It’s the same on a mountain. You may have heard of the long queues on Mt Everest. Here are people who’ve trained hard for the climb to the summit, all wanting to be totally amazing, working hard to reach the summit, which is quite some achievement in life (don’t underestimate the challenges), but there they are in a human log jam. Ask any one of them, and they’ll say, “I feel stuck.”
There are, of course, other routes to the summit. But those require unique skills, and those unique skills are for the few, not the many.
In business and life you may achieve much and still be in the mundane queue. The queue of those being safe, secure, working hard, doing unique things, just like everybody else. How many job applicants are applying for senior consulting jobs in the big four consultancies? Many many is the answer but they’re not getting hired because they are mundane, unique, just like every other applicant.
You are unique just like everybody else
Oh this sort of thing drives me nuts. We are not unique. We are the same as everyone. As soon as we say we’re unique we fuel the ego and start ourselves on a very boring trail of identity rigidity. You are no better or worse than anybody else and it’s about time we took that to heart and pulled the self-help (oxymoron) to bits. It’s the fastest growing industry on earth and totally filled with generic crap.
Every human being has every human trait. Surely it’s time to allow us to cross over those racial and religious borders that infiltrate our corporate cultures? When someone says you are different, or have strengths and weaknesses, tell em to shove it.
You have preferences, habits, ideas and thoughts that you might hold on to in the hope that you’ll be different, but in the end, you’l find yourself in a log jam of “blah blah” same old boring stuff, just repackaged.
Differentiation is essential however. Not in who you are, not in your unique ideas and gifts or talents, not in how you look or feel, your uniqueness comes in what you deliver to others.
PERSONAL COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Beyond the physical, emotional and mental levels of compliance, essential for self preservation there’s another world. A world where motivation turns to inspiration and you start to deliver a service or product that nobody else can. This space is not a competitive space, has nothing to do with who you are, and isn’t built on any form of personal uniqueness. (actually quite the opposite).
When you get over trying to fix, change, improve, differentiate or manipulate who you are as a person you get an out of jail card. You get inspired to deliver something to the world or those around you that nobody else can. You might be a unique singer but that doesn’t make you unique. You’ll still have a bum to do poo and a head from which you talk. It’s not your thoughts or religion or beliefs or uniqueness that defines you. It’s what you do for others.
The following information is adapted and modified from The Future Beyond Brands by Kevin Roberts.
The Constancy of Human Nature
We have an extraordinary opportunity to make profound new inspirational connections with customers. The unchanging aspirational repertoire of human beings, our shared heritage, ensures that the world of tomorrow will be basically as familiar to us as the world of yesterday.
One theme that is ironically unique is the constancy of human nature. Why? Because to adapt best to a changing world, you have to know what should not change, and you should base that on what cannot change. My contention is that what should not change is whatever we do that connects most powerfully with people. With human nature.
I’m talking about people, and not consumers, very deliberately. I’m convinced that the spirit of this new millennium is shifting us from consumption powered by transactions and information to aspirational connections created by relationships. The balance of power switched from manufacturers to retailers in the ’90s – it’s now switching from retailers to customers. To people.
Tapping Deep Into Human Inspiration
People want uniqueness. That’s not a revelation, right? It’s in every business book and magazine you pick up. Sustainable Competitive Advantage. But when you just nod to inspirational connections and get on with business as usual, you’re missing out on a transforming wave of opportunity. An opportunity to truly connect with people. An opportunity to tap into human inspirations more deeply than we have ever done before. And have people love us for it.
The Love/Respect Axis (see earlier graphic)
The optimum relationship draws on both high love and high respect. This is where enduring marriages and life-time love affairs belong, along with the places you really want to work, and the destinations in life that inspire and excite you. My contention is that the Love/Respect Axis serves as the absolute measure of human heat and commitment.
The Love / Respect Axis
The High Respect Quadrant is where most successful businesses fit. Great products based on solid R&D, intensive customer research and excellent delivery have led to many outstanding brands. But today these brands are just playing with table stakes. They are simply staying in the game. It’s a log jam.
Stop Racing After Every Possibility
Why? The last five years or so have seen significant change in business and in marketing. The challenges of the Internet and fragmenting media, the possibilities of personalisation and customisation, the pressures of globalisation. Infinite possibilities seem to proliferate like viruses. And they can rapidly spin out of control, without meaning, direction or firm purpose.
I believe that we must stop racing after every new possibility on the media map. We must instead fix on the fundamentals of human nature. We must turn our attention to the uncharted territory opened up by the Love dimension of the Love/Respect axis.
I always sense scepticism and discomfort when I mention the “L” word, but I can’t think of any other way to express what I know is missing. You may have read the interview with me about Trustmarks in the September 2000 edition of Fast Company. I said there this thinking was a work-in-progress and I meant it. Trustmarks were a transitional phase in my thinking. The Love/Respect Axis tells me that what was missing is Love.
Brands: Death of a Thousand Yawns
Brands and branding are approaching the end-game. The discipline has been buffed by so many smart and eager practitioners that there is little traction left. Refinements on refinements on refinements are now called exciting new developments. Forget it. Everyone is chewing on the same bone and let me tell you – there’s no marrow left.
I see a game-breaking opportunity opening up in the reinvention of brands. Brands today are suffering the death of a thousand yawns. How do we wake up? By acknowledging that great brands have always been created with love, with inspiration, with emotion. By keeping the emotional juice of brands that must never change, and dumping all those formulas and processes.
I Call Them “Lovemarks”
Today a few great brands run so far ahead of the pack that I call them something else entirely. I call them Lovemarks. They belong here, in the High Love Quadrant of my Love/Respect Axis. They build on respect, but they also make those crucial emotional connections. This is the ground where the future will be won and lost. This reflects the power shift to customers. Our future lies with emotional connections built on respect, sure, but suffused with Love.
Greatest Connections Built On Love
We all know that the greatest connections in life are built on Love. This is how our partners, our friends and our families touch us. We all know that Love links us in many different ways – as couples who have been together for years, as parents and children, as close friends, as lovers. We all know that Love needs time. And we all know that Love cannot be demanded. It can only be given.
It is from this knowledge that every human being shares, from this emotional truth that Lovemarks have emerged. I suggest that connecting with people is something we are not doing very well right now. And putting this right brings us straight into the arms of Love and Lovemarks.
To me what makes Lovemarks stand out is their mystery, their sensuality and their intimacy.
First up, let’s look at mystery. I see Lovemarks wrapped in great stories and great metaphors. Many of them are infused with secret ingredients and iconic characters.
They skillfully combine past, present and future. They have that sustaining ability to tap into our dreams and aspirations. Sure it is hard to quantify mystery; as Homer Simpson might say: “That’s why it is mysterious”.
All I know is that it wells up from the rich alchemy of human emotion. And that when you find people starting fan websites and trading collectibles, you’re close.
Along with mystery I know a Lovemark has sensuality. They cry out to be touched. There is no way we can understand the world without experiencing it first through the radar of our five senses. The American poet and essayist Diane Ackerman tells us why: “The latest findings in physiology suggest that the mind doesn’t really dwell in the brain but travels the whole body on caravans of hormone and enzyme, busily making sense of the compound wonders we catalogue as touch, taste, scent, hearing and vision.”
These elements both play to and challenge every aspect of what you do, from your product development and design to your packaging and your advertising.
The five sensuality factors are a simple and humanistic matrix that you could roll across your company tomorrow.
These degrees of sensuality are probably why the research vampires go so wrong when they attempt to plumb emotion with their questionnaires and interviews. The tools are blunt and measure the wrong things: respect, awareness, benefits, market share, sales. And what do they tell us? What people know, what they say, and what they do. Not good enough. We need to know what people feel. Our big questions have to be: “Do they love it?” And, “How can they love it longer, faster, more?”
Think about the I-Mac. It plays to all the senses. Have you ever seen anyone faced with an I-Mac for the first time, who didn’t want to touch it? And how did Apple evoke taste? Remember the billboard that simply said: “Yum!”
The third signature of a Lovemark is that people feel they have an intimate connection with it. Intimacy is about body contact, scent, touch. You want to be close. You feel pain when it is withdrawn. The signposts about community, loyalty and relationships fit right here.
Mystery, sensuality, intimacy: these three add up to Love. People have to love, truly love the experience you offer. I’m not talking affection or even lust but that enduring love that allows for a few foibles. It is the sort of love that gets families through the hard times. The love that works on autopilot when you are distracted or inattentive. Love in the bank, if you like.
Davids and Goliaths
Only a few, a very few of the great brands are also Lovemarks. But I’ve learnt that this Lovemark standing, this state of grace, is sought after by the Davids as well as the Goliaths.
I’ve had micro-breweries, pizza makers, car audio specialists and a spiritual motivator from Amsterdam all email me wanting the secrets of Lovemarks. I’ve had some heavy-duty global companies after the same thing.
These Davids have given me a special insight. The adage about love holds true: to love others you first have to love yourself.
These people all LOVE what they do, and LOVE whom they are doing it for. They’re permanently infatuated.
Getting the Premium From Love
We learn something from everyone who tells us what they think, and most importantly, what they feel. This is not advertising rubbish – it’s about selling more at higher prices more frequently to more people because you have exclusive relationships with them based not only on trust and respect, but on that most powerful of emotions – Love.
ARE YOU READY TO GET OVER YOURSELF AND START FOCUSSING ON WHAT YOU CAUSE?
Uniqueness is cause. When the why is big enough, your cause, you’ll experience that uniqueness that doesn’t come from differentiating yourself, it comes from realising that every human being, human nature, is identical, but what they all do with it, changes.
Some people prefer to use their left brain, some their right, some their frontal brain and others live through their chemistry, but those are not uniqueness. Those are judgements, beliefs, ideas and stuck limitations that people place on themselves in an attempt to achieve lovability by superiority. It leads to all sorts of self-help mumbo jumbo and it’s a corruption to the human nature of great business achievement.
Define yourself by the influence you have. Define yourself by how many people you help, house or feed. Define yourself by the love or joy you bring to the world and make that your unique gift, not who you are or what you think, because those die with you, what you cause lives forever.