Dish Network is currently running a series of ads featuring identical products at different price points. And -- whether it's real or acted -- they show people utterly confused by the options. "What's different about this one? Why does it cost more?" they wonder.
And Dish's point is that they aren't different ... and why would you pay more for the same thing?
While humorous and noticeable enough to talk about (they obviously got my attention), I'm noticing it for the wrong reason. To me this ad campaign is saying, "We're the same as our competition, but we cost a little less." And this is the classic race to the bottom -- who can charge less for the same thing?
Building a brand is about differentiating yourself from the competition, whether because of features or customer service or the sheer "feel good" that comes from your message. Building a brand is what allows you to keep operating with reasonable profit margins. Racing to the bottom is an ongoing task of better buying, increased efficiencies, and a ravenous need for volume. These are two very different models ... although usually combined to some degree, and the question is one of emphasis / balance.
In any case, I thought it interesting that Dish's campaign was so clearly talking about how they were the same; and while many people will no doubt respond to the savings, I felt like this campaign was distinctly shooting their own brand in the foot.
As it turns out (click this link to see), the campaign is actually not at all about being the same for less, even though the images and videos use that message. So again, humor aside, I feel that this sends decidedly confusing signals.
In fact, they're offering you a good deal for 12 months, just like anyone will to acquire a new customer. After that, their monthly price is almost identical! (Less than a 3% difference with Dish a tiny bit lower on the packages they've compared.) But if you visit that page, you'll see that they've emphasized a TON of benefits to having Dish over having DirecTv.
Now this isn't to say that Dish is better or that DirecTv wouldn't have its own benefits to tout. This is only pointing out that the front end commercials getting you to visit Dish were saying almost exactly the opposite thing as the end result. Wow.
Meanwhile, maybe an even more interesting point in all of this is that they're bragging on a 290 channel package vs. a 225 channel package in an age when everything is moving toward personalization and people want to be able to pay for only what they want, and not a bunch of extras. Who wants to pay $50/month for a package of channels they'll never watch just to get access to a sports package that they'll actually watch? But that is how the old guard works for now.
At least Dish came out with Sling, offering people a much smaller package of channels without the need for a Dish at all -- just an internet connection. This seems clearly the way of the future, but until more people drop the big packages and move to Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and the like, Dish and company will keep squeezing out profits from over selling while they can. We vote with our wallets.
Call me crazy, but I suspect there are ways to monetize personalized packages in a way that would yield them more money, and the first companies to aggressively pursue that avenue may be the gargantuans of tomorrow. Will that be Dish? DirecTv? Or someone else?