entrepreneurship, marketing

Differentiation and business failure

Grocery store

When you walk down the cereal aisle at your local grocer, what do you notice? What stands out?

Take a look at the photo above to help remind yourself of what the typical aisle looks like. In this case, it’s the cereal aisle.

Nothing stands out, does it? It all kind of blends together. Every product is the same. Sure, there’s the organic version vs. the processed version but that’s it.

Even on closer inspection, it’s hard to tell the difference. You have to spend too much time actually deciphering the difference.

The high-cognitive load is helpful to the grocery store because it helps build loyalty. The more work you have to put into identifying and deciding the specific products you like the more likely you are to stick to that store. Why go through that trouble all over again by shopping somewhere new.

Things fall short for those with their products on the shelves. They’ve put themselves in a position where they’re in brutal competition with one another.

The problem is that each company is competing as if they’re a commodity. They’re not differentiating themselves.

What if you could enter a market with little to no competition? What if, rather, you set the pace of the market?

You do this by identifying inefficiencies that others are ignoring. Here’s a great example, sticking with the grocery analogy.


Not only does the packaging of an RXBAR physically differentiate itself (it actually stands out!) from the other bars around it but it tells a completely different story from the others as well.

The story it tells is this: Here’s a nutrient-dense bar made with real food–and none of the crap you know is terrible for you.

What’s the number one thing their ideal customer had to do before their bars existed? Go through each bar on the shelf, looking through the ingredient list to determine whether it was for them. What’s worse, they’d end up buying a bar from a company that did not understand them. They bought bars for their efficiency. Not taste.

What matters is the one problem or pain you’re solving for customers. Does your product solve unique opportunities that others are ignoring?

Businesses fail when they don’t create products that people actually want.

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