blahville illustration

Is your business stuck in Blah-Ville?


Market differentiation in a very crowded place

One day I walked into my first leadership meeting after my business was acquired by a consulting firm. Instead of my usual half-shaven, jeaned, scuff-booted self, I bought a suit, a high-end leather briefcase, and new polished shoes so I would look and feel like part of my new team. I was met with awkward silence and stares. To break the silence I asked “Is something wrong? After more awkward silence, one of the partners said “what happened to you? you look like one of us, we didn’t bring you in to be another one of us!” This was an awkward moment but a big lesson for me; my greatest value was being a non-them, a pattern breaker.

This pattern-breaking also has value in our communications. As we google and read each other’s feeds, we inadvertently lift, steal, copy, and paste our way to an exactly-the-same-thing-sounding business proposition or idea. 90% of the hundreds of B2B businesses I encounter engage in this parroting style I call the Bland Middle. Let us call this place, Blah-ville.

Blah-ville is a town of forgettable ghosts with no voice and many echoes. When we see and hear the same ideas delivered the same way, our brains perceive the pattern but not its players. Just scroll through any feed and you’ll the same ideas rehashed over and over again and in the same ways.

According to neuroscience, our brains are “differential.” We spot and notice novel or different things and relegate everything else to pattern recognition and summarily dump its contents. The brain has about 40 watts of energy and less RAM than a 1988 Mac Plus, so it conserves processing power by ignoring sameness, or patterns.

The best way to avoid Blah-ville is not to be a pattern communicator. A good way to avoid pattern non-recognition is to deliver a big dose of you and your team’s personalities along with altruistically helpful ideas in new and different ways. Another simple way to see and break patterns is to simply screen grab a dozen or more home page screen grabs of competitors in your market and put them all side by side look for patterns and simply refrain from repeating the pattern. In the B2B space, I often find the similarities in messaging, and presence shocking.

Our digital channels offer an endless array of creative possibilities that mostly go untapped, video, interactivity, sound, visualization, and so on. I’m not talking about creating gimmicks or overinvesting in every post, just break the pattern and keep it fresh.

After helping over 150 companies increase their communication influence I usually find the gems that make a company a compelling pattern breaker hidden in plain sight; on some noisy intersection in the center of Blah-ville.

Does it feel like your business is lost in Blah-ville? What are good ways to break your market’s pattern?


#brandbuilding #differentiation #communication #b2b