Importance of Differentiation

The market space is crowded with products, and consumer attention span is very limited. So, what differentiating factor will entice a consumer to pick a brand product from a score of similar products? The challenge is in developing the differential factor that will make the product stand out.

In traditional product development, the methods are focused to do competitive analysis or SWOTs to evaluate the strengths and weakness, and dive head down in covering up the weakness rather than improving the strengths. The product runs the risk of becoming homogenous with microscopic differences in comparisons, and this will naturally trigger price wars rather than creating a differentiating leader.

I like the way Seth Godin talks about products and marketing in his book Purple Cow, how being different actually creates a purple cow that would stand out in a crowd. How true? Unless the product has the strengths to stand out, it is doomed to fail or be steamrolled by a competitor. The success of a product is not just limited to how great the product is designed or functional but also how effectively the product is marketed.

The general wisdom is mass marketing is good as more the number reached better chances for conversion, but it cannot be far from the truth with respect to today’s consumer attention span. It must be remembered that consumers are bombarded with advertisements and it is very hard to get their attention and even harder to hold it. Also, the conversion rate is not proportional to the marketing spend; even worse, it can be inversely proportional in some cases.

It is known that consumers are categorized into one of these categories: early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. When a well designed usable product that has a focused problem to solve is given to a good marketing team – what should be done? The marketer’s first line of job is to reach out to the early adopters to get the product introduced, instead of wasting resources including hard cash on trying to reach all consumer segments. Since, the early adopters are the ones who are willing to try; there is no reason to waste resources on other segments that do not care until the product has generated some value and buzz in the market space. At least this gives the marketer the benefit of seeing the value of the product and acceptance, before binge marketing to the mass. It must not be forgotten that the product acceptance in the mass market will be very slow, and also many times it does not matter whether the product is accepted in the mass market as a company might be able to make more than enough profits just sticking to an accepting niche market.

The art of a marketer should not be limited to: when and where to introduce the product but also lies in the ability in tracking the product in each consumer segment and varying the methods of marketing. Also, the marketer should be able to identify and recommend end of life for a product based on market decline. Integrated Marketing Communication will be another interesting discussion topic as a follow-up to this posting.

Posted in Product Development and Marketing

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