Escaping the competitive herd

nest

Out of all the startups out there, only a few will succeed in capturing the imagination of users. The question is, why?

Competitors will believe it’s because the products are bigger/smaller/slicker/lighter and proceed to mimic these elements in their own products/services. As Youngme Moon puts it in her book, Different, this kind of competitive herding leads to two kinds of evolution within product categories. The first is augmentation-by-addition: Pepsi moves from one-liter to two-liter bottles; Apple adds a touch sensor to its phone; Samsung adds an NFC chip, and every little change promises to be the next big thing.

The second is augmentation-by-multiplication. Companies build slightly different versions of the same product for every niche in the market out there. There are 12 versions of Angry Birds. There are 32 devices in the Samsung phone-tablet-phablet line.

Moon goes on to highlight three types of brand strategies companies can use to change the brand conversation and steer it away from the mine’s-bigger variety:

1. Going on the reverse – instead of adding more and more features for a complete whiz bang, brands such as IKEA and JetBlue take options away.

2. Change the conversation – Nest doesn’t say it’s a thermostat. It’s the beginnings of a smart home.

3. Going hostile – don’t try to be everyone’s friend. It’s not about gaining customers, but actively excluding those who aren’t worth your time.

Read the book review on TechCrunch

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