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:

Intense competition

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
    stand out)
  • 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.

*APPA National Pet Owners Survey.

**“Natural, Organic, and Eco-Friendly Pet Products in the U.S.,” 5th Edition.

Using Sweepstakes to Build Brand Equity


Sweepstakes have been driving excitement and brand awareness since their rise in the early 1950s, and they continue to benefit both brands and consumers in 2015. In today’s competitive marketplace, the success of a sweepstakes campaign can drastically improve when companies correctly identify their target audience, utilize social media to foster engagement, and offer different ways to win. Partnering with US Sweepstakes Fulfillment Company (US Sweeps), Martino Flynn has been working with our client, The Mentholatum Company, for OXY Acne Medication’s Dream Prom campaign. This unique promotion provides teenagers with the opportunity to win Dream Prom prizes, including, but not limited to, one of hundreds of prizes from companies such as, Tuxedo Junction, Shutterfly, and Nikon, and gift cards that can be redeemed for hairstyling, limo rental, and more.

Two Ways to Win: Prizes Big and Small

Martino Flynn and US Sweeps allow for two ways to win OXY Acne Medication’s Dream Prom prizes. The Dream Prom grand prize, worth more than $2,000, can be won through the Instant Win Game (IWG) by entering codes found on specially marked OXY Treatment Pads, or by uploading a video of a unique “Promposal.” Video content is becoming increasingly popular on social media, especially among teens; according to Digital Marketing Ramblings (DMR) more than 81% of American Internet users ages 14-17 years old use YouTube. The “Promposal” component of the contest allows teens to engage with the brand in a creative way that encourages sharing. And for your average teenager with a part-time, after-school job, the grand prize could be life-changing, or at least prom-changing. Also, by offering the chance to win many small prizes via the IWG component, there is the perception that entrants have a better chance of winning, likely drawing more entries. As of May 6 2015, the IWG component had 224,351 entries.


Social Media

In the last 10 years, the surge of countless social media channels has radically changed the way people communicate and brands are taking notice. OXY Acne Medication’s target audience—male and female teenagers—is extremely active on social media. According to CBS News, more than 90% of American teens use social media; Instagram is the most popular outlet, followed closely by Twitter and Facebook. OXY Acne Medication is active on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and uses a combination of branded and non-branded content in order to connect with its audience. The results of a survey by Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and asset management firm, notes that teens’ social media preferences are constantly evolving and have changed considerably over just six months.


Teen Social Media Use Survey Results:

  1. Instagram

Spring 2014: 69%
Fall 2014: 76%

  1. Twitter

Spring 2014: 63%
Fall 2014: 59%

  1. Facebook

Spring 2014: 72%
Fall 2014: 45%

  1. Pinterest

Spring 2014: 21%
Fall 2014: 22%

  1. Tumblr:

Spring 2014: 21%
Fall 2014: 21%

  1. Other

Spring 2014: 30%
Fall 2014: 21%

  1. Google+

Spring 2014: 29%
Fall 2014: 12%

  1. Don’t Use Social Media Networks

Spring 2014: N/A
Fall 2014: 8 %

By using social media to promote the OXY Dream Prom campaign, Martino Flynn has made it easy for teens to share content and engage with one another and OXY. After submitting their videos, teens are encouraged to vote for their own or for a favorite. Hashtags have also been instrumental in driving engagement for the campaign. The auto-tweet generator from the Dream Prom IWG website, for example, resulted in more than 500 tweets mentioning #DreamProm and the OXY Twitter handle in March alone, which helped to organically boost following.


The emergence and dominance of digital media has unalterably changed the way PR people approach their profession. It’s more than replacing fax machines with mobile devices, and adding jargon such as “hyperlocalized content” to our lexicon.

While the entire marketing communications industry has evolved in recent years, PR has been particularly impacted by the accelerating shift to a digital, mobile, and connected culture.

As someone who has been a PR practitioner for more than four decades, I welcome the fundamental changes. Unlike turntables and tube amps, I find little redeeming value in Rolodexes and pagers.

The most fundamental change in PR that technology has spawned is measurability. In the old days (prior to the Internet), it was virtually impossible to measure the results of a PR campaign. The only quantitative tool the industry could dream up was “ad value equivalency.” Print clips would be measured in column inches, TV news placements would be timed, and the “equivalent” paid media time and space would be calculated. There even would be a “credibility” factor added for good measure. The results would invariably show that the PR effort was “worth it.”

Today, of course, clients are accustomed to having real-time, accurate data to drive decisions. Business leaders want specific success metrics and a provable ROI. Outcome metrics such as Web traffic, leads, social engagement, search rankings, and even revenue can now be tied to specific PR tactics.

At Martino Flynn, our PR team is part of an integrated agency. All strategies and tactics flow together. Our people collaborate across departments and disciplines. Clients who retain us for PR services can expect to receive the following services:

Traditional news engine—A national, regional, or local media relations program targeting the general, business, or trade press, aimed at creating a steady cadence of news throughout the year;

Online digital footprint—A number of strategic programs, including active blogging, engaging social media, and industry influence outreach programs;

Analyst relations—Ongoing communication touch points and briefings with the top analyst firms; and

360-degree event support—Pre-, mid-, and post-trade show support in the form of speaker submissions, media relations, video teasers and comprehensive social media activities.

Marketers and PR professionals alike have grasped onto the power of compelling content to attract prospects, accelerate the buying cycle, create deeper relationships with their audience, and feed the social engine. While PR practitioners still write and distribute news releases, they also produce blogs, eBooks, infographics, videos, slide presentations, case studies, white papers, and more.

This is a golden renaissance for the PR profession. Never before has the industry been more valuable and valued. Even though new technologies have bred new tactics, the fundamental focus has remained the same: PR is a management function that influences public opinion through effective communication techniques and socially responsible actions. Our role hasn’t changed, just the means to the end.

Marketing Analytics: It’s Not a Business Function

A familiar phrase often heard around the Martino Flynn office is, “Let’s look at the analytics.” Each day, teams across the agency are looking at a variety of data, dashboards, and other metrics to hone in on what’s going on in the category, competitive set, and with the consumer–even more so when we have advertising campaigns live and running. In today’s brand space, companies can no longer afford to view analytics solely as a business function to be checked on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Instead, analytics must become a way of thinking.

Looking at marketing and advertising analytics used to be a passive function, but with the advent of real-time reporting, it has become much more active. For example, social media metrics tell a brand within minutes whether one of its posts is successful at driving engagement or just doing “okay.” With analytics, we are starting to crack the age-old phrase: “I know 50% of my marketing and advertising spend is wasted, I just don’t know which 50%.”

What’s leading to an increase in the demand for marketing analytics? One factor is the increased accountability that marketing managers (and advertising agencies) now face. The rise of digital marketing popularized metrics–if it could be tracked, then it must be tracked. Now, marketers are asking questions that go beyond the concept of “How many clicks did my banner ad generate?” and are starting to focus on items such as lifetime value of a customer and customer acquisition cost. These metrics, along with others, can help show how marketing and advertising contribute to a company’s bottom line. With analytics, marketers are able to provide more justification for spend and certain tactics, versus just dividing up a budget.

Another factor is the increase in available data from a variety of sources. Online, mobile, social, loyalty card, and household panels are just a few of the varied sources for data. Using data fusion, marketers can link items such as purchase activity to online behaviors, media consumption, and shopping habits. And, with more data, more sources and programs have been developed to make the data digestible, visual, and accessible.

Despite “big data” being one of the most popular marketing buzzwords at the moment, no one can be quite sure what the next big thing in big data will be. As marketers, however, we expect that more and more pressure will be applied to final measurement and return-on-investment metrics–again tying marketing spend back to a company’s bottom line.

To learn more about Martino Flynn’s Insights and Analytics practice, contact Rose Feor at 585.421.0100.

Four Things Retailers Want From Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Manufacturers

Fresh from attending the Path to Purchase Institute’s Shopper Marketing Summit, Martino Flynn shares some insights into what can help make for a successful retailer/manufacturer relationship:

1. Consumer Insights

While most retailers have a good handle on what their customers are buying—and are increasingly gaining a deeper understanding of who their shoppers are based upon information gathered through loyalty programs and appended data—many don’t have good insights into how consumers think and behave outside of the distribution channel. As a result, retailers are asking manufacturers to share their learning. Manufacturers that can serve up information gleaned from focus groups, interviews, and quantitative research and then demonstrate why their products are essential to the target segment have the best chances of earning and/or maintaining shelf space.

2. Product Exclusives

Retailers want manufacturers to develop products to be offered exclusively through their stores. It’s seen as a way to influence a consumer’s choice of their chain over another with similar offerings. Consider things such as product bundles, unique packaging, limited-edition flavors, special sizes, and more. Target, in particular, looks for this competitive advantage over product selections available at other mass retailers. For example, a smart manufacturer will apply its knowledge of the style-conscious Target customer to the development of a product with a unique form factor or highly designed label that will coordinate with home décor, etc.

3. Shopper Marketing

Retailer promotions often come at a steep price, but there’s known value in being able to micro-target consumers who are practically guaranteed to be in-store. At a minimum, consider participation in loyalty programs that offer shopper discounts or rewards such as fuel perks. There’s a tremendous amount of data available to prove that consumers’ in-aisle decision making is influenced by call-outs at the shelf that highlight these programs. Rite Aid recognizes the impact that its Wellness+ program has had on its shoppers and has just sweetened the incentive by partnering with Plenti, a program that allows points earned through purchases made at one retailer to be redeemed at others.

4. Collaboration

Given the increasingly competitive retail environment and the expansion or threat of the online channel, retailers are more open than ever to collaboration with their manufacturing partners. Buyers can be tremendous resources in the new product development process, often sharing their insights regarding similar successes or failures, potential demand, and pricing models. They also add value with package design, providing direction on Principal Display Panel messaging, graphics, color, etc., all while maximizing their goal of having productive linear inches at the shelf. Generally, they also welcome custom shopper marketing programs, although it is recommended that ideas be presented at least nine months in advance to allow ample time for refinements, production, and roll out.

To learn more about Martino Flynn’s CPG experience and shopper marketing capabilities, contact Beth VanVliet, Director of Client Services, at 585.421.0100.

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