Lessons in Branding from Mauborgne to Musashi
Let’s cut to the chase: competition is fierce these days.
If you want to be the best in a category, you are going to sacrifice a large chunk of your blood, sweat, and tears. Being number one has its rewards, but the chances of any one person achieving this outcome is slim. The amount of energy and resources it takes to get to the top is crazy when you look at it through the Pareto principle. Italian scientist, Vilfredo Pareto found this princple throughout nature as a way general way resources are distributed. More often, it is called the 80/20 rule because it revealed relationships like 20% of a population controlling 80% of the money. When it comes to performance, we often see that 20% of efforts yield 80% of the desired result. The kicker though is that when you flip this ratio around you find it takes roughly 80% of your efforts to gain that last 20% of performance to be at the top of your game. Considering how much time and effort it takes to utterly dominate, whether it is business, economics, or sports, and you’ll quickly realize that unless you’re groomed from a very young age it is extremely difficult to become world class and compete against others who are already at that level.
So what is one to do if they want to compete and don’t have a life time of practice and refinement at their disposal to level the playing field?
In this case, you better be different!
This notion of being different has been referred to in various ways throughout time and contexts.
In business, I link it in my mind with the blue ocean strategy. You want to compete in the crystal, clear blue waters of uncharted waters. A red sea strategy on the other hand has you competing in the bloody waters where every body and their brother is a shark on a feeding frenzy. While there are a lot of fish to be had in these red waters, the competition is so fierce your chance of getting a good share is minimal. If you can find a different ocean, a blue ocean, that’s clear of competitors and has the right conditions you’ll not only fare much better, but you’ll also have a chance to dominate it before every body else comes rushing in.
In martial arts, I think of Miyamoto Musashi and his book, “The Book of Five Rings“. Musashi is known as an excellent Samurai swordsman, but a better description was that he was an excellent fighter, not just a swordsman. While he might have used a sword in many fights, his ruling strategy was to be different and capitalize on his enemy’s weakness – whatever it might be. Let me put it this way, Musashi killed another samurai in a duel by picking up a long boat oar and using its long reach to keep him out of danger of his enemy’s blade.
Was the boat oar held in high regard in Japan as a fighing weapon? No.
Was his weapon fancy or cutting edge? No.
Did his opponent take his different style of weapon seriously? No.
Did Musashi do something different and unexpected, although simple, to get the results he wanted? Yes!
I often get the sense that in today’s society everyone thinks you have to be the flashiest or most technologically advanced to win. I think back to Musashi though and remember that the simple basics can be extremely effective.
In modern times, similar stories have played out with businesses.
Coca-Cola, despite their size and national infrasture, couldn’t keep Pepsi out of the market. Coca-Cola was the “classic” standard, but Pepsi was sweeter for half the cost and initially found their footing with kids and candy stores instead of trying to be another Coca-Cola marketed to the mass market. Was there anything particularly complicated about this strategy? No. Pepsi just filled a void that Coca-Cola could not.
Dell took on the computer world by allowing people to custom build their PC’s when the rest of the industry wouldn’t.
And then Apple cut their own path with design-inspired computers.
FedEx brought fast delivery to the consumer when the rest of the industry was dominated by the slow behemoth USPS.
Mercedes doesn’t try to be a Ford.
And now you’ve got Tesla doing something totally different than both.
Clicked Studios leads with strategy-first philosophy before building digital brands, web sites, and marketing pieces unlike many players in the industry dominated by McAgency’s selling cookie-cutter and one-size fits all solutions to naive clients.
The best thing you can do for your business and your brand is find that thing that truly makes you unique and make sure ideal clients in your market know it.
If you’re still trying to figure it out – start by asking these three questions.
- What does every company in my industry do that I can’t stand?!
- Instead of thinking about you love, list out things you hate and stand against. Doing this can show you where your passion truly lies and how you can be different from the status quo.
- What does nobody want to do in my industry? That might just be the key to finding your new path.
Once you’ve figured this out, you’re on your way to set sail in a blue ocean. You’ll still have more work to do with testing your idea on different marketing channels to see if people truly want what you have to offer. Your chance for success though will be much higher as you now stand out in a clear, memorable, and valuable way compared to if you sound and look like everybody else.
Leave a comment below and let us know how you’re different! Feel free to leave a link to your site as well.
Photo credit: MoonJazz, Public Domain