Wednesday, May 18, 2016

D/P/A: a model for Marketplace Differentiation

In today’s crowded and confused market of changing purchase/consumption habits, with a wildly changing media/messaging landscape, the importance of brand differentiation has never been more important!  I have written recently about the outmoded concept of “Brand Loyalty” ( and in that dynamic, the need to regularly (possibly daily) refresh your businesses/brand’s “Marketplace Differentiation” is required for survival and success.

In a recent client discussion, we dove into this exact topic.  This company is a young, emerging/disruptive organic food company driving great growth across retail.  Even though they are only a few years old, there are now even “younger” emerging competitors working to take their market-share and consumers.  Rather than grumble and complain about that reality (imitation is a form of flattery), I worked them through the “D/P/A” model to see if it might help.

D: “Distinctive”.  Early on in my career, I had the chance to play a number of roles within the marketing organization at The Coca Cola Company.  At that time, Sergio Zyman was CMO, a larger than life marketing thought leader across the company, and someone who was not shy about sharing his ideas/beliefs.  I remember a meeting where he asked a group of young marketers to identify our competition.  Immediately, voices called out Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Tropicana, Starbucks, to name just a few.  In a fast and furious response of “NO!!”  he said that the primary competitor/opponent of our marketing work at Coke was “sameness.”  He pushed us to see that in a sea of marketing and branding ideas/messages, it was terrifically easy to get lost in the clutter of mediocre, easily forgettable “sameness.”  Our job was to work ceaselessly to find “distinctive” insights/concepts/messages/images to break through that clutter and create a “distinctive” spot in the landscape.

P: “Preferred.” Here is where we need to keep two concepts in mind.  When I say, “preferred”, I mean that we need to be “preferred” vs. competitive alternatives by the “core user” and the “primary shopper/purchaser” for our business/brand.  These are two different constituencies often with very different considerations. 

I will take a personal example of my family’s usage of Bolthouse Farms juices and smoothies.  My wife and I are the primary shoppers for our family, often sharing the duties on a busy weekend.  We weekly buy multiple Bolthouse Farms juices/smoothies for the entire family.  My daughter loves the strawberry banana smoothie and drinks it every morning as part of her morning routine. While she has tried other brands, she loves the Bolthouse Farms version, clearly “preferred” by the “core user.”  When our local Publix grocer store discontinued the Bolthouse Farms Strawberry Banana in the 32 oz. size, only having the single serve size available in that flavor, we had “shopper preference” issues.  The primary competitors all had a 32 oz. option in that flavor, just not Bolthouse Farms.  We now had “shopper” value issues, since the larger bottle was a better price/oz. offering. 

I share this story not to illuminate the juice dynamics in my family, but to illustrate the important balancing act of insuring “preference” vs. competition for both key constituencies.

A: Advantaged.  This final element pushes us to look at then entire “value chain” for a brand/business, looking deeply at the “demand chain” and the “supply chain” components, to insure that we have a brand/business and a business model that is “advantaged” vs. competition. 
I recently met with some folks working to compete in the highly competitive bottled water category.  Having spent 18 years at Coke, and being part of the launch of Dasani water, I know a few things about this business.  While the Coke system has some amazing advantages on the “demand chain” side of things (amazing bottler DSD network, focused and prioritized marketing efforts/investments, unparalleled revenue management/pricing capabilities to name a few), the Nestle waters company/system has tremendous “supply chain” advantages that allow them to be the case cost leader in bottled water.  Knowing this it was clear that this bottled water competitor was NOT “advantaged” in either the “demand chain” or the “supply chain” side of the category.  Having limited competitive advantage in ANY competitive marketplace is an early and dangerous warning sign!

Hopefully this “D/P/A” model will be helpful to you.  Use it regularly, push yourself to refresh your thinking and marketplace understanding constantly, and drive growth and success through clear/strong marketplace differentiation and insuring that your brand/business is “Distinctive, Preferred & Advantaged”!