June 20th, 2008
White noise is the combination of all sound frequencies, as white light is the combination of all light frequencies. When one hears white noise, he can discern nothing distinct. Bingo! That’s exactly what customers hear when all vendors seem alike — and most do.
Every industry has at least one trade association and a handful of trade magazines. Execs diligently read these publications and attend the associations’ conferences, where they listen to each other’s chest-pounding presentation of product & service offerings. Then, the attendees return to their respective offices to ruminate. Typically, after some internal meetings, they set out to copy their competitors. The result: by and large, each industry eventually reaches equilibrium — with all competitors looking and sounding alike, stuck in the white noise.
Companies loathe to stand out because people, in general, loathe to stand out, to be bold, to be unique. Don’t most people like to dress alike, be politically correct, avoid political discussions, join the “right” clubs? Yes, they do.
Look at politicians running for office. How many of them sound unique? It is rare. Or, if one sounds unique during a campaign, as Arnold Schwarzenegger did to unseat Gray Davis, he ultimately panders to special interests until his uniqueness fades. I voted for Arnold because his uniqueness and boldness excited me. I believed in him as a big force for change. Now, I barely can articulate anything distinct about his tenure.
Most often, I’ve chosen a product because a friend or salesperson recommended it. Why? Because not one vendor convinced me, through its efforts, of anything. Lousy, lazy marketing. A vendor that relies on salespeople and channel partners to create uniqueness in customers’ minds is incompetent.
In the past six months, I’ve walked out of several phone stores empty-handed — I couldn’t tell one cellphone from the other. No sale. I’m still waiting for one of the vendors to emerge from the white noise. I refuse to make a purchase out of desperation or frustration, or by default. I want to be totally convinced that the phone I buy is in a category by itself.
White noise is your enemy because it masks and obscures your company, thereby raising the randomness and cost of sales. If your management team doesn’t have the courage to be bold, unique, distinct, and differentiated — in a way that makes buyers take notice — your company will be relegated to the competitive white noise.
Do you want people to choose your products the way they usually choose political candidates — because every other one “seems” worse? If you don’t emerge as a standout from the white noise, that’s exactly what will happen.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2008 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.