Differentiation is overrated

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Compare Coke v Pepsi, or McDonald’s v Burger King. The former are both sticky brown liquids, the latter, both serve burgers and fries. So just how different are they from each other? In this Vlog, Grant argues that just being different from your competitor, isn’t what marketing is all about.

Businesses will often tell you that they’re different. They say things like, ‘we give great customer service’ or, ‘we’re really proactive’, but these things aren’t different at all. They’re the same as everybody else.

How many businesses have you heard, talk about their great customer service or on the other hand, they’re great people?

But difference doesn’t always matter, and I’m going to prove it to you.

We’re told in marketing all the time that to be successful you have to be different, but think about this… Two of the biggest brands in the world, Pepsi and Coke; are they really different? Now of course, what you’ll tell me is they taste different – and that will be true – but let me paint this scenario for you…

You go into a bar and a friend says, “I’ll have a Coke”, so you go up to the bomb and then you say to them, “please can I have a Coca Cola?” and the Barman replies, “I’m sorry sir, we only have Pepsi.” So you shout at your friend, “They’ve only got Pepsi.” What do most people say? “That’s OK” because although we know they taste different, for most people that interchangeable. If they don’t have Coke they’ll have Pepsi. They may have a preference, but when one isn’t available, the other will do. So these companies aren’t really different at all, and yet we’re talking about two of the biggest brands in the world.

Let me give you another example. Think about McDonald’s and Burger King. How many of you would really say you’ve got a preference for Burger King, but you’d never go anywhere near a McDonald’s… ever. For most people, again, they’re interchangeable. They may have a preference and they are not exactly the same, but for most people if Burger King’s not available, they’re quite happy to have McDonald’s or vice versa.

Let me give you one other example; Nike and Adidas. How many of you would say Nike trainers as superior to Adidas in every single way? For most people, they’re just two very well known, successful, good, brands.

All of these brands are some of the most successful in the world and yet they’re not really different – but what they are is; DISTINCTIVE.
In other words, differentiation doesn’t always matter, but distinctiveness does.

You have to stand out in your market and you have to stand for something that people understand what that is. And, if you are distinctive, you can be successful without necessarily being different. Differentiation is overrated and distinctiveness is underused.

Often people will say, well, we give great customer service – which isn’t really different at all – but no one’s ever actually heard of them. Concentrate on being distinctive. If you can be different as well, great – but that actually doesn’t always matter in order to be successful.

There may be small changes to the spoken word in this transcript in order to facilitate the readability of the written English

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  1. Another top video, Grant! It irks me to hear people always talk of their “USP”s…when actually none are unique. SP’s of course, but not USP’s. Thanks for posting!

    1. Author

      Thank you Mark for your comments. I am pleased that the video resonated with you.

    1. Author

      Thank you Darryl for your kind words. You are right in your observation.

    1. Author

      Thank you Terry for your positive feedback. I am glad that the vlog was useful.

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