September 27, 2010
I am an absolute zealot about what I call Writing by Learning Around: reading copious amounts of material related to my BE DiFFERENT work with the purpose of finding material that adds more perspective to what is required to differentiate organizations in today’s volatile and unforgiving markets.
I have just finished the book Different, subtitled: “Escaping the Competitive Herd; Succeeding in a world Where Conformity Reigns But Exceptions Rule”. The Author, Youngme Moon, is Professor of Business Administration in the General Management unit at the Harvard Business School . Her book is “... about creating a fresh set of insights” on the topic of differentiation and “... not a fresh set of instructions…” It deals exclusively with the creative process and not the executional element. This is not, by her own admission, a how-to book.
A very interesting book, nevertheless, that nicely adds to the conversation around what is necessary to “... create meaningful grooves of separation from one another…” in a world where increasing competition seems to be creating the opposite effect: As the Author states: the “Harder (businesses) compete, the less differentiated they become”.
“Different” focuses on Product Category differentiation and does not explore other ways organizations can differentiate themselves - for example, VALUE Based Packaging, Sale Relationships and Dazzling Customer Service covered by BE DiFFERENT or be dead.
It’s thesis is that companies today are driven to augment their products by comparing them with the competition - read this as Best in Class Comparisons - and then adding attributes to them to address any “... shortcomings their products posses.” My view has always been that a product-based competitive strategy is a tough place to fight it out. Prices and features will eventually be matched, requiring organizations to look beyond products and services to discover their distinction.
Youngme does an effective job arguing that Benchmarking best in class organizations creates Sameness; the more competitors practising this method, the less differentiation that actually results and companies’ offerings become a blur to the consumer. Great to see more writers coming together on this subject. I address the Sameness issue in BE DiFFERENT or be dead under “Benchmarking: a BE DiFFERENT Enemy”
The Sameness Process: Product Augmentation >> Benchmarking >> Copying >> Sameness >> Less Differentiation. “...product marketers… have become masters at the dual arts of repetitive augmentation and competitive cloning. They have become gifted at accentuating non-essential distinction: they have become skilled at cloaking sameness as differentiation.”
So what’s the solution?
My next Blog will outline what Youngme Moon describes as “Idea Brands” in the market today that loudly resonate with consumers and create BE DiFFERENT market positions.