One of the greatest -- and most important -- tasks a business faces is to differentiate itself from its competitors. Doing so gives that business an enormous marketing advantage and in many cases allows it to charge premium prices by avoiding the trap of commoditization.
But how to do that?
A book by Sam Horn, POP! Stand Out In Any Crowd, will be an enormous help, mainly because it's packed with useful 'how to' information on top of the usual theory.
It goes like this. A business should own a concept that is Purposeful, Original and Pithy (POP -- geddit?), says Horn. If you follow those rules, you'll have a greater chance of creating an idea that catches on. (And when something catches on, it can spread like wildfire.)
So far so good. The real value in the book comes in the subsequent chapters which show you how to play with words and concepts to create an idea that POPs.
First, Horn asks us to think deeply about our business. What problems does it try to solve? Who is its target audience? What is it offering? From this, you develop a list of core words which you then go on to use with various techniques through which to develop your concept.
From here on, it's word games. Fun word games, at that. Here's an example, the Alphabetizing Technique. Horn tells us to take one of our core words and "talk" it through the alphabet, changing the first syllable to match the corresponding letter. For example, what do you call it when a teenager has a haughty attitude? Bratitude. Or a plane trip that takes you as a tourist over beautiful scenery? Flightseeing. (I saw a book published in the UK last month called Affluenza -- about the psychological problems being increasingly faced in modern, affluent societies.)
Here's another one - the Rearrange Cliche Technique. Use an online cliche dictionary (there are a few of them, apparently) and enter in your core words. If any of the answers are intriguing, profound, funny ...write then down. Then, replace or riff off the key words in that cliche. Switch the key nouns or verbs to make a play of words. Horn gives the example of the time she was a guest on a Toronto TV talk show the same day that songbird Shania Twain (she's from Canada) was visiting. But her visit was canceled due to an unexpected storm. The headline in the paper the next morning described the thousands of disappointed fans who didn't get to see their hometown hero: Never Shall Meet the Twain.
As a former headline writer, I think this is all jolly good fun. But more important than that, jolly useful too.
So I've been trying to use this book to find a POP phrase for my newsletters business. I haven't found one yet, but I'm nearly there. What do you think of these concepts? (BTW, I hereby copyright these terms, so don't go stealing them!)
Rapportage -- reporting that creates a relationship with readers.
Textpert -- becoming an expert in your field through publishing articles.
Gluesletters -- newsletters that make customers stick to you like glue -- to stay, not stray.
I'm getting there. What do you think?
Hey, if you can come up with something better, and I end up using it, I'll buy you Sam Horn's book. Just leave your ideas in the Comments or send me an email.