Today differentiation does not really mean different it means familiar.
Corporate marketers with legacy restaurant chains strive to keep up with their competitors. When they fall behind (lose market share) in days gone by they would lose their job! Not in today’s world, they simply copy what the industry niche sector leader is doing, quieting disgruntled franchises or shareholders.
When this occurs success is based on points of distribution and product price, rather than creating incremental brand value. Everyone loses; stakeholders, shareholders, franchisees most importantly consumers.
Management complacency and mediocrity seem to be today’s status quo rather than consumers focused driven brand teams. Life is simple for chain C-level executives, don’t risk innovation, follow the leader, and maintain niche equilibrium and the stock options and paychecks keep rolling in. The loser may not just be the consumer from lack of true innovation, brand values drop, consumer brand apathy increases, and market share capitulation is a direct result.
In reality differentiation becomes product price and points of distribution rather innovative new products, or service. Then price and location become more important value than the brand. When looking from the consumers perspective there is very little overall difference between TGI Fridays, Houlihan's, Bennigan’s or between McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King. Within the Pizza sector, a similar set of problems from the consumer perspective exist between Pizza Hut, Dominos; Papa John’s Godfathers they all having the same number one selling pizza pepperoni.
Legacy brands capitulate market share as an unintended consequence controlling the brand within the four walls and executive compliancy. More and more consistent niche equilibrium can be the seductress of compliancy and mediocrity for CEO’s & COO’s of major restaurant chains today. When C-level officers and brand marketers are more focused on the controlling brand; staying within their niche and within their four walls rather than paying attention to the consumer, a loss of market share is sure to follow. Innovation must continue in-order to maintain consumer relevance.