In an industry where it is a dog eats dog battle, it is crucial to come up with a marketing strategy that will make your wares sellable, if monopolizing a target market is not an option.

How does one set his products or services apart from the rest? Take a leaf out of Universal Pictures, Carl’s Jr., and Southwest Airlines’ book and try counterprogramming.

Counterprogramming operates under the assumption that a particular product or service has a target market. Rarely does one encounter a product that answers everyone’s needs. Therefore, there is always a need to fill and address, and with filling that void comes your target market.

Timing may also be a key. When a competitor launches a product or a service, a counter to that product or service may be presented, too. Consumers would always need an option and would welcome a refreshing one at that.

Starting for example with the case of Universal Pictures which chose to show Mamma Mia amidst the hype of Batman: The Dark Knight, Universal Pictures saw the possibility that the older, female demographic would not be as thrilled as the young, male audience to see Batman hurrying off to free Gotham. They would probably prefer Meryl Streep’s hilarity of having to solve the riddle of her daughter’s paternity (her daughter who is a would-be bride had three alleged fathers).

Counterprogramming is another avenue opened to competitors to offer an alternative when another competitor’s creation is less appealing.  For example, the proliferation of fast food fare coupled with Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”  gave McDonald a run for their money. To repair the damage, McDonald and Taco Bell started offering slightly healthier fare (not that any fast food is really healthy). Crusades against trans fat and fast food restaurants sprouted up faster than one can say “fast food”, causing a ban against them. Despite the growing resistance to the fast food way of life, there were still those who craved “real [fast] food”.

This made Carl Jr. tout its own sandwiches, in terms of size and sloppiness, to tap the once big market for fast food. The result is a 730-calorie, 47-fat-grams Monster Breakfast Sandwich, tagged as “Breakfast as Big as Our Burgers”. Up to this day, Carl Jr. continues to serve and feed the hungry stomachs of young men.

Southwest Airlines follows a different lead but with a similar tactic. While most airlines would charge for every single thing a passenger would ask for during a flight, Southwest Airlines is very proud to say that “Fees Don’t Fly with Us”. Never charging for second suitcase, snacks, a choice to sit in a window seat, pillows or blankets, bottles of water, and fuel (though most airlines would disguise it under the term “surcharge”), the airline racked up more dollars than those who do.

The bottom line of counterprogramming is to make your ware different so it would stand out. Put more items for consumption than frills. Sell to an untapped market (a market where there is only a few selection or  a narrow array of choices), allow for something (this really depends on your own considerations) that others will not allow. One man’s loss is another man’s gain anyway.

Going against the flow may just give you the sales that you are aiming for. If you like more risks, do not only take the road less traveled; instead, blaze new trails. You will never know what treasures you might unearth.