Picture: A Griffon Hoverwork hovercraft moves easily from the sea to the beach – hovercraft can reach areas that are inaccessible to conventional boats like lifeboats
Polaris MD Ben Pinnington continues a series of posts about communication strategy. Here he discusses Polaris’ experience of working with companies to develop unique selling points that give them a competitive edge.
Some of the best meetings we have had with clients come from messaging sessions. I have seen teams sparking off each other as they start to articulate a deep purpose within them that they may not have properly crystallised or committed to paper before. It is very important to embed these benefits of using your company and products in all your marketing rather than focusing on the technical side as it is the benefits that are most likely to hook in the customer. Plus it is the benefits of using you and your company that middle managers often need to ‘sell’ to their senior managers to get a deal over the line. It is just so vital you have these USPs on a silver plate ready to give prospective customers so it jumps off the page at them in a cluttered market space. For this reason developing a set of crisp, immediate and punchy USPs is absolutely key for all your marketing materials. Think of Elon Musk’s and how he has disrupted the car market with Tesla – what makes Tesla stand out is how astonishingly innovative the cars are compared to other vehicles. Tesla is excellent at creating lots of touch points emphasising these USPs with prospective buyers. You can do the same harnessing an array of marketing covering publicity, social media, enewsletters, Youtube and brochures.
A business we work with who has superb USPs is the famous Southampton hovercraft maker Griffon Hoverwork – which has been at forefront of hovercraft making since it was first conceived, more than 50 years ago working alongside the hovercraft’s inventor Sir Christopher Cockerell. Today the company has hovercraft in more than 40 countries. Working with its gregarious sales and marketing director Nick MacLeod-Ash and marketing manager Ollie Winsor we were able to highlight these USPs when Polaris was engaged to promote the global launch of its 995ED model, at Latin America’s premier naval and maritime exhibition Exponaval in Chile. The news release pointed out that hovercraft can go places ordinary boats cannot. Nick said: “Hovercrafts are extremely effective in flood and disaster roles where search and rescue using conventional patrol boats and RIBs can be very difficult. The hovercraft like the 995ED can operate brilliantly in shallow water, rivers and over ice, weed and mud. In these cases, boats cannot navigate the conditions and helicopters are extremely expensive and have limited passenger capacity and payload. The 995ED, on the other hand, can travel over almost any surface, including debris which is becoming a bigger problem with increased flooding and tsunami events.”
Another client with powerful USPs is the Middle East shipyard Oman Drydock. I remember vividly its then head of marketing director the Korean Johnny Woo pointing out a map in his Muscat office one beautiful evening. He showed how the shipyard’s location in Duqm meant that shipping lines did not have to navigate one of the most crowded and treacherous shipping lanes in the world the Strait Of Hormuz, frequently a flashpoint for mine laying and tensions with Iran. By heading straight to Duqm to be repaired ships did not have to risk heading through the strait to reach shipyards in Dubai or Qatar. As the then deputy CEO Dr Ahmed Al Abri said in a press release:”Our geographical position is one of our key unique selling points,” he said. “The convenience we can offer means ship owners can save time and money by not having to deviate course through the Strait of Hormuz. Furthermore, we offer the ideal climate for painting and blasting which other shipyards in the Gulf cannot match because they do not share our climate.”
Closer to home we worked with the famous Liverpool ship engine company James Troop. Its team told us they had moved to new premises in Runcorn so the company could ‘put its customer first’. The new location enabled ease of access to motorway and connections so the team could move with maximum efficiency to support its clients. From here a very powerful authentic marketing message and ethos started shining out that this was a dedicated selfless company whose customer service outshone the competition – one of the virtues that had enabled it to trade successfully for 150 years.
Another of our clients Roxtec is a large international manufacturer of safety seals used extensively in the maritime and offshore sectors. We have had many messaging sessions over the years but time and again what shines through is the company wants its seals to be known for protecting people, buildings and assets. Yes the products are incredibly robust and testing in Sweden is meticulous but it is the benefits of the product it wants to highlight. Another great message from Roxtec is its global reach with offices all over the world providing in-country engineering expertise. This is so important when maritime projects can involve numerous countries and interlocking supply chains. These are the type of messages which give you a competitive edge and character and are central to building a strong brand. The key is to build an understanding of your approach so these messages are consistently communicated across marketing materials.
Another client the Isle of Man Ship Registry prides itself on being a high quality flag state of choice that regularly features at the top of the Paris Whitelist which ranks flag states by performance. The IOM wanted to emphasize its commitment to safety and care for seafarers. The director Cameron Mitchell, a former seafarer himself, told us he passionately wanted to do something to help seafarers combat the isolation many feel in the wilderness of the sea. As a result the registry launched the first seafarer welfare app by a flag state in partnership with tech company Tapiit Live. The messaging in the press release and social media underlined how genuine this care for seafarers was drawing on Cameron’s experience at sea for 17 years saying IOMSR did not just talk about crew welfare it actually went out and did something that was concrete. This messaging started to say a lot more about the brand of the registry, what made it tick.
One way to focus your brand and message is to produce a set of brand guidelines with your marketing team this can capture what your brand stands for and what your voice should sound like in marketing materials together with clear guidance on how your logo and identity should be used. It can be helpful to benchmark yourself and your USPs against competitors through a marketing agency to help you understand what makes you different and what gives you an edge.