Uniqueness will be the new Common

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 26, 2013

This article is the 1st Prize Winner in the Article Writing Contest October 2013

Whenever we talk about any product ( including service ) , the whole marketing fraternity converge into one of the most simple and effective principle / fact : the product must have a Unique Selling Proposition. Easily justifiable by innumerable instances of successful products , which have ruled the consumer market because of this one simple fact : they had a USP and the marketers were able to sell that USP to the consumers. So the companies ideate ( idea + create) a product and sell it , because the idea is unique which makes the product unique. But what happens when a company is out of bait to fish for new ideas. Let’s see.

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Think of a pool filled with crude ideas which can be deemed as “innovation” in raw form. Every now and then , when the product cycle is near its maturity stage , the company throws a pipe into the pool , pump out some ideas and work on it , to evolve it into some useful. So now , when the product reaches at its peak and starts its journey down the slope of the product cycle mountain , the company introduces this product into the market and cash in on the ever-eager customers who are basically hungry for something new. Then the word of mouth spreads about the “uniqueness” ,of some sort , of the product and the rest is history. The modern marketing differentiation between companies within the same industry , as well as in the different industries , come at this point : each company’s pool contains different “stuff/idea “. Be it a technological company , or a FMCG brand or a multi-billion worth conglomerate , each one of them has something unique : all have a different pool. Those who have the same pool , however , defeat others or succumb to defeat in this war by focusing on their marketing communication strategies and what not.

Eventually , this pool will run out of crude ideas and the company will be forced to do either of the two things : Option one is to close shop and go home after milking their legacy of every penny of its worth and the second option is to reverse engineer their pump and fill their pool again by pumping water from the ocean which is the common abundance of crude ideas . This is where a company is exposed to the shackles of “being common” , because this ocean is available for everyone. Now this is for one company . Imagine a hundred companies trying to do the same thing. Imagine a thousand. Eventually , it doesn’t take the knowledge of rocket science to deduce that , in the future , every pool will be filled by the supply from the same ocean. But it doesn’t concern a company because they have a whole ocean worth of ideas ,right?! But the fact of the matter is that , the ocean is not actually an ocean in its literal sense ,rather its simply a bigger pool. A Google Glass might well turn out to be the product of the century but how many such innovations can one think of! So we have hundreds of thousands of companies , extracting innovative ideas from a bigger pool , hoping that it doesn’t run out. But the hard question here is , not whether it will run out of the supply but the question is what will happen when it does?! It’s simple arithmetic : X number of companies have access to Y quantity of raw material/ideas and on an average , each idea is extracted at a rate of Z per second. Slowly but definitely , the pool will be empty and it’s for companies to decide what will they do when it does!

Seeing the pace with which the new products (inclusive of services) being introduced at the global level , it’s logical to assume that in the near future , a company will face this problem of draining it’s ‘unique idea pool’ and will be forced to fill it’s pool with ‘ common ideas’ coming from the bigger pool. Extrapolating these turn of events for the entire consumer market comprising of many players , we reach the stage of ultimate showdown : Uniqueness won’t be as unique as now or in other words , uniqueness will be common , just because of the simple fact that we will eventually run out of unique ideas to differentiate our product from the competitors , thus losing the advantage of USP in terms of product differentiation.

Let’s take a trip into the future , let’s say a decade down the line. We have similar products , with near same characteristics , same pricing , same visibility in the market , same quality …same DNA! The doppelganger of past has turned into a twin now! A customer won’t be able to differentiate between these products and the worse case scenario , a customer won’t feel the need to differentiate i.e. to every marketer’s worst nightmare , a customer might adopt a don’t –know-don’t-care attitude regarding a product. The social networking sites won’t help the marketers , nor will the future marketing communication mix of see-the-ad-on-the-go technique. A typical facebook page will show ads about products that you as a customer may like , by applying predictive analytics on your information , so it works for you. But what about the company? How does a software help a customer in selecting a brand when the algorithm itself is not able to differentiate between the vast variety of similar products, just because of the simple fact that it’s true i.e. the products aren’t that different at all. You see Android and IOS today and say there’s a lot of difference for a loyal user of respective technologies. But what happens when the technologies converge to point at the same horizon ; where do you go? Imagine this for all the hundreds of different industries. Taking an analogy from the classic poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner “ , we will have product product everywhere ,nothing to tell us which one to choose ..No specific way to bring a customer delight! A customer’s nightmare! And a customer’s nightmare is a marketer’s nightmare amplified exponentially. Hence , here we have an oblivion effect on a mass scale where USP is not determined by the product itself! What is the way out? How does a company survive in this environment where uniqueness is so common that every second company has the same ‘unique’ feature , or in other words , a common feature.

In this future , the marketing trend might undergo a 180 degree scale rotation : one of them can be : Tangible Products will sell due to their intangible ‘uniqueness’ and an intangible service will sell due to it’s tangible offerings. The core competencies will switch from product differentiation to the delivery of the product differentiation. Hundreds of companies will be selling the same tangible product with same features and near identical packaging , in the same store and kept on the same shelf! Keeping the logic of the brand name and loyalty aside , which undoubtedly ,will play a much bigger role in the future as brands are now focusing on Unique Selling Personality , but nevertheless , the point here is that the purchase will not be controlled by a random function but by a function ,where the dependent variables will be independent of the underlying product on a bigger outlook. A customer will not just pick a Lays American Onion Flavor because it’s different ,since it won’t be different at all as we are talking about multiple brands coming up with the same product because they don’t have any other new idea left in the world to explore! An insurance company might be able to sell the same policy as its competitors ,and be better in doing that , by providing an annual photo album to the family showcasing their happy moments , rather than differentiating in the terms and payment mechanisms of the policy because their permutations and combinations would have been completely exhausted within the industry. Here an identical intangible is being sold due to a better tangible delivery.

However , there still is some considerable time left in this future or alternate dimension , but it’s approaching fast riding on the tsunami waves of disruptive innovation trend ruling many industries presently./ When the tides hit the shore , it will take away the benefits of ‘Uniqueness’ and the shoreline will be left with common elements , requiring something else from various brands to survive this tsunami. It might not be in the short term strategy of a company but it would be utter ignorance to avoid contemplating their strategy in this future trend of ‘common uniqueness’.

This article is written by Aman Gupta from LBSIM.

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