Peanut Butter Cups and Contrary Marketing

Traditional marketing teaches you to take an intimate inward look at your business, your product, your service, your ideas, or you, to determine specifically how you are better than your competition. This new understanding of your “market value” will provide you with the ammo you need to promote your offering effectively and profitably.

How is that approach working for you? Not so great, I bet. Why is that? Your competition is looking inward and coming to similar conclusions, which are then voiced, or printed identically to yours.

If what you are saying, if how you’re perceived by your marketplace, is the same as your competition, then the only thing remaining upon which you can compete, is price. It is this flaw in the traditional approach to marketing that consistently causes your individual marketing efforts to cost you money rather than making money.

Your marketplace needs a reason to call you instead of your competition. You don’t really need to be different, or do anything differently than your competition, but you do need to be perceived differently than your competition.

“Being better is one thing. Being different is everything.” That slogan describes Contrary Marketing in a nutshell. To succeed in your marketing efforts, your sales efforts, and more recently, in your social media efforts you must have a unique differentiation strategy in place.

So, what is it that makes you different from your competition? In what way are you perceived by your marketplace that answers the question, “Why should we choose you over your competition?”

I haven’t lived in Cleveland for over 30 years, however, I am still a dyed in the wool fan of the Cleveland Browns football team. During the commercial break in a recent game between the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals there was a commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

I don’t know about you, but I love Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I could tell you all the reasons, including the way the chocolate tastes and that little bit of grittiness in each bite that makes this treat one of my favorites of all time. But honestly, marketing a candy based on the positive attributes of its taste and texture does not set the product apart from its competition. Other candies can say with confidence, “our candy has a great taste, and great texture.”

What struck me about the campaign was the new strategic slogan employed by the company. This new slogan answers the question, “in a world filled with great candy, why should a buyer choose a Peanut Butter Cup?” The answer that this commercial gave is, “The Perfect Mix.”

That’s right. Separate from all other candies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups provides you with the perfect mix. What does that mean? Is it the perfect mix? To be candid, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception.

When you invest in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup the “perfect mix” is what you get. That perception alone sets this treat apart from its competitors, who by the way, cannot now refer to their candy product as the “perfect mix.”

Why not? Because… the perception of the “perfect mix” is now taken by Reese’s in the candy marketplace. That perception is no longer available as a unique differentiation strategy.

This is the type of perception you need to create for your business. If there is one thing certain to boost your business in the year 2011 and beyond, it is developing and promoting a customized differentiation strategy for your business.

I will leave you with a story.

It’s difficult, if not downright impossible to attend a business networking meeting these days where you don’t find at least one representative of a company that provides quick and professional framing. In some of our more populated cities, it is not unusual to find more than one of these companies in attendance. When it’s time for the elevator pitch, some say, “We’re fast.” Others say, “We’re rapid.” And others say, “We’re quick.” And, they are.

I know a man who owns such a company. Our agency suggested that his business would be more profitable if he had a differentiation strategy that gave his marketplace a reason to do business with him instead of the competition.

He countered by saying that what made him different already was his commitment to service. However his competition talked about their commitment to service also, so that’s not really a differentiator.

He’s in the “Baby Boomer” age range, and speaks with an Eastern European accent. It was suggested that he capitalize on those facts, and put his service out as, “Old World Picture Framing” with the slogan, “We Take Longer, and It Shows.” That’s a differentiator.

In a world filled with picture framing competition that is fast, rapid, and quick, where would you rather take that fine piece of art or priceless photograph? You would do business with a shop that you felt would give your piece the attention it deserved.

Does the shop have to do anything differently than their speedy counterparts? I don’t think so. Can the shop charge more than their competition for doing basically the same job? I do think so. Why? Because of perception. If the market believes that what you provide is what they really need, they will choose you.

Your differentiation strategy may come to you in a moment, or your search may continue for months. In many cases, you are too close to your business and may need a fresh pair of eyes to come up with an effective strategy. I get e-mails all the time from business owners asking me to assess their strategy. If you are interested in such an assessment, you can contact me by e-mail at

Remember, being better is one thing. Being different is everything.

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