Competitive Messaging

There is little doubt, at this point, that the ability to effectively communicate ideas and carefully articulate concepts in a manner that is both persuasive and well received is nothing short of a highly sought-after art form. Businesses and individuals alike are frequently tasked with relaying salient and easily digestible information, but few individuals—short of politicians, feuding academics and out-of-touch celebrities—engage in heavily publicized competitive banter with an opposing stake holder. Businesses, on the contrary, often live and die by communication rooted in competition. The need for businesses to relay glowingly positive messages about their products and offerings while simultaneously and often subliminally disparaging their competitors is ever-present.

Subway icon competitive marketingTake for example Subway and their well-known slogan “eat fresh”. Are they really just saying something about their product? Or, perhaps while indicating that their product is always fresh, are they simultaneously relaying information indicating a lack of, or at least a lesser degree of, freshness at other fast-food establishments? By carefully crafting a messaging campaign or slogan businesses can reach, for all intents and purposes the perennial Shangri-La of advertising and communication, a message invoking a definitively positive sensation for the customer while, in contrast, invoking a negative emotion tied to the thought of the competing business or product.

This goal, however simple, is incredibly difficult to attain. This explains exactly why businesses all over the world allocate inordinate amounts of capital each and every year in pursuit of this goal. Often a major drawback found in many ineffective messaging campaigns, is allowing the competition to gain control of the message, and therefore control of the debate over which business and or product is preferable.  When this happens organizations will often focus more of their attention on attacking their competitor, hoping to highlight the negative aspects of their offering. Unfortunately, this reactionary tactic generally does little more than exacerbate the problem.  As Johnson Direct CEO and founder Grant Johnson often explains;

“Think of marketing or messaging like a conversation that you’re having with the customer at their dinner table.”     

-Grant Johnson  CEO, Johnson Direct

Now would it be an effective or, for that matter, appropriate strategy to inundate your host (the customer/client) with only negative reactions to statements or remarks about what a competitor or opponent has said about your product or business? Absolutely not! A much more effective strategy to employ would be continually highlighting those aspects or components of your business /product that will spark a potential customer  interest while implying, without ever overtly stating, that those components of interest are exclusive to your offering and are therefore not possessed by the competition.

To begin making some positive in-roads toward gaining the upper hand in the battle for the “best in message” against your competitors, follow these steps and you will be well on your way to developing the air-tight message or slogan that can take your business to the next level:

  1. Create a message box (as shown in figure 1.0 below), complete with information regarding what you’re saying as well as information regarding what your competition is saying
  2. Continually refer back to the message box and ask yourself and your colleagues in which box is the public conversation taking place. If the answer is in either one of the boxes that contain a large checkmark, then congratulations! You’re controlling the message.


More often than not, what is needed instead is a brand new message or slogan or a restructuring of how the message is being conveyed. While the development of a high-yield slogan or message can require a great deal of resources to master, any novice can amplify their marketing efforts through applying various tests to accurately measure if your efforts are working. The ability to utilize quality tests with appropriate sample sizes will undoubtedly give way to a greater return on investment. However, the process of applying measurable marketing can be difficult and, if skewed or executed incorrectly, the data captured can be ineffective. Therefore, if your business is attempting to internally develop sound data-driven marketing tests, be prepared to invest a great deal of time and money with little guarantee of success.

On the other hand, another way to go about determining if your message is on-par is to contract with a full-service marketing agency like Johnson Direct, capable of creating quantifiable tests that will indicate in no uncertain terms whether or not your message is working—and if not, how to fix it. Partnering with a firm that boasts decades of experience and countless success stories will produce testing that can yield highly cost-effective, measurable, and actionable results.

For more information on how to measure your organizations marketing efforts visit:

StorySelling as an Effective Sales Closing Technique (Part 2)

The first article in this series about using the effective sales technique of StorySelling defined what StoryTelling actually is and what makes StorySelling more effective in your customer and prospect marketing communications. This article will deal with why StorySelling is such a critical driver in closing sales today and why you should be testing it sooner rather than later.

According to author and researcher George Bane, “Two decades ago, the average child under 18 spent about 15 to 20 hours per week digesting media content. Today, it has nearly tripled to almost 60 hours per week of unduplicated time. They now devote more time to media than to anything other than sleep.”

And, it’s not much better for those older. When I was growing up in the 1960’s and early 1970’s as a child, we had 3 TV stations and PBS. I can still recall when our first UHF station was added. Wow, was I ecstatic that I had another choice. Today, we have hundreds of TV channels, radio stations, satellite radio stations, newspapers and of course the internet. That’s added as much content and options we can digest, including YouTube, Twitter, Hulu, and on and on…

With increased media exposure and an inundation of advertised media messages, it’s getting harder and harder to “cut through the clutter” and make your marketing message(s) meaningful, even if they are relevant. While the number of impressions we are exposed to daily is cause for debate, it’s safe to say that the number is off the chart compared to only five or ten years ago. Therein lies the dilemma.

Through StoryTelling techniques companies can effectively distinguish themselves from competitors, and provide reasons to the prospect as to why their product or service is superior and why they should try it. The problem with most StoryTelling is that it does not nudge the recipient to a call-to-action. It should. Then, it becomes StorySelling.

Author Mary van de Wiel explains the power of StoryTelling in your communication efforts and how you and your company can benefit from it. She asks Why is storytelling so important to your business? Because:

  • An authentic brand story makes you memorable.
  • It differentiates you as desirable.
  • It brings your brand to life.
  • It gives you a distinct competitive advantage.
  • Your target market becomes hugely responsive.
  • It positions you as a visionary in your field.

Testimonials, when done right help your StroySelling efforts as they add credibility to your messaging. StorySelling makes you more successful because people remember it. In this fast-paced, uber-fragmented world we live in, it helps make an emotional connection to your brand and helps lodge your product or service in the recipient’s memory bank a little bit longer and gets them to WANT to take action sooner rather than later or never.

You need to be testing different StorySelling messages in your marketing and sales communications because they will help set you apart, make you more memorable and get your prospects to do what great advertising and marketing is intended to do – take action and do so now.

The amount of media exposure and advertising messages we are exposed to is not decreasing anytime soon. Thus, test this method to jump start your marketing efforts. As we become over exposed to all things media, we CRAVE simplicity. StorySelling does exactly that. It plays off of simplicity and makes your message more prominent and effective.

Once upon a time there was this marketer who wrote a few articles on StorySelling. He wrote about what it is and why it is needed. Then, in the final article, he described how it is being done profitably in this day and age. The “how to” article will be the last in his series on how StorySelling is an effective sales closing technique. Please look for it. In the meantime, visit to discover even more timely marketing tips and stories.


Grant Johnson
Founder, Johnson Direct

Note: This is part two in a three-part series on the art of StorySelling, a moder, effective sales technique in conversational marketing. For the first part in the series, read about how Grant defines StorySelling.

Quality Counts, Too

Today’s BizTimes Milwaukee had an interesting story on a local non-profit leveraging social media networks to push it’s annual donation drive to younger donors.  The article, “Use Social Media to Build Your Tribe”, reports that the campaign was successful, bringing in $12,460 of new donations.  While the quantitative results of the campaign were positive, some organizations may look at the “small” number and think it’s not enough to cover the investment of time and resources.  Those companies are wrong…

Social media isn’t just about quantity.  It’s about starting the dialog with your audience.  My strong belief is that the true measure of ROI in social media isn’t quantitative in nature, its qualitative.  Engagement may very well be an overused, ill-defined buzzword, but the truth is that the number of followers you have, links you post or dollars you earn mean little unless you develop an ongoing relationship with those that show interest in your brand.  Conversing with your audience and providing useful, relevant information so it can be shared with others will benefit you more in the long run.

Fortunately, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee got it right.  The spokeswoman for the organization didn’t define success as the number of dollars raised, but said “the relationships we managed to build will be worth exponentially more in the future”.  Bravo!

Revisiting Clear and Simple Copywriting

Kids and great copywriters have something in common: they both understand the power of clear and simple communication. Getting their point across loud and clear is a definite skill that kids possess when they want something “right now!” For a more effective message, apply some of these same principles to your next marketing campaign.

I recall a family vacation in Florida where I listened as my two eldest children were bickering. My oldest child, Morgan, kept telling my second oldest, Mason, “Stop copying everything I say!” (You know how kids play this “game” to annoy each other.)

Mason chimed back, “Stop mimicking everything I say.”

Morgan responded back, “Huh, mimicking is not the same as copying.”

I interrupted, “Yes, in this case it is.”

Upon which Mason said, “See Morgan, it IS the same. ‘Mimicking’ is just an adult word that they say instead of ‘copying.’”

Selecting Just the Right Words
Which brings me to the subject at hand, the power of words, specifically, the right words and how they can profoundly impact your marketing success.

For instance, there is a big difference in the following phrases:

Learn how to become wealthy beyond your dreams.


Discover how to become wealthy beyond your dreams.

Learning implies work and a degree of difficulty. To discover is to come upon something by accident, to be lucky, and implies ease and no work at all.

And that’s just a single word. Great communicators understand and know that even changing one word can strengthen your prose dramatically, and have a positive impact on results. They understand the power of compelling, benefit driven headlines and how to craft copy that stops you and gets you to read on and—more importantly—respond and act quickly. This is especially critical with e-communications where attention spans are short at best.

A great writer understands that today, more than ever, you sell the offer, not the product or service while simultaneously building credibility and asking for the order. They understand that their job is to sell and understand the psychology of human behavior.

Consider the following headlines:

Protect your family for $25 yearly.
(This is not a mistake, read on to find out how.)


Protect your family for $25 yearly.

While both are compelling, the first headline addresses the question in our prospects mind “This sounds too good to be true,” eliminating doubt and reinforcing that it is indeed true, establishing credibility and subconsciously getting the reader to read on further for more information.

More readers will want to know “how can I protect my family for such a small amount of money.” In this case, adding a simple phrase makes a big difference. A logolept (word maniac) knows the power of clear and simple communication.

They do not tire of words like “free”, “new”, “now” or “you.” They wield this clout in each piece of mail they write to grab new leads…every site they help build to get hits on the Web…each ad they send to pull in new sales. Read these words over, and you should know what we mean when we say that they like to put their skill to the test.

In fact, the paragraph you just read is created from single syllable words. (Is that cool or what?). Clear communication should not be complex.

They know and understand that we need to tell the prospects/customers what to do:

Respond by June 13th
by completing the enclosed reply card
or dialing, toll-free, 1-800-YOU-RULE
to receive your 10% discount.

Professional communicators also know the power of testing and analyzing results. Make no mistake, you can be a great writer, but that does not make you a great direct response writer. And today, those who can get results are in even higher demand. By combining the right offer, with the right words, adding some psychological principles, and understanding selling and the sales process, you can help your clients and companies succeed.

So, the next time you’re out and about town, listen to the kids as they talk to each other.

We’d be wise to copy – that is, mimic the way they interact from time to time.

You can read the full article by clicking here.