Yogurt, Differentiation, and Personal Branding? Yes!

Recently, I was at the grocery store doing some quick shopping. Just had to pick up a handful of items that were needed at home.  As a part my interest in committing to a healthy diet, I had yogurt on the list of things to buy. 

When I got to the the part of the big, refrigerated section of the store, I quickly scanned for yogurt.  As I made my way to the yogurt selection, I looked for my favorite type: Greek yogurt.  Higher in protein yet it still tastes really good. If you like yogurt and haven’t tried this type, I recommend that you give it a shot.

Anyway, as I searched for the particular brand that I like, I immediate realized that there was a massive array of choices available to customers. First, there was what we might call traditional yogurt. That of course came in a variety of flavors, and both regular and nonfat versions. Of course there were different companies marketing these products as well.  Then, I saw Greek yogurt. Again, there were different flavors and versions of this yogurt. Quite a few options already!

But, wait, that’s not the end of it. As I looked to the right, I saw yogurt labeled as “Mediterranean”, or some abbreviation thereof. Below that, was a line of yogurt called “Swiss” yogurt. Seriously? Oh, there’s more. Next to that, I noticed “Icelandic” yogurt. Wow, how exotic that sounds. Much of Europe seems to be covered in this one store! Of course, we can’t forget the “Australian” yogurt that was adjacent on the shelf.

My first thought was “Come ON! Why do we need yogurt with all these different names! Whatever happened to good old fashioned yogurt?”

Then, I realized that it’s all about differentiation. Presumably, there has been some market research done to project the viability of these products before they were launched.  If they just marketed plain old yogurt, how would that be different from anything that has been offered at stores for years? In this case, the differentiated products filled some type of need in the marketplace.

Clearly, there must be people who are inclined to purchase the “Icelandic” yogurt, for example. Maybe they like that specific taste, maybe they like the ingredients, perhaps the nutritional profile works for them. Or, maybe they were just taken in by the packaging and the Icelandic labeling? Who knows. But as opposed to a new regular yogurt product, selling Icelandic yogurt offers consumers something differentiated that at least gives them a chance to create a foothold.  Same applies to those other permutations – like Swiss, Australian, etc.

Where am I going with this? Well, connecting the dots:

  1. It’s clear that differentiation can help new products stand out in a competitive, established market with many sellers vying for available dollars
  2. When we try to manage our careers and sell our experience and skills to employers, aren’t we effectively marketing ourselves as products?
  3. In order to market ourselves successfully and stand out in a competitive landscape, isn’t it important to differentiate ourselves?

In a market full of competitive, talented people, it’s important to stand out above the crowd to get the job you want. Or, to get the business you want, contract you want, graduate school admission you want, and so on.  If we just blend in with the crowd, and have no real point of differentiation for ourselves, why hire us? However, if one can find their own unique story and value proposition, we can create our own niche or personal brand that allows us to stand out from the crowd.

Think back to the yogurt. Be like everyone else, average, and it will take a person only so far. Try to differentiate and stand out in some way, and you might find a place at the table!

Who knew a trip to the grocery store could get a person thinking about career wisdom? :)