Differentiate or Disappear

The only way to escape the "competitive herd" and grow is to differentiate, yet many clients struggle to create unique ideas that people actually want.

Here are 3 suggestions to ensure your innovation doesn't disappear in the crowd:

1. Define your category and brand "schemas" – then shatter them.  

The brain is designed not to think; it uses cognitive schemas, or mental models of the nature of things and how they work, to process information efficiently. Start by defining what you're differentiating from. Make a list of all of the widely held characteristics of your category and brand – physical aspects of the product and package, its benefits, RTBs, uses, usage occasions, regimen, typical target or user, and more. Then, systematically consider how you might deviate from the norm on every element. You can assess progress with ACUPOLL's New & Different normative ratings, and use ACUTEXT™ highlighting on concepts to see what respondents feel is unique. While some changes might cost you a little appeal, it can be worth it to ensure customers choose your brand over competitors.

2.  Define your competitive frame and emphasize crucial Points of Difference (PODs), while providing reassurance on Points of Parity (POPs).

POPs are price-of-entry benefits for the category (e.g. all laundry detergents need to promise clean clothes); if you don’t include these in a concept, it can limit interest. Leading brands often try to become known as the ‘category prototype’ on these core benefits. But as shown in ACUPOLL Efficacy Statement ratings, PODs are more likely to increase competitive advantage ­– which can increase Purchase Probability as well. Yet, it's important to define your competitive frame too, as POPs and PODs can change or even flip flop depending on your competitive focus, such as for SunnyD juice drink, where Taste and Vitamin C reverse positions depending on the competitive frame.



Here's another example:  ACUPOLL Live qual-quant sessions provide more confident evaluation and decisions than qual alone, and more insightful probing and learning capacity than traditional online surveys.



3.  Consider "saying no where other brands say yes, and yes where others say no."


According to Harvard Business School Professor Youngme Moon, PODs can also derive from taking away benefits or features, even if they are rated important. In these cases, the competitive herd is often slow to follow; they can't imagine taking away a core benefit. For instance, Ikea "says no" to furniture store traditions by offering only one style of furniture, no assembly, and no salespeople, but "says yes" to lower prices, child care, and other new benefits. Offering less not only helps them stand out; in their case, it drives superior value. Twitter limits their posts to 140 characters, not because they couldn’t support more, but because it sets them apart, and changes the nature of user interactions.


No matter how you tackle the challenge, don’t rest until you find a meaningful difference, so that your initiatives don't disappear in the crowd, in the mind of the consumer, and – ultimately – from your sales forecasts.