Is your elevator pitch in need of a lift?

Your business’s brand needs to be not only clearly defined – it also needs to be succinctly understood. SEAN ADAMS

Sean Adams

By Sean Adams

If anyone ever asks me what line of business I am in, I will generally reply “research and strategy development”.

Not a particularly original definition, and perhaps not that exciting I agree – I sometimes wonder if I should jazz it up a bit and refer to my expertise as being in “consumer interrogation and evolving brand architectures”, but I soon realise that this would make me come across as a complete tool.

My chosen description also doesn’t fully capture the range of different projects I am involved with, but it does have one big advantage – it is clearly understood by potential clients and enables them to position my company within the spectrum of possible projects they may need assistance with.

Is this just a blatant plug for my business, or is there a reason for mentioning this, I hear you say?

Well, the real reason why I raise this issue here is that its importance has been highlighted to me recently through a client project I have been involved with.

This particular project was to help a company sharpen their brand positioning in a fairly complex marketplace.

I began the process, as I often do, by talking to those people who I assumed would be most intimate with the brand itself – the management team of the company in question.

I interviewed each person in depth, and among other things asked them to give me their elevator pitch – how they would describe the company to someone in less than 60 seconds.

In total I talked to 12 different people and received 12 different elevator pitches. To be fair, some were variations on a theme, but some were completely different. Each was true and credible in its own way, but the fact that so many different versions were being communicated made it unsurprising that the brand’s positioning is a little unclear. I may have my work cut out in reaching a consensus here.

This experience made me wonder just how consistent other companies would be in the definition of their own businesses. I hope that the management team would be consistent, but what about other non-management representatives of the company who nevertheless have day-to-day responsibility for spreading their company’s name and reputation in the marketplace.

I think it would make for a fascinating experiment – in fact I’m going to suggest it now.

Why not draw up a list of employees to provide a representative cross-section of your company and then ask them all the same question (a close relative of the elevator pitch)?

“Imagine you have bumped into an old friend at a social function and the discussion gets on to where you are both working. The friend hasn’t heard of your company. What do you say?”

Faithfully record their answers and once they have been collated, compare them all to see just how much common understanding exists among your company’s employees.

And at the same time, also compare them against any “official” company statements that may exist to see just how consistently the company’s actual positioning is being reinforced by its employees.

If this exercise reveals that all your employees are talking with one voice, I applaud you and your company’s culture.

If however, the picture is closer to the project I have been working on, then you know where to find me!


Sean Adams founded his marketing advisory company The Seed in late 2000. Sean has had nearly 20 years advertising experience in Australia and Britain across a range of disciplines – research, planning, account management and media. Over that time he has worked with some of the world’s top advertising agencies, working with many of the world’s leading brands.


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