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Parroting Your Competitors

Every day, when I wake up in the morning, a number of thoughts go through my mind. Like most of us I berate myself for the late night I had. I curse the amount of sleep my body seems to need and I negotiate furiously with my alarm clock. However, like the rest of the zombie populous, I give in to the obligation of the day and I stagger wearily into my shower. Today I’d like to talk about what happens after that… I get dressed.

Now, I’m a designer, so I don’t wear a suit every day. My look is a carefully crafted combination of untucked collared shirts with two buttons open at the top (three is for partying on a yacht and one is the most common identifier for a sociopath), dark jeans, brown fancy shoes that I bought for that wedding that one time and a laptop bag draped over one shoulder (reminiscent of the cool-guy backpack in high school; two straps is for hiking, bru).

Why do I do this? Simple, when I meet someone I do business with I need to look the part. I need to look like I know what the hell I’m doing but also creative enough to look like I do something that my clients don’t.

First impressions matter, and they matter because we connect our experiences to visual cues.

This is probably not news to you. You’ve already realised that construction workers can’t wear slippers because all that standing around needs blister protection, and lawyers need to suit up because verbal abuse in takkies is a little more ‘gym teacher’ and a little less ‘Harvey Spectre’.

What business owners don’t always realise is this: Just like me, your business needs to look the part.

That’s where people like us come in (and sadly we often come in far too late).

Your marketing strategy is very important, but your creative needs to be on point. These days managing consolidated image is often overlooked. If you’d like some examples, please join me over at the giant spinning wheel of ‘things that clients say to us that we hate’.

“Make the logo bigger”

“C’mon man, we’ve paid for this ad space, let’s use it”. What lots of people in non-visual industries tend to overlook is that the vast majority of your target market actually has no problem with their eyesight.

“Spice it up”            

(Please adopt best Chandler-from-friends impression) Could you be any vaguer? I can photoshop your product till it’s spinning through space on fire, but I’d very much like to know, why?

“Make it look professional”

Here’s the kicker. Here is the undisputed, most uttered sinful feedback in the wide world of pandering to clients.

Whenever someone says this to me I immediately translate it into it’s true, ugly form which is: ”Make it look like my competitor’s ad, which I admire”.

Every day Joe Soap selling Joe’s Soap employs an agency to make him a carbon copy of a Lux ad.

Now, I don’t like to tell clients what to do (well, I do, but usually I can’t), but this is completely the wrong way to go about marketing your product.

Whenever a product or service requires a new creative format we designers like to put together something called a CI. Clients tend to think that acronym stands for ‘Cost Increased’ because they simply can’t understand why a twenty-five-page document is necessary when they simply want to pump out a couple of ads. Of course, it really stands for ‘Corporate Identity’.

A CI is a handbook/bible for the graphic representation of your company, product or campaign. It covers everything from what typeface you use to whether you can comfortably include a bunch of models in bikinis. CIs are very important. SO important, in fact, that I will elaborate on how they work in a later post. For now, suffice it to say that your image needs to be right for you, and a CI is one of the methods we use to achieve that.

As a business owner, when you look out into the imposing landscape of your competition, I encourage you to keep three things in mind.

  1. My product

You are not the sales exec for your competitor. You believe that whatever it is you’re offering has its own value. That’s why you started, and if you don’t believe that, then you’d better start again.

  • My market

Whether you want to break into an existing market or cater to a completely new one, repeating what your competitors have already done is just burnt toast.

  • My vision

What your company offers and who you are as an entity is presented to the world with every piece of interaction that flies around your office, introduces itself as the new intern, or emblazons its logo from a giant billboard into the poor, near-sighted eyes of mass consumerism. Take your image seriously and let it present what you want it to present.

Take the gleaming hand of innovation an let it lift you out of the sad, blow-up kiddie pool of conformity. Let’s talk, like the grown-ups do, of ground-breaking ideas and brand-new roads to success.

Take the risk and be yourself.

With many tjoons for many moons, all my love,


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