Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Empty Wrapper

We have probably all heard the response "same stuff different day" when someone has been asked how things are going. This same response may be applied when we have a look at the marketplace and its effect on us.

Organisations and institutions are continuously trying to differentiate themselves so as to attract, retain or convince the customer that what they have to offer is different or has that secret "element" that will make the difference.

Most of what is achieved or offered however is only incremental change at the best. Very little development or brainstorming ever achieves any fundamental change to the way things operate or services are delivered. That’s because most of us are not prepared to "disturb" the comfort zone. The consequence of this is that buyers and seekers of "things different" are becoming increasingly disillusioned and less inclined to respond to the variations offered which means that any "real" breakthroughs or achievements are lost in the noise.

Now in short supply of any real innovation, have we now shifted our focus to "loyalty" rather than real product development? We spoon feed the market with tantalising tit bits without giving anything of substance. The appearance is that the provider is "leading" the market with continual development when in reality they are just drip feeding the market with average level new options. Options which are actually in themselves nothing new, they were just (deliberately) missing from the original model.

The aspect of branding or "wrapping" is also evident in the car parts industry. The same part will have several different codes depending on what car you are putting it in and essentially this will come with the different price. same factory, same part, same everything but we will pay a different price for it because of the label and some idea that it must be different and therefore warrants the buyers loyalty. What’s occurring is a the propagation of a belief in something with very shallow value.

There are however some examples of doing exactly the opposite and even passionately maintaining the "core purpose" or "original product" at the expense of being "outdated" by other advanced competition, One of these is Harley Davidson. It was a conscious decision on the part of that company to stay with their clear mission and purpose from the start with almost no product change, and it has proved out.

Several things emerge here. Whether we are driving a business or looking at our personal approach, do we really know what our core business or original purpose is, or has it. or us, lost our way in the noise?

In our pursuit of bigger, brighter, fresher, have we lost sight of the true and original product? Do we understand our purpose? Have we missed the real "fundamental" insight, change or innovation that is required or possible and inadvertently settled for mediocrity?

How much do we contribute to the shallow offerings being made? Is our whole kudos or existence built on this? How much is image underpinning who we are?

Whilst it’s important to keep our lives fresh, and maintain and update our environment we need to consciously be aware of not losing sight of the core essentials and purpose. What is our objective and what does it provide? What is the real fundamental or enduring change that will make the difference? That may even be getting back to basics. By continually accepting or promoting cosmetics we may just be encouraging an offering of mediocrity and be left holding a wrapper.

Are we chasing a quick fix that will change with the next fashion offer?

Is it just the same stuff, different label? Or does the wrapper contain any stuff at all?


  1. I have been reflecting on your views the whole morning. I am at present working on two areas corporate branding and strategic planning two separate projects background i end working in multiple teams. I have had the same thoughts and views.
    My view is the presence of corporate branding strategy marrying the process to strategy would be the ideal scenario. I would in fact call this is ‘Holy Grail of strategic Planning’.
    But the question is what if your organisation does not treat branding as a strategic issue since is not applicable since individual brand is a must hence branding is more of a functional challenges as part of marketing department. Then problems arises where do we look for that sustainable competitive advantage. Because going back to branding as a function does not help this process. Unfortunately, most companies are still in individual branding stage.
    So yes, you have hit the nail in the head the integration of corporate branding within you strategic planning framework should bring the sustainable advantage.

    I am not going to comments on incremental development of products because this may be the market you are catering to no real differentiation is possible. Particularly when the organisation is not in a niche market.

    1. Hi Rizvan,

      I feel the challenge and issues your present and understand industries by their very nature such as the IT sector are pressured to keep ahead in the areas of development. My response to this is "Think the unthinkable"! Disturb both your thinking and the market so much that it is scary! Somewhere you just wouldn't naturally do or say! Then work back from there. Otherwise you will continue to be caught in the incremental window dressing wheel.
      What is so radical you just wouldn't do it?
      What is the "core" "enduring" element that wont go away and the market will want to "keep" whilst the other bits fall away?
      It might not be anything new as a product it might be the way you yourselves might "view" the product. Sometimes we have a false view of what the product is and what the market thinks. Your customers might have had a false view too?
      Time to strip it away and be honest? something you thought was basic or bland may now be the difference you are looking for.

      That might also identify what your mission statement "really" is (or should be) and what your "branding" should look like.

      As for "niche" markets these are never enduring and rife for the provider to just become complacent.