difference, and in the other corner, the better beast, the B2B brand battle royale for supremacy. I'm Sally Hogshead. We're going to have the epic brand blowout battle. It's different versus better.

Justin Keller: So first of all, I'm extremely jazzed to order my copy when it comes out. But let's talk about it. This is a topic, it's near and dear to my heart. I've been in B2B marketing long enough to know how utterly dull and uninspired we can be. So thank you for calling us out on this. What inspired you to write Different is Better Than Better?

Sally Hogshead: Well first of all, thank you for that wonderful introduction, Justin. And let me ask you a question, when you were growing up, did anybody ever tell you that you needed to improve?" Just get better, try harder, fix this. You're weak over here, focus on that." Yeah. We grew up with a message, we as individuals, we grew up with a message that the winners are the ones who were better and the winners who were the ones who get the highest scores who can beat out other people. And so we have this built in conversation that all of us have running in the background all the time about," Well I need to be better, I need be better. I need to be better so that I can be the best." And the problem with that is in that thinking, there's only one person or one brand that can be the best and everybody else is an also ran. And I began to realize when I went back and I looked in my advertising career and I looked at the clients that not only did I love to work with, but that were loved by clients and customers, the ones that the press adored, were not the brands that were necessarily the best in a standard category. They were underdogs, they were mavericks. They had some a rebellious streak. And the key is this, now, a question that I asked the audience when I first began, if you had to choose, would you rather be better or would you rather be different? In other words, would you as an individual rather be better than your competition, better than the people that you're working with or against, or would you rather be different? Most of the audience said they would rather be better. And that's true with my research. What I found is 73% of people would rather be better and only 27% would rather be different because nobody told us to be more different. No little kid ever came home from school crying saying," Mommy, the other kids are making fun of me because I'm better." And you've seen this too, Justin, we have that thinking ingrained. We've worked with brands and for brands that say," We're the best in the category. We're the cheapest. We're the fastest. We're the est of something." And those kinds of competitive advantage are temporary. They're fragile. Technologies get beaten, awards get rusty. You have to constantly be able to create that emotional connection and the fastest, most consistent way to do that instead of spending more on your budget is to find something that's a quirk, an opinion, a part of your culture, something that you can build the brand around and build your employee culture around.

Justin Keller: Something you said there, that emotional connection I think is so important. And I think to your point, that brand message of dominance, I think it's boring, right? And you're right, it's a treadmill you can never get off of. But I also think it doesn't establish an emotional connection because so few of us are the alpha or the best in the room at anything. And connecting at a human level is something that happens when something's a little quirky, a little off, left to center. But so many companies are so afraid to try and be different. They just want to be dominant. They want to have blue as their primary color. They're okay with stock photos because they won't offend anyone. Why-

Sally Hogshead: I love the handshake one especially.

Justin Keller: Oh, yeah. Or-

Sally Hogshead: The guy crossing the finish line with a briefcase.

Justin Keller: My favorite's the two hands holding the dirt with the little sprouting out of it for growth.

Sally Hogshead: I like it when it's spelled out in type or dice.

Justin Keller: Yes.

Sally Hogshead: Yeah. Yeah. Actually stock photography is a great example of this. I'm not dissing on stock, but stock's not good if it looks like stock. It's only good if it looks real and human and authentic and magically wonderfully ever so slightly flawed.

Justin Keller: Yes. Agreed. Agreed. So I mean maybe this is tall feet, maybe your book's going to do this for us and I hope it does, but tell people like myself, other B2B marketers, why they should be unafraid to be different and to take a chance?

Sally Hogshead: B2B, even more so than B2C. Imagine there's B2B, there's B2C and then there are humans and humans aren't created in a lab called an ad agency or a marketing company. So we'll put humans aside for a minute. B2B has a bad reputation for being so focused on sales and being so focused on being perfect and being flawless that when the brand needs to grow, what the brand tends to do is they hire more people. They tell people to work more hours. They have a fancier lobby. They have shinier awards that they post about in the press. But they don't really get down to what is the brand offering on a deep emotional level? What is the outcome that this product or service is providing? If the product or service, say, is medical supplies, well what's the transformation that medical supply creates for, first of all, the client and then the end user? How does it make them feel? What happens if that client or end user doesn't have that product? Could things go badly? They could probably go really badly. Let's say it's financial services. Everybody wants to show up without a soup stain on their tie. They want to be able to have the numbers in a perfect PowerPoint. But the problem is as the market becomes more commoditized and crowded that being better doesn't win anymore because everybody starts sounding the same. Products and brands, products and services become a commodity the more perfect they try to be. The reality is your product is not perfect for everyone. Unless you're vanilla ice cream, your product is not perfect for everyone. But if you try to make it perfect, it will be perfect for nobody because nobody will fight for it, champion for it, evangelize for it, feel connected to it, argue for it, drive across town for it. And in my research, I found that when consumers are emotionally engaged with a product, here are the physical symptoms that they self- report, their pulse goes up. They feel a sense of focused attention. They want to research the product, or if it's a service, they want to be close to it. They want to participate. They post online. So the ROI of having fascinating facets of your product or service, it's the greatest competitive advantage that we have because it gets and keeps people's attention. The inability to get and keep people's attention in a crowded, distracted, overwhelmed marketplace is lethal. It's the slow downward spiral to obsolescence.

Justin Keller: It sounds like the brand response is a good first date. All of a sudden, the whole rest of the world just evaporates and your attention is totally focused because it's like," Oh, what's this? This is something that I personally am connecting with."

Sally Hogshead: Yeah. And actually, I'll take it a step further, Justin, not to get TMI, but I met my husband in online dating. We just celebrated our 12th anniversary. And we met on a site named Chemistry, which it was part of match. com, and you couldn't research other people. They had to reach out to you first. And my husband's online dating profile didn't say," Hi, I'm a lawyer." It didn't have something that pronounced why he was better. His online dating profile said," I have a tan, all my teeth and I can easily see my belly button. I read books without pictures, I watch movies with dialogue." And he was self- deprecating. And to me, not only was I wooed, but that's such a great mini case study that you described. We have to think of our marketing like online dating. Most people start their profile by saying," Hi, dog lover, walks on the beach, sunsets." Well okay, well do you have a tan and all your teeth?

Justin Keller: Right. People are trying to commoditize themselves, why? Why? You are a unique individual and lean into that. And I feel like that's exactly what your husband did, and clearly it worked.

Sally Hogshead: Well if I was his target audience. I mean if he had a different target audience, it-

Justin Keller: Well I mean exactly, I think you're a good target audience though, so I think he nailed it.

Sally Hogshead: Thank you.

Justin Keller: When you spoke at FLASH, and I think this is in your book, you talked about this concept of emblems. What do you mean? When we're talking to companies about emblems, what does that mean for them first of all? And how should they go about deciding," Okay, this is my emblem?"

Sally Hogshead: B2B brands struggle to find a quality about them that differentiates them, which makes it really hard especially for their sales team. And I'll give you an example. There's a company that I worked with several years ago, it's named Performics. And it's a publicly traded one of the world's largest search companies. And the problem that they were having is the sales teams were having a difficult time engaging in real conversation, real discussion with people. And so when they would sell the product, they sounded like automatons. And so my team and I spent a couple of days in the office and what we found was there were a lot of things about the Performics culture that were transformational. They had a strong internal dialogue. They knew each other really well. They were uninhibited in their office. People's areas in the office had all those funny quirky little things that we have that express our personality. But they didn't know how to do that in the sales process. And so we did an analysis of looking at different types of emblems. For example, what are the company's opinions? If there's one thing you do to differentiate yourself without spending more on marketing, it's this, what is your company's opinion about a white hot area that you can stand on completely? Another way to think about this is to describe it as what is an opinion of authority that you have? An opinion of authority is a belief that you have that it's probably counterintuitive, perhaps even counterculture, but that you can say with full confidence and backup, you can almost get on a soap box. An example of an opinion authority I have, every time you communicate, you are either adding value or you're taking up space. When you're adding value, people want to listen, connect, learn more and buy. If you're just taking up space, you become human spam. Now, I'm not saying that's a fact, I'm saying it's an opinion I have and it's an opinion I've developed because I'm an authority. So inside of a business, the example that I was giving you a moment ago about the search company, what this company believed in terms of search, an opinion that they had was that it was absolutely essential to not just have the most search results and the top search results, but the most descriptive ones. Well not everybody in their category had claimed that, not everybody believed that, but it was something that they could rally around. And so it became a discussion point in sales conversations. And as a result of this and other steps that we went through in making their brand more fascinating and more differentiated, they made more sales following two months than they had the previous year, and they had their best month that they'd had in four years. They didn't spend more money on marketing, this wasn't about new campaigns. It was about simply tapping into something that they already had which was an opinion of authority.

Justin Keller: Yes. And I mean it goes to what we started off with saying that the world's a big place. There's a lot of buyers in there. And if you want to be the dominant player, you're trying to boil the whole ocean. But really, it's like if you're marketing to everybody, you're marketing to nobody and it's okay to find a niche. In fact, you should find a niche, right?

Sally Hogshead: Well you should find a niche, but there are two schools of thought on it. One is pick the niche and then build the brand around it. Another way of thinking about it, and one is not better than the other, but you have to choose, the other one is look at your brand and then pick the niche. In other words, find the ideal target audience so that you can attract them. And this is a point that's really crucial to make about this differentiation between different and better, which is it's not different for the sake of different, it's different because that is of value to your ideal target. My last name is Hogshead and Hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 gallons. And so for years, my tagline has been," A Hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 gallons. So what's your last name, smart- ass?" And that was a header on my website. And I had people reach out and say," We would love to have you speak at our event or come reinvent our brand, but we can't because we don't think the boss is going to want somebody with the word smart- ass on the website." And I thought," Wow, fantastic. We got that out of the way." How great to not have to do really expensive exhausting culture checks? Now, that's on brand for me to be a little irreverent and to push people. And come on, I earned it with the last name Hogshead. But all brands have certain things about them that are not right for everyone, but are very, very right for the customer or client or consumer that they want and need more of in order to grow.

Justin Keller: I love that because the people that didn't want to hire you for that, great, right? You saved a lot of time, that's an easy deflection. And then the people that do want to hire you are like," Yes, we want Sally's brand of marketing leadership to come into us. We're okay being a little irreverent."

Sally Hogshead: Well the more specific you become on the benefit you deliver and the more willing you are to polarize people who are not your ideal customer, the more you will identify and attract people who will self- select to become your evangelist. And these are the ones, I mean they're hot and heavy and posting about you online and sharing about you online. I mean we all know in 2010, we all figured out that evangelists are the greatest marketing that we can have. We all know that we need to be different. What we haven't quite figured out yet is how to be different, and that's why in the process of creating this book, I had to go back and deconstruct in a focus group, how does a focus group find effective points of differentiation? And I'll give you an example with a consumer brand that we all know and love, and that's Coca- Cola. I had, I had many, many focus groups with Coca- Cola behind the mirror with the M&Ms and Sub sandwiches, and the most effective questions with a global brand that big that really is all things to all people, the most effective ones when coming up with marketing was to be able to elicit the biases and emotional connections that people consciously or unconsciously have, not just about Coke, but about how is Coke different than its primary competitor, which is Pepsi?

Justin Keller: Pepsi, right.

Sally Hogshead: So in the case of Coke, what came out in the research was that sometimes Coke, it is effective for them to be using cutesy polar bears at Christmas time. Oh, I'd like to buy the world a smile. Other times it might be a famous performing artist. But the key was that Coke always came back to delightful refreshment. There had to be an element of delight and refreshment. Pepsi is not delightful refreshment. It's an excellent brand, but it's much more about image and modern identity. So in the same way, in a focus group, think back to, even if you don't literally do a focus group, what are the emotional connections, biases and unspoken qualities that your brand becomes a cue or a signal for in conversations of social currency, online, in the news, in the media, in the stores, word of mouth?

Justin Keller: That's amazing, even thinking about a brand as ubiquitous as Coke still having a tiny corner that they want to own, and just how pervasive that can become. For those of us that don't work at brands that are quite as big as Coca- Cola, how do we position? How do we find where we are? Is there a way that we can pick the spot? You talked about owning that white hot spot. How can we define what our company is currently and where we need to go?

Sally Hogshead: The smaller your budget, the greater your competitive advantage because you can't afford to be all things to all people. And every brand has a choice. Every brand, every person, every identity out in the marketplace, you can either have the biggest budget and be the most famous, or you can be the most fascinating. But if you don't have the biggest budget, and really nobody says," Oh, my budget's plenty big." I've never heard somebody in marketing say," Oh, no, we're set. We're good." Here's how to think about it. When we were together at Drift, I described an access and I'm going to do a super speedy version of this. I want you to think of an access like this. There is the better is vertical, incremental improvement. Better says we're going to be just 0.04% better than the competition, or we're going to spend 6% more in this media buy. Okay, so better only gets you so far. Different on the other hand is non- linear, it's the creative process. It's experimentation with the understanding that there's going to be some risk because you have to discover something that doesn't exist. Better, just builds on what already exists, different is actually discovering something that doesn't currently exist. If we look at brands, everybody wants to live here, better and different. I mean of course. That's why when I said at Drift if you, as an individual had to choose, would you rather be better or different? And the room got a little uncomfortable because that said, that's not a choice we want to make and it's not a choice that we think we have to. Well if you're Tesla, if you're Oprah, if you're Disney, if you're The Rolling Stones, you don't have to make that choice. If you're in a crowded, distracted, competitive marketplace, you do. Okay, now we're going to see how bad my handwriting is. This is where most B2B brands live. They aspire to be better, but they don't aspire to be different. At one point in their growth, maybe when they were a startup or they launched a new product, they were different. But the problem is different starts getting dulled down over time. In the same way that when we're seven- years- old and we get made fun of on the playground for something about ourselves, in my case, the last name Hogshead, we start to shave off those edges and we begin to try to fit in. So instead of being distinctive and instead of standing out, we work on just making sure that nobody's going to make fun of us. In a sense, brands do the same thing especially as their budgets get bigger. In my former world of advertising agency, Jay Chiat asked a great question of Chiat/ Day, Steve Jobs' former partner, he said," How big can we get before we get bad?" And we've all seen this happen with marketing companies. They're so creative when the founders are involved and then suddenly as things become delegated and as more people get involved and committees get bigger, decisions start going downhill. Okay. Now, there's not different, not better which is the outlet mall. Not different, not better is where you go when once you're better, not different, you begin to lose your competitive advantage because any competitive advantage that lives in here is temporary and can be copied. And so then, once you become the cheapest option in your category and you're the Kodak, the Betamax, the Blockbuster, the Oldsmobile, you become obsolete. And this is where brands go to die. Now, they can still live. Do you remember Ed Hardy? It was tattoo themed. Ed Hardy, you can still buy it 85% off at the Macy's outlet mall. But problem is that as competition rose, they didn't change. But now here, ding, ding, ding, ding, and look, I even have a highlighter so I'm going to put this here, which is here's where you want to live. This is different, but not necessarily focused on better. Doesn't mean you're not better, it just means that's not your focus of different. It's a mindset that instead of saying," That's my competition, I'm going after them," it's saying," I need to create a competitive space that nobody else owns quite yet. Or I need to create a type of relationship. Or I need to create something that I can own and then continue to differentiate." And so what brands tend to do, at startups, they focus on different, not better because they don't have the other resources. Then sometimes, they move up to better and different. And this is the glory days when a brand is on the lips and the minds and in the wallets of its ideal target. But then they start making more money and then they go down here. So what a lot of us are finding that we have to do is we have to consciously pick up how we're communicating, move it over to the other spot. And I'll tell you, I had that situation when I was getting ready for the Drift keynote, because although I won't say that I live there, there are ways in which as a keynote speaker and an author and a creative person it's easy to fall into patterns and habits. And then the world catches up. And suddenly, retweeting people doesn't get you followers on Twitter and doing the same speech or writing the same book or focusing on the same ideas begins to fall behind. And so part of this keynote, I was actually very nervous about and we had a lot of internal dialogue about can we push it as hard as we want to with literally having wrestlers, one representing different, one representing better, battle it out? And what would that look like? And it was only when we kept giggling at having ding, ding," Okay, here they are, they're going after each other," and having flames and explosions and just all those great connotations that we figured if we founded that funny that you would too.

Justin Keller: And it's one of those things where it did, it slapped people across the face and got them to pay attention. And that's what we want to get to here. And I think the quadrant, by the way, if you're listening, you should watch the video because the quadrant's really impressive, but it's one of those things where you're absolutely right. As soon as you get to some scale, brands start to die, they become boring because you need to start to be a little bit ubiquitous and you don't have that edge anymore. If you're a marketer listening to this right now, you're probably having this issue because this is just an everyday B2B marketer problem is like," Okay, we've got brand standards, we've got legacy brand promises, we've got huge stakeholder committees that don't let us make the bold moves." We usually have on this podcast our signature question and I'm going to change it today just for you.

Sally Hogshead: All right. Different is better.

Justin Keller: Exactly. Yeah. Look me, accidentally on brand with you. Thank you. For those stuck in a rut marketers, can you give us your best elevator pitch for why differentiation, making that the number one priority for them is the one thing they should do to accelerate revenue this year?

Sally Hogshead: I'm going to answer your question with a quick story. My father, my 90- year- old father, Howard Hogshead is a retired orthopedic surgeon. And 50 years ago, a man, one of his patients, went up into a pecan tree and was picking pecans, fell, broke his back and was told he would never walk again. My dad performed surgery and the man is still alive and well and out picking pecans. Every Christmas, we get a one pound box of pecans. We don't know who the man is, we have no record. There are no phone calls, there are no letters. But every year at Christmas time, we have pecan pie. And we think how blessed my dad is to have changed that many lives in a ripple effect. It's okay to be consistent as long as you are intentionally, consistently consistent, and that itself becomes a differentiator. So we're not talking about changing. You don't have to change your brand, you have to become more of your brand. So identify what are the things that your customers appreciate most, think about, feel about, talk about the most, and then do that on purpose.

Justin Keller: I could listen to you talk all day. I wish we could talk all day. This has just been the most fascinating conversation I've had on this podcast so far.

Sally Hogshead: Oh.

Justin Keller: Sally.

Sally Hogshead: Yay.

Justin Keller: Thank you so much for joining us today. New book coming out, Different is Better Than Better. So check for it on... It's going to be on New York Times bestseller, I already know it because it's so good. The presentation was absolutely phenomenal. This conversation was absolutely inspiring to me, so cannot thank you enough, Sally.

Sally Hogshead: It's so great to be able to talk to you, Justin. Thank you again. I'm really, really grateful to the whole team at Drift.

Justin Keller: Thank you so much for listening to Revenue Talks. We'd love it if you left a review wherever you're listening and hit subscribe so you never miss a new episode. You can connect with us both on Twitter @ KatieJfoote with an E and @justinkeller. And remember, revenue, it's everyone's business now.


"Best in class" "Cheapest" "Fastest"

All of these "-est" words seem great to win in the moment. But that's all they are: momentary wins. If you really want to win as a B2B brand today, you need to create a relationship with your customers - one that survives on the longevity of the emotional connection you create by solving a pain point your customers have. People have a lot of different pain points, so how do you pick just one, and what differentiates your solution, or brand, from the others?

If you can answer these questions, Sally Hogshead, best-selling author and world-class branding expert, believes you'll be better than the rest.

In this episode of Revenue Talks, Sally explains the logic behind her newest book, Different is Better. She explains why B2B marketers shouldn't fear being different (in fact, why we should embrace it), why marketing can be a lot like online dating, and she physically draws out the chart that will help you decide what stage of differentiation your brand is in, and where you need to go, in order to win, in the Revenue Era.

Talking Points:

  • (2:25) What inspired Sally to write Different is Better Than Better? 
  • (6:44) Why B2B Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to be different
  • (10:54) We have to think of our marketing like online dating
  • (11:47) How companies should decide what their “emblem” is
  • (15:18) The two schools of thought for finding your niche
  • (20:32) Sally’s chart for defining what stage your company is at, and where you need to go
  • (28:26) Why differentiation should be the number one things all brands do to accelerate revenue this year

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