How to Differentiate Your Product or Service in a Crowded Market?
Updated: Nov 7
Costco is a popular American supermarket chain that operates stores across the USA. You ask any regular American shopper, “Why do you love Costco?” Their most likely answer is to be “The Costco hot dog and soda combo.” Remarkable right? Well, this is the success story of one of Costco’s biggest revenue generators. The supermarket chain introduced the hot dog and soda combo for $1.50 in 1985. It is 2022 now, and the world has significantly changed from the mid-eighties but the humble combo from Costco is still priced at $1.50!
In an interview, Bob Nelson the SVP-Finance, Costco said that this price will remain at $1.50 and that there are no plans to increase the price. For someone living paycheck to paycheck, the Costco hotdog and soda combo is a big gift. Several popular quick-service restaurant chains offer different dishes at affordable prices, but no one has been able to consistently match the cost to benefit advantage of a Costco combo.
This is just one example that illustrates the importance of coming up with a product, price, and consistent quality that sets one apart from the competition. This blog will look at how brands can differentiate their product or service from the competition and win the race.
Some examples to illustrate differentiation...
An example from the Telecom industry
At this juncture, Airtel and Jio are the largest telecom players in India. The government-owned BSNL and the Vodafone-Idea entity are struggling to meet the competition. BSNL differentiates itself by offering services in remote areas which lack quality cellular coverage. A decade ago, things were different. The telecom industry was booming and there were multiple players in the market. Vodafone invested heavily in television commercials and their partner agency came up with ZooZoos and other witty ads that won the hearts of the viewers.
Transitioning from the popular “pug” adverts from their Hutch days to rebranding as Vodafone and creating a new ad asset was a significant milestone. Vodafone tried to position itself as a vibrant service that would work wherever the subscriber traveled and this was executed really well with the ads and the jingle “You and I in this beautiful world”. The pug became extremely popular and Vodafone came up with more ads featuring a pug even when the ZooZoo campaigns were running.
An example from the Indian Aviation sector
The aviation sector in India had been riddled with challenges and Air India and Indian Airlines, the government-owned and operated service providers, left a lot to be desired. Jet was a private player that brought changes in the Indian aviation sector with its luxury aircraft and premium service. Deccan Air brought low-cost aviation to India. This was something unheard of and completely changed the aviation industry in India. Flying was no longer something earmarked for the rich and elite.
Amidst all this InterGlobe Aviation’s Indigo brought in a balance of cost, prompt and on-time departure and arrival, a young and peppy crew, and different on-flight food options as an integrated package.
This approach of positioning oneself as a punctual airline worked wonders for the brand and Indigo over the years has consistently been India’s best airline. Indigo is an excellent example of resonating with the values espoused by the brand’s messaging and ensuring that flights are on time.
An example from the Computer Technology and Software Industry
Two of the leading computing players in the world are Microsoft and Apple.
Before Apple became a success story under Steve Jobs’ visionary leadership, we had players like Dell, HP, and IBM, all developing computers for personal and office use and they continue to do so. These organizations relied heavily on the suite of software solutions offered by Microsoft.
Till the open-source software movement began to gain traction; there was very little for makers of computer hardware to choose to run on their devices. Steve Jobs completely changed the game around by designing a product that would run on its proprietary operating system by offering the perfect synchrony of great hardware and user-friendly and highly optimized software.
The rest as they say is history.
In later years, as Google began its ascendancy as a tech player and came up with its Android operating system, we saw another shift in product/service placement and differentiation.
Google would partner with small tech firms that would build mobile phones optimized to run the Android OS. Several tech firms would launch their customized OS built on the Android platform. China and Taiwan benefited the most from this as smartphones were now available across different price points and communication became cheaper, accessible, and user-friendly.
Now Google offers Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks as highly affordable and powerful laptops designed specifically for students and teachers. These are integrated with Google’s different services and are extremely simple to use. What is interesting to note in this comparison is that there is a market for all these brands. Some people swear by Apple’s ecosystem and will not use any other product.
Chromebooks are revolutionizing school and college education and enabling more people on the lower end of the economic spectrum to own a computer, Microsoft’s Windows and MS Office suite power the majority of the world’s businesses.
How Can YOU Differentiate?
There is no easy answer to this question!
When you go to B-School, this is going to be a big part of your Marketing Studies paper and you will have to come up with your product and present a strategy to market it. Some key things to note are:
Identify a genuine need or gap in the market where your product or service can make a difference.
Never compromise on price and quality. A product or service that offers consistent quality will win the price it commands.
Try out the competition and see how you can go a step better, be it the actual product, packaging, or brand story; see how you can win over customers.
And the most important factor - Brand Communication. If you are unable to communicate your key messaging effectively to your target audience, all the above falls flat.
The Importance of Brand Communication
The core pillar of brand advertising is the communication or messaging that the brand seeks to portray itself to the audience.
As a brand, your communication and messaging need to be in sync with what you offer, highlighting your strength and unique selling proposition. The focus here is on the brand and partner agency to understand each other fully and come up with communication that resonates with the audience.
Are you looking to launch a new product or service in the market? Wondering how to differentiate your offering from the rest of the competition?
We help your marketing and product teams to synchronize and create product differentiation and marketing plan and come up with brand communication, which will help your product gain a firm footing in the market.
To learn more, get in touch with us for a free and unconditional 30 minutes consultation. We are sure that we will be able to help you.