It's just a jump to the left…

I was interested in the idea of Innovating by jumping sideways (from Where's the sausage).
Instead of trying to develop and promote musical acts the same way as the traditional record labels Simon Cowell takes a different path

"He has attacked a big market by coming from an adjacent one. So, he starts with the promotion via a TV series, building up interest in the artists and making money on phone/text voting each week. He then releases the hit single online first (more money). Then the CD. Then there is the tour with the top finalists."

In fact Cowell has always taken this approach (he worked with David Hasselhoff/Night Rider, WWF Wrestling Stars, American Idol etc…) he is music's P.T. Barnum ("No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.)

"The businesses best equipped to capitalise on the changes in the music market structure are those who are adjacent to it. They know enough to see the opportunity, but are not encumbered by existing assets. They simply step sideways and gobble up market share of the music publishing business: TV companies, internet networking sites, musicians, recording studios and more – all adjacent markets that the big record companies once looked on as potential expansion areas are turning heel and attacking back."

"It seems that one of the best ways to innovate might be to watch your neighbour and then steal a nice bit of their turf. Look at Apple and their iPhone. And what is the biggest news in the multi-billion dollar global laxatives market – a laxative brand? No, it’s a yoghurt from Danone – Activia."

I found this an interesting idea. It corresponds with the latest briefing from - The Expectation Economy: Key Points:

Your competition could be anyone
…focusing solely on your own industry will obscure the fact that in economies of abundance, consumers are increasingly spending their 'play money' on goods and services that net them the experience, the indulgence, the excitement, the satisfaction they're looking for at a specific moment. Which could be new sneakers (even though they already own five pairs), or a new cell phone (even though their current one is perfectly fine) or a long weekend away (even though, if they're European, it's probably their fourth getaway this year). So if you're, let's say, Nike, you're definitely competing with Reebok and Adidas and Onitsuka Tiger once a consumer has made up his or her mind that it's sneakers he or she desperately wants. But before minds are made up, when shopping for a certain kind of excitement, it may as well be Nokia or Starwood Hotels. Or Zara. Increasingly, you'll be competing with anyone and everyone, which means you need to keep an eye on anyone and everyone.

Expectations can be set outside your industry

…limiting yourself to your own industry will make you miss important changes in consumer expectations, and will thus put you at risk of disappointing or even annoying consumers. Every industry has its own 'innovation competence', and the innovations they're bringing to market not only excite their own customers, they also shape their expectations for other industries. Whether it's Singapore Airlines' sense of status, Starbucks' understanding of indulgence and rituals, H&M's obsession with making up-to-the-minute fashion affordable, or Apple's prowess in design and usability. And while flawless execution is never easy, the thinking and attitude behind it isn't impossible to mirror. Consumers know this, too. Hence their aforementioned indifference and irritation when it comes to the non-H&Ms, the non-Singapore Airlines, the non-Apples.

Copying competitors is a race to the bottom

…if you're obsessed with what your direct competition is doing, you will always end up copying new concepts in your industry. Which means that, unless you're comfortable with being a 'smart follower'*, this is not going to unleash your innovative brilliance ;-)

Now, all of this is of course not to say that you shouldn't actively track what's happening in your own industry. But in the next 12 months, do also constantly ask yourself: who are our other competitors? What experiences could our product or service be traded in for? And what can we learn from other industries setting consumer expectations across the board?

Knowing the solutions to marketing problems based on experience, rather than an open mind (not to mention eyes and ears) is going prove the old adage 'If you do what you always did - you'll get what you always got.'…or less.


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