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Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition Hardcover – March 17, 2000

41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

There are no two ways about it with Jack Trout. Either you've got a product or service that you can say is different, or you don't have much at all. In today's global marketplace and at its lightning-fast rate of change, there's no point in inventing and presenting a product only to sit back and hope that consumers everywhere will discover its greatness. It's not simply about what you or your product can do, it's about what you do differently from everyone else. Coauthors Trout and Steve Rivkin say it all in their no-holds-barred title, Differentiate or Die.

A disciple of the marketing guru Rosser Reeves, who introduced the concept of the "unique selling proposition," Trout relays his vision of what can help you differentiate in blunt, tell-it-like-it-is prose. First he breaks the bad news that product quality, advertising creativity, price advantage, and breadth of product line are rarely successful ways to differentiate your business. Consumers expect the best quality, he says; they don't think it's a bonus. In the same vein, your competitor can slash prices just as quickly as you. After dismissing these common marketing techniques as futile, Trout concentrates on which differentiating ideas will set you apart from the pack: Being first (and staying there), owning a discernible attribute, having a heritage, becoming the preference of a particular consumer group, or even being the most recent arrival in a product arena are just some of these useful differentiates. Though the book's fast and quippy narrative style may leave some readers looking for more substance behind his adamant assertions, Trout's recommendations act as inspirational spurts of energy. A slim manual packed with punchy points, Differentiate or Die won't take you long to read but could make a lasting--you guessed it--difference to the success of your business. --S. Ketchum

From the Back Cover

"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,

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471357642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471357643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Steve Finnie on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Jack Trout is an excellent writer and has important insights about the importance of differentiation. That being said, I especially liked this book the first two times I read it when it was titled "Positioning" and "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing." Personally I'd be a bit embarassed to use 50% of the exact same cases and examples from previous books and still charge ( ). Apparently a harvest strategy and not a good way to differentiate oneself.
That being said, if you haven't read anything by Jack Trout or Al Ries then this book, or one of the aforementioned books, is essential reading for marketing and brand managers.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joanna D. #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
This relatively short book focuses on the idea that companies who don't capitalize on the unique features of their product or service, and who don't evolve into a unique identity will end up in the fossil layers of business failure. A list of brands that have bit the evolutionary dust: American Motors, Burger Chef, Eastern Airlines, Gainesburgers, Hathaway Shirts and Woolworth's tells the tale. In contrast, Nokia, Popeye's Chicken, Bose and Walmart are successfully evolving and creating the differentitation that keeps their customers and grows their business.
There is a Hall of Shame of CEO's who failed to understand this principle, and the important fact that the CEO must be involved in understanding and spearheading differentiation. But most of the examples in this book are plenty familiar to readers of "In Search of Excellence." This is an enjoyably written book, but at most it makes one point: create your unique quality and stay ahead of the wave.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jose Ernesto Passos on April 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked very much Trout and Ries, Positioning and Marketing Warfare. Reading this book, I had an impression that most of the professional knowledge the author has, was distilled in his previous books.

Mr Trout is doing something he said was not a good practice in Advertising (see Positioning): Line Extension. The good parts of this book you will find in his previous books, maybe with different phrases and examples.

The other thing that is hurting is that he is trying to give advice in areas where he has limited knowledge and experience.

Looking at some titles of the chapters in this book you will find:

Chapter 4 - Quality and Customer Orientation are rarely differentiating Ideas.

Toyota and Honda achieved a position in the mind of customers worldwide that they make high quality products for a good price. Well, it will be difficult for the other automakers, who are actually working to catch up in quality, to differentiate themselves on quality, for they are also runs. I would say that is a hell of a strategy, maybe is not for everyone, but them differentiation is by definition for a few, and not for everybody.

How many companies have positioned themselves as high quality products? Does it pay? Go ask Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, Volvo, Patek Philippe...

Chapter 5 has as title: "Creativity is not a differentiating Idea"

I guess I cannot believe that Mr. Trout has read his own phrase. Does he mean that lack of creativity is a differentiating Idea? Does not make sense. I think quite the opposite, when you are not able to create something unique, is when you go out trying to do something else to differentiate yourself.

I have seen creativity applied to Advertising, the results were fantastic.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr. David Arelette on May 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is good for any manager under 40 who has not seen all the fads last time they came around, or has not taken the trouble to read the thicker and more rigorous text books on strategy.
It is thin - value chain is not in the index, and customers (satisfaction) are only listed once - how can you seek ways to improve your market position without a detailed ( = quantitative) review of where you sit in the value chain or to know exactly what the customer wants (rather than what you can tart up from the current catalogue.
It's a good checklist - otherwise it would have been just two stars.
Other Trout books are very good - this one appears to be harvesting the reputation rather than adding to it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Today markets are driven by customer choice, and there are more possible product choices than ever before for the customer. Companies that fail to address the whims of the marketplace will not survive. It is more important that ever before to differentiate your product from its competition. According to the authors, companies must address differentiation in three ways:

1. If you ignore your uniqueness and try to be everything to everybody, you will undermine what differentiates you from the competition.

2. If you ignore changes in the market, your differentiation can become less important.

3. If you stay in the shadow of your competitors, without establishing your "uniqueness" you will always be weak.

The authors then outline four steps to successfully differentiate yourself from competitors:

· Step 1: Make sense in context. Your message must make sense within the context of your market category. Start first with a "snapshot" of customer perceptions about yourself and your competitors.

· Step 2: Find the differentiating idea. There are many ways to set your company apart from the competition. However you differentiate yourself, set the difference up as a benefit to the customer.

· Step 3: Have credentials. Your claims to the customer must be real and believable. You should be able to demonstrate the difference to the customer. That demonstration becomes your credentials.

· Step 4: Communicate your difference. You need to build a strong perception of your product in the market. Every aspect of your public communication should emphasize your difference.
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