Why not position just on our USP or differentiator?

Q: Last Jan. 20, 2014, we attended at AIM (Asian Institute of Management), Harvard Professor Steven Rogers’ seminar on “Growing a Family Business.”  During the seminar, Prof. Rogers defined positioning as “differentiator” or our product’s USP (unique selling proposition).

Three or four Fridays ago, this was not what you said about positioning.


At that time, your column said that there are two “necessary conditions” for positioning.  Satisfying only one or the other makes for a flawed positioning.  The first necessary condition says that you don’t position on something that’s not important to the consumer.  So you must first know what product values are important to consumers.

Second, you also said that you cannot motivate consumers to favor your brand if you can’t satisfy what’s important to them but do so better than competition or with a differentiator.


But what Prof. Rogers is saying is that it’s enough to know your product’s USP or differentiator.   That differentiator is your positioning.  So can’t we just position on our USP or differentiator?

A: The two-necessary condition positioning model you mentioned is just one of the many positioning models available for you to choose from.  A second model is positioning on just the first necessary condition, namely, on what’s most important to your consumers.  But this will work only under certain cases.  To even up the possibilities, a third model is to position on only the second necessary condition, i.e., your brand’s USP or differentiator.  But as with the second model, this will work only under certain cases.  It’s unfortunate that Prof. Rogers did not go into what those “defining cases” are.   This is what we will do.

In our April 11, 2014 column, we went into those “defining cases” when positioning on only the consumer’s “most important product value” will already work.

To illustrate that model we referred to Jollibee’s “Langhap Sarap” expression of its positioning on this specific kind of “sarap” or delicious taste.  This means then that you can effectively position on your consumers’ most important product value like “sarap” if you find out first what to those consumers are the different kinds of “sarap.”   Then, look for the kind that to the consumers is an unserved kind of “sarap.”  In the case of Jollibee’s Champ hamburger, that’s the specific kind of “Langhap Sarap.”

Let’s now go to your question and understand what are those “defining cases” when positioning just on your brand’s differentiator is enough.

And many Telco subscribers believed and made SMART the market leader.  So, many subscribers positioned SMART versus Globe on that differentiator.  It would seem as though attending to the first necessary condition of customer priority service value was overlooked.

When probed about this perceived SMART differentiator, SMART subscribers told market researchers this.  In positioning SMART as having stronger and wider signal and reach than Globe assumes already that stronger and wider signal and reach are a priority service value to them.  In this particular case, subscribers or at least most of them are “tech savvy.”  This is why they talk in terms of service features rather than service benefits.  They have good service knowledge.


Such a case is also true of some FMCG categories.  Consider, for example, the starter milk formula and the growing up milk formula for babies.  Mothers who could afford these products for their babies bothered to know their ingredients, what those ingredients are for, and even what certain proportions of pairs of ingredients can do for their baby’s health.  Many of these moms go as far as to talk at length about these details with their babies’ pediatricians.  So when Wyeth, the pioneer in nutritionals, positioned their Promil on its claimed differentiator without first establishing the priority to mothers of that differentiator, knowledgeable mothers believed.  Promil promised brain development for babies because of the way its ingredients were systematically combined in certain scientifically formulated ratios.  Out of their product knowledge or from consulting with their babies’ pediatricians, those mothers already knew how important was the product value embedded in that differentiator.

So there you are.  There are your “defining cases” when you can position on your product’s USP or differentiator without first bothering about establishing the consumer’s priority with regard to that product value in the differentiator.  As in the case of SMART, if your consumers talk of product features rather than product benefits, then you can assume that they already know the importance to them of the product value in the differentiator.  In such a case, just go ahead and position on the differentiator.  Don’t bother about the product priority value.  Or as in the case of Wyeth’s Promil, if your consumers bother to acquire good product knowledge either on their own initiative or from some authority sources, then their positioning of your brand on its differentiator is based on their knowledge of the importance of the product value in your differentiator.  There’s no need to bother establishing product priority value.

Keep your questions coming.  Send them to us at [email protected] or [email protected] God bless! To discover how to get FREE mentoring from Dr. Ned, visit www.nedmarketing.com

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TAGS: business Friday, column, dr. ned Roberto & ardy Roberto, unique selling proposition
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