Recently I read a headline in the paper, “UK BOTTOM OF RICH COUNTRIES LIST”.

I thought that’s bad, I looked at the chart and sure enough there we were, tenth under USA, China, Germany, Japan, etc.

But then I thought, hang on, we’re tenth out of 195 countries in the world, that’s not bad.

From the original headline you’d think we were the lowest in the world, but actually we’re near the top.

Comparisons depend who or what you compare yourself to, what group you’re in.

Years back, Cathy and I were in Mumbai, we wanted to visit the biggest slums in the world, one square kilometre.

As a guide, we got an ex-philosophy professor from Mumbai university.

The slums were ramshackle and incredibly cramped, but they weren’t squalid.

The children were clean, the adults were all working, everyone was smiling, no one was begging.

I asked our guide why they seemed happy.

She said we had to consider where they’d come from, they’d been living in the countryside, starving, no water, no sanitation, no hope.

Here at least their families had food, and shelter, and work.

We expected them to be miserable because we were comparing their lives to ours, but they weren’t, they were comparing their lives with people who had nothing.

She said that was the Buddhist way, suffering comes from desire and desire comes from wanting something better.

So don’t compare yourself with those who have more, compare yourself with those who have less, then you won’t suffer from desire.

Nowadays, the word ‘scale’ means to grow something, to make it bigger.

But scale used to mean placing something in a comparison that would demonstrate its size.

What size is a brick? Well compared to a wristwatch it’s big, compared to a car it’s small.

The human mind works on comparisons, blind data means nothing until you give it scale by what you compare it to.

In advertising, the smart thing to do is emphasize what we want the viewer to think by the comparison we make.

Comparisons is the central point in Ries & Trout’s book ‘Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind’: a brand or product only holds a position in the consumer’s mind relevant to its competitive set.

If we position ourselves correctly, we must REposition the competition by comparison.

If we don’t do that, we have no traction in our competitive set, and so no real brand presence.

Steve Jobs positioned Apple as virus-free which repositioned all PCs as prone to viruses.

Marks & Spencer positioned themselves as high-quality food, which re-positioned everyone else as lower quality.

Aldi positioned themselves as the cheapest, which repositioned everyone else as expensive.

(So much so that Sainsbury have to advertise their Aldi price-match range in their ads.)

VW positioned themselves as the sensible car, which repositioned Detroit cars as bloated.

Later, VW positioned themselves as reliable, which repositioned other cars as unreliable.

Avis positioned themselves as trying harder, which repositioned Hertz as lazy.

Levi positioned themselves as the original jeans, which repositioned other jeans as copies.

Comparison are the fastest, simplest way to make a brand impression stick.

But comparisons seem to have fallen out of fashion, in favour of brand-purpose.

We believe we can brand-purpose and dance our way into the public’s consciousness.

That’s the extent of current advertising thinking.