I just finished reading this outstanding book. Here are all my notes and takeaways.
These are the quotes that caused me to think more deeply
If you're looking for a unique solution the last thing you should do is ask for a vote.
Once everyone starts doing it, no one stands out.
The act of measurement changes the behavior of the thing being measured.
Rankings have made it hazardous to be a nonconformist.
The more entrenched a system of measurement, the more difficult it is for a deviant, an outlier, or even an experimenter to emerge.
Any competitive metric, tends to bring out the herd in us.
Comparative differences: there is a natural inclination for people in the comparative set to focus on eliminating differences, rather than accentuating them.
Competitive analysis can turn into a cattle prod for homogenization.
True differentiation is rarely a function of well-roundedness, rather a function of lopsidedness. The same can be said for excellence.
Excellence on any extreme almost always involves a trade-off.
The impulse to move to a more well-rounded output can be hard to resist. The cumulative affect is a herd-like regression toward the mean.
Conformity is most likely to manifest among groups of competitors that are already the most similar to begin with.
The proclivity to stay with the flock can be particularly pronounce with respect to nearby competitors.
Competitive clusters within the category often appear to be moving in such tight lockstep with each other.
Unpremeditated collaboration holds the potential to work the kind of wonders that no amount of orchestration could ever match.
The more diligently firms compete with each other, the less differentiated they become, at least in the eyes of consumers.
To a large extent, herd-like behaviors emanate from what most managers regard as best practice wisdoms.
We find psychological safety and definitions that are concrete, measurable and agreed-upon.
When the stuff around us transforms, we are transformed, and we are often better off as a result.
Product augmentation has become an expensive route to commoditization.
Business has been reduced to: the artful packaging of meaningless distinctions as true differentiation.
There comes a point beyond which further augmentation reveals nothing more than a lack of judgment.
People reveal who they are by revealing what they consume.
Consumption has become the identity cloak of our generation.
The theory of product fatigue and cynicism is made up of connoisseurs, opportunists, pragmatics, reluctants and loyalists--Encompassing most of the ways that people cope with hyper mature markets.
Brand loyalty is becoming harder to come by, the irony is that the role of consumption in our lives has never been more prominent.
As a category matures, the companies within the category become increasingly apt to exhibit herd-like behaviors.
The direction in which mature companies in categories tend to herd it is fairly predictable, involving augmentation that is both monotonous and unrelenting in nature.
The result is a category characterized by heterogeneous homogeneous: there is an explosion of choices but those choices are marked by differences that are meaningless to many of us.
Given the competitiveness of the markets in which most organizations operate today, it's harder than ever to be an outlier. It's harder than ever to risk a positioning strategy that place is your brand several standard deviation's away from the mean.
Disruption typically suggest a distraction or violation of what exists, the idea that brands have somehow managed to produce a creative destruction; it somehow managed to become rebels with a cause.
A word about Reverse Brands
These are brands that are creating even as they are destroying. They are constructing even as they are disrupting. And in the process, they are attempting to bring to life a counterfactual, which, it is either crazy or quixotic or both
Some brands are trying to play the story forward a different way. They are trying to envision market through the lens of alternative future possibility.
A reverse-position brand is a very particular kind of idea brand, one that makes the deliberate decision to defy the augmentation trend in a category in which customers have come to expect augmentation. There is a commitment to withholding benefits but the rest of the industry considers necessary to compete.
Reverse brands say no where others say yes.
Reverse brands take away what we expected, but then give us what we don't. They say no where others say yes, but they also say yes more than they say no. The result is a value proposition that feels almost inside out to us.
Reverse brands eliminate, but they also elevate. They strip things down, even as they sweeten things up. The result is a fusion of the basic with the sublime, if you Jean that may seem strange, unfamiliar, or even disconcerting at first encounter--but is nothing if not distinctive.
In business, is it is easy to fall into the habit of thinking that the way to be better is to simply do more.
In the story of augmentation the parable is that it's possible to improve yourself all the way to mediocrity.
Reverse brands operate under an inverse assumption--that given the hyper-maturity of the category, there are probably lots of folks who are over-satisfied, who are being given an inflated sense of benefits they don't necessarily care about. This assumption than serves as a motivator to streamline the value proposition as opposed to further inflating it.
Reverse brands try to concoct and unlikely brew, consisting of something less, but something more, too. It looks to create is symbiosis of elements that we've been trained to believe don't belong together. The idea is to be an oxymoron, and an agreeable one at that.
The concept of over-satisfaction only makes sense in a world in which we have too much. Satiation has the perverse effect of making nothing taste good anymore.
In a saturated world, there can be a fresh appreciation for the illumination of benefits, as long as the illumination is thoughtfully executed.
When people are accustomed to having too much, they will luxuriate in the absence of things they've come to take for granted.
Implicit in the positioning of reversed brands is the understanding that in and over–augmented world, a lack of trimmings can have a certain self–righteous appeal.
Reverse brands offer us a bit of deprivation, sprinkle with an unexpected splash of indulgence-- just the thing to bring our taste buds back to life.
What we want tomorrow is probably going to be informed by what we have too much of today.
Less is more only when more has become a commodity.
Reverse brands create a kind of tilt in the surface dash of progress, of evolution, of expectation. They draw us down a divergent paths by applying pressure in exactly the place where we least anticipate it.
A word about Breakaway Brands
Breakaway brands are transformative devices. By presenting us with an alternative frame of reference, they encourage us to let go of the consumption posture we're inclined to bring to a product and embrace entirely new terms of engagement instead.
Breakaway brands reinvent their product as a means of relocating it in a space far removed from our cognitive default. They present us with exactly what we expect, redefined as something entirely different.
Stereo-types are a real time saver.
Breakaway brands revel in stereotypes because they make their living by turning them upside down.
Breakaway brands are so effective is because they don't try to fight our inclination to categorize. What they do is offer us an alternative category rubric that leads naturally to the emergence of an alternative behavioral script.
Breakaway brands push us out of our rhythm of consumption, not by creating new rhythms, but by invoking rhythms that we wouldn't have thought to apply in that particular context.
Breakaway brands don't try to flight the flow, they redirect us to a new flow, one that we're comfortable with already, so that were able to slip into the swing without premeditation.
A word about Hostile Brands
Hostile brands include Redbull, mini Cooper, Birkenstocks, Hollister and the Seinfeld character the soup Nazi.
Hostile brands or Branza play hard to get. Instead of laying down the welcome mat will you lay down a gauntlet. Hostile brands don't market in the classical sense of the term; they anti-market.
Hostile brands refuse to play the game of persuasion and it's old-school form. They say the things the other brands won't say, the things that risk chasing us away. They tend to be refreshingly blunt, brazenly challenging us with the unflinching directness of their message.
Hostile brands give us chafe, not by downplaying the most contentious aspects of their product, but by enhancing it. They tell us exactly what we're in for, and if we don't like it, they're the first to show us the door. They are "take it or leave it" Brands. They refused to pander, they refused to kowtow, they refused to even consider the possibility of modifying the product to sand away the rough edges
While conventional brands help us hide, hostile brands force us to show our colors. These brands are not merely polarizing; they actively summon resistance.
These are some of the terrific examples provided by Moon
Google's homepage wasn't just simple it was a downright vacuum of information. Whereas yahoo offered an ocean, googled offered a blank slate. It's homepage consisted of a single element: a text entry box with a search button
JetBlue came along and took benefits away from us. No free meal service, no first or business-class seat, no round-trip discounts. But jet blue infused it's value proposition with a kind of exorbitance never before associated with a budget carrier. Leather seats that extended all the way to the rear of the plane. A personal entertainment and satellite television system located in every seat. A guarantee promise to never bump a passenger.
IKEA North America, the furniture store that makes you do your own delivery and assembly. Offered minimal variety, furniture came in only four basic styles. Stores were designed to propel customers do the cabinets spaces without the aid of sales consultants. Did not even offer the promise of durability, encourage buyers to think of their products as soft goods that would be replaced in a few years. They are for the day care center for parents while they shop, they can stop for lunch at a café that served delicacies, they could purchase items besides furniture. I kea shunned the gloomy, warehouse like atmosphere associated with most discount furniture retailers in favor of a cheerful, airy, ultra modern look and feel. IKEA offered "retailtainment"
In-N-Out Burger has no happy meal clones, no children's menu, no salads, no desserts – instead it offers a mere six items on the menu that hasn't changed in decades. Every item on the menu is made from scratch, using fresh not frozen ingredients, and customers in the no can request items off and advertise secret menu that can only be learned about through word-of-mouth.
Successful organizations wrap their brands in an uplifting message that somehow manages to draw us in. Halo, the brand in an irresistible vibe that beckons people into the fold.
Marketing as a hospitality function: the marketer was the host with the job to create the guest list, make sure people showed up, and then make sure they had a great time upon arrival.
When we are surrounded by conformity, by homogeneity, we all look for ways to create a little chafe--to set ourselves apart, just a little bit.
Competition and conformity will always be fraternally linked, for the simple reason that a race can only run if everyone is facing the same direction.
Competitive myopia has created a dynamic in which our tendency to mirror the movements of our competitors has started to become reflexive. Nothing generates conformity quite so organically as existence of a comparative metric. When someone shows as a graph or chart or a spreadsheet that displays the areas in which we are wagging our business rivals, it is almost impossible for us to resist the urge to play catch-up.
When we spend too much time comparing our own brand performance to that of our competitors, it is easy to end up on a competitive treadmill.
Do not ignore competition altogether, but more importantly, begin looking at yourself the way consumers do.
The objective is not to blend into the boiler; the objective is to stand out from it. This is what it means to be different.
What is intimidating about a commitment to differentiation is that it requires a commitment to innovation–-not technological innovation, but conceptual innovation, that we must take upon ourselves to birth.
Innovation can operate through a process of subtraction–-this was the lesson of reverse brands.
Innovation can operate through a process of division–-this was the lesson of hostile brands.
Innovation can even operate through a process of transformation – this was the lesson of breakaway brands
Differentiation begins with nothing more than an idea that is possible to do things in a fundamentally novel way. It begins with innovation. And innovation can operate in many, many ways.
If you want Innovation to happen, you need to suspend your disbelief enough to let it happen.
If you want to build an organization in which innovation happens, you need to create environments in which people are comfortable suspending their disbelief enough to let it happen.
If we only pay attention to the things that we can measure, we will only pay attention to the things that are easily measurable. And in the process we will miss a lot.
The consistencies of consumption, of behavior, of culture, are collapsing all around us. A brand can be hostile and magnetic at the same time. A person can be satisfied and restless at the same time. A relationship can be frustrating and feeling can be symbiotic and liberating at the same time.
Differentiation is a way of thinking. It's a mindset. It's a commitment. The commitment to engage with people--not in a manner to which they are already unaccustomed, but in a manner that they will value, respect, and yes, perhaps even celebrate
Children are chronically inspired, for the simple reason that they aren't bound by well-worn mental heuristics, they aren't encumbered by habit or convention or the arbitrary rules of the propriety. They heed their inventive impulses, even as we have been trained to suppress ours.
Difference is deviance. Difference is permutation. Difference is a commitment to the unprecedented. The difference is a commitment to letting go.
Differentiation is not a tactic. It is a way of thinking. It is a mindset, and mindset that comes from listening and observing and observing and respecting. Most of all, it is a commitment. A commitment to engage people in a manner that reveals to them that, yes, we get it.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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