CHAPTER 7Why Specificity Is Sexy

I always wanted to be somebody, but now I see I should have been more specific.

—Lily Tomlin, comedian and actress

Have you ever been in a meeting where people are arguing over a word choice? Whether it's website copy, a marketing message, or a company e‐mail, people have different opinions about which words work best. What often winds up happening is that the team includes all the words to keep everyone happy. Or they compromise, telling each other, “It's just semantics.”

In the case of your NSP, the semantics matter. A lot.

The meaning attached to your NSP can make the difference between owning your market or getting left behind. A few words can make or cost you millions. Just ask the team at Mars Petcare, a company with 41 brands, some of which earn over $1 billion a year. They're outpacing longtime rival Purina. A close look at the two firms' purpose statements reveals how Mars' strategic choice of a preposition propelled a strategy that generated millions in revenue and enabled them to beat Purina in multiple markets.

The two statements are:

  • Purina: Better with pets
  • Mars: A better world for pets

What do you notice? At first look, they appear the same. But look closer: One is a call to action, while the other is more of a slogan. Can you tell the difference? Purina is telling you what they believe; Mars is telling you about the impact they intend to have. On the Mars website, Veterinary Genetics Research Manager Dr. Angela Hughes describes ...

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