Can Marketing Be Your Unfair Advantage?

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I’ve been writing a lot over the past few weeks on the idea of unfair advantages. How to discover yours, how to leverage it, etc. In those previous articles, though, I’m making the assumption that every company does indeed have an unfair advantage built into it. Or, at least, one that can be sort of shined up and put on display. And while I still stand behind this assumption, it can be difficult as a marketer to be responsible for that kind of business transformation.

After all, what if you don’t have the budget or the buy-in—or even the knowledge—to truly invest in discovering and leveraging your unfair advantage. Plus, finding a unique unfair advantage can be hard. There are a lot of businesses making and doing a lot of things. In this crowded world, you (and your business) are likely not alone.

So, in this scenario, you’re simply back to square one. That’s a little depressing.

There is another option, though. Creating your unfair advantage.

That’s right, it’s the DIY approach to unfair advantages. More than that, though, it’s the empowering approaching to unfair advantages. Imagine no longer being entirely contingent on your products and services for marketing (and, accordingly, business) success. Imagine turning your marketing department from a cost center to a profit center. When considered this way, the possibilities for utilizing unfair advantages are endless.

What The Cola Wars Tell Us About Creating an Unfair Advantage with Marketing

If you’re wondering ‘Can marketing really create an unfair advantage?’ I have a little parable for you that might do some convincing. Apologies in advance to diehard Coke or Pepsi fans.

The most powerful example of using marketing to give your brand an edge is the Cola Wars – aka, Coke vs. Pepsi. There are people who align themselves so strongly with one or the other that it becomes a legitimate part of their personality. I have an uncle, for example, that essentially only drinks water and Pepsi. Others swear that Diet Coke is a gift from the creator himself.

Studies show, though, that not only are they basically chemically the same, people actually can’t tell which is which during blind taste tests. Moreover, one research study showed that actual neurological reactions differed significantly when participants were told the brand before tasting vs when they were not told the brand. When they were not told the brand, the neurological reaction to tasting the drinks was the same. When they were told the brand, the reaction was different.

So let’s recap this real quick. We have two products, which are essentially the same in composition, which people cannot tell the difference between, and which activate the same neurological reaction in people when they’re unaware of the brand. When told the brand of each, though, they not only claim to be able to tell the difference and identify one as a favorite, they actually have different neurological reactions to tasting them.

So, what causes this? According to the researchers, “Coca-Cola® (Coke®) and Pepsi® are nearly identical in chemical composition, yet humans routinely display strong subjective preferences for one or the other. This simple observation raises the important question of how cultural messages combine with content to shape our perceptions; even to the point of modifying behavioral preferences for a primary reward like a sugared drink. ”

So, there you have it. That’s the power of marketing. If that isn’t a compelling story for the ability of marketing to differentiate nearly identical products and, in turn, create raving fans, I’m not sure what is.

Branding is a great example of creating an unfair advantage through marketing. It’s certainly not the only way, though.

Creating Value | Creating Your Unfair Advantage

There are, essentially two ways to create an unfair advantage through marketing. The first is to create distinction and the second is to excel in terms of tactics. When combined, the effect is pretty much unparalleled.

Creating Distinction

What Coke and Pepsi have done is create distinction through their marketing. This is not just in relation to each other, but also in relation to the crowded soft drink market. Those of you who are familiar with Coke and Pepsi—and I assume that applies to pretty much everyone in existence—are well aware of the many ways that each of these brands have marketed themselves and the mediums they have used to do so. Television and print ads along with celebrity endorsements might be the first that come to mind. These are high profile, to say the least.

Still, the common thread that underlies both these more high-profile marketing efforts as well as smaller efforts, such as their social media presences, is the audience-first, storytelling aspect of their content marketing. In short, both brands are able to start conversations and create emotional connections, allowing them to create distinctive brands that resonate with audiences.

Executing with Excellence

The data and technology available to marketers today is unprecedented. Moreover, the accessibility of these solutions is at an all-time low. A lot of marketing technology sees low adoption rates, though, and many marketers report not feeling like they are able to use the technology they do adopt to its fullest potential. Whether used to increase efficiency or effectiveness, staying ahead of this marketing technology curve will play an important role in transforming marketing from a cost center to a profit center.

Much in the same way that a factory that employs automation will likely out-produce the factory that still relies on handmade products, employing marketing technology can give a substantial edge over the competition. Marketing automation, customer relationship management, programmatic advertising, account-based marketing, and data management solutions are all tools that are at every marketers’ disposal and can contribute to amplifying efforts.

Conclusion

Utilize the power of content and storytelling. Access the possibilities presented by marketing technology. The potential to create your unfair advantage and empower your marketing team to make real business impact is there—and it’s likely untapped.

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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Punch Above Your Weight: Why Digital Favors David, Not Goliath to discover how identifying your unfair advantage is key to operating above capacity.

Victoria Grieshammer

About Victoria Grieshammer

Victoria Grieshammer is the Marketing Coordinator of Content Development at Fathom. Formerly, she was the Head of Marketing on the Fathom Manufacturing team. Victoria joined Fathom as an Associate Copywriter after graduating from Allegheny College with degrees in English and Psychology. Her previous experience includes e-commerce copywriting at Little Tikes and coordinating social media campaigns for small businesses, giving her a varied background in digital marketing. When she’s not at Fathom writing and learning, you can find her jogging around Cleveland or reading a book. You can also find her on Twitter at @Vgrieshammer1.

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