Once in a great while a new book comes along that stops you in your tracks. This is one of those books.
I read The Origin of Brands at the same time I was reading "Here Comes Trouble" in the February 2007 issue of Wired. The author says this is a story about the guys who "…Kazaa'd the music industry and Skyped the telcos. Now Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström want to Joost your TV. (That's a good thing.)"
Since "Skype … demonstrated P2P’s ability to stream data, in real time, on a global scale" it led Friis and Zennström directly to Joost. Friis says “We’ve taken the best things about television and added the best things from the Internet.” And it appears they've done just that, while sidestepping the copyright problems and preserving the 30 second spot!
I had just finished reading the Chapter 6 "Swiss Army Knife Thinking" and I thought: isn't Joost exactly what Laura and Al said would not happen? So I went back to read the chapter again and discovered the answer to my question was no! They said the convergence of the PC and TV in the form of interactive television had not happened in twenty-seven years after its founding. And Joost is not interactive TV.
The point is, you've got to be as careful in thinking and talking about convergence vs. divergence in marketing as Darwin was in biology. And even so, it's sometimes difficult to see the light. Especially if you're personally or professionally involved with a "new category" you just launched. And make no mistake, the authors show you how creating a new category by diverging from existing ones is where fortunes are to be made. Convergence (read clock radio) is where fortunes are lost. Remember the AOL/Time Warner merger?
Al and Laura Ries say "THE MOST DIFFICULT JOB IN MARKETING, and also the most rewarding, is creating a new category (Chapter 14, pages 227 through 255)."
If "…there is no definition of what the category is all about, there is no market, there are no distribution channels, and there are no competitors to benchmark … The first, and the most important question of all, is what's the name of the new category?"
At the risk of being pedantic I'm going to quote the nine main points I took away from reading "Creating a Category" in Chapter 14 (pages 227-255):
1. Simple names work best … marketing people are sometimes too literal. What matters most is not describing exactly what the benefits of a new category are, but expressing the essence of the new category in as simple a way as possible.
2. Marketing can be visualized as filling a hole in the mind.
3. Every product needs two names, not just one. A brand name and a category name.
4. People think generic first, brand second.
5. In the rush to build a new brand, the need to first build a new category often is overlooked.
6. When your brand doesn't stand for anything, you have to compensate by increasing your marketing expenditures!
7. Categories exist in the mind. You create categories in exactly the same way you create brands. By positioning the name of the category in the mind of prospects.
8. People THINK categories, but they TALK brands.
9. Categories are pigeonholes in the mind; brands are the names in those pigeon holes. The two names serve two different (and strategically important) purposes.
With an international business press totally committed to the Holy Grail of "convergence" you should read this important book. Not only is it a good read, it will open your eyes to the power of divergence in marketing. And this will stop you in your tracks.
These comments were taken from my replies to comments made this past week in the discussion forum on MarketingProfs.com Book Club. If you want to learn much more about this book check it out.~V