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Monday, June 6, 2016





This is a continuation of our article (Critical Marketing Mistakes – Lack of Differentiation Part 1) dealing with the lack of relevant and meaningful differentiation needed to compel Target-Customer preference. It is the third in a series of articles that tackle critical marketing mistakes, those slip-ups, oversights and poor practices, and address what needs to be done to make marketing matter (more).  This week we offer solutions (Boats & Helicopters) to avoid those critical mistakes, and suggest ways to achieve differentiation.




  1. Audit your offering for relevant, meaningful differentiation. Perhaps, marketers and their organizations miss the big picture as it relates to whether they have differentiation, and whether it is relevant and meaningful to their Target-Customer segment. Check your offering versus the competition for product performance. Get beyond features to include the value proposition and customer perceptions. Then map the category based upon performance “P” and differentiation “D”. Better performance is often considered puffery and, as such, inconsequential, as customers cannot perceive a real advantage. “Differentiation” trumps “better,” as long as it is relevant and meaningful. The place to occupy is the top right corner. The top left and bottom right corners are nearly a wash. Some Target-Customers who purchase out of habit may believe (or rationalize) “Better” whereas some Target-Customers may choose that which is merely different just because it is not the same, or merely to be contrarian.
  2. Avoid doing what all other competitors are doing. Resist the lemming-like urge to follow others over the proverbial cliff. In the words of Chip and Dan Heath, “Resist the usual.” Question standard category operating practices to determine if they will make a difference in your brand’s performance. If the practices are not essential find a different way. Take a different path. Challenge all assumptions. The goal is not just to look different but be different in a way that the Target-Customer perceives to be relevant and meaningfully differentiated versus alternative offerings. In other words, it has to work! Warby-Parker, Amazon and Starbucks represent companies who departed from the conventional wisdom and took a different path with regard to their business model. And, they’ve succeeded. Do you have the courage to do the same? The change need not be radical but it must demonstrate a favorable impact on Target-Customer perceptions.

  3. Choose to be and not to be. This is taken from the second article in this series, “Miss-Targeting Target-Customers.” It is essential for us to make choices regarding whom we will target AND whom we will not target. Keep in mind that we are targeting those potential customers for whom our brand will have strong appeal, with the anticipated impact of a faster growth acceleration rate and more favorable ROI. Also, this means making choices regarding the reason for our brand’s existence (the Brand Idea and positioning strategy) and what we will and will not stand for, what product developments we will and will not pursue, what we will message and what we won’t, and what marketing activities we will undertake and what we will not. Not making clear choices will undermine marketing effectiveness. Also, we’ll find that in making choices our research is likely to give us a different view of the marketplace, revealing distinct differences from segment to segment in Target-Customer attitudes, behaviors, value systems, needs, etc., that we may focus against and capitalize upon to drive differentiation.

  4. "Stay thirsty my friends." We recently delivered a keynote presentation to a large, multi-national pharmaceutical company on the subject of “Marketing Excellence.” Prior to preparing this talk we were told that a segment of the intended audience already felt that they had achieved, and were currently engaged in, marketing excellence. Okay, wonderful. Curiously, in researching the company we learned that their average cost for bringing a new drug to market was the highest in the sector, nearly four times higher than the most efficient pharmaceutical company. Therefore, we warned, these marketers could not afford to be self-satisfied. We counseled them that their marketing should probably be at least four times more productive than competitors if they hoped to either compete effectively and/or optimize the value of their very costly assets.

    Any competitor who is self-satisfied is one who is vulnerable for a fall. This is where “active inertia” sets in and the quest for additional ways to differentiate begins to falter. If we want to be a “winner” then one ought to take to heart the words of the most interesting man in the world, the former Dos Equis spokesman, who advised, “Stay thirsty my friends.” Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Participate in “war gaming” to identify ways in which competitors may best your offering and marketing. Then find ways to immunize your brand from the most significant and likely of these potential initiatives. Be relentless in your search for ways to differentiate and forestall more thirsty competitors. Importantly take action to increase your (leadership) position in the marketplace.

  5. Compete to win Target-Customers. What the marketplace doesn’t need is another entry that doesn’t having anything new and different to offer. If you are going to enter – compete! Give Target-Customers something new of value. Build differentiation into your offering. Differentiation can be built into the product offering, business model, strategies, choices you make, even execution. There are so many places to seek and create differentiation. In our communications to Target-Customers we can differentiate in each part of the Communication Strategy: the Target-Customer we choose; the Communication Behavior Objective we seek; the “Legitimate” and “Productive” Customer Insight we discover; the POD (i.e., Point of “Difference”) Benefit we promise; and the Reason-To-Believe we provide to add credibility to the Benefit promise. We can also differentiate in how we deliver the communications, which includes the development and choice of a Campaign Idea, and where and when we communicate our message. Vie for Target-Customer preference in each and every thing you do.

  6. Invest in the future of the brand. We understand that if quarterly expectations are not met then there will be no future for the brand or, for that matter, your employment within that organization. However, indiscriminate cutting will hurt the brand’s ability to compete in the future. It will enable those worthy, aggressive competitors to narrow or close any gaps, technological or otherwise, eradicating advantages in differentiation, and resulting in the commoditization of your offering. The choice is clear, invest now or pay for it later. Regardless, the marketer and his/her organization will pay for it one way or the other! If the funds are directed at providing or enhancing differentiation and growing incremental sales then it is important to invest.

    However, before investing we marketers must know the behaviors we seek and whether the proposed activities will achieve those behaviors and generate a favorable ROI. The only way we can determine this is to inspect what we expect, which means we need to conduct marketing research and measure everything we do for productivity. Anything less will result in a cost at best or a gamble at worst. Either way it is not an investment and deserves to be cut. (More on this subject in a later article in this series.)

  7. Avoid “Creeping Decrementalism.” Certainly it is important to cut “unnecessary” costs both in the product and its delivery. However, when it comes to rationalizing the product it is a good idea to follow the carpenter’s maxim, “Measure twice. Cut once.” Specifically, check out the change from the most recent proposed rationalized offering with Target-Customers before launching it. But don’t stop there! Check out the proposed change versus the original product to ensure it has not drifted south (i.e., declined in preference) from the original offering. Also, ask, “What added-value will this bring to our Target-Customer?” If the answer is nothing, think twice.

  8. Think like a Marketect. A Marketect is well aware of the marketing research and how the marketplace landscape appears to Target-Customers. However, the Marketect recognizes the need, and takes action, to change how Target-Customers perceive the marketplace in order to win preference. The Marketect doesn’t see her/himself as a slave to what is current but, instead, one who can shape the future. The Marketect of our generation is the late Steve Jobs. He ushered in the personal computer industry that has revolutionized how we work and what we (can) do. He changed the mobile phone industry and video animation. Steve Jobs also commercialized computer tablets and set in motion the multi-billion dollar app industry. He wasn’t content with nor was he daunted by what was but what could be.

    Use marketing research wisely to inform rather than to decide, to inspire rather than to restrict. Get beyond the numbers and look into the souls of real people, those in your Target-Customer segment. Read between the lines to discover “legitimate” and “productive” customer insights. Use marketing research to explore concepts for product improvements, new products, marketing campaigns, etc. Go beyond learning “what” but “why” so you may develop new hypotheses, adapt and iterate your way to success. Again, make sure your marketing research is directed at addressing your Target-Customer segment. Use it to better serve your Target-Customer versus your competition. Do not concern yourself with less favorable responses for those people who are not in your Target-Customer segment.

  9. Welcome and explore many, diverse perspectives. Don’t seek consensus. Consensus is about compromising to gain agreement. This process promotes convergence as opposed to divergence. It’s about quickly settling on an idea and getting everyone comfortable and satisfied with it. Yet achieving success in creating differentiation is a creative endeavor. If we are to improve the likelihood of success it requires that we attempt many shots on goal, from many different angles. Inviting the team members from diverse disciplines who together represent a broad range of experiences, unique insights and invaluable perspectives will result in more ideas and, importantly, more diversity of ideas. In other words there will be many more shots on goal from many more angles. Additionally, this approach will enable you to resist premature judgments based on lack of unanimity in thought.

    As Theodore Levitt, former Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and author of The Marketing Imagination states, “Nothing drives progress like the imagination. The idea precedes the deed.” Try to be “the only one that …” Use your imagination. Focus the resources of the team not on gaining unanimity but on creating many different ideas to achieve differentiation that will positively impact Target-Customer perceptions and behaviors towards your offering. How many ideas? Think BIG. Whatever you think, triple it!

  10. Get beyond the physical product you sell. The physical product we sell is rather generic. Oh, it might have different features and attributes but when it comes down to it our physical products do the same basic things, work in the same basic (or accepted) ways and generate the same general results. Ho hum! Consider both the whole product and the customer experience. The whole product includes things outside of the purchased physical product that comprise our entire offering to potential customers. This would include training on ways to maximize the use or performance of our offering. It could include warranties regarding reliability and outcomes, special financing arrangements and even servicing. These should be created to help differentiate the whole offering versus competition in either kind or degree.

    But as legendary pitchman Ron Popeil would say, “Wait, there’s more.” Much more. Think of creating differentiation from the perspective of the experience you deliver. Pose and address the following questions:
    • What is the experience of customers with my product and competitive products?
    • What experience would be truly meaningful to them?
    • What might I do to deliver that experience?

      The Internet enables consumers to shop without leaving home. Membership to Amazon Prime provides next day delivery service on orders. They have been experimenting with drones to provide same day delivery service. Experiencing “instant gratification” takes on a whole (product) new meaning.

  11. Opposition the competition. This is commonly conducted by politicians and, in the mind of nearly every marketer whose offering is losing to competition, by competitors who position those offerings in an unflattering light. In brief, it is the practice of positioning a competitor to establish your brand’s positioning in the marketplace. Now we are not suggesting that you openly trash the competition. In many parts of the world it is illegal to engage in comparative communications. Instead, we are proposing that you use this as a creative exercise to uncover where your brand has meaningful differentiation by identifying weaknesses of your competition. Simply answer the following:
    • Competitor “A” will or does not … (negative or incomplete performance)
    • This is true because … (support for oppositioning claim)

      For example, “Competitor A will damage fabrics and wear out your clothes. This is true because it contains abrasives, not fabric softeners.” This would then lead to our differentiation; “We keep your clothes looking new, wash after wash. This is because we contain fabric softeners and no abrasives."

  12. Fast forward to create the future. We need to be able to see where the future is headed and capitalize on it. Identify those trends that represent a sea change. In other words, they represent a significant and lasting impact on the marketplace, everything from business models (how the business operates), to product offerings to customer wants versus needs. This may be fueled by new technologies, social changes, regulations, changing demographics, etc. Then make it your business to create the future by aggressively participating in it. Ask yourself,
    • What (societal, technological, etc.) trends are impacting our category?
    • Where will the market be in 5 – 10-years?
    • What are the core differences?
    • What must I do to drive and capitalize on those differences?

  13. Be precise in expressing differentiation in word, and deed. State clearly and unambiguously what you promise your Target-Customer. Take a stand. Do not use “fat” words. Ask Target-Customers these questions:
    • What is the promise?
    • Is this important to you?
    • Is it meaningfully differentiated versus competitive offerings?
    • What is your likelihood of purchasing, prescribing, using the offering?

      mportantly, fulfill your promise to them through your actions. One way of doing this is to examine beliefs and practices. Identify the belief (as it relates to differentiation) and state the current practice.

      If the belief and practice are not in alignment then it is important to change one or the other. We must backup our promises with our actions.

  14. Implement Kaizen. This is the Japanese practice of continuous, incremental improvements. It’s the absolute opposite of the process of rationalization. It is about finding ways to add-value to your offering or the way the organization does things that will have a positive impact on Target-Customer preference. It’s also the corporate manifestation of the maxim “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step.” The sheer scope of the journey to where we need to reach to deliver meaningful differentiation could appear overwhelming if we attempt to do it all in one fell swoop. Instead, identify where you want to take differentiation and then map out the series of steps it will take to get there. Start at the beginning with the first step. Then build upon it. Make it a continuous process, each year building in a greater degree of differentiation. When you begin closing-in on your destination, establish a new one.

  15. Let us help you achieve more success. Here are a few ways BDNI might help you:
    • Marketing Audit - BDNI conducts an audit of marketing performance using tools that will enable us to objectify our subjective judgment regarding principles and practices for all facets of the brand’s current and planned marketing efforts (strategies and initiatives). This includes facilitating an ideation workshop with the broad based, diverse team to identify where the brand and its marketing may provide important, relevant differentiation to matter more.
    • Navigator Workshops – We offer a number of highly productive workshops that employ and leverage the collective wisdom of the multi-discipline brand management team (e.g., sales, R&D, customer intelligence, promotion integrity, clinical, creative resource personnel such as agency, etc.) through “intelligent collaboration” to:
      • Develop a Brand Idea and Positioning Strategy to create relevant, meaningful differentiation drive Target-Customer Preference;
      • Re- or Pro-sition the Brand to overcome weak performance and regenerate growth;
      • Post Launch Audit to assess performance versus pre-launch objectives and expectations, and identify needed strategic course corrections and initiatives to enhance the value of the brand asset;
      • Discover “Legitimate” and “Productive” Customer Insights to generate more productive marketing;
      • Facilitate development of Alternate Competitive Scenarios (War Gaming) to identify vulnerabilities, leading to pre-emptive and counter-competitive differentiating initiatives;
      • Develop an Essential Creative Brief to provide strategically appropriate, single-minded direction for the development of Leadership customer communications that compel Target-Customer behaviors; and
      • Strategic Ideation to develop productive new marketing initiatives.


The choice is yours. Differentiate or die. Or, Differentiate to thrive. Regardless, seek to create relevant, meaningful differentiation to make your brand and marketing matter more in “creating brand loyalty.”


If you’re interested in learning more regarding any of the aforementioned services just click reply and we’ll start a dialogue.


Best wishes for creating relevant, meaningful differentiation,

Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney


We hope you found this article informative and thought provoking. We will be moving to a new platform, MailChimp, on August 1.  In order to keep receiving DISPATCHES we need you to click here to access the link and provide the required information to re-subscribe.  It will only take a few minutes to complete but will enable you to continue receiving insights on ways to make your marketing matter more.



Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820

reply to Richard:


Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.761-4038

reply to Mike: or

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