Talk Like There’s No Innovation: B2B Differentiation
I klong weekly. You probably do, too. “Klong” means “a sudden rush of crud to the heart” caused by the realization that you’d said, done, or believed something wrong for a long time.
For example, I realized one day years back that I’d been saying and writing the phrase “for all intensive purposes” for at least 10 years. I’m a writer. My writing has been read by a lot of people. I taught hundreds of sections of composition and rhetoric at the university level. When the realization hit me that thousands upon thousands of people had witnessed me repeatedly make such a basic mistake, I did, indeed, experience a rush of crud to my heart. I was beyond embarrassed—I was klonging.
I love that word because it so perfectly captures the essence of an experience, and there’s no other word like it in the world. What I especially love are words in other languages that don’t exist in English. I love that the Greek language has a word for that smell right after rain, and I love that the Scots have a word, “tartle,” to represent the awkward moment of hesitation when you realize you’ve forgotten someone’s name.
The French “l’esprit de l’escalier,” translated “the spirit of the stairs,” refers to the witty remark or retort that comes to you too late. There’s just no word in English to capture that experience so precisely.
This is all wonderful if you’re a word nerd like me, but what if you’re a B2B ingredients company or a consumer beverage company? What does this matter to your B2B company marketing its plant-based whole food solution? Absolutely nothing if your product or solution is genuinely unique or actually innovative in your market.
The truth is that in the B2B and B2C food, beverage, and ingredients world, the legitimately unique, innovative product or solution is incredibly rare. Yet most of us continue to position our brands using those words, and in so doing, we end up with no differentiation at all.
So what’s the answer? Talk like there’s no innovation. This means a lot of things, of course, but what shouldn’t be ignored is this: identify the essence of an experience and find language unique to your market to capture that essence. The mistake that too many of us make is beginning with our company or our product and putting words to that. You should, instead, begin with your customer’s experience and give it words that didn’t previously exist in his market.
For example, when Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals asked us to help communicate the value of their microalgae-based whole food ingredient, rather than begin with the amazing solution and the company itself, we began with the customer and his experience. We began by considering the food developer’s frustration, his either/or dilemma, his having to choose between “what’s good for you” and “what tastes good.” Then we gave words to that experience, words previously unused in that market. That’s how we conceptualized and produced “The Impossible Cookie.”
No matter how unique or revolutionary the brand or product seems (or, in this case, might actually be), we have to position it as the answer to a previously unanswered experience. We have to use words that hadn’t yet existed in that way for that customer in that market. And when you do that, it’s “yuanfen,” which is Mandarin for the “binding force which eventually brings two people together in love.”