Product Differentiation is Dead

Author: Richa Ruchita, Senior Strategist


In the midst of working from home, I met some ad industry friends for a socially distanced beer. As we were catching up, the conversation veered toward one of their client projects. "There is nothing different about the product," they lamented. My immediate reaction was "product differentiation is dead." 


[Pause for collective gasp] 

To craft advertising messaging entirely based on uinque product characteristics or a unique selling proposition seems almost impossible to achieve in established categories (which this was).

  • Even if you manage to differentiate your product, is that differentiation truly solving a consumer problem? Not always.
  • Is product differentiation sustainable in a world where everything can be replicated in the blink of an eye? Technology and the ability to "fast follow" has leveled the playing field.
  • Finally, is product differentiation necessary to create an effective advertising idea? Certainly not.

Unless your product is truly a category disruptor or a blow-your-mind technologywhich, let's be honest, most products fall shortreal product innovation and differentiation are few and far between. Decades of competitiveness have ensured most branded products and services are capable of offering optimum, and often similar, functional satisfaction.

Then how do you truly make your brand more competitively valuable to cosumers?

It requires a paradigm shift in approach: from 'we exist to sell' to 'we exist to serve,' from 'find a difference' to 'make a difference.' Brands must learn obsessively about those they serve, understand peoples' beliefs, dreams, challenges and goals, then employ those insights to play a transformational role by encouraging them to do more, be more, see more, achieve more, and live more. Then your brand will truly be more valuableand meaningfully differentiatedthan other brands you seek to take on.