Does Your Competition Really Have to Be Your Competition?
America may run on Dunkin’, but the company needs to have a lot more than coffee and donuts on its mind to achieve their latest marketing goals. Allow me to explain.
You may have already read it: Dunkin’ Donuts is considering changing the name adorning countless donut shops across the land to just Dunkin’. Really? Well, it might just happen — and for good reason. For years, Dunkin’ has been marketing itself as a coffee chain with their “America Runs on Dunkin’” slogan. While they’ll still sell donuts, they had decided years ago to change their positioning; instead of competing with donut shops, they’ve moved up the food chain to higher-end coffee shops that offer a broader range of food options.
I’m not a consumer marketing expert, but this makes perfect sense. Change your positioning and shift to higher-margin products expected of a coffee shop. I’m guessing they might even charge a little more for donuts than when they were “just” a donut shop.
I don’t eat donuts anymore, but I do maintain a steady diet of B2B marketing strategy. Recently, we’ve been working with a lot of clients who are reconsidering how they want their products or companies to be positioned, and it’s pretty much for the same reasons Dunkin’ Donuts wants to become Dunkin’. A strong repositioning has the power to reduce the number of instances in which they must engage in those brutal feature-for-feature, benefit-for-benefit slugfests with similar-looking competitors — where pricing managers send bloodied sales engineers back into the field for another round of price reductions.
Repositioning Can Change Your Competition — and the Conversation
While companies reconsider how they want to be perceived in the market, they often find themselves shifting into an entirely different competitor set. And that’s a good thing. Consider some recent examples we’ve seen:
- An industrial manufacturer steers its marketing message away from similar industrial competitors, instead choosing to take on lesser-duty, offshore commercial grade products that are encroaching into applications where they just don’t belong.
- A global equipment manufacturer narrows the focus of its performance monitoring and asset management capabilities to emphasize a singular equipment category, helping them avoid getting lost in a sea of larger, more comprehensive plant monitoring solution providers.
- A motor manufacturer introduces a product range that uses a technology the target market traditionally doesn’t access, effectively eliminating traditional competitors from the discussion and creating a more sophisticated discussion about underlying technology.
- A lumber company repositions itself as a specialty hardwoods manufacturer, effectively removing itself from the wood vs. wood commodity competition to compete with a completely different, premium building materials competitor set — a change that moved the conversation to aesthetics instead of price.
Every donut has a hole; what makes them different from baker to baker is a combination of cooking time, temperature and ingredients. In B2B marketing, you’re often just a feature or an application ahead of total parity in your category. Spending a lot of time positioning and messaging within your category can, on a good day, be aggravating. On a bad day, it feels like an exercise in futility.
A bold repositioning can change the competitive landscape and offer an escape from the feature-for-feature battles that keep prices down, margins low and — Heaven forbid — execs wondering whether they should take another swipe at that marketing budget to cut costs.