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The Perils of Research (You Can't Be Everything To Everyone)

Henry Ford famously said, "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse."

The point? Think differently, be innovative. Cast a wide net for new market opportunities.

Your customers love - or will love - your product or service because it is different. If you try to emulate your competition in the hopes of attracting their customers, you'll not only fail, you will also alienate your loyal customers.

It doesn't matter if you are a computer company, a political party, a radio station, or an association. If you try to become like the competition to attract their customers, you risk losing the distinctiveness that initially made you successful.

This is one of the truly dangerous elements of market research. Too often, researchers and consultants will happily report that they have the discovered the features and benefits valued by your competitor's customers. The tendency is to change your products, services or beliefs in an effort to attract or steal their customers.

Typically, this will not work. You can't be everything to everyone and remain distinctive. If you are everything to everyone, you have no positioning and you are basically an undifferentiated product. If you mimic the competition you will be destined to compete just on price and service.

Brand distinctiveness or brand uniqueness are often the strongest determinants of overall brand equity. Brands with significant equity not only have low churn and defection rates, they also have customers that champion their products and services.

You have to understand the competition and why each of you are successful. But you cannot emulate or side with or act like your competition to appeal to a wider audience. This will only alienate your current customers and it will offer no reason for your competitor's customers to switch.

Using reliable quantitative as well as qualitative research to uncover all of the viable attributes of the competition and your brand should be used to better position the uniqueness of your product or service and demonstrate why your product is different.