It’s hard to imagine a product that’s plainer, more vanilla, more boring than paper. The longest shelves in any office supply store are dedicated to plain white sheets of printer paper. Stand in front of the shelf and try to figure out why you would purchase one brand over another. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
Printer paper has the unfortunate luck of being in a commodity market. Products in a commoditized industry don’t differentiate much from one brand to the next. Paper is paper, right?
That’s what industry leaders believed – until we started digging around. We started asking a lot of questions to everyone we possibly could. Consumers, paper buyers, business paper users, paper distributors, industry experts and paper wholesalers all had something to say. As it turns out, there’s a whole lot more going on with paper than you’d ever suspect.
Business owners are used to using research to solve problems and answer well-defined questions. What they don’t realize is, research may also reveal unmet needs they had no idea even existed. While this may sound bad, unmet needs are actually the best way to sell a “boring” product. They are just brand differentiators waiting to be developed.
We work with a great many companies in static or commoditized markets. If you’re in one of these markets then you know – when it comes to standing out, the struggle is real.
Most businesses differentiate themselves through some combination of the following (the more the better):
All too often, for “boring” products (industrial tape, pencils, paper clips, napkins etc.) price becomes the sole differentiator. And that is every marketer’s worst nightmare.
But there are a few tricks of the trade.
Branding is one. Market research is also invaluable for finding your USPs (unique selling points) in any market.
Useful, actionable insights could be hiding in unlikely places. You just have to go out and look for them.
Let’s go back to our paper industry example for a minute. Through targeted qualitative, quantitative and in-depth interview research, we discovered consumer confusion, brands that didn’t communicate product benefits, packaging complaints, distribution logistics that needed improvement, and more. It turns out, people actually have strong opinions about their printer paper!
Where some people see “problems” great product marketers see “opportunities”. Suddenly, you have a very actionable list of things that can make your product stand out within a very vanilla category:
Do you have an empty printer paper box at home that you’re using for recycling or storage? We thought you might. Our research revealed customers hated buying single reams of paper – they run out too quickly and burst open too easily. They also hated the 10-ream boxes that were too heavy and bulky. The answer was the rise of the now ubiquitous 5-ream box. Just the right size for carrying, and perfect for reuse.
Our client was thrilled to have this information, plus a host of other tweaks that will directly impact their entire business.
Contact us to chat about your specific business questions or review case studies & results here.