You’d think that product differentiation would be a matter of common sense. Find something that’s truly unique about your product, own it, and proclaim it loudly and proudly.
But if it’s that simple, why aren’t more companies doing it?
Walk into most stores, and the shelves are a sea of sameness. A mélange of “me, too.” It seems that many companies are looking at what’s successful for someone else, and emulating it. To stand out, you have to thoroughly research your market, and then look at your product in a different light based on the results.
In its simplest terms, product differentiation requires finding and promoting one thing about your product that no other competitor can say. A good unique selling proposition is never, ever a list of things. Too often, companies try to say everything at once, and wind up communicating nothing.
What’s going on?
To arrive at a strong selling proposition, you have to know the market inside and out, so research is critical. For the pet care category, here are some trends to consider when you’re looking for ways to turn your product into an attention-getter:
Of course, it’s tougher to make your product stand out when there are more products to compete with every year. And the pet market is particularly difficult in which to emerge, with new-product introductions—and rules and regulations that govern them—increasing. Competition is intense, and brands are fighting for every dollar.
Pets are people, too
Pet owners see their animals as family members that deserve the highest quality of care, so today’s consumers are typically more interested in how well the product works than how much it costs. Your package should project that on the shelf, which makes innovative product and packaging development particularly important in this space. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), browsing store shelves is one of the top two ways that pet owners find new products, so your package has to stand out.
Money is no object
Or at least not as much as it used to be. Pet owners have been known to cut spending on their own non-essential items to spend more on pets: in fact, during the recession, sales of pet products actually rose 4.8% in 2009*.
It’s only natural
Pet owners’ increased focus on the health and wellness of their animals has led more brands to introduce healthier and more natural product lines and extensions. In 2014, sales of natural, organic, and eco-friendly pet products exceeded $7 billion**.
Different ways to differentiate
These brand or product elements can present opportunities for you to stand out:
- Brand positioning (Is there an underserved market segment you can own?)
- Product story (Is there something interesting or unique about its history?)
- Product innovation (Can it do something that no other product can?)
- Packaging (If designs in its segment are loud, maybe a quieter one would
- Product form (Sometimes it’s enough just to look different)
- Cause alignments (Is there a cause that’s near and dear to your target?)
- Messaging (Say something different, or say the same thing in a different way)
Research often equals insights
Differentiating pet care brands in today’s overcrowded environment may require seismic shifts in strategy—or maybe even a total transformation. So where do you start to determine the right path? Research pet owners’ needs, behaviors, drivers, and aspirations. Then take a fresh look at your product through their eyes—that’s what often shines the light on your unique selling proposition.
Getting inside pet owners’ heads and hearts is the key to getting your product in their hands.
**“Natural, Organic, and Eco-Friendly Pet Products in the U.S.,” 5th Edition.