When everyone’s “the best”, no one is

Putting real confidence over empty claims
Sid Feddema
by Sid Feddema

In business, everyone claims to be the best.

From the diner that sells the “world’s best coffee” in Elf to ubiquitous superlatives like market-leading, best-in-class, number 1 [blank] – we hear it all the time.

It's a common brief for copywriters, too. Companies often want to signal that they’re the biggest, the smartest, the fastest, or the most experienced. Of course they do. No one sets out to be second.Problem is, a lot of these types of statements fall flat. Why is that? A few reasons:

  • They often ask us to take companies at their word, rather than proving what they claim.
  • They’re not relevant to customers. Do people really care that you “deliver market-leading innovation”? Probably not.
  • There’s a sense of “the business doth protest too much” – too many of these claims can quickly make a brand feel scammy, or insecure.
  • They’re tired. When everyone claims to be the best, no one is.

That said, showing the world that you’re a true leader in your field is a powerful tool for building trust and awareness. It can help you stand out from the competition and stick in customers’ heads

So, how do we do it convincingly?

There’s no one right way. The answer for your brand will depend on lots of factors. But by analyzing how leading brands successfully create the perception of superiority, we can learn from their strategies. Here are three that almost any business can use to their advantage.

Act like you own the place

Confident leaders don’t spend their time telling everyone they’re number one – they just lead. And rather than jockeying for first place, they think strategically about building deep associations for their brands. They focus on conveying a feeling rather than rattling off benefits.

Take Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. They’re perhaps the two most recognizable brands in the world. But you won’t often find either trying to convince you that their ingredients are the best, or that their products are the most consistent, or the highest-selling.

Instead, they treat their supremacy in the market as a given, and occupy the space comfortably. And they use that freedom to lay claim to ideas that are much bigger than burgers or sugar water: authenticity, love, or even happiness itself.

Open Happiness. Taste the Magic. I’m Lovin’ It. It's the Real Thing.

Show ’em who’s boss

Open Happiness

This tactic is a bit riskier, but it has a long track record of success. Instead of talking yourself up, you talk down to the competition, whether subtly or bluntly. You don’t need to be the best; just better than. It’s a combination of confidence and combativeness that can work well in spaces with just a few key brands fighting for supremacy – like the technology, fast-food, or automotive categories. And for challenger brands, taking on the top dog can help establish you as a rival in customers’ minds, even if you’re much smaller.

One of the most successful examples is Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign. It worked in large part because the Mac character doesn’t come across as mean-spirited. Instead, Apple showed a relaxed, bemused superiority that suggested really, there is no competition. It was so effective (Apple saw a 39% increase in sales after the campaign) that Samsung tried to flip the script with their own take on the idea.Other brands don’t play so nice.

Of course, it helps to have a century of brand recognition or a kajillion-dollar marketing budget to lean on. But it’s not a prerequisite. RXBAR is a good example.

Rather than pile on claims, they take a strong core message – “no B.S.” – and nail it everywhere they go. It’s reflected in their minimalist design, their less-is-more pack and site copy, and even their name and logo.

Lead by example

Rxbar

It all adds up to a feeling: simplicity and frankness that builds trust. Plus an aspirational sense of style and an “I’m too busy for B.S.” attitude that suggests confidence and power. It sets them apart.

The lesson? Instead of the standard claims of superiority, think about what you want audiences to associate with your brand, and commit to building those associations. Doing that takes consistency, a clear strategy, and a strong messaging foundation. But the payoff is worth it. Benefits fade, but feelings linger.

Here’s something just about any brand can do to be a leader: take a stand where others don’t, and have the courage to commit to your principles. That could be a high-visibility cause, like Patagonia’s persistent dedication to environmental causes.

Verizon

Tough, yes. But definitely more memorable than if T-Mobile had said something like “The #1 rated cell carrier” or “fastest download speeds.”Done well, going after the competition is a powerful tactic. It can give you something more distinctive to say than the standard superlatives, help build brand awareness, and persuade audiences to choose you over the others. And if you’re feeling timid about calling your rivals out directly, or unsure if you can win on the specifics, you still have options. It might be enough to make everyone else look hopelessly lame.

Patagonia

Or it can be smaller-scale: elevating your mission and clearly highlighting what your business does differently, whatever that might be. Maybe it’s your approach to service. Maybe it’s your product or process. Or how you treat your employees.

Brands like Misfits Market, REI, and Allbirds have used versions of this tactic to build cult followings that their competitors don’t have.

Ugly
Solution

Same goes for apparel brands that set themselves apart from fast fashion by insisting on quality and durability. Like Darn Tough, which prominently features a “buy it for life” promise. No surprise, they’re able to charge a lot more than their competitors, and they’ve organically built a loyal fanbase in the process.

Darntough

It’s worth figuring out what makes you different, and then showing the world why your way is the best way.

Of course, that takes strong brand strategy and a compelling narrative foundation for your brand.

Luckily, we know a place that excels at just that type of thing. Reach out. We’ll help you sound like a real leader, so you can put “best” to bed.

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