Product Differentiation: Definition and Types


Advancement or incorporation of characteristics (such as advantages, rate, quality, styling, service, etc.) that a product’s designated customers view to be various and preferable. Advertising and promotion of an item is based upon its separating attributes. Source:

Today, the marketplace is crowded with comparable brand names, clamoring for the attention of clients. In order for their brands to stick out, business aim hard to make them appear various from completing brand names.

This is item distinction.

Item differentiation is an objective that a service may attempt to attain through its marketing. Any service, must attempt to distinguish products from those of rivals, so as to get a ‘competitive edge’ over them, thereby drawing in more clients. This difference can be attained by altering the product- making it much better than that of the competitor’s or it can be ‘perceived’- such as a strong brand identity developed in the marketing campaign.

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Need for item differentiation: usually consumers can not tell the difference in between competing products- for this reason the need to separate developing a competitive advantage

Focus and differentiation

An item might have a lot of qualities, but it is important to focus on only few of the qualities. Eg: Volvo-safety, BMW-performance: however it doesn’t indicate that Volvo does not perform or BMW is not safe. They have simply focused on those elements of their items. Therefore their items will be separated on that particular characteristic. If a product declares to be proficient at whatever, you risk of customers not believing what you say, although you might have all those attributes.

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If a product is focused: 1) more trustworthy 2) consumers will think that they are as strong in other locations.

What to differentiate

Easiest way to differentiate is on price, but it is least effective as competitors can always copy it easily.Example: Indian computer market included companies such as HCL and IBM. Then came Siva from sterling computers which sold it’s computers at a cheaper price. Therefore others followed suit, and then Siva had to further differentiate it’s product in order to attract customers as competing products were similarly priced. Hence, it is better to differentiate on other attributes such as- features, performance, reliability, reparability, design, style, performance and so on.


1) Blackberry- Differentiated by addition of BBM in their smart phones. Although other smart phones with IM platforms existed, Blackberry was the one of the first to offer this service to customers as a standard on it’s devices. Their competition did not have any such service at the time. This attracted customers. 2) Promise- People thought promise was different from other toothpastes as it had clove oil however even some other toothpastes had clove oil, but only Promise focused on this attribute and hence it was perceived as a differentiating characteristic. 3) Hero Honda motorcycles- differentiated in terms of fuel efficiency- “fill it shut it, forget it”

Branding and Product differentiation

Branding is one way of differentiating products and services. Industries like the garments and tobacco industries, for example, use branding very effectively as the products within these segments are often very similar and have little to distinguish themselves from each other. Branding helps to retain customer loyalty. Example: Smokers, are very particular about their brand and believe that no other brand can satisfy them. In an experiment, 300 smokers who were loyal to 3 major brands were given an unidentifiable sample of each brand to smoke and were asked to identify their own brand.

The result: only 35% were able to identify the brands; and under the law of averages, pure guesses accounted for a third of correct identifications. The reason for this was that brands of cigarettes within the same category (menthol for example) differ very marginally in terms of strength, flavour and taste, and it is difficult for a smoker to truly distinguish between them. The reason why a smoker is loyal to a particular brand is the advertisment. Eg: Charminar: “it takes charminar to satisfy a man like you” – reinforces that only Charminar can satisfy the man who smokes them!

Product differentiation vs USP

USP is not the same as Product differentiation.
USP refers to advertising to communicate a product’s differentiation while Product differentiation is the process of describing the differences between products or services.

Types of differentiation

Horizontal Differentiation: is by the customer’s preference/taste of certain characteristics of the product. (Same qualities/price, different style/taste/colour) Perceived value remains the same. (eg: different colours of lipsticks) Vertical: Products differ in some characteristic which all consumers agree is best. Based on quality. Prices differ as perceived value differs (eg: Different brands of lipstick: Mac, Lakme, Lipice) Horizontal differentiation is about consumers’ wants and preferences, while vertical differentiation focuses on the consumers’ willingness to pay for the quality.


DO NOT offer wildly exaggerated differentiation that the market does not want. (eg: High priced men’s toilet soap “Aramusk” was unsuccessful due to price)

DO NOT negate useful and expansive differentiation by under attending to other parts of the product- service package. The difference should be OVER AND ABOVE the MINIMUM expectations.
Example: Fancy hotels with poor service

The product is not differentiated until the CUSTOMER understands the difference. The consumer perception is what matters.

Cite this page

Product Differentiation: Definition and Types. (2016, Sep 29). Retrieved from

Product Differentiation: Definition and Types

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