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Differentiate or Die

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Differentiate or Die

Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

To survive in today’s competitive marketplace, identify the one thing about your product that is absolutely unique. Then, jump on that pony and ride it hard — you’re racing for your life.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Have you ever looked at an advertisement and wondered what product was being sold? If so, you’re not alone. Writers Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin thought the same thing and concluded, after 30 years in the marketing and advertising business, that the creative trend in ads has gone way too far. They believe modern companies should follow the advice of legendary ad man Rosser Reeves, and focus on their "Unique Selling Proposition." The authors caution that your company can survive in today’s hyper-competitive environment only by accentuating its advantageous difference. Companies that don’t promote their differences are in danger of being lost within a suffocating realm of choices. But proceed warily; focusing on the wrong difference could cost your business its business. getAbstract sees this as primary reading for execs at any company, since the ability to stand out might be today’s key determinant to survival.


The Tyranny of Choice

Choice benefits consumers, but it makes work harder for businesses. Choice in everything - from healthcare to restaurants to rental agencies - creates a competitive situation. The battle that used to feature local companies competing against each other locally has become a global capitalistic hot war in which everybody has to compete against everybody everywhere.

Companies can’t make mistakes. If you do, your competitors get your business and you don’t get it back very easily. Companies that don’t understand this will not survive.

"Differentiate or die" means that you have to give your customer a compelling reason, or "difference," to buy your product as opposed to your competitors’. You can create differences in many ways, but any approach involves stepping over a lot of potholes. Trying to be everything to everybody can undermine your company’s profile.

Chevrolet used to be known as the dominant good-value family car. Then Chevy added a number of different brands to its stock - and what does Chevrolet stand for now? Their ’differentness’ melted away.

You also can lose your difference if you ignore changes in the market...

About the Authors

Jack Trout is president of Trout and Partners, a U.S. marketing firm with offices in 13 countries and a client list that includes AT&T, IBM, Merrill Lynch, Sears and other Fortune 500 companies. Recognized as one of the influential gurus of marketing, Trout was the first to popularize the idea of "positioning" products and ideas in the minds of consumers. Steve Rivkin heads his own communications consulting firm. The firm’s clients include Kraft Foods, Olin Corporation and Horizon Health System.

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    J. S. 1 decade ago
    a real game changer. Jack Trout is by far one of the greatest marketeers in the world. I like his approach to value products or services more and don't give it away for nothing. So guys, stop doing price-offs over and over again. Think ab out selling value and real benefits. that is much more sustainable.