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In Need of Brand Differentiation? Adjectives and Adverbs Aren’t the Answer


If you want your brand to stand out, adjectives and adverbs are not the first place to start.  Don’t get me wrong – adjectives and adverbs aren’t bad. They can add delicious flavor to a sentence. But they are also overused – dare I say abused – in service of brand differentiation. 


Instead of getting to the heart of what makes their brand different, people love to pull out the Thesaurus and begin shoving one adjective and adverb after another into their brand description/value proposition.


I was reminded of this back in December when someone posted a photo of a Realtor’s billboard to the Typo of the Day Facebook Group. The billboard, which looks like it was alongside a busy highway, contained a glaring typo: 


“We want to wish you and your family a Happy Holidays!”


Ha ha, oops!


But the real tragedy was the main message on the billboard:


“Providing the perfect transaction with concierge service, unparalleled marketing, endless communication, and exceptional results.”


This tortured sentence doesn’t differentiate the Realtor from their competitors. Why? All the successful Realtors I know are customer service and marketing experts who will walk to the ends of the Earth to make their clients happy. 


So here we have five superlatives, all meaningless when it comes to brand differentiation. (Also, there is no such thing as perfection, which means the first superlative is a lie. Harsh but true.)


At the end of the day, this Realtor spent a lot of money on a billboard in which they sound like everyone else. I doubt they’re lazy – no successful Realtor is – but slapping together a bunch of adjectives and calling it a day is not smart marketing or branding.


If this Realtor had asked me for help, here’s what I would have said.


Figure out your brand positioning


Your brand’s position states who your customers are and what problem you solve for them. Before you can write any marketing messages, you need to have this nailed down.


If we re-read that billboard’s message, the customer is never mentioned (more on this below). And what problem is the Realtor solving? No idea. (Again, more on this below.)


Because this Realtor doesn’t appear to have any brand positioning, they turned to the Thesaurus. Instead of a sharp message, they got a tragic one.


For anyone who isn’t sure about their brand positioning, always talk to your clients. What’s their top pain point when it comes to buying and selling a home? How do you solve that pain point better than other Realtors? You need to clearly define how you’re different – from your client’s point of view. 


Don’t talk about yourself – talk to your clients


I said above that the billboard’s message doesn’t once mention the client. And that is the second most off-putting thing about the message. It completely focuses on the Realtor, not the Realtor’s clients. “We provide this, we provide that.” Who cares. 


If you’re a home buyer, you care about getting the right house for your lifestyle. If you’re a seller, you care about getting the best price and closing terms. You only care about the process to a certain extent; it’s more about the outcome.


Realtors have to focus on the process, as so much happens in the weeds and they need to stay on top of things. But do we really care how the sausage is made? Not the top concern.


Anyway, if I had written the billboard message, I would have focused on the outcomes.


Show, don’t tell


The billboard tells us many things, but what do they mean? 


What is a perfect (gag) transaction? Is it fast, is it done remotely, do I get everything I want?


What does unparalleled marketing look like, and how does it benefit me, the seller? Do you market to an international or national audience? Do you work with Realtors in your network – or your own pool of house hunters – to find a buyer who wants what I’m selling? And does this help you bring me the ideal buyer faster? 


Endless communication is a creative term that could mean a number of things – 30 texts a day, a daily check-in, or only substantive updates. So which is it?


Now we arrive at “exceptional results,” and we finally get to hear about outcomes – yay! But instead of showing us, we are told. Throw us some data? How about the number and value of transactions closed last year? Or an industry award, like “2022 Member of the Billion Dollar Sales Club”?


For this billboard, I would have picked the top reason people work with the Realtor and focused entirely on that. 


Talk like a human – even better, like yourself


How many of you think this Realtor walks into a networking event, introduces themself, and says, “I provide the perfect transaction with concierge service, unparalleled marketing, endless communication, and exceptional results”?


God I hope not! It sounds like a ChapGPT, not a human. (Now I’m wondering if ChatGPT wrote the billboard message. Highly possible.)  


I would be very curious to hear how this Realtor describes what they do and why they do it. The words you use in real life should always be part of your brand. Genuine and conversational messages always stand out. 


Ask for help when it comes to brand differentiation


Talking objectively about your brand is hard, simply because you’re so close to it. If you have no idea where to start on brand differentiation, an expert can help. They’ll bring that objective eye – plus brand messaging expertise – and uncover the right messages for your audience.


If you’d like to work with someone who will create sharp brand messaging guidelines you can use anywhere – and make the entire process fun – drop me a line here. I’d love to help.

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