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Differentiate Your Product With the Whole Product Game

Differentiating Your Product

 Because of today’s competitive business environment, it is more important than ever to differentiate your product or service. What is it that makes customers choose your company over those that create similar items? According to Ted Levitt’s “Whole Product Model,” products are not just tangible items; they are unique combinations of benefits, services, and promises. Whether we are aware of it or not, all of these factors are considered when customers purchase generic items.


How to Differentiate Your Product

A collaborative strategy to make your product unique is to play the Whole Product Game. This productive game categorizes aspects of your product based on customer expectations in order to help uncover forms of differentiation. It works best with 5-8 players, and lasts about 1 hour. The goal of the game is to discover effective ways to set your product apart and to go beyond what your customers anticipate.


How to Play

Before your meeting, collect sticky notes or 3×5 notecards. In a white space (a poster, whiteboard, etc.), draw four concentric circles, leaving enough room between each one to place the notes. Your game players can be your internal team taking the perspective of customers, or actual customers themselves. Tell the group what each region of the chart represents.

· Inner Circle: Generic Product – the fundamental “thing” that you are marketing

· Circle 2: Expected Product – the minimal conditions customers expect from your product

· Circle 3: Augmented Product – aspects of your product that go beyond customer expectations

· Outer Circle: Potential Product – what could be done to your product to attract and keep customers



Don’t worry about drawing completely symmetrical circles; this is a subjective game, so nothing is perfect or certain. You can add more regions to the chart to further organize the group’s ideas.

Ask the group members to write ideas related to each category on the notecards and to stick them on the respective circle. Remove any repetitive cards and put together similar ones with the group’s input. Once all the ideas are posted, discuss the significance of the resulting chart with your group. How can you use this information to differentiate your product? What must you do to attract more customers?

The game can also be used for more concentrated aspects of your company. For example, what makes your customer service unique? What can be improved about it to appeal to customers?

Avoid “going in circles” by guiding your players and focusing on what you can do to go beyond the customers’ expectations. After all of the ideas are posted, work as a team to analyze which direction your product should move in to be one-of-a-kind. Encourage expanding on the ideas and coming up with practical ways to apply them effectively.


How to Play Instantly Online 

 You can also play the Whole Product Game instantly online! Clicking on this image will start an “instant game” at

As facilitator, email the game link to customers or your staff to invite them to play. This picture is used as the “game board,” and there is an icon of light bulbs at the upper left corner of the board. Each light bulb represents an idea, which players describe and drag onto the respective circle. Just like with the in-person version of the game, the game board is organized into four concentric circles representing the generic, expected, augmented, and potential product.

Players can edit the placement and description of each light bulb, which you can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move.


Bottom Line 

The Whole Product Game:

  • is widely applicable to any product or service; while the expected product may attract customers, differentiation is necessary to keep them.
  • uses extensive collaboration that helps your team productively come up with new ideas about what can be done to make your product distinct.
  • involves visual organization and critical thinking to gain insight on what will make your product stand out from the competition.
  • helps expand your point of view to understand what your customers truly want from your product.

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