Washington Governor, Jay Inslee is unlikely to become the 46th President of the United States, but by the time the votes get counted in Iowa in January, every voter will know one thing about him: he's the climate change candidate. If you're in the cleantech space or merely care about climate change, Inslee's disciplined messaging is an excellent lesson in how to create a strong brand.
Let's clarify the terms first:
- A strong brand is one people will remember in a particular category.
- A good brand is one that elicits a positive response.
Just because you have a strong brand doesn't necessarily mean you have a good brand. Boeing's 737 Max airplanes are an example of a strong brand that's not a good brand. Right now, it's known for all of the wrong reasons.
One of the keys to developing a brand that's both strong and good is having one attribute for which you (or your company) is known. Hopefully, that attribute is seen positively by your audience and helps differentiate you from your competitors.
Imagine you have 18 competitors in your niche as currently exists for Inslee in the 2020 Democratic field, and they are all selling nearly the same thing as you are. How do you stand out? You hang your hat on one crucial facet of your candidacy. In Inslee's case, he's gone all in on climate change.
Just like a product has many facets, so too does Inslee. He has a record on health care, gun safety, taxes, etc., but he made a choice in a crowded marketplace to focus on one thing he wants voters to remember. What's most impressive is watching him find ways to continue to hone in on that message over and over again. It's that sole focus that's critical.
Tell Them, Tell Them Again, And Remind Them What You Told Them
When Inslee launched his presidential campaign, he did it at the headquarters of a solar installation company based in his home state. When asked about most issues, Jay will find a way to connect it to climate change. Health care? The cost of pollution is driving up costs. Budget deficits? The most significant burden we are leaving our kids is the planet collapsing. Recently he called for a debate focused solely on climate change because of the importance of the issue. Repetition, repetition, repetition. That's message discipline.
Because Inslee has stellar credentials and credibility on tackling climate change, he's put all of his chips in the center of the table that he can "own" this issue in the minds of voters.
Isn't It Risky To Be One Dimensional?
Back when I was running political campaigns, I used to get pushback from candidates who argued voters are multi-dimensional and can care about more than one thing. "Why should I put all my eggs in one basket?" they'd ask. Today, the pushback I get from my cleantech clients is nearly identical: customers want to know how we make our widget and all of its different features. Different dog, same fleas, I always say.
My response is usually, "Why do you think Burger King has spent billions of dollars promoting itself as the home of the flame-broiled burger? It's because it's the one thing they can use to differentiate themselves from McDonald's, who fry their burgers." Year after year, Burger King demonstrates its commitment to messaging discipline in its advertising because it helps them create a marketplace differentiation that leads to a stronger brand. That's why they rarely use paid advertising to talk about their french fries; there's no easy differentiator between theirs and those made by other chains.
Will Message Discipline Carry The Day?
If you can stand behind your claims, and there is a real difference to exploit, message discipline will take you a long way. If your claims get undermined though, it will destroy your credibility and your good brand. (See: Volkswagen Clean Diesel Emissions Scandal)
Governor Inslee is still a longshot at the London betting parlors, but that's for some entirely different reasons like brand name identification and fundraising. But in a crowded field of like-minded individuals, is his commitment to message discipline going to help Democratic primary voters remember him? Absolutely.
If you're in the cleantech world where everyone is hailing their technology as revolutionary, you're going to need that same kind of message discipline to stand out to investors who have a pile of prospectuses to wade through not to mention green consumers who now have dozens of choices that meet their values.
If your green company could benefit from better message discipline, email me to set up a free initial 30-minute consultation.