Point of Distinction
How do you differentiate?

A successful marketing communications plan is highly dependent on a company’s point of distinction (a.k.a. point of differentiation) – a reason why one brand is superior to others. A point of distinction is what separates a company from its competition from the perspective of their customers/clients – and ultimately strengthens the brand. This type of differentiation includes both functional (what the brand does) and emotional benefits (what the brand makes the customer feel like). A marketing communications strategy must incorporate and promote why the company is offering something valuable, relevant and different than its competitors. This strategy should also change and evolve as the market matures and competition increases.

To figure out what your point of distinction is, you need to know how your product or service is different in various ways – both good and bad. Some factors to consider are: price, variety, convenience, features, benefits, experience, etc. Five types of market differentiation strategies include: price/quality, technology, product, customer service and user experience. Does your company compete based on price point or do you provide superior customer service? Do you offer an exceptional array of products and/or services or is your staff extremely well-trained and experienced? To find a point of distinction, ask yourselves and others (i.e. colleagues, clients, customers, etc.) these questions, and determine how your differentiation can be promoted to your target audience.

Focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness. –  Jim Collins

A great example of a brand that has a very strong point of distinction and continues to differentiate in its tough competitive market is Airbnb. Founded in 2008, Airbnb is a trusted community website for people to rent out their home, apartment, villa, etc.  Valued at $10 billion, Airbnb connects people from over 190 countries, provides world-class customer service and a growing community of users (800,000-plus), and allows the everyday property owner to monetize their extra space and showcase it to millions of tourists.

When choosing a point of distinction it is preferable to choose a benefit that reflects an existing consumer belief and/or market. For Airbnb, the market (i.e. to rent one’s lodging) already existed; however, it was unable to satisfy demand – and the supply might be local, but the demand is global. Every local venue (i.e. house or apartment) that is added to Airbnb adds value to the website, as more and more travelers/tourists are looking for cost-effective accommodations in a cultural-specific environment, as opposed to spending large amounts of money on big brand hotels.

Additionally, rather than provide permanent rentals, Airbnb’s business model of providing rooms or houses for short stays keeps the supply on hand and creates multiple transactions, thereby keeping a steady stream of revenue. Lastly, Airbnb attracts travelers of all types – from those who want to rent a spare bedroom to those professionals who want to rent an entire villa. This allows Airbnb to broaden its market reach while providing superior customer service and an additional revenue stream for many home owners.

Airbnb’s point of distinction and business model may be difficult to explain to new users; however, the company recently underwent a rebrand, which included a new logo, redesigned website and updated content that makes it easy for users to understand the company’s unique model. Initially, the rollout stirred controversy with the company’s new and awkward-looking logo; however, if Airbnb’s goal was to get people talking about the brand, then the redesign campaign was brilliant and can be considered a marketing communications success story.

Jay Cameron | @camconsultingco

Point of Distinction

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