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Recognition: a sure way to stand out in marketplace's crowded 'group photo'

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People, as a rule, love to see themselves on the mammoth video screens at sports events. We will jump up and down, wave homemade signs, and put on silly dance moves--whatever it takes to get whoever is in charge to choose us to be in everyone's sight.

At least, that's how any objective observer would have described the antics of yours truly and my two children at a recent Chicago Wolves hockey game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. While we were just about the only ones in our section--the byproduct of one extremely stormy, frigid night--we were far from alone in our mugging for the camera.

It's the same phenomenon that's at play, on a more subtle level, when we look at a group photo in which we appear. Our eyes zoom straight to ourselves first, sometimes not even bothering to look at the others. Of course, those “others” (whatever background characters they happen to be) are taking much the same approach, with each of us serving as their background characters.

This thirst for recognition as someone special—that among many, we can stand out in a crowd—is a natural impulse and an especially American trait. In a culture that worships at the altar of individualism (“rugged individualism,” no less), the prospect of being the object on that altar can prove irresistible. The success of the American Idol television series has been, perhaps above all else, attributable to this widespread yearning to be idolized.

In a similar vein, marketers, advertisers and other promoters are entrusted with the mission to raise a given product or service above the din. Whatever your industry, your product category, your submarket niche, there are bound to be plenty of rivals vying for attention in that group photo.

What so often separates the also-rans from those leading the pack: being genuine in your interest in others, whether it's learning what makes them tick or figuring out ways to serve them, consistently over an extended period of time.

That has been an integral part of the winning formula for Amway successes Nam-Deuk Kim and Jung-Yun Lee, who reached the Amway Diamond milestone within a few years of launching their business in Boston in 2003. They moved to the Pacific Northwest five years later, and have continued to expand their business to greater heights as they represent the World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) organization.

Along the way there were frequent flights that Nam-Deuk, in particular, took to support business associates in various cities. Doing so was a declaration of his belief and investment in those individuals, even when their success and continued business growth is far from guaranteed.

In short, he recognized them for their inherent worth as well as their long-term potential.

Forging ahead in the new year, then, one aspect of any Chicago marketer’s game plan ought to be finding fresh, compelling ways to link our client’s distinctiveness with the distinctive traits of those who are in the bulls-eye of our client’s target market.

We are doing our job effectively when we succeed in making our client's profile stand out, much like this human craving to rise above and be recognized for the personal standouts that we think (or hope) we are.

A logical anchor for this type of undertaking is the testimonial story—the journey of how your product helped someone solve a problem of some kind. The narrative should speak to a broader population’s problems, and enable those myriad “others” to picture themselves, almost literally, in the center of that group photo.

When they do, and when you reach them, too, they are great candidates for growing into one of your most ardent allies. They may not wave signs and do a silly dance, but they can become potent forces attracting attention to your brand.



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