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28 2011

Finding Competitive Advantage in Negativity.

Syndicated from: The Essential Message

Finding Competitive Advantage in Negativity. A young Jewish man was shipwrecked and stranded on a desert island. He was alone there for forty years until he was finally rescued. His rescuers were amazed to find that he had built an entire town using driftwood and palm trees. No longer a young man, he walked with a cane, but he was clearly proud of the town he had built, and offered to take his rescuers on a tour. It was truly incredible. As they passed the buildings, the old man pointed with his cane: “Here’s the synagogue, there’s my home, that’s the convenience store…” One by one, he pointed out the buildings until they came to the last one: “And here’s the synagogue.” “Wait a minute,” asked one of the rescuers. “Didn’t you already show us the synagogue?” “Ah yes,” the old man answered in a Yiddish accent. “But that one – I wouldn’t set foot in if you paid me!” That’s an old Jewish joke, but it could probably apply to any nationality or ethnic group. It’s only human nature to understand what you like by first identifying what you don’t like. For most of us, what we don’t like is easier to identify than what we do like. Imagine you are buying a pair of shoes. If you’re like most people, your purchase decision-making is highly informed by the negative experiences you have had with your previous pairs of shoes. You might think to yourself, “I want a more comfortable fitting shoe because the last pair I had killed my feet!” This is not to suggest that positive outcomes are not important, but rather that traditional marketers tend to overlook the value of negative experiences. Indeed, you might also think to yourself, “I got lucky the last time I wore shoes with pointy toes – I want a pair with even pointier toes!” ‘New & Improved’…  compared to what?? The negative comparison principle applies in all enhancements and, in fact, all progress in this world. Solutions are developed not in isolation, but always in response to a problem or a challenge. If the problem didn’t exist, there would be no need for any improvement or differentiation. In the back of your mind, you are always comparing your options against a negative experience or a challenge that’s keeping you from achieving a positive experience. Negative experiences are extremely powerful motivators, even if you think you are more motivated by positive goals and outcomes. Elections are often believed to be mostly won and lost on the basis of negativity. Incumbent governments are elected because people can no longer stand the policies of the old one. Or current governments are kept in power because people are more afraid of the greater harm a new one might bring. “Ah yes,” the old man answered in a Yiddish accent. “But that one – I wouldn’t set foot in if you paid me!” Throughout my entire career in branding and as a professional copywriter and marketing consultant, I have always gained extremely useful insights into my clients’ competitive advantages, and into the true needs/wants of their customers, by exploring negative experiences, perceptions and results. I have come to call this approach, ‘Reverse Benefit Analysis™’. Reverse Benefit Analysis is fundamental to the Essential Message approach. It’s an especially powerful way to understand your own thought process that may be so natural and intuitive to you, you may not even realize how you do what you do. If someone has ever asked you, “how do you do what you do?” and you’ve shrugged your shoulders in response, this applies to you. If you run a company where your competitive advantage is unclear, this applies to your business. (In fact, using this approach, I helped one company achieve a 60% year-over-year increase in sales.) In the Essential Message workbook How Many Bananas Do You Have?, you use Reverse Benefit Analysis to explore two areas: first, to help you uncover key components in your system or methodology that may be invisible to yourself; second, to identify key attributes that point to your competitive advantage. The logic of it goes something like this: You provide a solution to a problem in the form of a service, product, approach or methodology. Your solution is superior than alternative solutions in one or more ways. The reason why your solution is superior is the same reason why the alternative solutions are inferior. Alternative solutions may be inferior because they violate fundamental principles, have the wrong ingredients or don’t take into account a specific sequence or process. If you’re like most people, brainstorming the positive attributes alone doesn’t get you anywhere new; you keep coming up with the same, old competitive advantages as everyone else — which, by definition, are not competitive advantages at all precisely because all your competitors are saying pretty much the same thing. Reverse Benefit Analysis helps you focus on what is wrong about alternative solutions and then, by working backwards, you identify your truly unique competitive advantage. Try it! Essentially yours, Michel Neray Chief Differentiation Officer The Essential Message P.S. If you want to take a closer look at the ‘Bananas’ workbook, click here.

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