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The company tried to differentiate to gain an advantage over the rivals.

The company tried to change to gain an advantage over the rivals.

I wonder if it's correct to use "differentiate" and "change" like that.

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  • Differentiate doesn't mean change in any context that I can think of. Change here would imply 'change itself'. Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 16:55
  • But why is it that "people change" doesn't require "themselves". Or does it? People change VERSUS people change themselves.
    – user1425
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 18:34
  • “John changed” and “John changed himself” MEAN different things. The first means that John was changed by things external to himself, age, experience, education. The second means that John was changed by his own conscious will. Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 18:55

2 Answers 2

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One meaning of “differentiate” is “distinguish.”

In U.S. business discourse, it has come to mean “create in the minds of the customers and potential customers of a business a perception that the business is different from its competitors and that the difference is good for customers.” That difference may be real or merely apparent. The idea is to cause customers and potential customers to differentiate in favor of one business over its competitors. To cause such differentiation usually requires change, whether an objective improvement in quality or pricing or the fostering of the perception that the company offers something prestigious or trendy.

In other words, a broad field of potential actions, each with the purpose of making a business be differentiated (a passive usage), has become summarized in an active usage.

So your sentence means

The company made changes in the belief that they would make potential customers favor it over the company’s competitors.

So it means more than “change” because it implies a purpose and plan that does relate to a more common meaning of “differentiate.” In my experience, when used in this special sense, it tends to be used reflexively: “differentiate itself.”

Hope this helps. The jargon of business is often sloppy.

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Both are correct, but are a little clunky. Differentiate implies doing things differently compared to the other companies while change suggests that the company is doing things differently than it has in the past.

I would probably tweak the first to read, "The company tried to differentiate itself from its rivals." The "to gain an advantage" phrase could be added as well.

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