It's Great To See Differentiated Positioning, Even At The Beach


I am lucky right now. With no summer classes to teach, we've had a wonderful time relaxing and traveling.

Earlier this summer while at the beach, I was surprised and delighted to see two examples of differentiated positioning on a morning walk to the board sports shop. I got so excited, I just had to share them.

First, as we were walking through the parking lot, I see this big truck for Holiday Ice. BTW, this is a great brand name for a company that delivers ice to beach resorts. On the left of the back of this huge truck is your typical ice cube, and on the right is the Holiday Ice cube with the statement “The Difference is Clear.” Sure enough, the Holiday Ice cube is super clear. I captured a screenshot from their website (pictured). The difference isn't as clearly visible as it was on the back of the huge truck. But, I think you’ll get the point.

While I love that they've focused on this clearness difference, it did give me pause. “Clear” is a feature. Stronger positionings should focus on benefits. And I wondered, does it matter if my ice cube is clear? Being the marketer that I am, I decided to check out the website. Low and behold, they tell you why clear is better: 1) It is super filtered, at least twice, to get all the contaminants out (great — who wants contaminants in water?); 2) It is UV treated to kill any remaining bacteria; so 3) you get the highest quality ice you can find. While I didn't realize there could be differences between ice, I have to say I was intrigued.

Then, I walked into my favorite board sports shop (e.g. surfing, windsurfing, kite boarding, and paddle boarding) — Ocean Air. I like to work on my windsurfing on vacation. You can imagine that at a beach known for windsurfing there are 6 shops in a 2-mile stretch that offer equipment, lessons, rentals, etc. I didn't really know why I've always gone to this store, but on this day I found out. I was describing the challenge I was having working with my form and some accessories (okay, every time I use the harness, the sail violently throws me in the water; not what I am looking for on vacation). The staff member started with, “We’re a performance oriented windsurfing store. Our goal is to help you progress your skills. We've got the best, fastest equipment to get you up and running the way you need it. If you’re just starting, we’ll get you going faster than anyone else. If you are racing, we've got the fastest boards in the world. Sounds like you should rent this new board that …” and he goes on to explain how the latest boards are designed to let people with intermediate skills (like me) get better and feel real speed. Right away, I got his point — you want performance in your equipment, pick this shop. Nicely done. I signed up for a lesson. After all, getting faster was exactly what I wanted.

Neither one of these differences are huge or inimitable by competitors. But what I liked is that they had actually thought about what made them different and better than others. And they were consciously implementing against it. That’s what makes for more effective positioning.