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In Search of the Obvious

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In Search of the Obvious

The Antidote for Today's Marketing Mess


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Marketing is in trouble. Instead of focusing on complex product differentiation, pay attention to the obvious.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
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Veteran marketer Jack Trout successfully manages to inject new material while belaboring the obvious. To do well, he says, marketers must go back to the basics, even though it’s popular to chase trends and be cute. Marketers are concerned about fancy strategies, high-tech gadgets, quantitative research, entertaining ads and faddish consultants – all a waste of time. Trout says to go back to the core of marketing. Focus on the obvious. That’s what customers really want. What you really need to know is right in front of you, not at the bottom of the data mine. Although Trout pounds away at his thesis, getAbstract finds his book enjoyably informative. He may sometimes seem like a scolding grandfather, but he has clear advice for marketers: Modern society is too complex, and complexity does not help you sell. Instead, he says, marketers should try common sense. It couldn’t hurt.


The Era of Commoditization

Too many brand-name products are slipping into obscurity because they have become commodities. A New York research firm’s study of more than 1,847 products and services in 75 categories found that a mere 21% of the products had features that made them distinct in a way that was relevant to the customers. A study of 48 leading brands found that 40 of them were becoming more alike. When branded products resemble each other, they lose their identity. This leaves them competing only on price, which further commoditizes them.

Growing commoditization explains why chief marketing officers (CMOs) have job tenures of about two years. Marketing consultants have written books and hit the speaking circuits to explain this rapid turnover, but their messages have become increasingly vague and redundant. The problem is that they are misdiagnosing what is wrong with marketing: the tendency to overlook the obvious.

If you are a marketer who wants to sell a product, nothing is wrong with a simple, obvious approach. This is not a new concept. Robert R. Updegraff first presented it in 1916 in a short book called Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful...

About the Author

Jack Trout is president of the consulting company Trout & Partners. His client list includes major corporations and the U.S. State Department. He is the author of several marketing books, including Differentiate or Die.

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