Less is More - With a Twist

Jerry Rackley

By Jerry Rackley

I recently learned about Youngme Moon and her book, “Different”. I haven’t read this book yet, so I am literally judging the book by the cover. But from what I already know about it, “Different” is my kind of book. The excerpts, anecdotes and video clips all indicate that the author has crystallized and brilliantly articulated a message I’ve espoused for years. It is now on my reading list:

I’m a “Positioning” wonk – a firm believer that almost all marketing begins with precisely crafting a market position and statement that describes it. This is a good strategic marketing activity that is very effective because it requires the company that does it to understand how it is different. If you have no differentiation, then welcome to the world of commodity selling, where the only tool you can use for differentiation is price, which by the way, is the same tool all your competitors have. If price is your only differentiation, then you have no differentiation.

Having worked with many companies in my career, I’ve learned that being different all starts with culture. Some companies are unsuccessful because they can’t stop being themselves long enough to try to be something different. Oh, they like to read books like “Different” and they master the lingo, tossing it around in business conversations as if they co-authored it. But the reality is, the only way such companies will stand out from the crowd is by taking risks their corporate DNA won’t let them take. A cultural transformation, or more accurately, transplant, is required to allow such companies to do more than plod along making incremental gains at best.

Quite often, achieving differentiation requires a company to do less and focus more tightly on that one thing it is best equipped to do. Or to quote Youngme Moon, “Less is more, with a twist”. Companies that narrow their focus are able to avoid a lot of distractions and sell out completely to dominating that on which they’ve chosen to focus. Surprisingly, this approach doesn’t stifle creativity; it empowers it. This is an amazingly simple strategy, but simple rarely means easy. If it was so easy, more companies would do this, but it is counter-intuitive to most.

So where does Marketing fit in to this discussion? We, as marketers, are the flag-bearers for differentiation. We understand the need for it, and we can’t stop admonishing the companies we work for, and the leadership, to take the road less traveled. We’re the cultural change agents that are grabbing the wheel and steering for the exit from the highway of sameness that is bumper-to-bumper with our competitive clones. Perhaps this is why marketing executives, particularly outspoken ones, have such short tenures compared to other executive positions. Our message to take risk and be different is not always popular. So buckle up for the ride, and don’t be deterred by the speed bumps you’ll encounter on your journey. Let us know how you’re coming along.


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