Challenging the cliches: Can you make your marketing into something that is truly different?

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Trichoglossus haematodus
Parrots are beautiful birds (in this case - Trichoglossus haematodus) but are you simply parroting cliches in developing your mission and value statements.

Sigh.

I just read another business article advocating for “mission” and “values” in businesses.

The story includes a graphic of an architectural office which posted its mission on the wall outside its door:

“Our promise is to create meaningful solutions that are innovative, responsive, enduring & beautiful.”

I suppose putting the promise on the door makes it more imperative and important, and certainly the ideals are okay, but I scratch my head wondering whether any architect would post this message:

“Our promise is to create useless problems that are boring, fleeting, non-responsive, and ugly.”

The point is: We might describe some generalized ideals and values, but aren’t these simply the things we should be doing anyways? How does expressing these motherhood statements make your business/practice exceptional?

Now, I know businesses and practices where the values are clear, if not always broadcast from the rooftops. One feisty general contractor told me his company’s competitive advantage is in its engineering and project planning creativity — and then he described some rather specific examples of how his team tackled challenging site conditions with unconventional (but safe) ideas — allowing it to bid low on conventional fixed bid projects, but still make really good profits.

(In this case, the contractor doesn’t want nor need to broadcast its expertise — it just looks at the jobs differently and, if it can make money with some practical site innovations while complying with project specifications, it bids on the work.)

I know of another architect/developer who got the message regarding environmentally friendly construction at least a couple of years before everyone jumped on the bandwagon with sustainable building practices. It doesn’t matter how many other contractors say they are “sustainable” — this contractor was first in the market, and clients know it.

Look, I’m all in favor of having a solid value system, and working with integrity to achieve your goals; and if you can capture a cause/mission/purpose you’ll be far ahead of the mass of contractors or design professionals trying to scratch out a piece of the pie.

But I’m not convinced that spending time in management retreats, and coming up with plattitude-laden mission statements and a list of values that you could crib from any management textbook will do the job. Somehow, somewhere, the underlying values need to be there in the first place — and if you really want to win in the marketing game, you’ll need to find and express that unique focus that truly reflects who you are, and doesn’t simply parrot safe lines.

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