Niche marketing and mass customisation have resulted in a very fragmented marketplace in which customers expect to be accommodated on their every preference. By contrast, undifferentiated marketing seeks to create a single, standardised product and a single, universally appealing campaign. Although this style of mass marketing is long past its prime, it may have significant advantages if properly applied.
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Undifferentiated marketing treats the market as a homogeneous entity, focusing on what is common instead of pursuing differences. Its monolithic mass-communication campaigns are usually focused on a narrow product range. Undifferentiated marketing campaigns tend to use a limited number of key messages designed to appeal to a broad number of consumers.
Undifferentiated marketing came to prominence concurrently with the emergence of mass production in the late 19th and early 20th century, as factories specialised in building large quantities of a single, undifferentiated product. Advances in mass media during the same period contributed to the spread of undifferentiated mass marketing. Henry Ford famously used to tell automobile customers they could have their Model T painted any colour they wanted, as long as it was black, summarising the ethos of undifferentiated marketing.
By focusing all the available resources in a single campaign and a limited line of products, a very large market is reached and significant economies of scale can be achieved, leading to cost leadership. Because there is a very definite message and a very focused branding effort, the brand image is reinforced in the mind of the public. The conjunction of cost leadership and a strong image can create a large barrier to market entry, discouraging competitors.
As undifferentiated marketing strategies put all their metaphorical eggs in one proverbial basket, they are inherently vulnerable to changes in the marketing environment. Besides, customers have few reasons for developing loyalty to an undifferentiated product, leading to reduced margins as costs must be kept low to prevent customers from switching brands. Even then, firms that try to satisfy everyone in the market with one standard product may be challenged by competitors focused on delighting a smaller segment of the population. Overall, the drawbacks of undifferentiated marketing tend to overshadow its advantages, and this approach is frequently reserved for truly "undifferentiated" products such as sugar, salt and milk, according to marketing researchers Tevfik Dalgic and Maarten Leeuw in the "Handbook of Niche Marketing: Principles and Practice."
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- Political Studies Association; Marketing Segmentation and Political Marketing; Declan P. Bannon; 2004
- Marketing Bulletin; The Logical Limitations of Target Marketing; Malcolm Wright, et al.; 1994
- "Handbook of Niche Marketing: Principles and Practice; Tevfik Dalgic; 2006