“We’ve got to differentiate.” How many times has that been spoken in a marketing meeting? And how many times has it been a struggle to make the “point of difference” something actually compelling? And how many times has a company operating in what, for all practical purposes, is a commodity market said they have to differentiate? On what exactly?
All too often marketers think the answer lies in that perceived point of difference and if only everyone else understood that sales would take off. So the marketing is focused on a point of difference that often isn’t enough to sway too many people—mostly because marketing people have a really hard time focusing customer communications on one thing, but that’s a topic for another time.
Try this once: Forget about the product and only focus on what the customer is seeing. If you’re in a market that the customer sees as commoditized, chances are pretty good the reason for that is no one has shown them otherwise. Look at what your competitors are doing and it’s pretty likely that there’s a lot of sameness out there. And that’s just white noise for customers. What you really need to do is focus on differentiating the way the message is delivered.
A prime example of this was our original work for GM Fleet and Commercial. In a market filled with mid-sized sedans that fleet buyers purchase by the hundreds or thousands at a time, every brands’ ads, including GM’s, had a nice big hero shot of a car. After talking to fleet buyers it struck us as pretty obvious that these folks know cars. You don’t buy that many at a time without being pretty familiar with what’s out there. And these buyers went through a thorough evaluation process so they were going to determine product differentiation on their own. In other words, showing them a car in an ad wasn’t going to differentiate GM at all from any other manufacturer.
Not a car in sight, but a highly visible, very different, high impact message that cut through all the white noise of car photos.
The results were succinctly predicted by a fleet buyer in a focus group who said, “You forced me to read the copy in this ad. I just had to know what the number meant.”
“We have to differentiate.” Think about all that applies to and you can make some noise, even in a commoditized market.