No matter what you are selling, no matter, what’s your product, it’s absolutely vital to differentiate. Or… your product, even company may not survive.

In 2005, I had the privilege to interview the main brain behind this classic business book, the marketing guru Jack Trout. He was the first to popularize the idea of positioning products and ideas in the minds of consumers.

At that time, Jack Trout was president of Trout and Partners, a U.S. marketing firm with offices in 13 countries and a client list that included AT&T, IBM, Merrill Lynch, Sears and other Fortune 500 companies.

Be it mustard or toothpaste, there was only one or two brands to choose from. Now, these products have their own shelves and even dozens of brands to choose from. According to Food Marketing Institute, a US Trade Group,  between 1975 and 2008, the number of products in the average American supermarket swelled from an average of 5000 to almost 47000.
(More: Consumer Reports 2014)

With numerous exciting successful differentiation stories from Wal-Mart, Dell Computer and Southwest Airlines and some smaller initiatives, Trout’s Differentiate or Die is an in-depth exploration of today’s most successful differentiation strategies. while others struggle and fail.

The book gives you insight on how to use differentiating ideas against your competitors in the marketplace. On positioning, it reminds how important it is to understand how the mind works in the differentiating process. The book also revisits and updates the U.S.P. – Rosser Reeves’s classic unique selling proposition approach.

Trout also gives you tips of on owning an idea by giving echniques to seize a differentiating idea, dramatize it, and make it your own

The Differentiating Idea
You have to unique, not just a bit different. It doesn’t have to be in the product, it can differentiate by feature, heritage, specialty, leadership, preference or how it’s made.

The Context
Your arguments must take into account the surrounding competitors. Your messaging and timing must make sense in the context of your category.

The Credentials
To make it real and believable, you’ll have to have proof. Therefore, you’ll to build a logical argument for your difference. You have to be able to demonstrate that difference, support your argument. 

Communicate Your Difference
No one will ever know about your differentiated product, if you don’t communicate it, yourself. Unknown better products don’t win, but better perceptions often do. Keep the message of differentiation in all your marketing communication.

Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition
By Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin (Wiley 2001)
Review by Jan Erola