Having worked in the creative industry for more than 20 years, Matt Clark, Creative Director at full-service marketing, advertising and digital agency, The Works, has seen the marketing landscape shift dramatically over the years. Here, he explains why there really is no such thing as a 'USP' and uses science to explain how marketing campaigns and brand messaging have changed (yes, really!)
When it comes to creativity we tend to think about style and the infinite possibilities of the universe and rainbows, but marketing these days is more scientific than just pretty colours and pictures. There are now so many ways that your brand or advertising message can be distributed that you should consider everything right at the beginning of the process, ensuring it can then filter out to the four corners of the globe..A good way to think about the way creative ideas are applied and consumed is by using the states of matter theory- stick with me and you’ll see what I mean!
Not so long ago the marketing landscape was very different. Let’s call it the ‘solid’ state where a company would produce a small number of big, key communications pieces. The marketing mix would tend to be; a TV ad (with only two channels to choose from), a press or poster campaign, direct mail and corporate or product brochures. A lot of time was spent on these few communications pieces and they could have had a common theme, or possibly worked completely independently to each other. Creative ideas were static and needed very little cohesion or flexibility, like the molecules of a solidÉdo you see where I’m going with this?
Fast forward a few years and things began to ‘heat’ up. I call this the ‘liquid’ state, where more communications channels became available. As well as terrestrial TV, press, posters and brochures, there was now the internet, a website, cable and satellite television to consider. Brands and their marketing had to become more flexible and open to translation across more varied media channels. A brand had to be able to spread across so many more places and media, and therefore, it was becoming more important to be able to present it in a more unified way.
Back in the present, we’re now in the ‘gas’ state, and there are more communications channels than ever before. Gas molecules are spread out and constantly moving around in directions you cannot control, much like your brand and marketing. You now have far less ability to control and contain messages once they have been released, so it’s imperative that your brand message is clear, cohesive and as simple as possible. You now exist across TV, outdoor, press, print, your website, other people’s websites, email, social media, on-demand, online advertising and whatever the latest ‘new thing’ is.
This gaseous state can be a fantastic thing. Social media is free and can reach a huge audience. Digital advertising like Sky Adsmart can be extremely targeted and cost effective. But the more places you are seen, the more important it becomes to present a unified message.
So, where does this unifying message come from? In almost every area of business someone else will be doing what you do. They may be better or worse, cheaper or more expensive. I don’t think there really is such a thing as a ‘USP’, but there is always a ‘YouSP’. Rather than trying to think of a completely ‘unique’ selling point, think of ‘your’ selling point. What makes you different and worth considering? Is it what you do or how you do it? Is it your company’s ethos or a product benefit? Find this ‘YouSP’ and then focus on it with everything you say, everywhere you say it. That way all the little molecules of ‘You’ that are spreading all over will work together.
When it comes to your brand and message, always remember, “any fool can make things complicated, it takes a genius to make things simple.” It’s not about being unique, it’s about being you.