Monday, October 20, 2014
DIFFERENTIATE ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING
More and more client marketers are seeking our assistance in positioning or repositioning products with no demonstrated performance differentiation (e.g., clinical outcomes or customer satisfaction surveys, etc.) relative to their competition. While they might not realize it, things could be worse! Because there are other client marketers looking for a competitive edge whose products actually under perform their competition. (So, like, what’s their reason for being?)
This is a significant issue since these organizations not only do not discount versus competition but actually premium price their products. So price competition, like GEICO’s 15-minutes can save you 15% or more, is out! Moreover, they don’t have the muscle to vanquish their competitors. In fact, in many instances they have, or employ, significantly less muscle when it comes to marketing support programs, feet on the street, etc. So what can they, or you, possibly do? Differentiate, or die!
Actually, we can differentiate anything and everything if we put our mind to it. Your mind is really your most potent strategic weapon in creating relevant, meaningfully differentiation versus your competition. So, we need to use it! Here are some thoughts for your consideration:
1. Position the “Whole” Product – The Whole Product goes beyond the physical product itself to encompass intangibles, which are non-material but not immaterial to successful differentiation. Apple is a sterling example of building and using the Whole Product. When you purchase a computer from Apple you get more than a box, which, by the way performs the same basic functions of competitive computers (albeit much better in our opinion). You have an opportunity to receive Apple Care, One-to-One hands-on training and access to their Genius Bar, which is staffed with the Mac geniuses who can help you solve and overcome any technical issues you may be experiencing with your hardware. That’s a whole lot of product and a whole lot more than you get with competitors, and it’s relevant to the target-customer!
2. Start with a Brand Idea – Ideas make the world go around, and work. The most essential is the Brand Idea when it comes to creating a competitive positioning strategy. If you start with positioning the product you will land in the same position as your competitors, particularly given that we live in an “age of sameness,” where products do the same things and work in the same ways. Pariet, a Proton Pump Inhibitor, was the fifth PPI to market in Switzerland. Instead of entering the market with positioning around relief of symptoms, which, at the time of their launch, all existing PPIs claimed, they developed a BIG Brand Idea to successfully enter the category. Specifically, they positioned themselves as enabling GERD (Gastro Erosive Reflux Disease) sufferers to be able to enjoy eating (what had previously been) taboo foods without fear of aggravating their condition and experiencing pain. The Brand Idea was encapsulated as Pariet enables you to experience “The Joy of Eating Without Pain.” The results were nothing short of stellar. Ah, the power of a Brand Idea! Make it BIG and make it juicy (as in compelling!).
3. Select a target-customer segment with whom you can win – We cannot be all things to all people. Well maybe we can but then they just aren’t going to be loyal to our offering. MasterCard is no different than Visa, not from a product standpoint. If we were to conduct an analysis of each card we’d find that they are the same size, about the same weight, are made of the same basic material, contain the same information, use the same basic equipment to process, work in the same ways, etc., etc., etc. Yet MasterCard has carefully aligned with a target-customer segment that believes what MasterCard believes. They did not go after the prestige seekers (a la American Express “Card Members” and Visa’s “It’s Everywhere You Want to Be” card holders) but “Credit Card Pragmatists” who use their credit card for necessities so that they might savor what really matters in life – such as precious moments with family and friends. As Simon Sinex, author of WHY states, “the goal is not to do business with people who need what you sell but people who believe what you believe.” Lipitor targeted “Goal Oriented” HCPs (from a broad range of medical specialties such Primary Care Physicians to Lipidimiologists), an aspirational but strategically appropriate target given its ability to reduce cholesterol levels more than their competitors at the time, Pravachol and Zocor. Now don’t point and exclaim but Lipitor had a performance advantage. Well they did for the reduction of cholesterol levels but their competitors had clinical evidence that they reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, which Lipitor did not! So select a target that believes what you believe as articulated by the Brand Idea.
4. Rethink your market and your competitors – The market goes beyond your product’s standard of identity or class of drug. It is made up of everything the customer may use to substitute for your product (including doing nothing). In the case of Rx (i.e., prescription) ocular antihistamines (eye drops) to treat allergies that manifest themselves as itchy, burning eyes the market might be defined as all other Rx antihistamine eye drops. But this doesn’t go far enough. The market may also consist of OTC (Over the Counter) eye drops and, sole use of oral (prescription or OTC) antihistamines. Including OTC and (sole use of) oral antihistamines expands the market significantly. However, a marketer may choose one segment of this market to pursue based upon the perceived ability to profitably exploit it through the development of a relevant, meaningfully differentiated benefit. For example, rather than go against OTC products, which are more heavily promoted and discounted, or other RX ocular antihistamine drops, where product performance is comparable, the marketer may choose to focus on positioning as adjunctive therapy to oral antihistamines, where the offering may provide significant added value in the form of relevant and meaningful differentiation.
5. Create a Perceptual Competitive Framework (PCF) to avoid commoditization and help differentiate your offering - The natural force of the marketplace is to categorize and commoditize products that fall into the same categorization. Peanut butter is peanut butter. A SSRI (class of antidepressants) is a SSRI. A credit card is a credit card, and so forth. When we use the standard of identify or class of drug or mode of action to label our brand we are in essence commoditizing it. We are assisting the market in concluding we are the same as all the others fitting into that classification or categorization. And, when customers commoditize offerings they reduce their purchase, prescribing or use decision to one factor, “Price!” Instead, choose a Perceptual Competitive Framework to differentiate and distinguish your brand from the myriad of products that satisfy the same basic needs in the marketplace. The PCF is a label (expressed as a noun) that highlights your brand’s difference, consistent with the Brand Idea and benefit of your brand. Most of us would label Gatorade as a “sports drink” or, in a broader context, a “thirst quencher.” But then what advantage would Gatorade trigger versus PowerAde? Pocari Sweat? Or water, for that matter? Instead, the Gatorade marketing team identified a PCF for it as “the ultimate liquid equipment” to enable athletes to achieve alpha athlete performance. This PCF serves as the “north star” for, and establishes its identity in the marketplace through, all the brand’s many marketing activities from point-of sweat sampling, to gaining endorsements from professional and college teams and athletes, to sponsorship of major athletic events, to packaging, communications, etc.
6. Develop a brand benefit that encompasses the whole product and reflects the Brand Idea – Far too often marketers choose to express a (tangible) product benefit and expect it to be competitive. But, once again, realize that your product is perceived as a commodity (regardless of your patent, which really contributes nothing more than a false sense of security) and, as such, your benefit is non-differentiating. It is absolutely critical therefore that you take into account important differences in your whole product offering and Brand Idea to create a competitive, differentiable benefit. Returning to Gatorade, there is no product advantage that they can own with their formulation versus other sports beverages. However, within the context of their Brand Idea (and resultant positioning) they are able to establish and own a relevant, meaningfully differentiated consumer benefit, “perform like an alpha athlete” (or “champion” if you prefer). With Pariet you can enable your patients (and, perhaps, you too Doctor) to experience “The Joy of eating (or, better yet, indulging in your favorite foods) without pain.” With MasterCard you can feel better about your purchases and, more importantly, yourself since it leads you to savor those things that really matter in life (which, money can’t buy). With Mercedes Benz you can communicate to the world that you’ve made it and are a very important person. Also, ask WIIFM? That’s “What’s In It For Me.” For any benefit you develop put yourself in the role of your target-customer and ask WIIFM. Importantly, ensure that the answer you provide is one that is relevant and meaningfully differentiated versus the competition to drive preference, or don’t use it!
7. Discover a differentiating reason-why to support you benefit – Here it goes: two toothpaste brands promise the same benefit, “whiter teeth.” Whiter than what? Each other? That’s what they’d like potential customers to believe but the fact of the matter is that they perform comparably. How can they make that claim? Well they get teeth whiter than their non-whitening formulation and offering (or their previous whitening formula). So, how might they differentiate versus each other? Look to reason-why support. Brand “A” claims they use baking soda in their formulation, which is know to whiten teeth. Brand “B” states that it uses the same ingredient 9 out of 10 dentists use to get teeth whiter. Now, which one will you choose? Reason-why matters when it comes to differentiating one offering from another. But it doesn’t matter if everyone is using the same reason-why support. Crest Toothpaste was the first to gain ADA endorsement for their brand. No other toothpaste brand had been able to achieve this prestigious and compelling endorsement from this august and professional body until the brand proved that brushing with Crest Toothpaste reduced incidence of cavities by more than 80%. The addition of the endorsement led consumers to believe that Crest Toothpaste was the better cavity fighter and enabled the brand to triple its market share in just a few years after gaining it. Certainly, the ADA endorsement will no longer enable those toothpaste brands that receive the ADA endorsement to triple their market share. Why? Because virtually every brand has the endorsement such that it has become COE (Cost of Entry). Most marketers are using COE reasons-why and, in many cases, to support generic benefits. That’s not competitive. Nor is it very smart. What are you doing?
8. Create a compelling brand character – Brand character is the personality of the brand. Few would disagree that it is another important way to differentiate your brand versus competition. However, few are able to successfully use it to differentiate their brand in a meaningful way versus their competitors? Why? First marketers misuse it as a proxy for target-customers as opposed to the personality of the brand. Second, marketers create brand character as a series of adjectives as opposed to a narrative that relates the Brand Idea to the customer or a badge that leads customers to wear. Third, marketers choose the same adjectives as every one of their competitors: leader, authority, trustworthy, caring, modern. If this sounds like your brand character it’s no wonder the brand is perceived as a commodity. What’s more, brand character is a person and a person is more than a series of adjectives. Harley-Davidson takes the badge approach to building brand character, and the brand. Its brand character is unique and compelling to many bikers. Riding a “hog” (a Harley) badges the rider as an independent spirit who takes the proverbial road less traveled. They believe “the machine they sit on tells the world where they stand.” The badge is so alluring that they can brag that their gas tanks were designed in 1936! Most marketers would consider something designed in 1936 to be a product disadvantage. But not to Harley bikers. Bayer Aspirin takes another approach. It relates its brand bundle and Brand Idea to the target-customer. Bayer is like a “body guard” who is there to protect its users from the danger of catastrophic (cardiovascular) events. Yes, brand character can be the difference you need.
These are just some of the many ways that one may go about differentiating anything and everything. We can win with differentiation in any one of the aforementioned areas. However, iconic brands win through differentiation of more than one element. Get going to differentiate your brand. Create differentiation to thrive, or die.
If your current or emerging brand could use benefit from assistance in sound strategic thinking to drive relevant and meaningful differentiation to create brand loyalty then reply to this email or call 1800 255-9831.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
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