Roy's Blog: September 2010

September 30, 2010

Competition is Proliferating Sameness - Part 2


In Part 1 of this blog series I reviewed the problem described by Author and Harvard Business School Professor Youngme Moon: more competition is actually creating less differentiation in the market not more. This is caused by lazy product marketers (my words) who benchmark their products against their competitors and augment them to close any gaps that exist.

This “Augmentation into Sameness’ phenomenon results in a blur to consumers who see most common product categories as having no noticeable differences.

Youngme introduces the reader to three categories of “Idea Brands” that go the other way and REALLY DO create meaningful differences among their competitive peers. They are:
> Reverse Brands —actually reverse Augmentation that strips brand attributes away and surprise the consumer with something new. I describe this approach as “strip & surprise”, “destroy & create” or “purge & reconstruct”. She offers Google and IKEA as examples.
> Breakaway Brands —create a new brand category: “not a Baby Diaper, but Big Kid Underpants” (Kimberly-Clark); “not a watch but the Everyday Fashion Accessory” (Swatch). This approach literally shows “..utter disregard for traditional category definitions.”
> Hostility Brands—play hard to get. “... are barriers to consumption; barriers that could be considered tests of our affiliation”. The MINI COOPER, Red Bull and Birkenstocks are offered as examples.

Youngme’s analysis of Idea Brands that fit into these 3 categories is helpful to Product Marketing folks looking to push differentiation at the product category level. Although she claims her book is not of the How-to variety, I think her detailed discussion with great examples is sufficiently rich that provides marketing practitioners with ideas to begin their work. It is certainly not in my view a purely theoretical treatise on the topic.

This quote sums up her feelings for her subject rather well I think:
Differentiation is not a tactic. It is not a flashy advertising campaign. It’s not a sparkly new feature set. It’s not a laminated frequent buyer card or a money-back guarantee. Differentiation is a way of thinking. It’s a mindset. It’s a commitment. A commitment to engage with people- not in a manner to which they are merely unaccustomed, but in a manner that they will value, respect, and yes perhaps even celebrate”

Nicely done Youngme. And thanks for your contribution to the conversation on how to guide organizations to BE DiFFERENT.


Remember to follow me on Twitter

Related Blog Articles
Marketing into Sameness Part 1 Article

  • Posted 9.30.10 at 12:00 pm by Roy Osing
  • Permalink

September 27, 2010

Competition is Proliferating Sameness - Part 1


I am an absolute zealot about what I call Writing by Learning Around: reading copious amounts of material related to my BE DiFFERENT work with the purpose of finding material that adds more perspective to what is required to differentiate organizations in today’s volatile and unforgiving markets.

I have just finished the book Different, subtitled: “Escaping the Competitive Herd; Succeeding in a world Where Conformity Reigns But Exceptions Rule”. The Author, Youngme Moon, is Professor of Business Administration in the General Management unit at the Harvard Business School . Her book is “... about creating a fresh set of insights” on the topic of differentiation and “... not a fresh set of instructions…” It deals exclusively with the creative process and not the executional element. This is not, by her own admission, a how-to book.

A very interesting book, nevertheless, that nicely adds to the conversation around what is necessary to “... create meaningful grooves of separation from one another…” in a world where increasing competition seems to be creating the opposite effect: As the Author states: the “Harder (businesses) compete, the less differentiated they become”.

“Different” focuses on Product Category differentiation and does not explore other ways organizations can differentiate themselves - for example, VALUE Based Packaging, Sale Relationships and Dazzling Customer Service covered by BE DiFFERENT or be dead.

It’s thesis is that companies today are driven to augment their products by comparing them with the competition - read this as Best in Class Comparisons - and then adding attributes to them to address any “... shortcomings their products posses.” My view has always been that a product-based competitive strategy is a tough place to fight it out. Prices and features will eventually be matched, requiring organizations to look beyond products and services to discover their distinction.

Youngme does an effective job arguing that Benchmarking best in class organizations creates Sameness; the more competitors practising this method, the less differentiation that actually results and companies’ offerings become a blur to the consumer. Great to see more writers coming together on this subject. I address the Sameness issue in BE DiFFERENT or be dead under “Benchmarking: a BE DiFFERENT Enemy”

The Sameness Process: Product Augmentation >> Benchmarking >> Copying >> Sameness >> Less Differentiation. “...product marketers… have become masters at the dual arts of repetitive augmentation and competitive cloning. They have become gifted at accentuating non-essential distinction: they have become skilled at cloaking sameness as differentiation.”

So what’s the solution?

My next Blog will outline what Youngme Moon describes as “Idea Brands” in the market today that loudly resonate with consumers and create BE DiFFERENT market positions.


Remember to follow me on Twitter

Related Blog Articles
Beware of Benchmarking
Sell Relationships NOT Products
Product Floggers Create Pain on Customers

  • Posted 9.27.10 at 12:00 pm by Roy Osing
  • Permalink

September 23, 2010

ASK ROY Query on Value-Based Packages


Here is an e-mailI recieved on my Reader Connect Line from a reader who was looking for some clarification and assistance in execution.

“Hello Roy,
As a young business owner (26) with little formal business training I read your book with ease and excitement.

My business, CJSmusic, is a service that offers music lessons on-line through a Web camera. We also offer audio branding and jingles for commercial use. If you need more details just ask, but I want to keep this email to you short.
My question is, after reading your book, how can I package a family plan (two or more people taking lessons at the same time) without having to give a discount?
Thank you in advanced for taking the time to answer this. I’m looking forward to your comments and suggestions.——Jordan Stevens”

This was my answer:
Here are some thoughts about your packaging question:

> check my Marketing Blog Articles on the topic. They will provide more detail on the matter.
> the theme is that to avoid the need to discount, you have to ADD VALUE that commands a premium price.
> the challenge you have is to add value around your anchor product of a “music lesson”.
> what value? Think about what your customers would value over and above the lessons themselves. What ‘secrets’ do they have that would allow you to create a package bigger than a lesson.
> the added value elements of your package should relate to music obviously. What non-lesson components can you add that would resonate with them?
> I play the guitar, and some added value elements that might interest me are: access to an inventory of song sheet music for a special price (go cut a deal with a supplier), a DVD on my favorite singer, (go cut a deal with a supplier) a follow-up lesson with you every 6 months (your time), cutting a CD of my music after a year of lessons.
> brand it as a unique package reflecting the total value offered.”

Creating Value Packages is all about adding components to your basic product offereing that will make your customer sit up and take notice. It will create a unique niche for you and separate your business from the competitive herd.

Roy Osing
Remember to follow me on Twitter
Take the BE DiFFERENT Quiz

Related Marketing Articles
Value-Based Offers are NOT Bundles
Marketing: Think Value Additive
Marketing is in the VALUE CREATION Business
Premium Price Value Offers
Create Holistic Offers
Customerize your Marketing


  • Posted 9.23.10 at 12:00 pm by Roy Osing
  • Permalink

September 19, 2010

CARING is strategic and binary


Tom Peters in his new book Little BIG Things talks about CARING and how critical it is to any organization searching for eXellence. Its one of the things that Peters does so well: take an apparently small trait and argue successfully that it is Strategic, of the utmost importance to any business and is an “Essence Dimension” of the journey to greatness.

CARING fits nicely into BE DiFFERENT or be dead as one of the factors that will set you apart from the competitive herd. Sad really. ALL organizations should at the very least CARE about people as a basic human character.

CARING is a binary concept. Either you CARE or you Don’t.

As an organization, you don’t get Loyalty Points for claiming you CARE “most of the time”, or that you “mostly CARE”, or that you “slightly CARE”. It’s like saying a woman is “slightly pregnant”. Can’t happen.

The CARE thread weaves through everything we do as an organization and is highly visible to each and every customer we have. Here are some aspects of your business that you need to examine through your CARING lens:
> (Consistent) ATTITUDE. ATTITUDE. ATTITUDE. of all employees. CARING attitude 24X7 needed. Even when they are having a bad day. Nothing else will do.
> Rules, Policies and Procedures must accommodate a customer nor drive them wild. You can’t make the CARING Claim and then put your customers through the Process Pain Mill every time they want to transact with you.
> Knowledge & Competencies of people If you CARE, you make sure your employees know what they are talking about across all aspects of your business. When is the last time you did Refresher Training for your Frontline?
> Appearance and Cleanliness of your premises. Washrooms clean? Floors swept? Old carpets replaced?
> CARE on the outside. Are you active in the community? Do you take your CARE Claim to the not-for-profit sector? You can’t CARE on the inside and turn your back on your community responsibility.
> Problem Solving. Are your people problem solvers? LISTENING, ASKING QUESTIONS, FINDING SOLUTIONS scream that you CARE. Their absence yells “We really don’t give a damn”.
> Your language. How do you refer to your customers? Do you use words such as ‘transaction’, ‘call’ or ‘committment’? Use of these types of inanimate descriptions certainly don’t position you well on the CARING scale.
> Serving Leaders shows CARING for employees. If you don’t CARE about your own people you will NEVER show honest affection to your paying customers.

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

Other articles you might like
Customers are way too much trouble
If you want to be “customer driven” DON’T say…
You service cars; you SERVE people

  • Posted 9.19.10 at 12:00 pm by Roy Osing
  • Permalink