Is your business suffering from the Laundry Detergent Phenomenon? What do we mean?

Think about all the laundry detergent brands you know. Top, SPIN, Dynamo, Downy, Persil, Breeze, Tide… We could go on.

Now let us ask you a question: Which laundry detergent gives you the softest, brightest, and whitest clothes? Chances are you can’t be sure.

That’s the Laundry Detergent Phenomenon. It’s something that is not unique to just laundry detergent industry. Many businesses in highly-saturated industries face the same problem: they are unable to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Before we go into how to differentiate your business, we need to first understand how this problem arises.

Let’s go back to the laundry detergent example:

The Marketer’s Story of Laundry Detergents

Back during World War 1 in the 1930s, because of the shortage of fats to make soap, the first synthetic detergent was created to solve that problem. Another problem was, using soap to wash clothes would create soap curds, which were insoluble in water. The need for a solution to this problem was present, and a German company stepped in to solve the problem.

During that time, they could simply state the key benefit “No Soap Curds” in their marketing campaigns and it would be enough to draw attention. And consumers moved to synthetic detergents en masse.

Because it became a hit, more and more companies began to copy them using the same or variations of basically the same thing.

“No Soap Curds”, ” No Soap Residue”, “Curd & Residue Free”

Eventually the market became used to hearing that message, that message lost its meaning. After all, no one had been using fat-based soaps anymore. So new companies coming in with the same message couldn’t take off.

Because in the consumer’s mind, if you’re not bringing anything new to the table, why should they stop using what they’ve been using for years without problem?

Then, a couple of decades later, there was innovation. Detergents with fabric softeners was created. This was better than regular laundry detergents that didn’t make your clothes soft.

Suddenly, the market perked up. What’s this about fabric softeners? Let me try that. They tried it and loved it. And again, consumers started getting detergents with fabric softeners.

Seeing this, companies started rushing R&D to also create detergents with fabric softeners. And before long, every detergent on the market has fabric softeners and is marketing it as the next big thing.

Fast forward to today, the same cycle keeps repeating itself. One company comes up with a brand new innovation: Anti-bacterial, multifunctional, for colored clothes, for white clothes, ultra fabric softeners, floral scents, pre-measured dissolvable sachets…

And in the same fashion, everyone else jumps on the bandwagon only after it’s taken off.

So, What’s The Solution Here?

Chances are, huge markets with a lot of money to be made also will attract a lot of players. Players who are in it to capitalize on trends and milk the cash cow.

To us, those aren’t businesses. They are simply short-term enterprises, and will not benefit from this article.

The real businesses, those looking at long-term growth, building loyal fans, and giving real value to the world, will be able to learn a thing or two about how to compete and rise above everyone else.

The secret? Positioning.

Your brand’s positioning is the space that you occupy in the mind of your market. What your brand represents to your customers and what represents your brand.

That’s why generic terms like “cheap”, “quality”, or “speed” have no meaning. Because everyone else is vying for the same positioning.

Rather than being the nth player in an existing category in the market, you can create a new category and be the first.

What do we mean?

Creating A New Brand Category

Gatorade wasn’t the first soft drink in the market. It was the first sports drink.

Uber wasn’t the first taxi or private transportation service. It was the first ride-hailing service.

Evian wasn’t the first mineral water supplier. It was the first natural spring water.

Instead of just jumping on trends or the bandwagon, they innovated and created something that solved a problem. Not necessarily a new problem, but a problem that people were not aware of before.

And if you truly believe that your business is something that the market needs, then finding a new unique category to occupy is a simple task.

Here are 5 steps to create a brand new category in your market so you can stand out from your competitors.

1. Go deeper

In order to stand out from your competitors. You need to answer one very important question,

“Why should your customers choose you?”

This is something that most business owners don’t think about. They think that just because they have a product or service, that people should see that too.

The problem is, with so many people in the market shouting cheaper, better, and faster. Why should they trust you?

Because of this, customers tend to stick with the brands who were there first. The brands that they’re more familiar with.

So, to answer that question, you have to figure out what they want. But more than that, you have to dig deeper into their motivations.

While most businesses focus on the superficial reasons like price or speed or convenience, which are generic and obviously everyone wants that…(Who really wants expensive, slow, and inconvenient solutions?)…

You need to ask more questions into what keeps them up at night. You have to dig deeper into what problems their current solution is NOT solving.

And more importantly, you need to be an expert on your product. Not just the surface features and benefits, but really how the whole machine works.

Once you’ve gotten all that you need to know…

2. Fill a gap

Identify the aspects of your solution that solves a hidden problem, it may be a problem that your customer is not even aware of.

But when you dig deeper, you might uncover something interesting that no one else knows about. Or, even something that’s fairly obvious to people in the business, but not to the consumers.

Sometimes business owners have a blind spot where they think something is boring or obvious, but it actually isn’t to the customers.

If you can frame an interesting story around it, you can definitely capture the attention of the market because it’s something new and educational.

3. Find the Word

Next, it’s time to describe what you’ve found as concise as possible. What is the one word that describes how your product or service can solve their problem, that makes it unique, and is not used by anyone of your competitors.

Congratulations, you have found your new positioning!

It’s time to craft your brand message around that. Your website, your social media, your content, your marketing peripherals…

Make it easy to understand to your market. Repeat your positioning as often as possible. It is what represents your brand.

For example, car rental service Avis’s positioning is “We are No. 2”. Once that gets attention, they go on to explain what being number 2 means to the customer. 

Your business or brand is not about who you are or what you offer. It’s about how that can benefit your market (as explained in point 1).

So, after you have found your new word or category, you’re not done…

4. Test it

You still have to test it in the market to see what the response is. If you remember, sometimes business owners and marketers have a blind spot. They think what they are selling is the next best thing since a toothpaste tube squeezer.

But your market may not respond with the same enthusiasm. And at the end of the day, they are the ones paying you money to solve their problems. So, their feedback is the most valuable thing you can have.

Have focus groups. Ask people within your target market what they think. Don’t ask them if they will buy it. Don’t tell them that it’s for your business. They may soften their criticism that way.

Do surveys. Do test launches. Run the new positioning to your current list to see how they respond.

After all, a critical part of all marketing is about testing. Ask any agency worth their salt, and they’ll tell you that collecting data is the key to good marketing.

And once you’ve gotten all the data…

5. Improve

It’s time to tweak and improve and repeat the cycle. Keep testing until you are sufficiently satisfied with the results.

If after a few rounds, the market still doesn’t respond positively to your new positioning, then perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Don’t be afraid to throw away bad ideas. It means you’re one step close to a good idea.

Review your notes from step 1 and find something else. Then go through the process again.

Be The First Fish In A New Section Of The Big Pond

You’ve heard the saying, don’t be a big fish in a small pond; be a small fish in a big pond.

But we’ve seen that it isn’t necessarily profitable to be so. Because being a small fish in a big pond means that the big fish will always get first dibs.

Rather, because the pond is so huge, there are areas where the big fishes don’t venture. Maybe out of comfort or fear. This means you can explore outside of where others are willing to venture, and find gold there.

And because you’re the first business in that new area or category, you can dominate that.

And even if new competitors enter your category, that are merely copycats and will never get the credibility or authority that you would have already established there.

In fact expect that to be inevitable once you find a positioning that works. The trend chasers will come shortly after. And that’s ok. Because when it’s time to evolve and venture even further out, you already have the experience to do so.

What To Do Next?

If you found this article useful, we encourage you to put it to action. Knowledge is useless until executed. So, if you find your business struggling with competitors.

And you want to rise above the crowd and attract more customers and sales to your business, we’re confident this will work for you.

If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. Use the chatbox on the bottom right to shoot us a message. Let us know what you have tried, what business you’re in, and we will help you as best we can.

Looking forward to hear from you. Keep a lookout on our website for even more useful marketing tips.