I recently heard a great story from my friend's dad. Thought I would share.
50 years ago, it was unheard of for a good Jewish mother to order in take-out for the holidays.
About 10 years later, as mothers began to go to work, they began to "outsource" many of the side dishes for large holiday gatherings. Being the savvy businessmen that they were, the local kosher caterers and delicatessens soon realized that no matter how high they drove up their prices before the holidays, mothers would still purchase their food for their families.
At the time, my friend's father was managing a take out place. In a Godin-esque move, he decided not to raise his prices, and to hang a sign in the window stating that "We do not raise our prices for the holidays". While his boss fumed at his audacity, business boomed.
Key Takeaway: In a crowded market, this teenager realized that the key to marketing in a uniform market is not product innovation, but offering differentiation.
Think about the home computer market. There are a billion and one companies offering affordable home PCs. I myself am perpetually in the market. I've noticed a few trends. Most notably, everyone other than Apple, is remarkably similar to everyone else (other than Apple). It's a murky market, with a fat middle and little else to talk about (for most users).
- Dell tries to be everyman's computer. While they were once the cost leader, they are now positioned as the brand-name in hom computers, leveraging ease of use and customer service as their key differentiators. At the same time, Dell's attempts at going cutting edge with their XPS lineup are muddying their brand waters.
- Competitive Stance: Dell's multiplicitous and confused brand messaging have left them with a single differentiation point: customer service.
- HP and Compaq are recognizable brands offering best-of-the-middle products at a competitive price point. However, their anything other than robust customer service experience may well position them as an also-ran in an increasingly competitive home PC market.
- Competitive Stance: HP/Compaq is leading the bland middle of a thick, undifferentiated and confusing market.
- Sony is all about the flash and style of computing. Their units look great, are generally over priced as compared to the competition, run well, and most importantly look great.
- Competitive Stance: Sony's products look great, perform well and are priced for a very fashion conscious consumer. Sony is about style.
- Acer is the semi-recognizable brand with fantastic components and leading specs at ridiculously low prices. Never mind that their customer support is horrible or that their PCs are poorly made (plastic casing overheats just as much as HP units).
- Competitive Stance: One word, price. Solid specs, amazing prices, and little else to say.
- Toshiba is a puzzle to many. This is a name consumers know from other electronics, but not one they necessarily associate with PCs.
- Competitive Stance: They make computer's too? It would be nice to see Toshiba step-it-up with some eye popping designs.
Needless to say, the home PC market is a murky mess.
This is a market begging for a differentiator. This is why the press loves Apple. They are the anti-PC.
So what would you do if you were working at any other PC company?
How would you differentiate your offering?
How would you make your brand sustainably unique?