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Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition [Paperback]

Jack Trout
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Oct 2001
"Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith, and perseverance to create a brand."–David Ogilvy
In today′s ultra–competitive world, the average supermarket has 40,000 brand items on its shelves. Car shoppers can wander through the showrooms of over twenty automobile makers. For marketers, differentiating products today is more challenging than at any time in history yet it remains at the heart of successful marketing. More importantly, it remains the key to a company′s survival.
In Differentiate or Die, bestselling author Jack Trout doesn′t beat around the bush. He takes marketers to task for taking the easy route too often, employing high–tech razzle–dazzle and sleight of hand when they should be working to discover and market their product′s uniquely valuable qualities. He examines successful differentiation initiatives from giants like Dell Computer, Southwest Airlines, and Wal–Mart to smaller success stories like Streit′s Matzoh and Connecticut′s tiny Trinity College to determine why some marketers succeed at differentiating themselves while others struggle and fail.
More than just a collection of marketing success stories, however, Differentiate or Die is an in–depth exploration of today′s most successful differentiation strategies. It explains what these strategies are, where and when they should be applied, and how they can help you carve out your own image in a crowded marketplace. Marketing executives in all types of organizations, regardless of size, can learn how to achieve product differentiation through strategies including:
∗ Revisiting the U.S.P.
Rosser Reeves′s classic unique selling proposition approach, updated for today′s marketplace
∗ Positioning
Understanding how the mind works in the differentiating process
∗ Owning an Idea
Techniques to seize a differentiating idea, dramatize it, and make it your own
∗ Competition
How to use differentiating ideas against your competitors in the marketplace
Consumers today are faced with an explosion of choices. In this environment, distinctive product attributes are quickly copied by competitors, perceived by consumers to be minimal, or both. Still, those who fail to differentiate their product or service in the mind of the consumer won′t stand a chance.
Differentiate or Die outlines the many ways you can achieve differentiation. It also warns how difficult it is to achieve differentiation by being creative, cheap, customer oriented, or quality driven things that your competitors can do as well.
Praise for Differentiate or Die
"Another great book by the king of positioning!"–John Schnatter, CEO, Papa John′s International
"Differentiate or Die differentiates itself on the groaning marketing bookshelf with its lucid prose, its clear vision of the future marketplace . . . and its sensible solutions for surviving the frenzied competition we′re sure to find there."–Dan Rather, CBS News
"What I like about Differentiate or Die is the book′s emphasis on the power of logic, simplicity, and clarity–getting to the essence of a problem. In Silicon Valley, attributes like that can make the difference between having lunch and being lunch."–Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems, Inc.
"Trout and Rivkin marvelously illustrate that differentiation is the cornerstone of successful marketing." –Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing,
Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University
"We′ve built our business by being first–and executing best. Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin are doing the same, delivering the timely, powerful insights that will drive tomorrow′s marketing strategies. A must read for anyone looking to win in an unforgiving competitive marketplace."–Mike Ruettgers, CEO, EMC Corporation
"Dotcom executives must learn the lessons of Differentiate or Die. If they don′t, I pity their investors."–Aaron Cohen, CEO, Concrete Media; Co–Founder, Bolt.com

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; New edition edition (5 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471028924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471028925
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 960,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

Marketing guru Jack Trout has made a very handsome living by saying the same thing over and over for decades. "Be different" is the mantra that has run through books such as Marketing Warfare and the best selling Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. "Being different is at the heart of everything we've done for almost 30 years", he admits. Well he's at it again with Differentiate Or Die. But the strange thing is that every time he repeats his argument, it is truer and more relevant than the time before. With business now a global-free-for-all conducted at the speed of thought, with consumers deluged by a proliferation of choice, being different has become a necessary (if not sufficient) condition for corporate survival.

Trout makes the case with customary panache and his easy-reading opinionated style is both entertaining and informative. In the first third of the book he wades through a hate-list of things that are not differentiating ideas. Top of his "not" chart lies his bête noire, "quality and customer orientation". Reward schemes, better service and customer satisfaction are all dismissed with a casual side-swipe as either counterproductive or merely the basic minimum requirement of being in business. "You can indeed use this [service as a differentiator] as a strategy. But only if your competition is stupid enough to let you", carps Trout. The same goes for creativity--boy does he hate "creativity", price and "breadth of line". He then spends most of the rest of the book offering fertile ground upon which businesses can differentiate themselves. These include being first, attributing ownership, leadership, heritage, speciality, manufacture and topicality. Finally he concludes with an awful warning on the need to maintain absolute focus--your difference should be expressed in just one word--and the danger of growth, which is that it destroys differentiation.

Trout is contentious, provocative and almost certainly right in everything he says about the need for differentiation to lie at the heart of corporate strategy. Differentiate or Die is a must read for all non-marketers in business and a useful refresher for those who think they already know it. --Alex Benady --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"..Is a simple and concise handbook filled with rich examples of successful differentiation strategies from across the globe." -- EuroBusiness May 2000 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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In the beginning, choice was not a problem. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Jack Trout returns to make his now-familiar argument that brand positionings have to be very differentiated in the customer's mind to create a successful business. The reason for this: Customers have little time or patience for those who offer nothing different than everyone else.
The task of getting and building that differentiation is actually pretty simple. Few alternatives exist. You can be the first and hang in there as the most real choice (Coca-Cola). You can have a heritage that is more authentic than the alternative (Stolychnaya, the Russian vodka, in its initial positioning). You can have a differentiated product (toothpaste with baking soda and whiteners, when no one else has both). You can be the newest and most up-to-date (the latest Intel microprocessor). And a few others are offered up.
If it's that simple (something any fifth grader could grasp and apply at some level), why do most people miss this point? The authors do a good job of looking at the organizational thinking that goes on in many companies that creates a stall in this area. I thought that was a unique and very valuable contribution to the subject of proper branding and marketing.
A trap for many companies has been to focus on the latest management fad rather than create and increase perceptual differentiation (which can be partly based on physical differentiation). Some of the fads that the authors warn against include too much focus on quality, price promotions, and line extensions of existing brands. Although they do approve of everyday lower prices if you have the business model to sustain it (like Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines do).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The clear message of this book is that the principles of marketing have changed very little over the years, but what has changed is the competitive environment in which we buy and sell products and services. As consumers are faced with increasing choice, businesses are seeking new ways of differentiating their brands. The author strikes a cautionary tale for all companies that forget basic marketing principles.
This book analyses common mistakes such as brand extension and creative advertising and extols common sense marketing to enable brands to achieve or maintain market leadership through differentiation. Although the book is a great read, don't expect to learn anything new - we've heard this all before but, plainly, just aren't listening.
The book relies on recent and not so recent (American) examples of marketing mistakes and successes to underline its main theme - selling difference. In certain instances the new economy is alluded to and incorporated into the author's theory, particularly the role of the Internet in weakening the role of price as a differentiator. The majority of examples are old economy though and many are old favourites - Dell differentiating itself by selling direct, the Coke/Pepsi wars etc.
The book provides a convincing argument for protecting the brand and how to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, it's easy to read, and a good, solid dose of common sense. However, it is very American in its use of examples and in some instances the cultural differences between the US and the UK cast doubt on the author's recommendations.
For a light, reader friendly reminder of why your business is not doing as well as you think it should - treat this book as a refresher course on marketing differentiation. Sound business sense, but we've read many other books like it and will do so for many years to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and to the point 22 Aug 2000
By A Customer
It clearly shows that Jack knows what he's talking about. The book is packed with information showing the necessity to differentiate yourself and also provides some useful statistics and real life examples to back up the statements. I've used some of his arguments with great success when arguing with my not-so-brand-engaged hardselling superiors. A strongly recommended book for anyone interested in helping their company to stand out from the rest. Although - if you've read a great deal of marketing - parts of it will probably seem familiar.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all 29 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Most businesses fail because they're no different from their competitors. This is the message Jack Trout has been sending us for more than 30 years. In today's killer competition, differentiation is more important than ever before. - No wonder this is one of the few strategic concepts that has survived while one consulting buzzword after the other has become obsolate.
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2.0 out of 5 stars "Differentiate or die" ...err that's it 3 April 2008
I found this book rather disappointing. I expected it to be relatively light-weight and easy to read, but there really wasn't enough meat to it. The title excellently sums up Jack Trout's message. Supplemented by the other readers' reviews, that probably tells you as much as you will get by reading the book, which consists of the title message repeated a lot of times, supported by a long series of loosely organised anecdotes about companies and their differentiating factors, or lack of them.
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