Finding a real differential between yourself and your opposition can be a very difficult task. With many products or services the differentials are so minute you may not realise they even exist. This however is no excuse to invent something and claim it to be true.

Lately, the emergence of these false differentials has become particularly apparent in housing developments.

Just recently I was driving through a local canal suburb and happenned to notice the promotional banners lining the entrance road. Most of them had fairly generic headlines such as ‘Relax near the water’ or ‘Oceanside Living at its best’ etc. All of them were quite bland, but essentially they were true. One, however caught my attention – ‘Discover Valley of the Giants’ – an interesting claim considering this estate is more than 250km away from this natural attraction. There must be scores of other housing estates in-between, what I thought, made this estate feel that this was something they could validly claim? In the scheme of things this was just one banner in amongst a variety of other marketing so its impact isn’t huge, however I am sure there were lots of other more valid headlines they could have used instead.

Another estate claims to be ‘The Best Buy in Busselton’ on their billboard. I would naturally assume that this claim was based on price, but after further investigation I discovered that they are actually one of the more expensive estates in the area. They don’t give us any reasoning to substantiate their claim, instead we are left to our own devices to try and work out what makes it ‘The Best Buy’.

On a much larger scale, consider Provence, a large suburban estate in Busselton whose entire marketing campaign has been based on its similarity to a French village – obviously created by someone who has never visited the French countryside. I am sure there are a lot of things Provence could boast about that are actually true – its proximity to the school and the fantastic public open spaces for example, but instead it bases its whole marketing campaign (right down to street names) around French provinicial living. What makes French village life so special is the history of the area and its people; the compact commercial areas, complete with patisseries, bakers, local butchers etc; the rolling countryside; the ancient buildings and the quaintness – everything that Provence is not. I agree that their advertising, photography and presentation of the estate are beautiful and well executed, I just don’t agree with the premise behind it all.

When deciding what differential to use in your marketing, I believe letting your audience know about your small difference is always better than inventing a false one. With a bit of creative thinking and clever execution the smallest differential can often be the most compelling.