Differentiation Continuum

Premature Differentiation: The Final Chapter

The title is a bit misleading this time, because part 3 is actually concerned with when a focus on differentiation is NOT premature. When is that? When the people you are trying to reach have a high awareness your category (what it is you are selling) and a high and positive awareness of you as a vendor. If you are in this leadership position, you can focus almost exclusively on points of difference because the background information is already known.

This is why Mercedes was able a few years back to put an ad in the New Yorker that showed only a brake assembly and talked only about the unique safety features of a Mercedes. Readers already understood what a car was, and that Mercedes has a reputation for making good ones. So the company was able to jump right in to what made them different.If your category is well understood and customers already see you as a leader, you have earned the privilege of leaving things out. If you are in this fortunate position, it makes perfect sense to build even your core message matrix around your points of difference.

There are of course a couple of caveats. First, make sure that you are a leader in the customer’s mind, not simply your own. Take a very cold-eyed look at your position on the Awareness Continuum. Empirical market research is nice for this purpose. But even without that luxury, if we stop drinking our own Kool Aid for ten seconds, most of us have a pretty good idea how customers see us. Second, remember that different customers are at different points in their awareness of both your category and of you. Message based on where you see the bulk of potential customers, but keep in mind that you will always need to do some Education, some Credibility, and some Differentiation. The Continuum is just a handy heuristic for where to focus most of your energy.

Happy differentiating!

See the Premature Differentiation Video

 

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