Pamela lives down the street in the brick red house. She’s the happy-go-lucky fifteen year old. Lively and hardworking, she’s mama’s helping hand. Everyone calls her Pam. Sunday evening, Maryam, her mother decides to make the family’s favorite dish. She sends Pam to go get some smoked fish from the roadside sellers.
Down the road Pam goes, eyes on the 6-inch phone in her palm as she scrolls through lines and lines of tweets on Twitter. She scans through dozens of wares littered by the roadside, trying to find the smoked fish seller’s tray among the several stained aluminium trays in the lineup even as she glances back to her phone screen now and then.
She continues down the road, yet finds no smoked fish for Maryam’s cooking. Smiling at a BBM message from Nedu, her friend, she fails to notice the smoked fish arranged in the usual manner on the regular stained aluminium tray, by her side of the road. She takes the path that leads back home, without the fish for the evening meal; never for once realizing the fish seller was right there all the while.
Who is Pam?
She is you, me and the entire occupants of this highly digitalized world.
We do not pay attention, we barely notice the things that surround us; our attention span is reducing.
The attention span of the average individual is now shorter than the notoriously ill-focused goldfish. The attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds, while that of an average human being (according to a recent study by Microsoft) is now eight seconds!
Ladies and gentlemen, dare I announce to you that no one is paying attention anymore.
No one is listening, no one is watching carefully as they cross the road, no one cares!
Guess what happened to everyone? ‘Digital’ happened.
Social media came upon us and no one cares for anything but social. The conversations have moved from face to face and over phone calls, to social chat rooms. Heck, does anyone even send text messages anymore? Well, except for the Telco’s themselves.
Subsequently, as conversations have moved online, to social media, so also the eyeballs have moved to the smartphones and other devices.
So whilst consumers are busy reading the Instagram comments on Kim Kardashian’s nude pregnant selfie, the only thing that can snap their attention and make them take notice, is something that is very (read that as extremely) interesting, remarkable, and stands out.
But there you are, the entrepreneur, trying so desperately to catch the consumer’s attention but ending up in frustration because no one seems to notice you or your products.
The truth is, no one notices anything, anymore. We are too busy.
There are too many things fighting for our attention, and too little time to give all our attention. So there we go, day in day out, ignoring the endless distractions calling for our attention.
Consumers don’t care about you at all, they just don’t care. They’ve got way more choices than they used to, and way less time. In a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff.
And what stuff gets ignored all the time? The boring stuff. The unremarkable stuff. Stuff that is just not worth talking about.
I’m sorry, but no one sees you, and nobody cares. Nobody sees the same-old candies calling out from the cashier’s desk at the grocery store checkout. No one listens to the radio jingle that drifts out of the speakers every hour. Absolutely no one gives a second glance to the banner ads that pop up on their screens.
You know why? Because they are boring. Boring products, and boring adverts about equally boring products. Unfortunately, no one gives a damn about boring anymore. Boring doesn’t count.
The danger? Boring doesn’t sell.
If you’re an entrepreneur who is interested in breaking grounds and being exceptional, then you’ve got to stop making average products for average people. Stop making boring, me-too products. Stop the copy-cat syndrome.
Here’s the situation.
All our lives, right from primary grade, we are told to fit in- be like everyone else, do what everyone is doing, don’t question authority, go to school in the same white cotton shirts and blue khaki shorts. We wear white socks like everyone else, wear black buckle shoes like everyone else, for crying out loud, we even make the same hairstyles as everyone else. Our mentality is trained to conform to status quo, to fit in with the crowd. Don’t question norms, don’t …, our creativity is limited to what obtains.
So here we are, entrepreneurs who are offshoots of the society that raised us, at ease with creating products just like all others, for people who do not care.
But we all had that one boy in college, who always got punished for being different. “Why do we have to wear white socks to school?” he questions on Monday, so on Tuesday, he comes to school in red socks. Undeterred by the ten strokes of cane he gets on his backside, next week, out of curiosity and the unstoppable yearning to be different, he will come to school with the edges of his brown khaki shorts turned up- contrary to popular opinion.
These people- the ones who refuse to fit in, are the ones who become visible. We all sit in groups in the classroom and in hushed voices, talk about the boy who dared to be different. His news goes viral.
Undoubtedly, only the businesses that are remarkable will win.
Only the entrepreneurs who dare to be different, dare to go against popular opinion, and refuse to blend in will trump.
There are too many average products to choose from, the alternative therefore, is to make something remarkable.
Marketing Guru, Seth Godin describes remarkable as “something worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.” You either blend in or your stand out, you’re either boring, or worth talking about. You can choose to be invisible or have the courage to be remarkable.
Let’s talk about Pam and the smoked fish for a minute. Think about this- what if one of the fish sellers had made a different and unusual display of her fish, instead of stacking them the way others did. What if she displayed them in a neon green basket, instead of the rusty aluminium trays others had. Would Pam have noticed her? Most likely.Would she have told her mother about the seller with the neon green basket? Oh yes she would’ve.
Because doing things differently increases the likelihood that you will be noticed and talked about.
Moral of the Story? Don’t aim to cater to the masses.
Stop trying to create average products for average people, because that is the riskiest thing to do. If you run a shoe store and all you do is typical shoes to typical people at a cheap price, the minute they can get it cheaper elsewhere, your customers will leave. The best thing you can do is to make your business remarkable, stand out from the clones out there.
Playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all.
Take a risk and be unusual; that is the safest thing to do.
Do not be a clone of other businesses; be you, be remarkable, create a buzz!
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Mimagephotography