Being Different is Extra-Ordinary

Studies show that consumers tend to compare the differences that exist between the similarities of two or more products.

Oleh: Ningky Sasanti Munir

Coordinator Team of Experts of Strategy Management and Enterpreneurship | PPM School of Management

 *This article was also publised in SWA Online

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Wherever and whenever, what kind of drink do you choose? Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola? Teh Botol Sosro or Teh Pucuk Harum? To get through the traffic jam of the city, which kind of means of transportation do you choose? Go-Jek or Grab? To make your stomach full with burger what do you choose, McDonald or Burger King? What kind of sneakers do you wear in your leisure time, Nike, Adidas or Reebok? You want to add your calcium for your body with sweet taste, do you choose Ultra Milk or “Bendera” (Frisian Flag)?

The above questions can be continued to be longer because there are many choices of products available in the market. Sometimes, the competition among brands is so amazing and lasts in a very long period. For example, the competition between Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, even there are a lot of books are written specially to analyze the up down, competition, organization culture, the changing of leaders, and of course their own strategies.

What was great, that in 2015 the target market of the “king of Cola” Coca Cola which has been existing in Indonesia since 1927, was cut in by Big Cola, although that Cola drink from Peru came to Indonesia just in 2010.

Studies show that consumers tend to compare the existing differences among similarities of two products or more. For example, to choose UHT Milk, the consumers at least consider five things: price, taste, ingredients, availability or the easiness to buy and advertisement.

Those five things are the similarities had by UHT Milk Products from various brands, but with different values. Milk with brand A has the cheapest price compared to brand B and C. Milk with brand B has the highest calcium compared to those A and C. Brand C is available in six different flavors and the sweetest. Compared to brand A which has only four flavors or B even is available in 2 flavors only, but both are not too sweet. All milk brands, A, B and C are almost always easy to be found at various kinds of supermarkets and convenience stores, also at the nearest neighborhood stores. About the advertisement, Milk with brand C’s advertisement is the most frequent at many mass media compared to milk with brand A and B.

The consumers’ tendency comparing differences among similarities that can be compared is known as alignable differences. So, if a producer gives a unique feature that is not possessed by the competitor’s, consumers will be difficult to compare, it is called non alignable differences. However, it does not directly make the product be prominent compared to its competitor’s, because consumers do not have the factors to compare.

But if a product of a company is exactly the same as a product of another company, consumers will be difficult to compare. So buying a product with brand A from a company is not different from the product with brand B from the competitor company.

It will be very difficult for companies whose products are like twins to grab the target market and wins the competition. It is not strange if strategies are often interpreted as a way to differentiate a product from the competitors’ so it is recognized and loved by consumers.

To make a product different from the competitors’ can be done by two ways. The first is by continously showing a better performance on the feature of alignable differences compared to competitors’ and the second is by building up or creating a uniqueness which is beneficial or non alignable differences for consumers.

A classic example is NIKE, a footwear company with selling amount which is continuingly prominent from the competitors’ in the world’s footwear industry. Supported by its research and innovation centre, Nike Sports Research Laboratory (NSRL), Nike develops materials and designs which make its shoes have more values compared to its competitors’, shoe brands. Besides building up alignable differences, Nike also keeps strengthening its best products through strategy of efficient supply chain and innovative marketing strategy.

Learning from the success of a product, there are 3 things that must be done by a company to make its product prominent from its competitors’. First, communicating with consumers in the context of the same features as competitors’. Back to the example of UHT milk such as milk with brand X, containing calcium having good taste and not making our pocket run out of money (price).

Second, convincing the consumers that those unique features are beneficial or critical. For example, milk with brand X in the packaging which is not easily spilled, or in the packaging with a special protection which is able to keep preserving milk quality. Third, if a company introduces a prominent feature or a different feature from the competitors’, give a chance to the consumers to try or taste it.

Both ways to differentiate a product from the competitors’ products can be connected to one another, because a uniqueness built by a product almost always can be imitated by the competitors’. So, slowly non alignable differences can become alignable differences.

As an example, a difficulty faced by Disneyland Hong Kong when Disney decided to fulfill Tiongkok government’s will to build Disney Resort in Shanghai (operated in June 2016). Disney has 11 theme parks, only four are in Asia : Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea), Hongkong Disneyland Resort and Shanghai Disney Resort. Since the opening, Hongkong Disneyland Resort’s visitors have consisted of 40% from Tiongkok land, 20% overseas tourists, and the rest are local tourists.

Due to the decreasing of the economy in Tiongkok, the number of visitors from Tiongkok land also decreased. Evenmore when Disney Shanghai was fully operated. Two years ago, if visitors wanted to enter Disney Hongkong, they had to book the tickets first, if they wanted to enjoy the amusements, they had to queue in a long line like a dragon snake. Last year it was changed a lot.

It is not suprising, if in 2015 Hongkong Disney booked its loss for HK$148 million, although in 2014 it still gained profit for HK$332 million. It is not because Hongkong Disneyland Resort is the cutest Disney resort among others. But, it is more likely because it is less competitive in the case of alignable differences compared to its competitors’.

This time Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is building its uniqueness. Non alignable differences that make it still attractive for its visitors from Tiongkok land, also visitors from Asia countries which have more people and whose economy is still growing like Indonesia and Philippines. It could be made more technology oriented or more international or widen its area and so on. Next year, we’ll check its uniqueness!