In any competitive marketplace, the competing brands are locked in a perpetual battle for supremacy in all the fields where they compete, but mainly in the areas of market share and top-of-mind. In such an environment, the top brands will sooner or later achieve a level of parity with regard to the four basic P’s of marketing:
Product-wise, experience shows that one brand is usually just as good as the next one. True product superiority – if it ever existed – becomes relative as one brand may develop a unique desirable feature but the other brand/s will have other such desirable features.
Price-wise, the differences will become negligible. Whatever price advantages one brand has is usually negated by promotional offers from the other. A simple BOGO offer (Buy One Get One FREE) kills the other brand’s price advantage.
Promotions-wise, they will all be spending tons of money on advertising and other methods of sales promotions, often with little distinction between them. All the tricks in the book are available to all the competing brands.
Placement-wise, they will all be available everywhere – or at least in every place that matters.
A short note about Placement – Placement is now more commonly referred to as Distribution. It is semantically more accurate and/or comprehensive a term, but then that meant losing the appeal of actually being able to name these four key elements as P’s.
In summary, as one product becomes more and more indistinguishable from the next, consumers will blend all of the many marketing inputs that they get from the manufacturers into a single concept of what that brand means to them – this includes advertising and promotional materials, pricing stratification, packaging design, and so on. All of that is distilled into a single concept. That concept is how consumers will perceive that brand. That perception is the distillation of all the marketing inputs that the consumer has received from that brand. Ultimately, it is that perception that will determine what kind of relationship a consumer will have with the brand. Perception is the 5th P.
Because perception is reality.