How Can You Be The Only One To Do What You Do When There Are Thousands Of People Who Do What You Do?

Be Different Or Be Dead by Roy Osing explores “The Only Statement” among other topics meant to encourage business leaders today.
Rick Spence, writing in Financial Post, likes Osing’s clarity and sense of purpose.

I’ve heard lots of prescription for writing elevator pitches and mission statements, but Osing’s formula strikes me as one of the best. Instead of talking about low prices, great selection and friendly customer service, all common commodities in the business world, you are forced to think about what you do that’s actually different from the rest of your market.
It’s easy to understand. When you introduce yourself or explain your business to a prospect, you say, “We are the only business in Calgary that specializes in rebuilding tractor motors.” Or, to push it further, “we are the only business in Canada that uses a patented algorithm to convert analog medical files into digital documents.”

Osing’s “Only Statement” is easy to understand. But coming up with a compelling (and true) “Only Statement” for one’s business is no easy task. This is especially true when the product or service provided is also provided by thousands of other firms, as is the case in marketing services.
Generally speaking ad agencies have a tough time managing their own brand identity and differentiating themselves from one another. One way agencies solve the “Only Statement” problem is by specializing in something particularly arcane, like semiconductor advertising. For others, their specialty is world class creative. Goodby, W+K, TBWA\Chiat\Day and Crispin fit into this group, but what distinguishes one of these iconic shops from the other?
When you start to examine the rhetoric agencies use to make their process sound special, it can quickly become a tiresome process. Here, consider this bit from Leo Burnett: “At Leo Burnett our purpose is to be the world’s best creator of ideas that truly move people…bar none.”
Burnett’s statement falls well short of Osing’s high water mark. As do most such statements coming from agencies, which is a shame given that ad agencies specialize in creating positioning for brands and then crafting those positioning ideas into something real and memorable for customers and prospects.
If you have an “Only Statement” at your company, I’d love to hear it.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.