Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lifetime resolution: know your groove

This is a guest post by David Jones.

Way back in the 1960s, longshoreman, author and philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “When people
Youngme Moon
are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”

We see this phenomenon every day in the business world, where companies compete by copying products — adding some minor feature or performance boost in the name of differentiation.

The same holds true in public relations, where one agency’s services — even in specialized areas such as telecom PR or tech PR – sound much the same as all the rest.

Companies that fall into this trap aren’t competing at all. They’re collapsing into each other and becoming more alike, making it all the harder for customers to make a buying decision based on distinct value.

Decades later, in her best-selling Different, Harvard luminary Dr. Youngme Moon describes the trend of me-tooing as “the artful packaging of meaningless distinctions as true differentiation.” Free to do as they please, competitors make their products more alike. The few that stand out are always true to what Dr. Moon calls their “meaningful groove of separation.”

The groove runs deep, never just on the surface. Think of the groove as a life decision, versus a New Year’s resolution.

This time of year, many feel compelled to make resolutions that will improve their lot. At the individual level, those who have followed the norm and gained one pound per year since their 20s suddenly resolve to go on crash diets, take up jogging or free weights, and eat more sensibly — all worthy goals.

Many companies follow a similar practice via elaborate planning processes designed to transform the business. They, too, want to trim fat and make the company fit to move in new directions — once again, all admirable.

But how much of it sticks? Whether at the personal or corporate level, most backslide to their old habits in short order. That’s a rut, not a groove.

Market leaders understand the difference. They know “the rules” of the norm well enough to break them. They’re fit for life, not merely for the brief span of a New Year’s resolution or annual corporate planning process. They have the vision to drive the business over new horizons to the golden land of constantly renewed brand differentiation. That’s their groove.

What is your company’s meaningful groove of separation from the herd? As importantly — what is your agency’s?
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