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Companies can also gain a strong competitive advantage through people differentiation—hiring and training better people than their competitors do. Singapore Airlines enjoys an excellent reputation, largely because of the beauty and grace of its flight attendants, and WestJet staffers are known for their sense of humour. People differentiation requires that a company select its customer-contact people carefully and train them well.Even when competing offers look the same, buyers may perceive a difference based on companyor brand image differentiation. A company or brand image should convey a product’s distinctive benefits and positioning. Developing a strong and distinctive image calls for creativityand hard work. A company cannot develop an image in the public’s mind overnight by using only a few ads. If Ritz-Carlton means quality, this image must be supported by everything the company says and does. We will look more closely at developing and managing a brand image in Chapter9.Choosing the Right Competitive AdvantagesSuppose a company is fortunate enough to discover several potential differentiations that providecompetitive advantages. It must now choose the ones on which it will build its positioning strategy. It must decide how manydifferences to promote and which ones.How Many Differences to PromoteSome marketers believe that the best approach is to aggressively promote only one benefit to the target market; in other words, to focus on the product or brand’s unique selling proposition(USP). If a product has a clear USP, all marketing communications in support of it then focus on
saying, “Buy this product, and you will receive this benefit.” For example, Head & Shoulders shampoo’s USP is that it gets rid of dandruff, and FedEx’s USP is overnight delivery.Other marketers choose to position their brands on more than one differentiator. This may be necessary if two or more companies or products are claiming to be best on the same attribute, especially today, when what was once a mass market is fragmenting into many small market segments.For example, SC Johnson introduced Pledge multi-surface cleaner, an extension of its well-known furniture polish brand. The new Pledge product was positioned as a cleaner that works on wood, electronics, glass, marble, stainless steel, and other surfaces. The benefit it provides is the ability to use only one product to clean everything in a room. Consumers almost certainly want these multiple benefits; however, it can be a challenge to convince them that one product can do it all. As companies increase the number of claims for their brands, they risk disbelief and a loss of clear positioning.Which Differences to PromoteNot all brand differences are meaningful or worthwhile; not every difference makes a good differentiator. Each difference has the potential to create company costs as well as customer benefits. A difference is worth establishing to the extent that it satisfies the following criteria:IMPORTANT: The difference delivers a highly valued benefit to target buyers.