You don’t have to compete on price. So, why do you?
Market penetration? Maybe it’s because it seems to be the easiest way to get into the market. Or fear. Afraid you will be undercut and your prospect will not perceive enough of a difference to pay more. Price can indicate your product is scarce or plentiful. Price tells the consumer a lot about what you think about your product or service. Price even affects what your prospect thinks of your product. Setting your price is a critical decision. But before you begin pricing review your marketing mix— the 4P’s, product, price, place, promotion; and I always include positioning--position product for marketing. What is your position? Product positioning is what comes to mind when your target market thinks about your product compared to your competitor’s products.
When you hear the name Mercedes Benz what do you think? High end luxury not to be confused with Kia. Mercedes brand statement is “The best or nothing.” What do you want your position to be? Positioning and pricing are the two most important marketing decision you will make in developing your brand.
What are you selling and to whom? Remember what economist Theodore Levitt said, “People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” What is your customer buying? Who wants what you are selling? What is their persona? Where are they located? Or how far do you want to go to reach them? What is going to make you successful? What is distinctive about your offer that will be hard for your competitors to reproduce? What is your differentiation? You are looking for insight.
All products and services have a difference that sets them apart from competition. Some are more meaningful than others but even so not all businesses truly understand what that difference is and who it appeals to. Most owners will say it’s their quality or integrity or selection but that is not usually the case. A good brand developer can help you with customer insights and find the differentiation or can accentuate a difference into a meaningful experience for the consumer. But what if your product has no meaningful difference and you are in a highly competitive market and you have no brand awareness and you want to charge a premium price and there is no history or tradition for your product? Most people would feel it can’t be done.
This was the situation facing Absolut Vodka
when it was introduced into the United States. Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest.”
Absolut Vodka faced these hugh challenges entering the US market:
- Unknown… zero awareness
- Extremely competitive market
- Who would buy a vodka from Sweden
- Premium price point
- No differentiation—smells, looks and tastes pretty much the same as the competition (you will find some argument here but really vodka is vodka)
What did Absolut Vodka have going for it? The marketers had a lot of research and insight into the target audience. They understood that the target market appreciated design, simplicity and sophistication. Prospects were captivated by the Absolut packaging—an antique medicine bottle—and advertising campaign. The ads featured the bottle and a short headline. The campaign was clean, clever and simple. The campaign won hundreds of awards and ran continuously for 25 years. The results: Absolut Vodka went from 90,000 liters in 1979 to 96 million liters in 2008, and the leading vodka in the US.
Can you do this?
Yes, you can. All you need is good insight into your product and prospect and a differentiation meaningful to your prospect. Positioning is about where you want to place your product against your competition in your consumer’s mind. If your product can’t be differentiated then the differentiation can be your advertising, your packaging, your design, or your story. You can create the experience you want your customer to have—and that is branding.
Positioning ultimately determines pricing. If you compete on price, you are a commodity. If you are a commodity, then the only place your price can go is down. Positioning is determined by the perceived value your customers hold for your product. How do customers get perceived value? Design. Design creates the image you want reflected in everything your target audiences sees about your company… advertising, logo, packaging, PR, web site, business cards, letterhead, brochures, sales materials, signage, vehicles, etc. Absolut Vodka was a quality product that had a unique name, logo, package design, label, and ad campaign that all worked together. Plus, it had management that had the courage to try something different.
How often do you look at a product and say to yourself, “At the right price I would buy this?” Positioning is in the mind of the consumer. Price is a judgement of value. Brand is a promise or an experience that affects your judgement.
It's your brand. Make it what you want it to be or let the market decide.
About Ken Gasque
Ken Gasque is a brand developer, brand image-maker, marketing planner and designer. Ken works with small companies and Fortune 500 companies who recognize the need to differentiate their products and services to stand out in a cluttered market. Ken is a highly visual, outside-the-box-thinker on advertising, branding and marketing—his work reflects his belief that “We buy with our eyes.” Ken writes and lectures on brands, design, images and brand development. www.Gasque.com