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How to Create Real Separation For Seemingly Mundane Consumer Products

by: Geoff Ficke

Recently I was presented with the opportunity to review a rather mundane new food product. The offering was a barbecue sauce. The taste was excellent, formulated from an old family recipe. The entrepreneur was in love with the taste, the appearance and the history of the product. It did have excellent presence. But, it did not have enough to be commercially viable as presented. Why?

In order for any new product to be successful the item must offer a clearly recognizable Unique Selling Proposition (USP). A USP is a fancy business school term for the special features and/or benefits that make any new product different, and hopefully better, from competitor’s wares. These features and benefits create the differences that enable a product to have an excellent chance at success.

My barbecue sauce review was not positive, not from a sauce standpoint, but from a marketing standpoint. Better ingredients, better recipe or formula, better components, better appearance or taste, or Mom made it so it has to be good are not difference makers. They are claims that every brand makes, and most brands already being successfully distributed support such statements with big sales promotion budgets. Most start-ups and entrepreneurs do not have the ability to shout their story with any strength in a competitive marketplace. We had to address these issues before moving forward on the project with any hope of success.

What to do? In order to create a USP for a new product the entrepreneur must tell a story that creates separation between the new offering and the competition. In the case of the sauce we reviewed, we suggested a duality strategy, an ingredient provenance and process story.

We highlighted the two most distinctive herbs (signing a Secrecy Agreement, which we do with all products we review, does not allow me to be specific about details) and suggested that the product marketing be built on the nurturing, harvesting, artesian craftsmanship of the agricultural techniques utilized and the specific unique geography, topography and climate necessary to derive the luscious taste from the products most influential ingredients.

Then we suggested that the sauce be positioned as a 19th century, hand blended, slowly layered product, cooked in small batches in a copper kettle, under very low temperatures. This is the process feature that further separates this sauce from the other mass produced products that are indigenous on store shelves and offer the sameness of taste and blandness of character that make them virtually inseparable in consumer’s minds. We created a process nomenclature unique to this sauce’s recipe and gave it a proprietary cooking terminology (again, under Secrecy Agreement).

Now the sauce has a provenance and process story that is simple, understandable and stands apart from the mass marketed competition. The product can be positioned as an upscale alternative, the kind of product that discriminating homemakers will be open to trying. The sauce is being readied now for a spring 2010 market launch in gourmet shops and high end gift stores.

This is an elementary example of a product from a most mundane category that can be positioned to highlight a USP that gives it every chance for success. This type of strategy can be customized to fit almost any consumable product category: cosmetics, hair care, foodstuffs, supplements, house-hold cleaners, etc. The niche carved out by a clearly defined USP is crucial to successfully penetrating the consumer product market. Make your new product different, special and interesting.