Finding the brand lesson in a billboard that pissed me off.

I drive by this billboard in my town that says, “We want to be your local favorite.”

When I first saw it, I thought it was exceptionally forgettable. But the more I passed it, the more my indifference turned to irritation.


It's not about you. Sorry (not sorry).

I talk with organizations about the importance of being focused on the profound difference they can make in a life, a community, or even the world. I call it the Big Audacious Meaning. Everything flows from this one powerful unifying idea. It is the most potent idea a brand can clarify.

The more I passed that billboard, the more I realized that it represented everything that I’ve been crusading against.

A Big Audacious Meaning’s power lies in its outward focus on the needs and desires of those the brand hopes to serve. When a brand embraces this, it creates a magnetism that draws in everyone from the best recruits to the loyal customers. Because everyone has a fundamental desire to be part of making a difference for those around them whether it is as a team member or a customer.

The billboard was the antithesis of this outward-focused, purpose-driven path to excellence. Let’s break down the problem with the “We want to be your local favorite” billboard:

  1. It’s inward focused - it is the brand talking about itself, leaving us to wonder why we should care.

  2. It’s selfish - it starts with the words ‘We want’. Why does that matter to us? Talking about what you want is about as far away from making a difference for another as you can get.

  3. It offers nothing to those it hopes to engage - why should I feel any alliance with this brand? It talks about itself without any hint of how it might help us feel connected and empowered.

I’m sure the organization behind the billboard felt they were being earnest. It’s not about vilifying them. Rather, it’s taking a lesson from the misstep. It’s too easy for any of us to find ourselves so intent on trying to stand out that we end up talking about why we’re special instead of why those we hope to serve are special.

That’s easier said than done. But we can start by asking, “Who are we serving?” And, “How are we making a difference for her or him?” Then let that guide us to sharing something that’s less about us and more about them. Something relevant, meaningful, and compelling.