The lure of a Power-ball

Positive Discrimination based on finding the ‘Wants’

For any business to do well in a competitive situation it needs to achieve some positive discrimination. When you are responding to an RFP (Request for Proposal) you must be thinking about what makes your product, service, business different. What makes you standout?

The thing that makes you standout has to add value to the customer. However in an RFP situation the customer will have spelt out in great detail what he wants in a specification so you are looking for something he hasn’t included that he/she will value and that your competitor either can’t offer or are unlikely to think of.

It’s very difficult and this is why stakeholder engagement is so important, you need to try to understand the unstated requirements. These are again the customers ‘wants’ not ‘needs’. If you don’t understand what can make you different then your bid is another ‘me too’ proposal and you are in a lottery.

If you look at product advertising you will see that differentiation is the constant focus of the marketing people. They rarely focus on reputation or reliability since these are already bound up in the brand values that orbit their name in your head (see my previous post).

Marketing Pick n Mix

We have all heard about marketing and the 5 ‘P’s of the marketing mix:

  • Process
  • Product
  • Promotion
  • People
  • Place

But today there is a recognition that it’s a little more than that, we also have to consider:

  • Customer Centricity
  • Brand Values
  • Social Media
  • New sales channels
  • SEO for our websites

The principles are the same but if we get any of the latter 5 points wrong we will fail.

In addition there are some clever things that can be done to draw customers in to buy particular products that are, if we look at them objectively, pretty hard to discriminate.

But it’s just detergent

Have you noticed how premium Finish dishwasher tablets have a coloured ball set in them which gives extra cleaning power? In addition the ball is red making it both noticeable and alluring in the otherwise bland proposition of a tablet of detergent.



We are lured by marketing ideas which create differentiation and appeal to our ‘wants’ rather than our ‘needs’. We all want the best and if the pricing is slightly on the premium side we are drawn to it and will pay a little extra. There is a little conversation that triggers inside, “I work hard and I deserve the best”.

20 ‘Powerballs’

Think about these powerball examples, some new and some very old.

  1. There was the Evian ‘live young’ campaign involving lots of babies, its only water not the elixir of life!
  2. The PaperMate PowerPoint pen, the ‘pen with a heart’ developed in space so you can write upside down, I can’t remember ever needing to but if I did there’s always the pencil
  3. Gillette the best a man can get, really why would I buy another razor?
  4. Remington Microscreen and Victor Kiam who was ‘so impressed he bought the company’
  5. Apple’s minimalist advertising and aesthetic design, ‘it just works’
  6. Hallmark cards slogan from 1944, “When you care enough to send the very best”.
  7. De Beers in 1938 “A diamond is forever” linked diamonds to love and engagement rings
  8. Bottled water per se, Perrier in 1977 tapped into concerns over poor quality tap water which were unfounded. A free gift from God becomes a $60Bn industry!
  9. Gillette’s women campaign in 1915 focussed on ‘objectionable underarm hair removal’, women have been shaving underarm ever since.
  10. Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign in 1988 made running without a purpose (jogging) popular.
  11. Cocaine in Coke (9mg per glass!) until 1903, made it the worldwide addiction it is now.
  12. Cigarette companies added nicotine to hook people. In WW1 products were included in field rations to corner the market when they returned home.
  13. The M&M Store in London smells like chocolate from the pavement yet all of the goods are sealed, they are spraying the aroma to lure you in.
  14. Give something away for free, samples, a free something when you buy XYZ, this lures us away from our cash like nothing else.
  15. Make your product a ‘Limited Edition’, this makes people think they have to have it while they have the chance
  16. Use consensus, ‘join millions of smart consumers’. Heinz Baked Beans used ‘A million housewives every day pick up a tin of beans and say beans means Heinz’
  17. Quote an authority, the National Dental Association etc.
  18. Use greed, something for nothing, get rich quick, its why we buy a lottery ticket!
  19. Anchoring, overprice an item for a period then reduce it, human nature loves a bargain and the buying threshold is reduced.
  20. Tokens, collect 25 tokens and then send for your free XYZ, so you end up buying the product 25 times to get the free thing you never wanted, can you imagine stopping at 20? No buy it 5 times more of course!

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