In marketing, advertising and business the winners did not follow others! What are the 3 habits you need to avoid?

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Observation: Winners do not follow!

When you think about great successes in business, politics, on TV or in the cinema – or in any other field for that matter – you will find that they succeeded and won by challenging the status quo. They took, or found, a new angle or take on the situation. They did not just follow others around them.




The great brands and businesses, and even political leaders, that are seen as inspiring and successful have done that by challenging and changing the world or industry about them. They succeeded by LEADING and NOT BY FOLLOWING others. Think of Steve Jobs and Apple, Richard Branson and Virgin or even Pampers Diapers (who changed how mothers cared and changed babies completely with a better, faster and easier way with their disposable diapers).


Insight: Winners offer something unique and differentiated

The leaders in any category do not get there by following. By definition to win you will have to stand out, offer something unique and different. You cannot be a copy of the others that you are competing with. You may do fine if you follow, but you are unlikely to win. The same is true in any race.
You have to have the courage to challenge the comfortable approach and the “safe option”. This can be anything from challenging the category norms in advertising and the media mix, through to totally rewriting the rules of the category.
There are 3 big habits that lead to a follow not leader mentality:
  1. Incremental Innovation Syndrome: One of the founders of Google argues that true innovation in a category is unlikely to come from the players in a category. This is because they have vested interests and investments, and end up focusing on optimizing the present with incremental changes – and not at looking at solving the need in a totally different way.
  2. Past Successes Syndrome: The saying goes that “nothing causes failure like success” and that “insanity is keep doing the same thing and expecting to get better results”. A big success makes it harder to change and challenge the way you do things, and so you often are then opening the way for others to do just that.
  3. Telling people what you think they want to hear: A major risk is that companies, brands (and especially politicians seeking re-election) use focus groups and research segmentation to work out what people they are targeting think – and then try and act and say more what they think these same people then want to hear. Instead of really listening and then taking a leadership approach and bring a true and a solution they did not even really expect or know they wanted. I once read a great article in “The Times” in 2007 by a columnist called Matthew Paris that argues that people are looking for leadership:
    • “Marketing politics, marketing personality, marketing toothpaste, marketing a football club: they’re all converging on the same game of finding out where your audience would like you to be, and locating yourself there. The electorate are unnerved by too much of this. It starts them asking what you’re really for, and where the real you is to be found… beneath the appeal of slick, professional crafting of brands, narratives and messages, there is an aching hunger for authenticity”.


Action
  • Leaders do not win by following the pack, the past or by trying to just say more of what they think people want to hear or get.
  • To win you will need to focus on leading not following. You need to lead the way based on what you can bring or do that is unique, different and distinctive from those you compete with – but still relevant and meeting the needs.
  • Always ask yourself and challenge your teams to ask: are we leading this, or just following?

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