• Dr. Gary Witt

The Value of Perceived Specialization


Numerous research studies into buyer behavior show that consumers see little if any difference between products in the same category selling for roughly the same price. In other words, even with branded products competing heavily for market share, consumers see those products as “generic!” This is true for over 90% of all categories!

Think about this – despite millions spend on creating brand image and positioning, consumers just shrug and say “Tide or All or Cheer are about the same, so which one is on sale?”

What strategy can a brand use to differentiate itself from the pack? One provably good solution is Specialization. This requires the manufacturer and marketer to focus on what their customers REALLY want to buy. Since the first rule of Marketing Psychology is “People do not want what you are selling,” we know they don’t want to buy the product. What they want to buy are the Satisfactions they get, and those are both logical and emotional.


Here’s a good example to help make this point clear. In the picture above you see a host of different, specialized bug products sold under the Raid brand name. They have products that kill roaches, ants, flying insects, wasps & hornets, and insects in general, among others. The actual cost of creating “specialized” sprays is likely very minimal, one more chemical and new packaging. But look what this strategy gains the brand!

Go inside the buyer’s mind. She doesn’t think about bugs unless she sees one, like a roach crawling on her wall – you can imagine the “movie” that plays out in her mind if she doesn’t kill that roach (night, bed, lights off, where is that roach?!) Then she wants only one thing – she wants “dead bugs.” That is what she wants to buy. Her desired Satisfactions, besides dead bugs, are that her fear of seeing more bugs are eliminated, and she can continue to think she is a good homeowner because her home is bug-free. Note that these are both emotional reasons, ways she wants to FEEL. In short, RAID bug products are a FEAR BUY.

On a scale of 1 to 100, how much does she want that roach dead? 100%, no question. So she wants a product that will guarantee it will kill that roach, 100% dead. On the Insect Control shelf in the store she is confronted with a lot of products, all guaranteeing to kill bugs of all sorts, most promising to kill multiple bugs.

How is she to choose, she is no chemist, the ingredients are Greek to her. But she does know that if her tooth hurts, she goes to a dentist, not a General Practitioner. If her foot hurts, she goes to a podiatrist, not a GP. She doesn’t get a manicure at Macy’s. So it makes sense to her that if a product is specially designed to solve her particular problem, it is likely a better choice than a “one size fits all” product.

So she picks from products that are specially-formulated to kill the bugs she has, even if it costs a little more. Why? Because she is not buying the bug spray, in her mind she is buying “dead bugs, guaranteed 100%.” In fact, she will expect it to cost a little more because it is specialized. We use price as an indicator of quality, so the higher price actually will reassure her “this is the one.”


No matter what your product, one thing you always sell is “Trust.” That is why I say she buys “Perceived Satisfaction” and “Perceived Specialization.” She doesn’t really know it will deliver until she uses it, she is guessing when she buys it. So you have to make her believe, to trust it will work. (See other blogs on how to do this.)

How can you uses the “specialization” marketing strategy? First, work with the manufacturer to create line-extension product(s) that will more tightly focus on specific Satisfactions your buyers want (this is true for both consumers and business buyers.) Second, put into a short phrase the Satisfactions your buyers really want (“dead roaches,” “coffee that will wake me up,” “power tools designed for women,” etc.) Third, create packaging and promotions that emphasize these Satisfactions, and use a positioning strategy to differentiate your product from competitors in the same price group. Don’t sell the product – sell the Satisfaction!

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