Points of difference and points of parity

These can be utilised in the positioning (marketing) of a brand for competitive advantage via brand/product.

In essence:

"Points-of-difference (PODs)" – Attributes or benefits consumers strongly associate with a brand, positively evaluate and believe they could not find to the same extent with a competing brand i.e. points where you are claiming superiority or exclusiveness over other products in the category.

"Points-of-parity (POPs)" – Associations that are not necessarily unique to the brand but may be shared by other brands i.e. where you can at least match the competitors claimed benefits.

The assessment of consumer desirability criteria for PODs should be against:

* Relevance
* Distinctiveness
* Believability

Whilst when assessing the deliverability criteria for PODs look at their:


These will help understand how successful these PODs are likely to be in the minds of the consumer.

Kevin Keller and Alice Tybout [The principle of positioning Kevin Lane Keller and Alice Tybout, Market Leader, Issue 19, Winter 2002, pp.65 ] note there are three types of difference: brand performance associations; brand imagery associations; and consumer insight associations. The last only comes into play when the others are at parity. Insight alone is a weak point of difference, easily copied. Putting these together, check their desirability, deliverability and eliminate contradictions.

Traditionally, the people responsible for positioning brands have concentrated on the differences that set each brand apart from the competition. But emphasizing differences isn't enough to sustain a brand against competitors. Managers should also consider the frame of reference within which the brand works and the features the brand shares with other products.

Asking three questions about your brand can help:

#Have we established a frame? A frame of reference signals to consumers the goal they can expect to achieve by using a brand.
#Are we leveraging our points of parity? Certain points of parity must be met if consumers are to perceive your product as a legitimate player within its frame of reference.
#Are the points of difference compelling? A distinguishing characteristic that consumers find both relevant and believable can become a strong, favourable, unique brand association, capable of distinguishing the brand from others in the same frame of reference.

Rajesh Iyer and James A. Muncy [The Role of Brand Parity in Developing Loyal Customers Rajesh Iyer and James A. Muncy, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 45, No. 2, June 2005, pp.222-228] say that high parity perceptions inhibit a company's ability to develop loyal customers. Whether that is good or bad depends on the type of competitive strategy a firm has chosen. With a differentiation strategy, advertising should be used to fight parity perceptions. However, with a low price strategy, parity perceptions should be fostered in an attempt to discourage brand loyalty. Thus, a starting point for many advertising campaigns should be a clear understanding of both the parity perceptions in the marketplace and the need to either develop or fight brand loyalty.


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