Jack Trout is one of the greatest marketing thinkers of our time. Though the title is somewhat threatening, Differentiate or Die, describes the secret stuff that any successful product or service must have.
The low cost strategy doesn’t work because your competition is often willing to out bid you even if they die with you. Improving quality may work, but often the costs to improve outweigh the potential increase in sales. The only magic potion is to differentiate.
Often all it takes is a creative idea to differentiate your product. Look at Chiquita bananas and the little sticker. A Tylenol container can make the Acetaminophen pills twice as valuable to consumers. Tony the Tiger on a box has real value for consumers.
These are all things that add value to a product in an intangible way. The customer receives added value, usually not because of a superior performing product, but because of the intellectual value created in the mind. Marketers create intellectual utility just as engineers create physical utility. By creating value in the minds of customers, marketers are at the heart of effectively differentiating a product from the competitors in the market.
Like Jack Trout talks about in his book, it doesn’t matter if your product is better if people do not perceive it as better. It is the job of the marketer to make sure that people perceive your product in a way that will drive sales for your company. And in most cases it is marketing creativity that is the best source of ammo for your differentiation strategy.