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Steve:

Soap? Who uses soap? I use all natural shower gel ;-) All kidding aside, maybe shower gel was born from a different story. One of a gentler wash, of luxurious indulgence -- just a like a bath, but more practical.

Along with differentiation, how people will use or utilize a product or service might provide ideas for improving that experience.

There will always be "commodity" brands that exist to meet functional purposes. By and large, soap is like that. People usually don't buy soap or nail clippers or weed killer to make a statement.
However, luxury brands differentiate themselves because they help a purchaser differentiate themselves. Why would someone spend inordinate amounts of money for something that really has far less inherent worth than the price tag? Because now they can feel important, above others, different. They are differentiated because they CAN spend thousands of dollars for an article of clothing that will be out of style in no time. They CAN own something that others cannot. It's an ego grab translated into a wallet surrender. Here, I'm not speaking about paying more for true value (like your Italian clothes...)
Perhaps more brands, even at the commodity level, should think about not only how their product is unique and differentiated, but also how the purchase of their product can make someone feel differentiated from others.

Joe -- the drill and hole story is a classic! And so true, sometimes marketing focuses on the wrong attributes. Vast prosperity is alive in many instances here. I remember when I could not afford a Vespa in Italy. Never mind the gas prices.

Becky -- "Great brands have thought through every step and meet their customers at each point along the way." That is something to aspire to. BTW, I recommended your blog for a blog roll on customer service recently. What fascinates me is that companies tend to do the research to find out... then are a bit weak on the follow through.

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