Some years ago I took my new wife to our first ever gig, a now commonplace comeback of a band of my youth. Child number 1 was imminent and it looked like the last opportunity for a DINKY night out for before life changed forever.
In advance I thought it wise to prepare my eager but musically inexperienced partner for the evening’s entertainment. I played her the band’s greatest hits, confident that she’d fall in love with the mellifluous tones and waves of dynamic variety and of wryly-observed insights about life in my youth.
Except she didn’t. “It all sounds the same” she confessed. And, disappointingly, she was right. The key, rhythm, timbre, structure, subject matter and idiosyncratic quirkiness that made the debut single so engaging had been repeated so faithfully and repetitively that it wasn’t clear where one song ended and another began. It also quickly became very dull.
Whole brand categories fall into this trap. A player creates a new and different category and others plough in to enjoy the growth. They do everything right except create or describe anything different, therefore offering consumers no reason to choose them.
For example, here is the language used on the websites of the top 8 UK gyms and health clubs last month. It reveals the generic language of the category.
And here’s the language used by one of the follower brands.
So, how does this slavishly imitated language help prospective customers to choose this brand?
Of course, it doesn’t, which leaves price as one of the main drivers of choice. And typically this means these prices are forced downwards as customers don’t know what extra brand value to pay for. This removes financial value from the sector, making it harder to compete.
So if your brand language sounds the same as the rest of the category you need to plan for margins to be squeezed. Alternatively, surprise yourselves and your customers by singing a different tune.