Identifying your brand’s points of parity and points of differentiation is the essential first step of every positioning project. That is, understanding the market you operate in and what makes your brand different from competition.
I am sure you are very familiar with slogans similar to these: “Our employees make the difference”, “Quality is our job number 1”, “We Deliver Great Customer Service”. These slogans are indeed very popular, but also a very ineffective way to differentiate a brand. That’s because they more often than not promote a brand’s point of parity instead of focusing on the points of differentiation.
My goal in today’s article is to explain these two important marketing concepts. Hopefully it will give you a better perspective on how to choose a strong differentiator, that is meaningful to the consumer, and your brand can sustain long term.
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Points of Parity versus Points of Differentiation
Identifying the points of parity and points of differentiation is industry specific. There is no generic rule that can be applied across the board.
Points of parity are those elements that are considered mandatory for a brand to be considered a legitimate competitor in its specific category. It is what makes consumer consider your brand, along with your competitors. So before you work on identifying your competitive advantage, you want to make sure you identify what it takes to be a player in your category, and have all these points covered.
I will use a personal example to illustrate this concept.
I am currently in the market for a new car for my growing family. When comparing various offers, I consider the following aspects of buying and owning a car points of parity:
– a showroom located within reasonable proximity, where I can see the models
-a demo model that I can test-drive
-a 3 year comprehensive warranty
I am not considering any car brand that is not able to meet these four criteria. Those elements will not bring any benefit to a brand if advertised because the consumer considers them as a given. (Nobody expects to buy a car with less than 3-year warranty).
On the other hand you cannot launch a new brand without making sure you meet the points of parity.
Points of differentiation are the attributes that make your brand unique. It is your competitive advantage. It is what your brand slogan should reflect.
Let’s come back to the automotive industry.
Hyundai took a point of parity and made it a point of differentiation: they were the first brand that offered a 5-year comprehensive warranty in Canada (10 in the USA), instead of the industry standard of 3 years.
Subaru made the all-wheel drive system its competitive advantage, brilliantly reflected in their slogan “Confidence in Motion”.
No car brand communicates the “3 year warranty” or “front wheel drive system” a competitive advantage. And rightfully so: these are points of parity, not points of differentiation.
The Meaningless Slogan Trap
Now let’s go back to the so-common slogans at the beginning of the article: “Our employees make the difference”, “Quality is our job number 1”, “We Deliver Great Customer Service”.
Good employees, quality, and service are a given in almost any category. Is anybody expecting to survive and grow with bad employees, poor quality products and rude customer service?
If your company is using a slogan similar to the ones in the first paragraph then it’s probably time for a brand repositioning exercise. That is unless your competition is famous for not delivering what you are promoting (be it quality, service, good employees. Then your slogan makes perfect sense. Otherwise don’t waste your advertising budget promoting points of parity. Find out what attributes make your brand unique and build your communication strategy around them.
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