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Don't Be Unique, Be Better

According to conventional wisdom, businesses must offer something unique in order to compete successfully; the rub is that this task is becoming more difficult as products and services become more similar. The only solutions, this line of thinking continues, are to differentiate your offerings through branding and the communication of emotional values or to completely change your industry’s rules.

While there is some truth in each of those assertions, the authors believe they have been overstated and overgeneralized and have distracted firms from listening to their customers and consistently delivering on the basics. They conclude that what customers want is not more differentiation but products and services that are simply better at providing generic “category benefits”– those routine benefits customers expect to get when they make a purchase. Failure at this, they contend, is one of the prime contributors to today’s continuing high levels of customer dissatisfaction. The good news is that this dilemma presents a low-risk, high-return opportunity for most businesses — provided top executives buck the conventional wisdom and rethink what people really want from a product or service.

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