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Sunday, January 30, 2011 



If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting Thailand, on business or for holiday, chances are you have spent at least a few days in that most “amazing” of Thai places, Bangkok. And, although most people who visit Bangkok find learning to speak some Thai (with its 5 tones) quite difficult, many end up quickly picking up a few handy words and phrases—some of which are actually English, but not the kind of English heard anywhere else. One of the most commonly used expressions is “same, same.” Its meaning is nearly identical to the more standard English word said only once, “same,” or in everyday conversation something like, “I am or I feel the same (as you).”
Who knows where this strange habit of repeating the word “same” two times came from? But it is so common on the streets of Bangkok that there are even gag t-shirts with “Same, Same” on the front and “But Different” on the back. In a sense, the notion of things being the “same, same” is equally common these days within the world of marketing. You may well recall that, from time to time in these very Dispatches pages, we have referred to the all-too-common challenge marketers face today (that we didn’t face so much twenty years ago) of marketing “me-too” products in this age of sameness. Because it is such a common challenge, it’s no wonder that so many marketers today ask themselves, and often us, “What strategies or initiatives can we employ to create the impression (if not the fact) of meaningful brand differentiation—when we are trying to build a brand in a “category or class-effect product” marketplace?” 
Often, when we are asked such a question, it’s pretty clear that the marketer asking it is, well, not so sure there are some viable approaches. But there are—actually, quite a few, all of which can be inferred from the thoughtful observation of me-too- product brands in a wide range of categories. So, for this week’s Boats & Helicopters, we will share some of our observations as a kind of “starter kit” for strategic and tactical approaches that “Same, Same” products can consider in order to become more “But Different” brands.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS: Parity-Performing Products with Effective, Differentiating Moves (Some Strategic, Some Tactical)

1. Go up the Benefit Ladder (Strategic)
After years of standing for “utility & ubiquity” (parity functional benefits) in its positioning, the brand added a higher-order, emotional benefit to the positioning: the feeling of savoring what really matters in life.
2. Change/Add to the Competition, OR Find a “Sub-Class/Category to Beat (Strategic)












Zyrtec Liquid Gels

  • Unable to make any speed-of-relief benefit claims against other, same-class antacids, the brand took on the emerging, slower-to-act H2 Blockers (Pepcid Complete, etc.) with “One-Minute Maalox” relief.
  • Unable to beat all other OTC antihistamines, the brand made a “fastest relief” claim against all other 24-hour OTC ones.
3. Lead with Reason Why instead of Benefit (Strategic)
Lucky Strike





Schick Quattro
  • An historic move, faced with no difference versus 5 other popular cigarette brands, the brand trademarked an “It’s Toasted” RW feature (for implied better taste).
  • Losing out time after time to Gillette’s “more-blades-to-up-the-ante,” the brand became the first with 4 blades—implying, without being able to claim, a closer shave.
4. Find and Exploit a Target that others haven’t (Strategic)
Aciphex (Rx Proton Pump Inhibitor)
Faced with intense competition from much larger PPI drug brands, the brand identified a large and overlooked patient segment—the obese GERD sufferer—to focus its positioning against.
5. Add a New Point-of-Difference Need (Strategic)
Bayer Aspirin
At #5 share among analgesics, the brand added the (only) heart attack prevention need.
6. Create a Captivating, Impossible-to-Ignore BIG Marketing Idea (Tactical)
Old Spice





  • Moving from being simply another deodorant brand (and facing the lingering popularity-effect of Unilever’s Axe), the brand created the viral Old Spice Man (featuring Isaiah Mustafa) campaign.
  • The “Campaign for Real Beauty” enabled share growth in a number of markets, despite a line of generally parity-performing products.
7. Dramatically Change the Conversation within the Category (Tactical)
U by Kotex
Starting on the internet, the brand began asking with-it teens (in brutally honest fashion), “Why Are Tampon Ads So Obnoxious?”…along with selling the first-ever san-pro brand in black packaging & individual, neon-colored wrappers.

If your brand is stuck in a “same, same” spot, how might you and your brand-building team apply some of these moves to get it meaningfully “but different”?
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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