On Friday I was meeting with an interesting company. Their presentation was going along well and then we hit the dreaded competition comparison slide. You know the slide -- it is the one where you try to make clear that your product/service is better than everything else in the market. I've written about the competition slide before. It comes in a bunch of different forms but it is usually a list of attributes that your product/service has and that your competition's product/service doesn't. The degree to which an attribute is held by your product or the competition's product is indicated by a number of different codes -- circles, checks, percentages, even smiley faces. And, of course, there are always degrees of attribute compliance. Circles become circles, half circles, shaded circles, empty circles, full circles. Checks become check plusses, check minuses, half checks, grey checks. Percentages are used with incredible granularity (how does a product have 36% of an attribute?).
Given the myriad of codes used to depict product superiority, I find myself spending the first minutes of any such slide just trying to crack the code. Is a grey check better than a black check? Is a black circle faster/slower/bigger/smaller/cheaper/deeper/whatever than a red circle? (hint: look at the presenter's product column -- whatever they've got is what you want). In this era of standardization, I think it is time to standardize the comparison slide. And, for the sake of debate (we all know it takes a long time to reach consensus on any standard), I propose a standard -- the Consumer Reports ranking system. We've all gone to Consumer Reports when shopping for a car or a vacuum cleaner or a stroller. We've all seen the Consumer Reports bubbles. And we all know that it is better to have a full red circle than a full black circle (let me review -- the good folks at the Consumers Union have determined that the full red circle is excellent, the half red circle is very good, the empty circle is good, the half black circle is fair, and the full black circle is poor -- got it?). OK, truth be told, I don't care if you adopt my standard. But I sure would like some standard, so that I can focus on the information in your presentation, and not on deciphering your code.