Possible Good News; Replacing Owning; #1 on Amazon; Favorite Books
November 4, 2010
Businessperson of the Year; Power of Poland; Message for the G20
November 18, 2010

Escaping the Competitive Herd; Key Warning; Bold and Fun TicketCity Bowl

  "…keeping you great"


Escaping the Competitive Herd — this is the subtitle of the book I read this week entitled Different, written by Harvard marketing Prof Youngme Moon. Of all the books my insight readers recommended to me (thank you, immensely), I scanned and read reviews of about two dozen and this is the one that most caught my attention — and it's proving to be as compelling as was promised (thank you Luis Fernandez with Novamex). It's made me think more deeply about my own strategy, differentiation, and approach to the market than any book has in a long time.

First Third of the Book — one of the most popular professors in Harvard's MBA program and winner of many teaching awards, her writing and case studies are highly insightful. However, like most professors (which is why I don't normally read their books), she wastes the first bunch of pages making a case why she's so great (OK, that's a little harsh) and the rest of the first third of the book explaining the problem she's wanting to address. It's important for you to get the background info and she does outline an important customer segmentation framework: pragmatics, reluctants, opportunists, etc — similar to Kevin Daum's segmentation in his outstanding book entitled Roar.

Section 2 is the Winner — this is where Moon shines with lucid examples of three types of "different" brand strategies (many firms employ a combination):


Reverse Brands — they stop adding features, benefits, and augmentations that eventually drive all markets to commoditization and instead go in the opposite direction, taking stuff away and in the process become the category killer — IKEA being a key example.


Breakaway Brands — these brands actually cause you to switch categorizations in your mind i.e. the Japanese AIBO was deemed a pet vs. a robot and that's what allowed its technological problems to be accepted by customers. SWATCH is seen as a fashion accessory, not just a watch, making it the biggest selling watch.


Hostile Brands — these brands actually challenge you to not purchase them — to push hordes of customers away — to emphasize their weaknesses — and in the process create entirely new social groups. RedBull and the BWM MINI are just two of many examples.

I'm always looking for new business language that will frame our thinking and Moon has achieved the first new language in marketing/branding in a long time.

Key Warning — many of you have instinctually resisted my pushing you to talk with customers and employees — and your resistance is justified if you blindly do everything your customers ask you to do — this is what drives products and services to "sameness." Moon, in the first section of the book, does a brilliant job of describing the problem of blindly listening to customers. Instead, you must be in close contact with customers, but put what they say through your own brand filter i.e. it would kill the Birkenstock brand if they made nice looking shoes!

Useful to Growth Firms? — this is always my first question when reading a new book — and I was initially concerned Moon's book might be best for large retail brands. However, I'm convinced it's applicable to almost all of us and will impact your thinking in a major way — that makes it worth the investment in time. It's not a how to book, but it's such a better "thinking" book than Blue Ocean Strategy, providing much more useful frameworks to help you navigate away from the herd (red water).

Just Plain Bold and Fun — speaking of branding/marketing, Randy Cohen is at it again. CEO of TicketCity, Cohen has made the bold move to sponsor the newest college football bowl game — New Years' Day TicketCity Bowl!! Exclaims Randy, "This is a big step for us and an amazing way to brand TicketCity. Our fearless don't be afraid attitude, diving in to the wide world of sports with the TicketCity Bowl, is also an extremely powerful way to motivate our employees. The value is immense all the way around." Go, man, go!!

Augmented Reality — at the Fortune Growth Summit we honored G200 founding board member Logical Choice Technologies' role in NBC's new series "School Pride." Last Friday the show highlighted their new breakthrough reading technology called Letters Alive. 67% of 4th graders in the US are reading below grade level (ouch) and this augmented reality technology is aimed at fixing this problem. Here's a link to the info and 2 minute video. Like always, its entrepreneurs that must step up and solve our major problems.

Private vs. Public Sector — because I care about all things education, this NY Time's Op-Ed caught my attention. In essence, a group of business owners in Pakistan have come together to launch over 600 private schools. Spending 40% less per student than the lousy public schools, these private schools are providing an incomparable education. Again, entrepreneurs must provide the solutions.

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.