Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Differentiation Can Work Against You!

In the course of business networking I have the benefit of hearing comparison positioning from many business owners in very competitive areas.  That is, positioning their products and services in large part by referencing the defects in alternative choices.

These are variations of the old "Brand X" model where a product was seen as vastly superior to "Brand X" (a thinly concealed and well-known competitor) on some carefully selected basis.  Always in these product (and service) comparisons the basis is carefully selected!

Let's start this discussion by applauding any business from doing something to stand out.  In my view, that's absolutely essential in competing.  One can't be content to trust that the consumer will identify the business' strengths.

But the very real danger is what I see too often.  There is differentiation on shaky grounds.  Either the comparisons are disingenuous ("My product is 100% safe, cheaper, and has no downsides") or begs proof ("I pick stocks better than others"), or is simply banal (the infamous pizza box claim "You've tried the rest now try the best!")   I can't tell you how many times my skeptic radar kicks on and causes me to shy away from learning more about the business.

I do have willingness to trust claims that can be provable.  For example "I was trained in France", "I buy my ingredients from local farmers", or "My product is in more locations in this city" are all easily tested.  Or, if the business has test reports, independent market research, etc. to support their claims.

Bottom Line: Especially in a competitive market, differentiation from competitors is essential.  However, choose comparisons with care.  If making extraordinary claims provide proof or a means by which the consumer can ascertain the truth for him- or herself.  Always avoid superlatives that are over-the-top, unprovable, or patently incredible.  Your brand will thank you!

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