Politics sucks doesn’t it? Sure, we have to have it in our lives because short of running around with assault rifles and Molotov cocktails, or giving some muppet with bad hair total control, it’s the only way to run society.

But damn, why does it always have to be so hard?

For example, who’d want to be an American at the moment? It’s an election year and their political system has descended well beyond the level of farce into, oh I don’t know… debacle maybe?

Never mind the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and endless Congressional deadlocks that could shut everything down, the poor buggers also have to deal with a Republican primary field that looks like it’s made up of rejects from a C-Grade horror movie, while the “obvious” Democratic candidate is nothing more than the same old, same old wearing a dress. At least they’ve got Bernie to make it interesting instead of just being utter laughing stocks on a global scale.

Then there’s little old New Zealand. Frankly we shouldn’t be too smug. A quick look through the archives of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show makes it plain that we’ve got our own share of cringe-worthy politicians, hell bent on lifting their game to world-class levels of buffoonery. If I said what I thought about our Prime Minister, I’d probably get locked up, but he’s there because middle New Zealand loves a “winner” (choke), and because there’s no other bloody choice!

If I was a Yank with conservative leanings, I’d have to choose between creatures like Trump and Cruz. In New Zealand, I get to choose between a flag changing, ponytail tugger and… hang on, who’s running Labor again? And as much of a hippie as I am, the Greens would just muck it up given enough rope. But if I want a PM and a party who seem to be more aligned with my values, and less inclined to change the flag just “because”, then I might actually have to give one of the other parties my vote, even if they’ve got zero chance of winning or even of having an impact. Talk about a lousy choice.

Politics is all about choosing the lesser of two evils, which are basically two pieces of the same pie with marginally different fillings when it comes down to it. If the whole mess wasn’t fired up by ideology, no one would ever vote. And if anyone could find a credible alternative, we’d probably roll it out in a flash.

Which brings us to advertising. In most cases, we have more than one choice of any particular product or service, but usually, they’re all much of a muchness, no matter how stridently the various brands proclaim their uniqueness.

I’ve written before about grudge purchases. Some products and services (like insurance or shock absorbers for example) are total grudge purchases, but others, well, they’re stuff we need or want, but these purchases are either driven by ideology aka belief, or price. We buy a certain beer because we like the taste, or we identify with the brand’s values and advertising messages i.e. we believe. Or we buy whatever’s reasonably tasty at a big discount at the supermarket on a Friday afternoon because price matters more.

But truth be told, we could buy any of the brands. Heineken is Steinlager is Stella. Don’t kid yourself they’re not. And Lexus is BMW is Audi as much as State is IAG is Southern Cross. You only think they’re different because you’ve been told they are often enough.

What would happen if a brand became a grudge purchase based purely on ideology? If your favourite beer became the name sponsor of the Australian rugby team, who went on to handily and repeatedly trounce your beloved All Blacks? It’s unlikely, I know, but bear with me.

Would you change your beer? Are you buying based on a thin veneer of belief and nothing more? Are the things that make up who you are (fashion, phone, accessories, car etc.) nothing more than constructs in your head?

More to the point, if you run a business, or are involved in the marketing one, then what are you and your company doing to truly stand out and to offer products or services that are more than just the sum of their price and the messages you feed out into the world?

Think about how you’d market a true grudge purchase, and then apply that same thinking to your own marketing. Why would you want to sell stuff that’s merely the lesser of two or more evils, when you could stand out and be remarkable? What happens when you slip down the ladder and are seen, for whatever reason, to be more “evil” in some small way than the opposition?

Here’s my usual hint – you won’t be different (or “not evil”) by doing the same thing you always did. And embracing whatever the latest trend is doesn’t count either because your competitors are already doing just that. You need to look at the big picture and find ways to be excellent, and if you can do that, along with everyone at your organisation, then the consumer will always find ways to support that.

Otherwise you’re just another part of the filling of a big, but exceedingly bland pie.