Choosing POP’s and POD’s


Points-of-parity (POP) are driven by the needs of category membership to create category of POPs and the necessity of negating competitors’ Points of Difference (POD) to create competitive POPs. In choosing points-of-difference, two important considerations are that consumers find the POD desirable and that the firm has the capabilities to deliver on the POD.

There are three key consumer desirability criteria for PODs,

1. Relevance:
Target consumers must find the POD personally relevant and important. The Westin Stamford hotel in Singapore advertised that it was the world’s tallest hotel, but a hotel’s height is not important to many tourists.

2. Distinctiveness:
Target consumers must find the POD distinctive and superior. When entering a category where there are established brands, the challenge is to find a viable basis for differentiation. Splenda sugar substitute overtook Equal and Sweet ‘n Low to become the leader in its category in 2003 by differentiating itself on its authenticity as a product derived from sugar, without any of the associated drawbacks.

3. Believability:
Target consumers must find the POD believable and credible. A brand must offer a compelling reason for choosing it over the other options. Mountain Dew may argue that it is more energizing than other soft drinks and support this claim by noting that it has a higher level of caffeine. Chanel No. 5 perfume may claim to be the quintessential elegant French perfume and support this claim by noting the long association between Chanel and haute coutre.

There are three key deliverability criteria.

1. Feasibility:
The firm must be able to actually create the POD. The product design and marketing offering must support the desired association. Does communicating the desired association involve real changes to the product itself, or just perceptual ones as to how the consumer thinks of the product or brand? It is obviously easier to convince consumers of some fact about the brand that they were unaware of and may have overlooked than to make changes in the product and convince consumers of these changes. General Motors had to work to overcome public perceptions that Cadillac is not a youthful, contemporary brand.

2. Communicability:
It is very difficult to create an association that is not consistent with existing consumer knowledge or that consumers, for whatever reason, have trouble believing. Consumers must be given a compelling reason and understandable rationale as to why the brand can deliver the desired benefits. What factual, verifiable evidence or “proof points� can be given as support so that consumers will actually believe in the brand and its desired associations? Substantiates often come in the form of patented, branded ingredients, such as Nivea Wrinkle Control Crème with Q10 co-enzyme or Herbal Essences hair conditioner with Hawafena.

3. Sustainability:
is the positioning preemptive, defensible, and difficult to attack? Can the favorability of a brand association be reinforced and strengthened over time? If yes, the positioning is likely to be enduring. Sustainability will depend on internal commitment and use of resources as well as external market forces. It is generally easier for market leaders such as Gillette, Intel, and Microsoft, whose positioning is based in part on demonstrable product performance, to sustain their positioning than for market leaders such as Gucci, Prada, and Hermes, whose positioning is based on fashion and is thus subject to the whims of a more fickle market.

Marketers must decide at which level (s) to anchor the brand’s points–of-differences. At the lowest level are brand attributes, at the next level are the brand’s benefits, and at the top are the brand’s values. Thus marketers of Dove soap can talk about its attribute of one-quarter cleansing cream; or its benefit of softer skin; or its value, being more attractive. Attributes are typically the least desirable level to position. First, the buyer is more interested in benefits. Second, competitors can easily copy attributes. Third, the current attributes may become less desirable.

Research has shown, however, that brands can sometimes be successfully differentiated on seemingly irrelevant attributes if consumers infer the proper benefit. Procter & Gamble differentiates its Folger’s instant coffee by its “flaked coffee crystals, “created through a “unique patented process.� In reality, the shape of the coffee particles is irrelevant because the crystals immediately dissolve in the hot water. Saying that a brand of coffee is “mountain grown� is irrelevant because most coffee is mountain grown.

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