Dare To Be Distinctive!


We came across a blog in a WARC email written by Richard Shotton, Head of Insights at ZenithOptimedia, where he discussed the importance of “distinctiveness” and how it boosted memorability in a hyper-competitive retail environment.

He quoted the results of research ZenithOptimedia had conducted where they tested 500 consumers in which they were shown 24 numbers, all written in grey, except one. When asked to recall one of the numbers, 98% of the participants immediately mentioned the number which had been written in blue.

Distinctiveness ensures memorability which is a requirement for getting a product bought. There are two key criteria that enable a product to be purchased. The first is “physical availability” – the product’s got to be available to be bought. The other is “mental availability” – the product’s got to come to mind. Distinctiveness enhances our “mental availability.” The saying “out of sight, out of mind” is really saying “out of mind, out of mind.” Being distinctive and positioning both our stations and ourselves in a compelling and unique fashion ensures we will never be “out of mind.”

Shotton went on to ask, “So if distinctiveness is such an obvious strategy, then why do so few brands employ it?” It’s a good question and it’s a question we, as salespeople, should be asking ourselves as well.

“Distinctive” is defined as “having a special quality, style, attractiveness, uniqueness, being notable.” How notable and unique are we? Do we currently stand apart from our competitors or are we floating around with them in a sea of sameness? Have we given enough thought to this important question? Our answers can dramatically impact our career and income.

One of the ways we’ve always espoused to become distinctive is to “own” one, or even better, several, of four key sales competencies: relationships, knowledge, work ethic, and service. By “owning” one, we mean being recognized by clients and competitors as being LeBron James “good” at elevating one of these four key sales competencies to an art form, so much so that our clients would effusively expound upon our capabilities in this area if ever asked.

This doesn’t happen by accident and requires time, focus, commitment, and discipline, which is why so many are not distinctive, but if one or several are mastered, it becomes our “brand” and provides us with an unassailable competitive advantage, that if properly nurtured and refined, can last a career.

There are other ways of being distinctive, to command a share of our advertisers’ minds, and when combined with the one of the four sales competencies referenced above, leads to good things.

This past week I spent three days at a station and sat next to a guy who wore the most ridiculous eye glasses I’d ever seen. But they “worked” for him and I’ll never forget them – they were distinctive. The walls between our offices were quite thin and over the next few days it became clear that that was not the only distinctive thing about him. He not only wore crazy glasses but had mastered two sales competencies: relationships and work ethic. He’s clearly a pro.

Another salesperson learned recently he wasn’t distinctive enough when a buyer called the station and placed a large order with another rep at his station. This individual took the lesson to heart and now sends a lottery ticket along with his sales material and submissions.

We recall one particularly effective sales rep whose distinctiveness was based upon service. He was manic about it. No one could touch him in this area. The fact that he also wore work boots every day in Manhattan added to his distinctiveness. Another one used to carry coins in his briefcase inscribed with “Whatever It Takes” to highlight that’s what they do to ensure their advertiser’s success. On particularly important calls he’d have the clients name and date inscribed on the coin. Another one would hand out pens with his name, station calls, etc. Another one just wore bow ties.

So we all should dare to be positively distinctive. It pays.


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