Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Differentiating Truth


We all know about inconvenient truths, thanks to Al Gore.

Differentiating truths are less well known.  And, a little harder to find, especially in the advertising business.

I don’t know if Hal Riney invented the term – differentiating truth – but he’s the one I first heard use it.

It’s what he would try to find for his clients, so he would have something on which to base their advertising campaigns.

A truth about a client’s product or brand that made it different from all other products or brands.

Now you know why differentiating truths are so hard to find.  Because so few of them actually exist.

Differentiating truths aren’t created by agencies.  They are created by the product or brand itself.  Agencies can only communicate a differentiating truth.  

If one exists.

If not, agencies are left to make up stuff that tries to make the brand seem different.

Seldom is this successful, long-term.

I remember one story about a beer that Hal was asked to advertise.  The client told Hal that this “new” beer would be made in the same brewery as their other brands of beer, they would just put a different label on it.

It really wouldn't be different.  It was Hal’s job to make people “think” it was different.

Hal asked the client how long he would like this beer to be successful, one year or twenty years?

The client, of course, said twenty.

Hal said he couldn’t do that unless the beer was truly different.  He could sell a few cases, sure, but quite quickly the consumer would figure out that the beer was a sham.  That it was the same as all other beers.  And then, they would no longer have a reason to buy.

“So”, asked the client, “what should I do?”

“Build a brewery for this beer,” said Hal.  “Then I’ll have a something to say.  A real story to tell.   Something that this beer can own.”

The client looked stunned.  Build a new brewery?  But that would take a year, maybe two.

“Correct”, said Hal.  “But it means you’ll be in business for twenty years, maybe more.

The client built the brewery in Whitefish, Montana.

Hal is no longer with us.

But the beer is.

It’s called Black Star.

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