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The importance of being different, from our MD

Posted: 23 Aug 2017

Our MD, Paul Carr, shares his views on how important it is to be different in the ever-changing and turbulent market of today!


In marketing, there’s a lot of emphasis on being ‘different’. Marketers through the ages have striven to create a position for their brand which helps them stand out from their competitors. And there can be little doubt that some of the stronger products and services we’re offered as consumers are poles apart from the others on the shelf.

But it's easier said than done. Any idiot can be different – people of my age and older can probably remember Sony Betamax, and its short but very costly ‘battle’ with the rival VHS video format back in the mid-1970s. It’s being different in a way that’s relevant to your target audience which is important.

Thankfully, there are plenty of examples in consumer marketing of brands that have successfully achieved that. Harking back to the mid ‘70s again (maybe my head IS stuck there after all), where one of the most incredibly successful pieces of ‘differentiation’ took place, thanks to Apple. At that time, Microsoft and Sony were the top dogs in consumer electronics and computers (however ‘new’ computers were at the time). Steve Jobs had a vision to create technology which would change the world, and it involved innovation. Critically, he understood that consumers were constantly hungry for the next big thing. He invented Apple (distinctive in its own right) and subsequently launched the iPod (goodbye Walkman!), the iPhone, the iPad and, ultimately,  a cool ‘new’ brand which continues to this day. In 2010, Apple finally overtook Microsoft in sales revenue – all driven by Jobs’ appreciation of his target market, and his passion and vision for differentiation.

For the younger reader, the rise of Snapchat has, perhaps, been as impressive. The social media platform launched into the gadget-obsessed world in 2011, at time when Facebook had around 845 million users. Snapchat’s challenge was to ensure its differentiated approach was understood by its target audience. It perhaps helped that its developers used social media channels themselves. Snapchat realised that young people wanted to snap what they are doing, right at that moment, wherever they were in the world. But, crucially, they understood that it was only relevant for that moment. The latest stats reveal Snapchat has 161 million daily users. (Okay, so Facebook has grown and now has more than 1.3 billion daily active users, but Snapchat’s fans still flock to the app for its difference.)

As I embark on my second year with Stopgap, I’m reminded of the importance of being different in this turbulent recruitment industry. In the UK alone, more than 4,500 new recruiters set up in business last year.  When I look at the ‘choice’ available out there, I can forgive both companies and candidates for being confused when trying to determine a route forward.

I’ve been surprised and a little shocked by some of the candidate and client experiences I’ve heard as I’ve learnt about this industry – especially as it seems pretty simple to me to determine what each party wants. Why have some recruiters seen fit to ignore that? I’m really excited now that the new Strategic Leadership team at Stopgap is embracing our “Dare to be Different” strapline more deeply than ever. They’re ensuring that our service is ‘good different’ and not just ‘different for the sake of being different’ – that’s the trick. Our core recruitment offering focuses firmly on the candidate and their skills and aspirations. This, coupled with the true understanding of our clients, their cultures and requirements, makes for a perfect match.

But we’re also sympathetic to the fact that this market is continuously evolving, with technological advances and attitudes to work being two of the most major changes happening right now. These factors drive us to develop new and differentiated offerings, over and above simply taking a brief and filling it.

In the coming 12 months, I’m optimistic that Stopgap will be able to stay ahead of the competition. And, more importantly, we’ll have identified and implemented pioneering new approaches and services in line with the requirements of our audiences – be they job seekers or those who employ them. The team here #dare – do you?


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