Strategy is often the quest for the “defensible difference”
In that quest we try to win the land-grab for patents, trademarks, secret formulas, exclusive supply contracts and unchallenged cost advantages.
Yet there is another advantage that your competitors will often inflict on themselves –Brain-Cuffs
It happened in the wine industry a few years ago. The entire industry was caught up in prestige and complexity. Then Yellow Tail walks in with irreverence and simplicity and walks away with the fastest growth of any player in the wine category. In just 3 years they surpassed the sales of California and Italian wines – without dumping a lot of cash in consumer advertising.
The response by the vineyards? Rapid deployment of new strategies? Breakthrough marketing? Rapid new product development?
Their response: Scoffing.
As their sales slipped away, they mocked the unsophistication of both Yellow Tail and the flood of consumers who consumed it. Any of the major vineyards could have matched Yellow Tail’s moves. But instead they entrenched – and lost more sales.
Yellow-Tails brilliance wasn’t a bomb-proof patent. It wasn’t a foundational infrastructure so expensive to duplicate that it scared off any challengers. Instead they struck at perhaps one of the best strategic vulnerabilities of all – the industries assumptions about what defined a great wine and about what consumers really wanted.
So entrenched was the industry in almost century-old assumptions – that they couldn’t break free even in the face of overwhelming evidence that their previous strategies had soured in the bottle.
This brings us to a question…
What assumptions do you have about your industry that can be exploited by a bold competitor?
If you were shown the stats that your grand strategy was being out-paced by a product or marketing concept that caused your stomach to turn – could you adapt? Or, would you play on like the band on the deck of the Titanic that didn’t believe the ship could be sunk?
What makes Brain-Cuffs so pernicious is that the whole time you hold the key and can set yourself free. So, in the end, you not only lose – you get embarrassed as well.