Everyone loves this gem from Warren Buffet:

"How do you beat Bobby Fischer? You play him at any game but chess."

And for good reason. It’s a great example of lateral thinking applied to strategy.

Its implications for businesses, of course, have a lot to do with the competition. If you’ve got an unbeatable foe lurking somewhere out on the field, you should absolutely refuse to play by their rules. To tip the odds in your favor, get them playing by your rules instead.

But marketing strategy is about more than your competitors. It’s also about your customers, how you reach them, and how you communicate the value of your product.

Depending on the product you’re looking to bring to market, you might be able to get away with treating your audience as a homogeneous group. In fact, for some businesses, this will actually be more effective. For others? A commercial disaster.

That’s why it’s critical to understand what an undifferentiated marketing strategy is and when it’s appropriate to use one.

In this article, we’ll discuss:


What is an undifferentiated marketing strategy?

We’ve already discussed how to get started with market segmentation. Segmenting your audience forms, at its core, part of a differentiated marketing strategy. You’re focusing on the differences between audience subgroups to identify the highest-value segments to target. Then, you produce targeted marketing messages and deliver them to these segments.

An undifferentiated marketing strategy takes the opposite approach. Rather than split the audience up, as you would in a differentiated or concentrated marketing strategy, you’ll be marketing to the masses.

The pros and cons of undifferentiated marketing

So when might an undifferentiated marketing strategy be useful?

Here’s a quick list of the pros before we deal with each in turn:

Segmenting is expensive

Taking the time to split your target audience into specific groups, and to learn all about those groups, requires a large investment of time and resources.

If you skip this step, you also skip the associated costs, since undifferentiated marketing requires far less research (if any at all).

The hidden con: This might only hold true for your initial costs. Distribution costs (the cost of prime-time TV advertising to reach your large audience, for example) might be far higher than the costs of getting an ad in a niche business website or magazine.

Broader appeal is possible

If you don’t tailor your marketing strategy to a specific group, then you’ll necessarily create a strategy with wider market appeal.

In other words, you stand a chance of appealing to a much larger number of prospective buyers than you would if you were targeting a specific, niche audience.

The hidden con: There’s a risk that, in trying to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one. These days people have come to expect personalization in the kinds of advertising they see, and a watered-down marketing message might simply not be appealing enough to offset inertia and persuade people to buy.

You can gather data on new products

When you’re launching a brand-new product you don’t know how the market will respond. With so little data, it’s difficult to start pulling together a well-informed, strategic marketing plan.

Putting your product out there and using the information you acquire, however, gets you started and lets you optimize your strategy as new intel comes in.

The hidden con: Even if you don’t have any data on your own product, there are established marketing best practices you can use so you’re not starting from scratch. 👇

You can use, gather and analyze competitive intelligence to see how the market responds to similar products. You can also create ideal customer personas (ICPs) for a theoretical understanding of who you’re targeting and how they’re likely to move through your marketing funnel.

It lends your campaigns greater longevity

When your marketing campaign is designed from the ground up to appeal to the masses, you’ll be able to ride the wave for a long time once you find something that works.

Just think of Coca Cola’s campaigns. Every Holiday Season they run similar ads, with the same message and similar imagery. But they work because familiarity is comforting.

image of london bridge with large red coca cola truck and image of santa
Familiarity is comforting, and simplicity lends broad appeal. But it can also make your brand predictable. If you're a household name like Coca Cola, you might get away with it.

The hidden con: When people know what to expect from you, you’ve become predictable. This can make it easier for creative, disruptive competitors to eat into your market share as they innovate.

When undifferentiated marketing could work for you

There are certain conditions that make undifferentiated marketing a great choice for marketers. Thankfully, these conditions are pretty specific, so it’s easy to figure out if it’s a good fit for you.

Does your product have mass appeal?

Mass marketing only works if your product appeals to the masses.

If your product solves a very specific problem, you’re going to struggle if you don’t speak directly to the small set of people suffering from that problem. If this is you, you'd do better with a niche differentiation strategy.

But ‘broad appeal’ doesn’t have to mean your product taps into some unspoken, fundamental need of the human condition. If your product is something everyone accepts they need (like body wash or dish soap), there’s no real reason to segment your audience. You’re unlikely to waste exposure even if everyone in the country sees your ad.

Is yours already an established, trusted brand?

Some brands have done all the hard work already. They’ve won a ton of loyal customers, they’ve got a great reputation, and they’re a household name.

Some brands have already won a ton of loyal customers. They can get away with a simple marketing strategy.

If this describes the brand you’re looking to market, then you can get away with a simple marketing strategy. That’s not to say it’ll be easy to execute, but your goal scales back to reminding people that your product exists, and maybe demonstrating that your product works better than competing brands.

Is the value of your product immediately obvious?

If the value of your product is immediately obvious, then you’ll probably get away with an undifferentiated marketing strategy. Of course, that value needs to be obvious to a large set of people, not a niche group.

When your product's value is obvious, you don't need to work as hard to convince, persuade, and convert.

But when the value of your product is immediately obvious, it’s unnecessary to dig deep into all the various emotional needs your product can meet for the consumer.

On the other hand, if a large number of people are likely to see your product and ask, “do I really need that? Will it actually be useful?”, then you have some persuading to do. You need to perform the necessary research to figure out how you can persuade that specific buyer to open their wallet.


Here’s a quick summary of what you’ve learned:

An undifferentiated marketing strategy doesn’t discriminate between groups. You’ll be marketing to the masses.
An undifferentiated marketing strategy can save on costs, offer broader appeal, greater campaign longevity, and a means to collect data on your new product.
Each of the above benefits has a strong counterargument.
Undifferentiated marketing is best for established, trusted brands looking to market products with broad appeal and instantly obvious value.

What’s next?

Have you been tasked with marketing a brand-new product? Finding the data you need to create meaningful market segments can be a struggle. 😣

Read all about how you can implement a staggeringly successful competitive intelligence program as a solo practitioner. Gain juicy insights on competing products, and grab the foundation you need to build a winning strategy of your own.

Building a Competitive Intelligence Program | CIA
Building out your first competitive intelligence program can be a difficult process. 😮‍💨 Who should be involved? Where do you start? With so many questions, so much data and so many competitors to get a handle on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.