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When everything, everywhere is unique, nothing is

Have you noticed just how 'not unique' many brands and businesses that claim to be 'unique' truly are?

Or aren't?

Now I know, empirically, that pretty much every single thing on the face of the earth is unique in some way or other but that doesn't mean any one of them is any better than the next thing, which incidentally is also unique. Just in a different way.

So why is it that marketers persist with saying they, or their brands, are unique?

If ever a word screamed out for show, not tell, it is unique. In what way is your brand unique exactly? Show me. Show me by using words, images, content and stories that are unique in some way. Just don’t say it’s unique.

And it isn't just brand owners who are guilty of this. Most agencies are as bad. I've lost track of the number of agencies who claim to have a unique approach, a unique process, or a unique team.

Of course they do. Because any set of individuals is by definition, unique. It doesn't make them any better (or worse) than the next set of unique individuals in the next agency. Unique here is being used instead of the word that should be employed, and that is different. That would be a more honest and a more helpful description.

But simply saying we have a different set of individuals won’t cut it, either.

So how about smarter, harder working, more diligent, highly creative, or just nicer? Any of these would say more about the agency team than “we have unique team”.

Back to brands. We all know marketing copy has changed, using language, at least online, primarily employed to fox an SEO algorithm rather than connect with a customer. We see the same words popping up on site after site, email after email and ad after ad.

Just in the last week or so I’ve been asked to “Take advantage of this unique offer to attend the World Test Cricket Final.” Is it unique? I’ll be one of 30,000 probably so my ticket won’t be. As a sporting event, it’s unique in that it’s different. But do we now need to have unique before a Wimbledon Final or first round even? Or a Championship play-off? Yes, they’re unique. But who cares about that? I’d be as inclined to respond to an offer saying “Take advantage of this offer to attend the World Test Cricket Final.” . Unique in this context is totally superfluous.

I’ve also been offered by Arvon Foundation “… a unique opportunity to hire Totleigh Barton for self-catering holidays”. Again, I’m sure it’s a great opportunity but the simple fact that it is an opportunity to hire a single property makes it unique. They don’t need to say it.

And the same day, British Airways offered the opportunity to “…experience the unique thrill of Orlando’s rollercoasters”. Now, I have experienced the thrills of said rides. They’re certainly thrilling and they are definitely in Orlando but apart from that there’s nothing unique about the thrill from those experienced at Disneyland in LA or at Alton Towers. Thrills are thrills at theme parks.

So, unique is one of those words that is everywhere, saying very little. Next time you find yourself tempted to use unique, look at some alternatives. Distinctive maybe, exceptional possibly, or exclusive, rare, inimitable, matchless, one of a kind. And if you find these words don't work for you, then maybe, just maybe, your brand or agency team is not as unique as you think it is.

While we’re on the subject of synonyms, how many writers use their Roget’s? How many have it within reach? If you want your copy to pack a punch, it’s a tool that should be top of your copywriting toolbox.

If ever a brand was unique, it is Coca-Cola. They don’t say it. They show it. In a bottle unlike any other. Instantly recognisable and ownable.

Coca-Cola have recently launched as part of their Creations brand extensions, Coca-Cola Intergalactic.

In their press release they say “Limited Edition” which happens to be on the same double-speak list as unique but they qualify it as “Limited Edition Flavour”. The qualifier tells us as shoppers something we need to know, when we ask “In what way is it a special edition?”.

They continue, “MEET COCA‑COLA INTERGALACTIC – THE LIMITED-EDITION FLAVOUR THAT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD. Find out how Coca‑Cola Creations is helping us drink in some truly cosmic vibes.” That says how the brand extension is unique without ever saying it.

Now, having praised Coca-Cola to the skies (and beyond) for their Intergalactic innovation, this month they’ve taken something to my mind, truly unique, and commoditised it.

They’ve taken a childhood favourite of mine, Lilt created when I was 12 years old so big emotional connections (and the year before the heatwave of ’76 when Lilt was a massive favourite at Hoylake’s outdoor Swimming Baths), with the “totally tropical taste” and transformed it into Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit. Now where’s the fun in that?

Go grab a Lilt while you still can.

Keep it safe and maybe in 10 years that 330ml can really will be unique.



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