If we ask any well know brand who their major competitors are the answers are reasonably predictable. It’s those brands who have that other part of the market share pie. This is what we all got taught during marketing class, and it made sense in the AC Nielsen TV ratings market share industrial era. The problem is that it makes a lot less sense as we transition to the digital age. An age where incumbents are constantly being exposed on the flanks, rather than by direct competitors. If we went back and asked a number of industrial world businesses who their main competitors were, the story becomes much clearer:
Kodak: At first it was Fuji & Agfa, closely followed by Cannon and Nikon…. but really in the end their nemesis came from a different planet. The planet of Apple, Google, Instagram and Facebook. What is Facebook really other than a Kodak moment 2.0?
Encyclopedia Britannica: Clearly World Book and later Encarta, the CD ROM based delivery by Microsoft. But in the end it was you and me who provided more accurate data on the subject of ‘everything’ as we populated both Google and Wikipedia. We turned out to be more accurate, more timely and we came at everyone’s favourite price – free!
Free to Air Television: First became very worried about movie rental stores (VHS, DVD) followed by cable TV. While now their real worry is the other screens in the home as Netflix, Youtube and Pirate Bay eat their lunch.
There are of course an unlimited number of examples with the same story.
But the lessons in a period of technological transition are two fold.
Incumbents: If your company or brand is in a battle defending revenue and market share from industry players, you’re focusing on the wrong area.
Entrepreneurs: If you’re aiming to disrupt an industry that has intense and focused market share battles, you’re focusing on the right area.
Startup Blog says: In times of transition, it pays to look to the sides instead of straight ahead.
While it is clear that the birth of the omnipresent web has changed our business infrastructure, it’s not clear that most people understand the truth about digital as it pertains to business, brand or startup strategy. Here’s a simple phrase to help remind us:
There is no digital.
There is only ‘life’. We seamlessly move between a variety of technologies in our day. As we have done since the beginning of time with all forms of technology. We don’t have a digital life and an analogue life as much as we don’t have a sitting on a chair life or a sitting on the floor life. A chair is just a piece of technology like the latest shinny thing in our pockets is. And it’s about time we started recognizing that a digital strategy is a flawed one by definition. All that exists is a strategy that makes sense – one which is technology agnostic. One that achieves objectives by considering all of the methods and tools at our disposal.
The days of digital strategy are over. Anyone who doesn’t get digital, doesn’t get strategy. We need start to think again in terms of utility for the audience – it’s only when we focus on their needs that we can ever hope to be a solution in their day.
I’m a strong believer in the importance of setting written goals. However, it does seem as though for every person I meet that agrees with their ability to influence life outcomes, there are an equal number of people who dismiss the concept of goal setting as having an impact on achievement.
So here is the simplest explanation I can provide for how goals work: Setting a written goal creates selective perception. Written goals subconsciously program our mind to be aware of opportunities relating to the goal as they cross our path. All of sudden we see how things might work. This does two things: Firstly, it reminds us of the task we’ve set. Secondly, it helps us find ways to make it actually happen. After that, it’s just a question of effort and tenacity.
It’s kind of like your car: Have you ever wanted a new car, or just bought a car only to notice how many of them are driving around on the roads? This is selective perception at work. It’s a beacon for stuff that matters to us – for what is relevant in our world. We only see what is out there once we purposely place ‘it’ into our life or desire it.
One of the most powerful things we can do is set our brain to work in the background – and if we know it works on simple things like noticing cars, imagine what it can do once we set it to notice opportunities.
We can can choose to invent demand for what we make, or or fill supply for what is desirable. The former takes a certain type of creativity and endeavour, it’s been the bellwether of many large industrial stalwarts. Sure they incrementally change the offer – but only to justify making noise as part of the demand generation process.
The alternative is to make something people really want. To anticipate genuine needs and fill them, no matter how difficult it seems for our supply chain. While this has the benefit of a natural peer to peer sharing, it also ensures we are serving others, and not just the short term needs our organisation.
There’s a lot of talk in startup circles about finding business models and the idea of making a ‘pivot’ to an alternative idea, model or technology. The pivot being taking part of what’s working and moving more pointedly in that direction. In the old school pre-tech startup days we used to call it a related diversification or a simple direction change. In many ways it’s far easier to do when we are in the information sector as we are only moving ones and zeros as opposed to factories, retail outlets and customer segments.
Recently I’ve embarked on a new project (a passion play with no intended financial outcome). The project is to build the BMX bike I wished I had when I was a kid. I did have one, but not the mac daddy version… So now that I can afford it, I’m going to find all the parts I need and build it piece by piece. My research on the topic currently lives here.
One of the parts I
need want is a pair of Oakley 3 handle bar grips (seen below) Which as far as I can tell have been out of production for 20+ years.
It sent me on a bit of a search around the web, which gave me some nice insights into Oakley Inc - the company. They are a classic example of how to pivot. They seamlessly moved into new product arenas which spoke to the same type of consumer, using their core competency. While you probably know that they went onto make sport equipment including sunglasses, sports visors, and ski goggles , watches, clothing, shoes and even prescription eye wear…. they started with a mad scientist in his garage (James Jannard) trying to invent a better rubber / plastic to make better motorcycle and BMX grips with. He ended up developing a material known as ‘Unobtanium‘. Their first ever grip was made of it… as are the Oakley 3’s above. It is still used today in many of their products and eye wear.
The really cool part is that James could see 3 important things:
- How else the material could be used in his categories of interest (Motorcross & BMX)
- Which other sports (many had consumer cross over) had a cultural & product usage fit for brand extension (Skiing, cycling surfing)
- How to cross fertilise design ethic and brand cache by focusing on multiple niche markets.
It really is a modern example of entering passion categories, entrepreneurial endeavor, elbow grease and marketing smarts that resulted in a 40 years of innovation. I happened upon this video that explains a little more on the history of Oakley (and the pivots it took) which I think is worth a few minutes of your time.
Thanks for the lessons Jim!
This was just so brilliant I had to re-post it here in its entirety. The 12 most powerful words in business from Ragans PR daily.
Office conference rooms, cubicles, corner offices, and common areas are crammed with business jargon that dulls imaginations and saps creativity.
Many powerful words for business have nary a thing to do, directly, with industry.
Polite push back can temper groupthink. Ask why “things have always been done that way.” Or ask why it didn’t work the last time you tried it.
People like proof. They want to see things with their own eyes. It’s human nature. In trying to reach and win customers, clients, colleagues, or management, show your ideas with examples. Draw an analogy, give an anecdote, paint a picture. Help them see what you see. Show them, and they’ll be more likely to get it and get on board.
Trying something that didn’t work, as long as it wasn’t impulsively foolish, dangerous, or illegal, can be regarded as the trial run or first draft.
Breathe, pause and collect yourself before you send an email while angry, take criticism too personally, or speak when emotion is clouding your judgment. The repair work required after you lash out is wasteful, unproductive, and inefficient.
Sure, market testing and focus groups have their place. But business success takes action and plenty of doing.
Hearing is a function. Listening is a skill. It takes practice. But it yields immeasurable dividends. Extra points if you listen, consider alternative options and critical feedback, and adjust course because of it.
The staggering pace of growth in social media shows how essential it is to learn all through life. Learning can mean formal training, of course. But learning also happens by staying nimble enough to act when opportunities appear.
Being open-minded—open to change, open to being wrong, and open to new possibilities—can lead to new products, new clients, new markets, and entirely new ways of doing business.
Civility eases differences among humans. When I was an editorial writer, my colleagues and I would gather each morning to discuss the official position the Cleveland Plain Dealer would take on the most controversial topics of the day.
Politics, religion, social issues—you name it. It worked well largely because the group was civil and respectful. And our boss was an awesome leader who made sure the discussions stayed that way.
Leading is much more powerful than managing. Think about it: You manage problems. You manage bills. Or you manage just to cope. Leading, on the other hand, is nuanced, customized, and inspired.
Fear of failing keeps people from doing all sorts of things: Piping up at a meeting with an idea, starting a business, or taking other risks. Failing is really an inevitable part of taking risks. And taking risks is an inevitable part of a strong business.
After failing, it’s important to learn what when wrong and how to do it better next time. This is the true secret of missteps. Through the lessons learned in the aftermath, greatness can emerge.
When I buy something via iTunes it doesn’t feel like money. Especially when it is an app that is a few dollars at most. It’s easy to press a button which confirms a purchase at a value which is lower than anything you can buy in the real world. A coffee or coca-cola is $3.50 these days. it doesn’t end there though. When we get the bill on our credit card it’s the smallest number on the page.
Mobile phone plan $59
Restaurant XYZ $179
Again – the comparative spend makes it easy to ignore it as inconsequential expenditure. Yet, for some reasons we’ll switch brands at a supermarket to save 15 cents on the purchase of toothpaste.
There’s an important lesson for entrepreneurs here, and that is the selling environment and immediate comparison.
How can we sell our brand in place where it looks cheaper than everything else on offer, as the biggest barrier isn’t how much money it costs, but how much it costs relative to the things around it? It turns out that what the price is, is not nearly as important as where the price is.
If money didn’t exist what would we do differently? Let me first remind us what this would mean.
In this imaginary moneyless it would mean: That we all had enough to eat. That we all had a place to live. That we all have equal access to healthcare and education. That we wouldn’t get paid for our work. That no-one gets paid for the work they do, in dollars at least.
It means that we do in during the day has an entirely different perspective. In this imaginary world it make sense that we choose our line of work carefully. The work itself, becomes the thing that matters.
It turns out that this is also the best approach for a world that does actually have money.
This is an amazing piece from Dow Corning on the future of glass in our lives. It really sets the tone on how they will through their products make our lives better. It makes me wonder why more startups and large brands are not creating films about the future, and how they will shape it in a positive sense.