While some may feel that the digital world and in particular, comparison websites have seriously reduced a brand’s ability to differentiate itself, the reality is, for the smart brand it’s never been easier to achieve true differentiation. In the past, products and services were often judged solely on their features, the allure of the brand and the skill of the salesperson. The only real way of adding depth to the purchase consideration was by subscribing to a publication such as Which. Of course, there was one other way to look beyond the now obvious factors which was to ask someone, to compare through ‘word of mouth’.
Now that the digital age has made word of mouth both qualitative and quantitative across many brand and third-party comparison/ review sites, we have the ability to see beyond the features, the marketing and the sales person or once in a lifetime offer. The car may have seven turbochargers but does it break down? The washing machine may have a built in microwave oven but does it deafen the neighbours on the spin cycle? The insurance may look like unbelievable value but what happens when you need to make a claim?
The digital era has allowed us to not only judge products and services at face value but to look beyond, bringing into consideration factors we as consumers often value every bit as much as the product itself such as the buying experience, the performance over time and the service when things inevitably do go wrong. The digital era exposes the true brand which is great news for those who are good at what they do and bad for those who do not. Differentiation in the digital era is therefore not just about marketing but the whole business and demonstrates why it is essential marketing and data are at the heart of a modern business and not peripheral functions.