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 Sunday, September 7, 2008




Okay, without looking ahead, can you interpret the abbreviations above to make sense of the “positioning formula?”  Most experienced marketers probably catch the P-O-D meaning right away:  Point-of-Difference.  But the C.O.E abbreviation is less commonly used, though what it stands for is an expression equally common among marketers:  Cost-of-Entry.  So, combined together the formula in this week’s title goes something like this:  When you add a point-of-difference benefit to a cost-of-entry benefit, you often create a winning brand positioning.


Now wait a minute—before you object that cost-of-entry anything is hardly going to help a brand “win.”  Generally speaking, it’s true that we marketers typically disdain anything that’s cost-of-entry.  We pepper our strategic conversations with such remarks as, “Having the ADA (American Dental Association) endorsement gains us nothing; it’s cost-of-entry in oral care.”  But, ironically, just as we often look down our noses at positioning elements that we deem C.O.E, we just as casually select as our lead positioning benefit something like “provides effective pain relief.”  Is such a benefit not, in the analgesic category, also C.O.E?  Can any brand really compete without providing effective relief?  Oh sure, sometimes we try to pump up a positioning benefit like this by re-stating it:  “provides maximum pain relief,” but the meaning remains, effectively, cost-of-entry.


Many of today’s more senior marketers (no need to mention their age!)—especially those trained at companies like Unilever, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble—rarely even considered things like cost-of-entry benefits in the past.  They were accustomed to positioning and marketing brands with (normally) one differentiated benefit engineered into their product by design…such as “the softest facial tissue,” “brighter white clothes than brand X,” and “winner in consumer taste tests.”  In those days it was much easier to position single-mindedly with a single, winning benefit.  But, as we often point out in our weekly Dispatches, times have changed a lot, and it is more the exception now to find a class of drug or category of product or service in which one brand has a clear-cut, meaningful product advantage. 


That’s why considering a positioning with the C.O.E + P-O-D formula nowadays makes some sense.  In fact, there are at least three good reasons why it makes some sense:


  1. In most cases the cost-of-entry benefit is something the brand is well-known for; by adding a second point-of-difference benefit to it the brand effectively builds upon its own equity.


  1. Adding a relevant P-O-D benefit to a brand that previously has been at “parity” to others in the category adds value…value that can even better justify that brand’s premium pricing.


  1. Finally, note that the formula C.O.E. + P-O-D includes only two benefits—one each of cost-of-entry and point-of-difference.  So following the formula in crafting the brand’s positioning benefits forces the brand-builders to make hard choices…to select that ONE point-of-difference benefit that will bring the greatest return from customers or consumers.  This “forced” benefit articulation is an especially helpful constraint when positioning products like prescription drugs, where there is always the temptation to load-in multiple cost-of-entry benefits--like “effective, safe, and tolerable”--that do nothing to drive preference.


Maybe it would help at this point to see a few examples of the C.O.E. + P-O-D benefit-positioning in action.  From a range of product categories and drug classes, here are some brands that have built their businesses in competitive markets by implementing this dual-benefit approach (this week’s B&H):







Bayer Aspirin

Effective pain relief

And the only leading pain reliever that can also help save your life

Tylenol (historical)

Effective pain relief

And the only one that will not cause stomach upset or interfere with Rx medications

Cipro HC (Rx)

Effective relief of earache pain

And the only one that provides relief 19 hours faster


Dependable, universally accepted credit

And the only one that represents what you value most in life

Nexium (Rx)

Effective relief from acid reflux

And the only one that also prevents esophageal erosion


Long-lasting power

And the only one you can really trust to work when it has to

Vigamox (Rx)

Effective cure for pink-eye

And the only one that works up to 20 times faster


Note that some of the P-O-D benefits are functional and some are emotional.  But also note that each one links logically to the C.O.E benefit.  What would a C.O.E. + P-O-D benefit combo look like for your brand?

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney

Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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