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Differentiating our products from the competition

Traditional marketing theory suggests that we can position our product ranges vertically or horizontally. Vertical differentiation occurs when products can be ordered according to their objective quality, through one or more features, including price. Of course, one product may be better on a certain criterion but not another one, so the marketing effort needs to be on emphasising the importance of the criterion where the product is better. Meanwhile, horizontal differentiation occurs where products are differentiated by features that can’t be ordered objectively, such as colour. Customers choose based on what they like best at that moment. That needs a contrasting sales approach.

In many markets, both types of differentiation come into play. However, a lot of sales promotion tries to address this ‘mixed differentiation’ because the marketers involved don’t understand (or care about) the real purchasing motivators. Instead, they just try to address everything, and end up using the wrong message in the wrong place.

It’s not compulsory to differentiate our products or our company from the competition. But identifying what motivates customers and focusing on that is obviously a sensible approach, and one which can – and should – be revisited to revitalise our marketing. There are entire books to read on the subject!