Monday, 16 January 2012

Brand differentiation – the tea drinking hen way

When I saw a hen pecking at a glass of tea, drinking tea from the glass at a town (Khanikhola) 23 kilometres west from the Kathmandu Valley, I was inspired to write this piece. The hen, at the moment, created a lasting differentiation in my mind. Generally, chickens are meant for either meat or eggs and they don’t have any brands as such (leaving aside the species of chickens). You can broadly categorise them as local or broiler breeds.

In the recent days, the local chickens have lost market to the broiler breeds. However, the local breeds are in much higher demand owing to their superior quality. The tea drinking hen, besides being a brand in much demand added value to its demand (at least for me). It was a differentiated product!

In line with the weird bird habit, have you ever seen a parrot with dandruff? A witty television commercial delves into the psyche of consumers and uses the punchline to denounce the herd mentality. When the owner of a parrot sees the bird dusting off its wings, the word spreads and the parrot becomes an instant hit with visitors from all over the place coming in hordes to have a glimpse of the unique parrot. The commercial runs well, but at the end the real reason is discovered by a curious cameraperson who sees the dust from the peeling interior paint on the ceiling falling on the parrot. The advertisement has been successful in differentiating the said paint from the competitors.

The marketers analysed the weaknesses of the competitive brands (peeling off easily) and developed the same weakness into its strength. They took care of the customer experience gap and packaged the product promising to deliver it.

Now talking about bottled water – you will see a horde of companies bottling water in blue bottles with blue logos except few like Evian which uses pink logo. However, when I saw a green bottle of mineral water with green logo, it was a welcome sight for me. And the brand, Davidson mineral water, also kept its promises by delivering good quality drinking water. The marketers thought of offering something different than the usual run-of-the-mill product. They tried to position themselves differently.

If you travel around 20 kilometres to the east of Kathmandu Valley (the place is called Janagal), you will come across a modest eatery where toast with khuwa (Nepalese local butter) is served instead of the regular toast with butter. An extra plate of potato-pea curry is served along with the toast. The taste is incredible and the brand differentiates itself from the regular eateries serving the regular menu! The eatery owner analysed the customer engagement drivers, and added a competitive input to his product.

Talking about differentiation to create a brand name, I would never forget the exercise taken by Pepsi thereby changing its regular colour to blue. It was a disaster differentiation, at least in the Indian subcontinent. In Nepal, the colour matched the colour of the kerosene and though being good in taste, it seemed you were sipping kerosene out of a regular Pepsi bottle! And, it was outright flop in terms of sale and moneymaking. So, care should be taken while differentiating a brand by keeping in mind the local culture and context.

Now coming back to the basics, you need do three important analyses (as done by the marketers above) before going for differentiation – 1) internal analysis, 2) customer analysis and 3) competitor analysis. Just go for a quick TOWS Analysis. I prefer looking for opportunities and threats ahead prior to jumping into the strengths and weaknesses. The opportunities and threats are external traits and can not be influenced. However, strengths and weaknesses are internal traits and you can work towards converting your weaknesses to strengths.

The next in the line is analysing the customer perception, behaviour and desire to add competitive input to your brand and position your brand differently, keeping in mind the local culture and context.

As Shiv Khera says, “Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently” in his book “You Can Win”, your product will win only if you differentiate it from others. And while you are designing the differentiation strategy, just remember the tea drinking hen and it will inspire you all the way!

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