Finding points of difference is a huge challenge.
One of the core marketing theories is that brands need to be different. If you are in a competitive market, there are really only two ways to complete: be cheap or be different. Being cheap is certainly an option, but it is a very tough road. For most brands the core challenge is creating differentiation.
The problem is that in many categories the offerings are quite similar. The features are roughly comparable and the benefits all have a similar ring.
This is why Verizon’s map is so powerful. The marketing team at Verizon identified a clear point of difference versus key competitor AT&T, a point of difference that is each to understand and show. Why use Verizon? Because Verizon has a better network with more coverage.
For Verizon, this is a compelling message. Verizon can’t compete on devices at the moment, since AT&T has the iPhone. Verizon shouldn’t compete on price. Network quality is an important and clear point of difference, and the map visual shows this very clearly.
I suspect Verizon will keep running the map campaign for a very long time. It is hard to find a point of difference. Once you have one it makes sense to stick with it.
It’s a doubly good move because AT&T can’t build Verizon’s map without continued investment over several years – it’s a sustainable perceived advantage (nevermind AT&T’s comeback that it covers 97% of Americans and nobody lives in those blank spaces on the AT&T map – just look at all that red on Verizon’s map).
The key question becomes – how do you decide if your customers care enough about your point of difference? Do you run a survey asking users how important different criteria are from a scale of 1 to 10, and use the average rating to make a decision? For instance, the quality of the phone device may be rated a 9, while network of rage is rated an 8. but how do you know the criteria that is rated eight is important enough to base your advertising strategy on? is it a gut call?
Cellular is an interesting market where consumers rate actual phone units as the highest criteria, unless of course they cannot use it in their daily paths due to lack of service. Many a people have moved carriers to AT&T for the iPhone even when fully aware of the spotty service in the office or home. This is a global phenomenon, for example in Russia and UK, release of pre-iPhone fashion devices by Nokia created similar switching trends immediately after the tight first-born child-seizing contracts ended.
Fantastic summary of competitive markets: “there are really only two ways to compete: be cheap or be different”