The #1 Way to Differentiate Products in the Digital Age: A Rebranding Story
I read a story in Lifehacker about a conversation between Jerry Seinfeld and a young comedian, Brad Isaac. Isaac asked Seinfeld backstage if he had any tips for a young comic.
Seinfeld told him that the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes. In other words, just work on your act.
Just work on your act. Nothing about marketing, networking, or branding other than perfecting the exact product you want to be known for. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and a great lesson for any business professional, including manufacturers of building products.
I have no doubt that some marketers will read the above and think to themselves, “My product is already finished and sitting on the shelves ready for people to buy, so that statement has no relevance to me.”
And they will be wrong. In today’s digital culture, your product, or your “act,” becomes something completely different from the physical product. In a digital world, products become commoditized because we don’t get to experience them in person.
And therein lies the differentiator, the magic that can be the deciding factor between a consumer choosing one product over another.
At 46.1 billion in revenue (2017), Saint-Gobain is the largest manufacturer of building products in the world. They recently made some leadership changes to ensure they stay on top and the team executes on their vision. I took the statement below directly from their press release, announcing Mark Rayfield as CEO of Saint-Gobain North America:
“The leadership shifts in North America come as a result of Saint-Gobain’s ‘Transform & Grow’ initiative, aimed at encouraging stronger customer intimacy, more collaboration across the organization’s global footprint to develop integrated solutions, reveal new areas of innovation, leverage our digital transformation and focus on the ever-changing demands of the manufacturing and construction industries.”
Other than referencing sustainability and livability, nowhere in Saint-Gobain’s press release does it mention anything about improving their product line. Instead, the “act” they will be working on is more holistic, experience centric, and driven by digital transformation. At Concora, we are proud to count a few of Saint-Gobain’s subsidiaries as clients.
Experience as the differentiator
It isn’t hard to find a long list of companies that have been displaced because they did not embrace the digital transformation happening in their industry, but it’s important to get to the heart of the impact on consumers to know where to focus.
Popeye’s chicken was recently in the news for receiving the equivalent of $65 Million dollars of advertising benefit (estimated by Apex Marketing Group) from the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” social media frenzy. While I’m sure the Popeye’s executive team was thrilled with the results, they continued to focus on activities other than long term revenue-producing objectives. As the market leader, Chic-fil-A was the heavyweight competitor in the “Chicken Sandwich War,” but if you compare real methods and real results, you can see exactly what matters and what doesn’t.
Chic-fil-A has customer service scores that top every other fast casual chain, and not by a small margin. According to the 2018-2019 ACSI Restaurant Report, the next closest chain to Chick-fil-A was a full five points below them. Popeye’s didn’t even make the list, in part because they still think their “act” is to perfect the chicken sandwich.
With an average per-unit revenue double and sometimes quadruple other large chains, one can make a strong argument that Chic-fil-A’s customer satisfaction scores directly correlate with their financial results. Not to mention those results come from only six days of revenue generation a week (Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays), while their competitors are open for all seven. Chic-fil-A is now the third largest fast food chain in America with exponentially stronger growth than any other player in the top 20.
Chic-fil-A’s differentiator is service. Quality product is the entry point; it’s a given. They eat, sleep, and breathe the service “act” in everything they do. Their service members are polite to an almost excessive degree, but I’m guessing that most consumers will take that over the alternative any day of the week.
The biggest player in the fast food industry, McDonald’s, will be hard for Chick-fil-A to catch because they are also focusing on experience over product. But McDonald’s is providing elevated service in a completely different way, by embracing digital transformation through service kiosks that replace order takers.
“But that’s fast food. It’s supposed to be service oriented, and I don’t get the correlation to the digital age,” the skeptical marketer may say.
According to Retailtouchpoints.com, Amazon and its marketplace provide more than 353 million products for sale. Given the fact that they are the worlds’ most valuable company and the founder, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man in the world, I think their business model is worth exploring and emulating.
Getting to the heart of the matter regarding the success of Amazon wasn’t difficult. They started as an online bookseller but quickly branched out to… well, frankly the product didn’t matter. (Starting to see a pattern here?) Amazon branched out to everything because they recognized that it’s not the product that makes the difference; it’s the experience around consuming the product. The digital world promises efficiencies that consumers have come to expect—no, demand—and they prove it with fickle loyalty.
Life is far more complex now than it has ever been, and because of that there is a much greater sensitivity to ease of use.
Make my life just a little bit difficult, and Google promises that I can find a dozen alternatives in the milliseconds it takes a search results page to load.
Anyone selling online won’t get advanced notice if they make the customer journey challenging. Your customers won’t leave a message or relay their experience on social media. They will just go somewhere else.
How does this relate to the rebrand?
The previous name of our company was SmartBIM, and it put us in a bucket that didn’t do us justice. Our new name, Concora, does a much better job of representing our product. SmartBIM was just a product that produced and housed technical content; Concora provides a holistic experience. Equating our solution to only BIM didn’t align with our mission, which is to enable an optimized experience for the AEC community on behalf of manufacturers who are struggling to do so.
Amazon succeeds because they tirelessly work on their “act” of creating a seamless, consolidated, efficient experience for consumers.
Concora is the leader in content management solutions for manufacturers of building products because we understand and tirelessly work on our “act” of creating a seamless, consolidated, efficient experience for architects, engineers, contractors and owners who have an incredibly complex job.
I would love to know how experience has been the “act” that your company tirelessly focusses on to make a difference for your customers. Leave a comment below, or feel free to connect me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn here.