Differentiate Your Blog or Die

Build a Sticky BlogWhat’s the key to standing out in the crowded blogosphere?

More importantly, will standing out actually lead to long-term success?

Let’s take a stroll down marketing history lane to see if we can find some answers.

The Unique Selling Proposition

In 1961, a gentleman by the name of Rosser Reeves published a book entitled Reality in Advertising. In this book, Reeves revealed the secret behind his success as a copywriter and later as chairman of the Ted Bates advertising agency–the unique selling proposition (USP).

Reeves enjoyed great success throughout the relatively languid competitive climate of the 1940s and 50s by pointing out a specific and compelling benefit to the buyer that was unique to that product. The value-added benefit had to be something desirable that the competition did not, or could not, offer with their product.

Positioned in Your Mind

In 1981, Jack Trout and Al Reis released Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind based on a concept the two developed way back in 1969. Moving beyond the USP, Trout and Reis focused not on what you do to the product or service, but what you do to the mind of the prospective buyer.

Jack Trout relentlessly preached the power of positioning into the 1990s with The New Positioning, and into the new millennium with Differentiate or Die. The latter book comes full circle back to Rosser Reeves and the unique selling proposition, as Trout takes to task “creative” advertising that pulls heart strings but gives the prospect no reason to buy.

Purple Cows and Liars

In 2003, Seth Godin gave us Purple Cow, a book that riffs on the USP and positioning, but takes it a step further. Yes, your product or service must be unique, and yes, you must aim to position yourself in the prospect’s mind. But is it something worth talking about? Will your customers market for you?

In 2005, Seth released the essential companion to Purple Cow, and cleverly sought to avoid controversy by calling it All Marketers are Liars. It’s not enough to be remarkable—after all, we talk about distasteful things too. You’ve got to take it one step further and make sure that the story you’re telling is one that people want to hear.

Made to Stick

In 2007, brothers Chip and Dan Heath released Made to Stick. While positioned as an advanced exploration of the ideas contained in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, the book’s core stands on the shoulders of Reeves, Trout, and Godin, but takes it that one critical step forward.

How does something stand out on its own, in our minds, get us talking… and also endure? What determines whether you’ll get 15 minutes of fame or create a lasting impression?

Is Your Blog Sticky?

In social media, just about anyone can get 15 minutes of fame, or even 15 minutes a month. But what, ultimately, does that mean? Are you gaining an audience that will make you money or help you achieve your goals?

The key to niche marketing success is to avoid the dreaded “me-too” syndrome and meaningfully differentiate in a way that leads to profits. We’ll explore strategies that set your blog apart for the long haul with this series, How to Build a Sticky Blog.

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Reader Comments (48)

  1. says

    Great tips. So many peoples that start the blog without make some research first. And 90% of them just build blog about money making, although there are so many competitors.. But for me, what ever our blog are, the important thing is traffic. :)

  2. says

    Putting all of these books and concepts in this context is awesome. Standing back and looking at it this way is helpful in a lot of different ways.

    I have my opinions on this, but I’ll wait for part 2.

  3. says

    Blogging as personal therapy is one thing.

    But if you’re blogging as a business venture or channel for awareness, exposure, interactivity with prospects, customers and colleagues, it has to pass the “Who gives a crap” test.

    Substance with a fresh perspective — a great “mash-up” of concepts unexpected — now that’s a blog that’s worth its salt and will most certainly endure.

  4. says

    You forgot “use sensation headlines to make your readers fear they will die if they don’t heed your words” … as this entry exemplifies.

    But really, I kid, I kid. I’ve been reading your entries and they’re all based upon real knowledge and helpful to people that want the knowledge.

  5. says

    Having read all but one of the texts covered and a whole lot more, the topic resonates with me as it should with all marketers who blog.

    My best sales people are undoubtedly other devotees who embrace my products (Australian herbs, spices etc) and recommend them, re-purchase and gift them (our hamper business went crazy this Xmas). But the challenge still exists to ignite the desire in anyone who eats.

    However, it is still a struggle to get the emotional buy-in from blog readers and convert them to committed and supportive customers and I look forward to the next issue.

  6. says

    Refreshing to see you quote books that have 20th century dates in them.

    I think the bottom line in writing well is to read a lot.

    Brian — How about a top 20 book list?

    The intelligence quotient of readers would certainly improve, and writing good– well it might improve, too. 😉

    best fishes,


  7. says

    All these books are excellent.

    I thought purple cow was especially good.

    The real secret to effective differentiation is to develop an intimate knowledge of your prospects and clients.

    That way you can find the points of differentiation where…

    a. You have no real competition because you’re clearly the best in the market or because no one else is competing.

    b. You offer exceptional value to your clients.

    c. You can charge a premium price.

    When you start talking about the theory of marketing (USPs, differentiation, tipping points etc) it’s vital to remember that ultimately all marketing is just about serving real people.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  8. says

    I discovered your blog about a month ago. It’s now must reading.

    One question, wasn’t Reeves’ book titled “Reality in Advertising?”

    Or did it appear under more than one name?

  9. says

    Brian – this is a very insightful post. It presents with great clarity how these modern theories developed.

    I have just been working on a new project and thinking a lot about USP and about the importance of the story. I hadn’t really associated the two together though even though I was thinking about the two together.

    Thanks for the clarity – looking forward to the rest of the series!

  10. says

    Thanks for the great tips,

    I been following Seth ever since I read Purple Cow, I think he’s great. Looking forward to reading other books you brought to my attention.

    I am looking forward to reading your content on regular basis.


  11. says

    Yo Brian,

    I need to link to this story just so I can say, “Brian is threatening people again”.

    I liked the title, but the trips down memory lane were a challenge to my (admittedly diminutive) attention span. Maybe the focus is narrower than your usual. -j

  12. says

    Awesome lesson Brian.

    To paraphrase a man whose lyrics stand out and endure – “don’t just shine, illuminate the whole show”.

    Eagerly anticipating the new series – your posts have already delivered more value to our marketing than anyone else in the blogosphere.

  13. says

    Great insight! I am newer to the world of blogging and really appreciate the simplcity of the guidance you bring to the table. I hope I can only do it justice.


  14. says

    Brian: I hope this isn’t a super dumb question, but what would or could be my U.S.P. for my (or any) vegetarian blog? Could you please provide me an example. Missy.

  15. says

    So Rosser Reves ‘… revealed the secret of his success …’
    etc: pity that he didn’t pass it on the Ted Bates UK, probably the
    worst advertising agency for creative work ever.
    No wonder they were bought and sold in the 80’s/90’s.
    The only USP/creative line that they never came up with
    was for their bra account (who’s name escates me). ‘Tat for Tit’

  16. says

    Hey Man, Great content. I love the fact the you read books than span across 40 years. Right now, i’m rushing back to AuthorityRules.com.

    You’re great.

  17. says

    A lot to think about here – it’s so easy to get it wrong and not realise you have until it’s too late.

  18. says

    This post got me into thinking. The world reads my blog, but my blog does not really belong to the world. I want to make a difference in the world, but my mission is to make a difference in the world I live in – the Philippines.

    Many of the motivational speakers in the Philippines today have the tendency to follow whoever is the famous American (in the Philippines, American usually mean the white guys from the US) of the day. Of course, others have the stupid idea that people will contact them once they call themselves the best motivational speaker in the Philippines. We know that many of them are copycats of John Maxwell, Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar. In reality, they do not have the identity of their own.

    Some of us call ourselves inspirational speakers. I am one of them. But calling oneself an inspirational speakers does not necessarily make one unique. What is so unique about what I offer?

    My dream is the Filipino dream.

    That is a good start. But I must be clear about my unique role under the Philippine sky.

    Thank you for inspiring to rethink about what I blog, and yes, about what I do.

    jef menguin
    inspirational speaker

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