Posted by Alan Nazarelli ● Mon, Jun 24, 2024 @ 01:57 PM

Customer Insights to Create Highly Differentiated Value


Differentiate or Die

In his seminal book, Differentiate or Die, Jack Trout makes distinctions between propositions that serve to differentiate a company and its offerings and those that don't. The following, he contends, are rarely differentiating ideas: quality, customer orientation, price and breadth of product line, despite the fact that so many market positioning attempts to differentiate on these propositions.

Successful differentiation, he goes on to say, is achievable along the following dimensions: being first, leadership, heritage, attribute ownership or market specialty.

I want to seize on one of these successful differentiation dimensions for this post: Attribute ownership. The good news for market and product leaders is that attribute ownership is measurable and quantifiable via market research methods. And if can be measured, it can be developed and harnessed to help companies win in the marketplace.

We have been helping clients create attribute ownership for some time now and would like to share this concept with the rest of our community.

Let me begin by saying what attribute ownership is not. It is not category ownership. It could be said that Amazon owns the category of online shopping, but online shopping is not an attribute.

An attribute is one of the ways your customer or user dimensionalizes or defines the act of consuming your offering. It could be a feature or benefit, although not exclusively, because it could also be an emotion evoked in the act of purchasing and/or consuming your product. And yes, for those of you business marketers reading this, it also applies to your B2B offerings. For the decision maker, its dimensions such as safety/risk alleviation (the old adage: no one got fired for choosing IBM comes to mind here). For end users, it includes design aspects that promote task execution, satisfaction, tactile look and feel, etc.

So how does one go about measuring attribute ownership as a first step in creating a well-crafted strategy to develop and harness it for competitive advantage?

To do this, we developed our Brand Power Grid™. Most brand tracking studies measure brand awareness, viewing it as a proxy for brand success. True, brand awareness is important as a KPI worth tracking over time to determine if your investments in brand are paying off. We contend, however, that brand awareness is not enough. Because in order for a brand-aware prospect or shopper to select your brand over others, they go through a mental process, checking your brand and what it specifically offers them against attributes that they are seeking. These attributes could be global requirements that align with their purchasing values or practices (as in: I always choose quality or durability over price) or specific to this particular intended purchase (as in: I usually choose quality over price, but in this case, I am looking for the best price). So the best way to measure attribute ownership is to represent a select list of attributes associated with the consumption of your product category to potential customers, create a choice-modeling experiment around these and have customer insights survey respondents rank them both in importance to them and in association with your brand. Add to this exercise, your top three direct competitors to the mix and you have a fully developed brand power index.

When the data is collected, the questions then become:

  • Which attributes are most tied to your offering?
  • In which ones do you lead both with the customer and among your competitors, i.e., which ones do you own or dominate in?
  • Is this the category you want to own? Is it the one that you want to or can invest in developing? As you can imagine, in some cases, the category you own or dominate may not be the one that aligns with your long-term objectives or your corporate umbrella brand.
  • If it makes sense based on the above to own a different category, how clear of competitive entrenchment is that category based on the data? Can you realistically lay claim to outright ownership? Referring again to Jack Trout, only one brand can occupy a category in the customers mind.

Then comes the hard (internal) work of internalizing the data and making trade-offs and making data-driven investment decisions. And if you lead in none of the attributes measured, which ones make sense to invest in and develop, given your company's long-term objectives and resources? Because if you lead in none, your offering is not substantially differentiated enough, and you are most likely leaving significant revenue and profits on the table.

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Alans high res picture 12.19.22   Alan Nazarelli is Founder & CEO of Silicon Valley Research Group. Based in San Jose, CA with offices in Seattle and New York, the company works with the world’s most innovative brands to provide timely and actionable market intelligence and strategic guidance to enable them to make well-informed decisions to positively impact revenues and profits and to achieve their growth targets. Connect with Al on Linked in


Topics: Market Research Best Practice