A few years ago, a client approached us and said, “We want to put together an ad that is pretty aggressive. We have been making these really reliable products out of very durable materials for years and years, and the products our competitors are making just simply are not of the same caliber. We want an ad that really emphasizes the differences between our products and the other products on the market.” We obliged, of course, and the ad started to run in key industry publications. A few months later, the same client approached us. They wanted us to create a new ad. This time the message was quite different. Now our client was promoting a new product, and it was much more similar to other products that had been on the market. In other words, the message of this new ad needed to be diametrically opposed to the ad we had just developed, and this needed to be accomplished without making our client look bad.
The fact is, companies run into these kinds of complexities all of the time. We perpetually are asked by clients to establish a marketing plan that promotes a product that for the most part would compete with other products of theirs. Sometimes the company has decided that they want to provide a lower (or higher) cost product to better compete with the competition. Sometimes the company has received feedback from customers that an alternative product is desired, or sometimes the sales team pressures the company to increase the available portfolio of products to make a more powerful sales pitch. Whatever the reason, the onus falls on the marketing team to make the whole campaign make sense.
What questions do the company as a whole need to understand before approaching this tricky landscape? Here are some suggestions.
1. If the new product is not entirely replacing the existing product, how will the two be positioned in relation to each other? This is a question that needs to be answered the same way from the sales team to the marketing team to the C-Suite. This is especially true if the new product is going to be promoted as the better option. If it is better, how will the original product be promoted?
2. How has the existing product been promoted in the past? Ideally, you will be able to promote the new product in ways that will not appear contradictory to what you have said in the past. If, for example, you touted the material your first product was made of perpetually, you may not want to make a case that the material your new product is made of is far better and more beneficial.
3. How will this new offering impact your customers? In effect, this question can also be expanded to ask, “How will this new offering impact your sales team and your customer service team?” Make sure that your promotion of the new product accentuates the positive as seen by your customers. One common way to deal with apparently contradictory products is to tell customers that they now can purchase either kind of product from just one source.
4. Are your products going to be priced differently? If your company’s new product is going to be priced substantially higher than what your customers have been used to with your existing product, you need to make a strong case for why they should be willing to invest those additional dollars. Moreover, you need to make sure all departments and personnel avoid words like “cheaper” when discussing both product options at the same time. Find words with more positive interpretations to outline the differences.
The single most important thing to remember when promoting diametrically opposed products is that everyone in your company needs to have the same message. If your ads are promoting the new product as a higher quality than your first product, your sales team also needs to hold true to that message. If your customer service department receives a complaint about the pricing of the new product, they need to know how the rest of the company is responding to such complaints. Organization and communication are key.
Has your company ever launched a product that seemed to contradict what your company had stood for in the past? How did you handle that challenge? We’d love to hear from you!
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