If you manage a brand with a portfolio of products (or if yours is a master brand with a family of sub-brands), you’ve probably faced this dilemma: do you invest your resources in differentiating each offering or showcasing consistencies across the portfolio? Aren’t these vastly different objectives?
The truth is, you need to achieve both. You need to differentiate your offerings from each other and promote within-brand commonalities at the same time. Given the natural tension between these two goals, it can be hard to know where to begin.
We’ve noticed that most companies facing this challenge often start with a differentiation mindset. It is important to differentiate your individual products on functional benefits, the things that each product helps consumers accomplish. This strategy allows individual product managers to deliver a unique benefit to their consumers while building a more durable relationship by focusing on benefits rather than simply product features.
But it’s not enough to highlight the distinctions in your portfolio. When each product focuses on differentiation, the core essence of the brand that ties the portfolio together can get lost within the complexity, making it difficult for the portfolio to deliver on a consistent brand promise.
The best way to build consistency among the different products your brand offers is to communicate a common set of higher order benefits, such as how consumers should expect to feel when they use the product, or what ultimate goals they achieve when this happens. When you do this successfully, your consumers are more likely to engage across the portfolio, build long-term loyalty, and increase their identification with your brand. This strong identification, in turn, makes them more likely to adopt line extensions and give the brand a second chance if anything goes awry.
With a set of distinct brands competing in the same category (such as P&G’s portfolio for laundry detergent: Dreft, Tide, Cheer, and Gain), a person-level segmentation of the category can provide distinct target segments for each clearly differentiated brand.
With a family of brands across separate categories (such as the Macy’s portfolio of well-known private label brands), person-level segmentation that transcends categories by speaking to a person’s core values or lifestyle may serve to identify your North Star segment while still allowing you to understand how that segment manifests within each category.
When a brand is looking to align its multiple products within a single category, or seeking to find white space opportunities for innovation, a person-level segmentation is unlikely to provide the necessary tactical guidance, however. In these situations, an occasions-based need state or “jobs to be done” segmentation, combined with your person-level segmentation, allows you to slot specific products into different needs or jobs while still targeting the same consumer segment(s).
If you have a portfolio of brands in the category, each with its own portfolio of products, this framework becomes particularly powerful, helping you to find unique territories in which to compete or innovate without cannibalizing yourselves.
Whatever the makeup of your brand or product portfolio, it is possible to build a strategy that highlights each distinct offering and a common set of higher order benefits. It’s how great brands build strong consumer identity and loyalty for the long-term.