On how founders fight

Let’s face it – founders will fight.

How founders fight though — now that’s something worth exploring.

Altercation interaction, in my opinion, is one of the most predictive factors for whether a team will survive and whether a company will succeed.¬† A few weeks ago (yeah I was slow to get going ūüôā ) Jessica Alter shared her views about this on Steve Blank’s blog.¬† Here’s my take.

How you fight reveals whether you respect your partner
Are you fighting about the right way to do things?¬†¬† Do you look at the tasks your cofounder(s) perform and think you can do better?¬† While disagreements are natural (you’re not clones), if these types of fights are occurring rather often, then my friend, that’s called a red flag.

There’s too much to do with your own job to look over what someone else is doing.¬† If you can’t trust your cofounder enough to be as good (and preferably better) than you at what they do, think hard about whether this partnership makes sense.¬† If you don’t have faith, it will show (even if you have Oscar worthy skills)¬† You end up overstretching yourself, your founder ends up reacting negatively from the vibe s/he senses and the relationship falls apart.¬† Trust me, there’s a founder’s six sense on cofounder hatin’.

How you fight demonstrates whether you’ve set clear boundaries
Other times, it’s not because you don’t respect your partner, but because you haven’t clearly decided who will do what.¬† Again, this is also something that needs to be specified early.¬† As the pressure mounts, disagreements can erupt over who dropped the ball or even better, several or all of you end up tackling the same problem.¬† Cue fabulous fighting pyrotechnics.¬† And much wasted effort.¬† Both suck.

How you are when the fight is over can be a signal for the status of your founder relationship
Do you feel good about having resolved the issue, or do you walk away pissed off?¬† If you find more often than not your fights end negatively, it could be a sign that tension is too high to function effectively.¬† Do you feel like you’re doing all the work and your founders are slacking off?¬† Ideally founders are equally motivated and you feel like you’re both putting equal effort into the business.

How you fight (and whether you do) indicates your ability to communicate
On the flip side, are you a team that doesn’t fight at all?¬† No fighting isn’t good news.¬† Most definitely it means someone is repressing what they actually think about things.¬† After all, you certainly don’t expect me to believe you never have disagreements with your cofounder.¬† That just doesn’t happen.¬† Or you two are clones.¬† And then that still doesn’t ever happen.

Now mind you, if both partners are ok with not talking things out, and are both ok with shoving things under the rug, it can work.  But it requires both cofounders to have the same conflict resolution style.

How the fight wraps up can diffuse or build resentment
We are biologically wired to focus on negative interactions.¬† So if a fight ends poorly, that has a lasting effect.¬† In studying longevity in marriages, John Gottman discovered that it takes 5 positive interactions to offset one negative one.¬† Given that you’re most certainly more married to your cofounder than your spouse (think about how much waking time you spend with your cofounder versus your spouse!) , that ratio is in high effect here.¬† Are you fighting about issues of the moment?¬† Or do you find yourself bringing up bad decisions or events in the past?¬† Effective fighting can be cathartic.¬† The opposite?¬† White hairs and much Advil consumption.¬† Yep, I’ve experienced both first hand.¬† And how.

OK, so what are you supposed to do to fight well?

Ideally when you’re in the cofounder honeymoon stage you’ve already ironed out how you might handle disagreements.¬† And also who’s doing what.¬† If you guys disagree, who makes the final call?¬† How?¬† Is it the CEO?¬† The engineering lead for tech decisions and product lead for features?¬† Is it through external tests?¬† Whatever you do, figure out something in advance.

Other obvious tips

  • Accusations, especially with the use of words like always and never don’t work.¬† Really, it’s true.¬† Surprising, I know.¬† You’re welcome.
  • The past is exactly that. ¬† Not the present, and thus not relevant right now.¬† So don’t bring it up.¬† It’s also surely guaranteed to rile up your partner.¬† If there’s a previous gripe still outstanding, wait till you’re not fighting and then figure out how to resolve it.
  • Be willing to walk away.¬† Sometimes in the heat of the moment things can be too touchy.¬† Learn when to back off.
  • Recognize if something else is actually what’s bothering you.¬†¬† Ever get pissed off or stressed out and then go find someone to pick a fight with?¬† Yeah, your cofounder is often your first support base…but if you want things to last, exclude personal punching bag from the job description.
  • Don’t fight in front of others.¬† Aside from creating a super awkward moment for all involved, taking your fight public is surely one of the better ways to ensure that negative vibes stick around.

And then note –

Contrary to what may seem obvious, fighting spectacularly doesn’t automatically doom a partnership (this applies to personal relationships too).¬† Nor do endless fights that don’t get resolved.¬†¬† And “working on communication” isn’t always necessary, nor at times, good enough.¬† Instead, researchers have found that acknowledging the good times and thoughtful reciprocation (whether in good listening, giving credit where it’s due, whatevs) to your partner can serve as a better buffer against discord later than “communicating well” during the fight.

When in the midst of a fight, keep an eye out for negativity, sarcasm, or criticism.¬† If you haven’t gotten too worked up yourself, attempts to break the tension can do a lot to diffuse the negativity.¬† And if you’re feeling cranky already, know that it’s not a good time to start a discussion.¬† When voicing grievances, stick to complaints about a specific action, and avoid criticizing the person.¬† Do your best not to get too defensive even if it is a full on personal attack and try to see why the person is might be feeling the way they are.

Lastly, try to see your cofounder not as someone to convince, persuade, combat.¬† See him or her as someone you want to make things work with.¬† You’ll be surprised how a positive orientation might do wonders for actually working through things.¬† Instead of, like, you know, trying to prove you’re right.


Author’s note: yes I have gone through some brilliant fights with my cofounders.¬† Thankfully even after the worst of things, I’m on fine terms with them now…even if it might have taken a couple years.¬† Better late than never!

Posted in Experiences, Happiness, Psychology, Startups | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On rewards

Lately I’ve been obsessing.

Very specifically, I’ve been obsessing about getting into the Amazon Vine program — something I had access to once upon a time.¬† It‚Äôs a program where you get access to advance reviewer copies of books and things like that.¬† And I want back in.


Trouble is, it’s an invitation only program.

Which means I need to get on their radar.

So I’ve been writing reviews furiously on Amazon all the while trying to garner as many helpful votes on said reviews as possible before just straight up going to email customer support to plead my case.¬† :p

So I’ve clearly identified myself as that kind of person.

You know, the person who actually collected enough points to try to redeem that Pepsi fighter jet?

Or all those people who make it on Yelp Elite every year?

Ok not really, but how can you develop a program to attract those types of people?  What kinds of rewards can you offer to get people to do things?

Extrinsic motivational programs are a tricky beast.  It needs to be compelling enough that your users will perform a task, but not sooo compelling that you attract the wrong audience or actually damage your user experience because the rewards become the focus.  At the very least, other checks and balances may need to be put in place to ensure that the quality is high enough.

Here are some tips to creating an effective reward program:

Find something people already want to do
A rewards programs is going to be more effective if structured around people’s current behaviors. ¬†For example, many people already want to become/stay fit, and therefore spend time running and working out.¬†Fitocracy¬†has created a fitness motivation program where you gain levels and complete quests by completing fitness related tasks and goals. ¬†The act of getting achievements, badges and¬†levelling¬†acts as a substantial incentive even above internal motivation. ¬† One study suggested that¬†the removal of similar features decreased activity by 50%.

Make it public
Users like getting recognition from others.  Making their achievements and status visible to the public (or within a community that they value) gives them added incentive to keep up their activity level.

One example is the¬†Yelp Elite¬†program, where users get a cute Yelp Elite badge, plus their reviews get more visibility.¬† People are proud of their Yelp Elite status and work to maintain it, while the public recognition educates others on the program’s existence and allows others to aspire towards it.

Involve peers
The Yelp Elite program also leverages peers to good effect.  The act of trying to become a Yelp Elite member results in frenetic review writing (44% of all reviews were from Yelp Elite members despite Yelp Elites representing under 1% of all Yelp users), but quality is maintained by having other users rate reviews as useful, funny, or cool.  As well,  Yelp Elite membership is determined by the recommendations of other Elite members to Yelp staffers, so the human review component prevents people from gaming the system to become Elite.

Making the rewards appear to be achievable is important.  For example, having a reward tier achievable only after staying 50 nights at a hotel chain may cause people to seek out rewards programs with more easily attained tiers.

Adding tiers¬†allows you to expand the top tiers and get more people involved without making them feel that you are diminishing their status. ¬†Simply adding people to the “top” tier diminishes how current members perceive their status. ¬† This is mitigated by adding tiers beneath them.

Have high value rewards
Rewards or status that can’t be bought are effective in making people feel special. ¬†The Amazon Vine and Yelp Elite programs are examples of this. ¬†If they gave top reviewers Amazon gift cards instead, there may not be as strong an incentive to review things. Similarly the perks of being a¬†Yelp Elite member (invitations to Yelp community events, increased visibility for your opinions, status within Yelp) cannot be¬†achieved¬†by money.

Yelp experimented with¬†paying users¬†to write reviews in places that Yelp was not well established in, but they found that money didn’t create the right motivation. ¬†Paid writers weren’t motivated to create the same quality of reviews and weren’t as connected to Yelp. ¬†The Yelp Elite status means more to the power users than a few extra dollars.

Higher values for rewards points tends to increase loyalty and perceptions of the rewards program.  For example, giving 1000 points per dollar spent and requiring 100,000 points to get a particular status has better results than giving 1 point per dollar spent and requiring 100 points to get that status.  Even though the same amount of spending is required, people perceive that they are getting more and making faster progress with a program involving larger numbers.

A good reward program can really enhance the experience for your avid users and help recruit new ones, but a great one takes fine-tuning, and definitely at a base level needs to tap into something users already want to do.¬† If it’s something too artificial, the reward becomes the focus and quality suffers.

Good thing I like babbling.  Back to review-writing for me!

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On accepting change

As I’m fighting a losing battle against a swarm of carpet beetles that have taken over my apartment (carpet beetles: a gazillion, me: 1), I started thinking about the possibility of moving.

It was then that I realized, had it not been for these blasted beetles — well, and the lack of hot showering water, I probably would have stayed put‚Ķindefinitely.

But ask me a year ago if I would have willingly moved from a lovely modern loft with an open kitchen to a tiny converted motel room from the 50’s with a minibar for a fridge and no space to cook and I would have given you a blank stare of non-comprehension.

That’s how we are as humans.  We adapt.

Remember the uproar over every new Facebook profile change?  Yeah, me too, I forgot until I started writing this blog post.

But there are ways to make change a little bit more palatable.  What are they?

Make changes gradually.¬† It’s been proven that humans are conditioned to notice abrupt, not gradual changes.¬† This is because, from an evolutionary standpoint, abrupt environment changes were far more threatening to our survival than gradual changes. So stay under your users’ change radar by making lots of tiny changes over time. ¬†While the phenomenon of inattention to gradual changes has been most commonly studied for visual stimuli, similar results have been found for other senses as well as things such as wealth and unethical behavior.

Justify your changes.¬† Just providing a reason makes requests more palatable.¬† In a study about justifications, researchers found that people were over 50% more willing to comply when given a reason — even if the reason wasn’t relevant. ¬†Don’t get too carried away with non-relevant reasons though, especially if the change is major. ¬†The same study found that only good reasons had a positive effect on compliance as the requests became larger.

Just do it anyway.¬† As much as people squawk about change (yours truly included), if you’re really convinced the change is needed, just do it.

Time.¬† When all else fails, the way the saying “time heals all wounds” is kinda true, “time helps angry customers forget” is also kinda true too.

So don’t hold back because you’re worried.¬† If a change is justified, do it!

Posted in Evolutionary psychology, Experiences, General | Tagged | Leave a comment

On pricing things like restaurant menus

A couple weeks ago, I learned that Canada will be doing away with the penny.

Well good riddance.  Those things were heavy anyway.

Naturally, a change in currency made me think about the potential impact on prices, and equally naturally, I started thinking about restaurant pricing.¬† Because, after all, I’m always all about food.¬† Especially alternatives to instant noodles. ūüôā

The price at which you set your products can be one of the most important aspects of a marketing mix, and there are things you can do to push certain dishes or cultivate a certain image for your business.

  • Anchoring.¬† Decisions are often made relatively.¬† Your most expensively priced dish serves as a mental anchor for the rest of the items.¬† Typically, patrons order dishes near the top, but not the most expensive dish.¬† So make sure the item(s) you want to push are priced under the most expensive item.
  • Relative pricing.¬† Kinda like anchoring.¬† If you want to push one dish over another, add a dish that is similarly priced but sucks as an offer in comparison.
  • Rounding.¬† Ever feel like $x.99 anything looks cheap?¬† Rounding your prices makes the restaurant look upscale. ¬†43% of restaurant managers (and 83% of those who used round prices) felt that customers associated round prices with high quality. ¬†This extends to other industries as well. ¬†One study found that Neiman-Marcus used round pricing of 84% of its items versus 1% for Kmart.
  • Reference prices. ¬†Customers have a general idea about the price range for certain items that make comparing easy.¬† Examples include soft drinks or hamburgers. ¬†Unless you’ve got some unique spin, price those items within the reference range for your restaurant’s positioning. ¬† Otherwise your restaurant may be perceived as being higher priced based on a few popular common items, even if your prices might be lower overall.¬† Then again, sometimes creating really expensive hamburgers can work for publicity.
  • Dollar signs.¬† Don’t.¬† Interestingly menus without the price caused patrons to outspend parties who got menus with dollar signs.¬† Perhaps getting away from thinking money makes the spending decision easier?

Just some food for thought.


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On discounting and shaping consumer behaviour

To me, Banana Republic was a upper-mid range clothing store.¬† It’s no Alexander McQueen but it wasn’t Ross either.

Then Banana Republic started sending me 40-50% off email coupons.  About weekly.

And now I just can’t conceive of buying Banana Republic products at full price.¬† It cheapened the brand for me.

Discounting can have a positive effect and short term lift in sales.  It might encourage new consumers to trial your product too.

But discounting done wrong can permanently devalue your brand, because — the moment consumers know to expect discounts, shopping behaviour changes.¬† (Guilty!)

So what are some important things to keep in mind?

Discount frequently and people will wait for the sale (duh, but what’s “frequent”?)

In one study¬†of soft drinks¬†–

  • If you discount 50% of the time or more (6 out of 12 weeks),¬† 28% of subjects will pay only the sale price.
  • If you offer a deal only 25% of the time (3 out of 12 weeks), 90% of the consumers are willing to pay more than the sale price.

Offering discounts at random to keep people guessing
If you always offer sales in the last day of the month, or around major holidays, people start predicting discounts.  Case in point РI stockpile 12-packs of Coke around major holidays because I know Safeway has the buy two cases get three free around all major holidays and sporting events.

As for the subject of why a single person like me buys that much pop…don’t ask. ūüôā

However, I haven’t yet reverse-engineered REI’s 20% coupon mailing schedule , so when there are holes in my thermal fleece sweater like there is right now, I’ll be buying a full price replacement.

Chose how you frame the discount
Using coupons or rebates for price promotion
¬†helps maintain the brand image.¬† Consumers are less likely to have a lower internal reference price. ¬† Options for varying up the price/promotion mix = good. ūüôā

Percentage-off promotions were likely to result in a higher expected post promotion price than cents-off promotions.  So expressing the discount in percentage terms (eg. 34% off $1.49 instead of $0.50 off) is a better strategy to maintain the ability to sell the product at a regular price later.  Keep in mind though, making the value of the percentage discount too easy to calculate (eg. 50% off $100) negates the advantage of using percentages instead of dollars.

If you’re subscription-based, foot-in-the-door discounting isn’t a bad idea.
Comcast does a splendid job on this.¬† They offered me $29 for high speed internet at an introductory price and then 6 months later – a surprise!¬† Here’s the $99 per month bill instead.¬† Consumers are lazy, and some percentage of them won’t notice that change for a while.

Or take FoundersCard’s Charter membership.¬† A steep discount and perceived value of coming in early to lock in lifetime low price probably got them quite a few signups.¬† I signed up.

Then there are permanent discount stores.
About 90% of all furniture stores and 99% of rug stores are perpetually going out of business.  But hey, it must work.  They are all still here.

Discounting is a perfectly handy tool, but just realize the expectations you are setting.  Short term attempts to make the budgeted numbers might not be worth it, but it seems like a fine option if used wisely to level out the demand curve or to bring new customers in the door.

Last thought Рdoes anyone think discount sites like Groupon / LivingSocial have totally re-set the expectation of what a deal is?  I now hardly blink at a 50% discount.

Posted in Branding, Marketing, Positioning, Psychology | Tagged , | 1 Comment

My First Guest Post on TechCrunch – Why You’re A Startup Founder: Nature and Nurture

Like most startup founders, I wished for some TechCrunch coverage.¬†¬† I’m still waiting on that, but I suppose I’ll take guest posting for now. ūüôā¬† So I’m excited to share my first post– Why You’re A Startup Founder: Nature and Nurture. ¬† In this study, I looked at the effect of birth order on the likelihood of becoming a startup founder, as well as other influences such as having family members that were entrepreneurs.¬† Thanks to all who participated!

I had to do an infographic too (aka excuse to draw stick figures) so here it is ūüôā¬† Feel free to share it!

Topline findings:

  • Yes birth order does have an influence.¬†¬† I compared the birth order distribution of the survey respondents with census information for similar age groups to account for the fact that there are naturally going to be fewer third-borns than second-borns, etc….
  • 46% of startup founders were first-born children (excluding only children) while first-born children (excluding only children) represented approximately 30% of the general population. ¬†The¬†over-indexing¬†of first-born children as startup founders was reinforced by looking at results from two-child families. ¬†Instead of a 50/50 split, first-born children represented 62% of startup founders from two-child families, compared to 38% for second-borns.
  • Startup founders tend to overachieve and be more active with certain activities than the average person. ¬†Here’s a chart comparing some of the results for survey founders versus the general population:

Achievements and Activities for Startup Founders

Thanks again, all of you who participated in the first survey! ¬† I’m looking into the types of adversity faced by startup founders while growing up next, so if anyone is interested who didn’t participate in my study before, I’d love to ask you some questions here.

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On reshaping existing beliefs and behaviours

A few days ago, I talked about a fellow who wanted to change and stay out of jail.

But changing beliefs and behaviours is difficult.  Hey, people can be stubborn!

So how do you go about doing it?

Go where people don’t know much about you already.
Changing (or establishing) perceptions of a brand or product is easier when general awareness is low and/or consumers have not yet formed a strong opinion about you. ¬† So an opportunity to do this might be when you enter a brand new market.¬† For instance, fast-food restaurants like KFC and McDonald’s are thought of as serving healthy food in China.¬† Unencumbered by years of negative perception about their healthiness, they are able to position themselves as higher quality and healthier alternatives to some of the local fare. ¬†To achieve similar perceptions in North America would be near impossible though due to the near total awareness (and association with unhealthy food) people have of these brands.¬† Supersize Me, anyone?

Catch consumers when they themselves are in a state of flux
So how can you change behaviours when they are already established?  Catch consumers when they are in a period of significant personal change.  Things like getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, moving out of school are all good times to try to change consumer behaviour.

This New York Times article explains how marketers identified the birth of a child as one of those life changing moments that also may lead you to shop at new stores (aside from baby related stores) and purchase different brands than you would have before.

Stress or overload consumers
Similarly, researchers have found that inducing metacognitive difficulties could in some cases result in increased acceptance of marketing claims and thus a more positive brand evaluation.  An example they used involved time pressure (people waiting behind you in line) and something that differed from the usual branding (redesigned packaging), resulting in increased openness to new information.

Bottom line – change in one area induces a greater acceptance of change in other areas.

So think about how you can piggyback on existing change!

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On why we feel like there are so many coincidences

This past Wednesday, I met a homeless fellow who’d just gotten out of jail and wants to stay out.

The next morning, there it was.¬† A front page New York Times article talking about a program that’s reduced ex-inmate recidivism rates by 16-22% compared to the norm.

Ooh, funny coincidence!  Right?

Maybe not so.

It’s more likely the case of selective perception.¬† Selective perception is a cognitive bias where we filter out and only choose to see the things we’re interested in.¬† It’s drawn from our preferences and past experiences.¬† This makes sense, because if we didn’t have any filters, we’d be totally overloaded with external stimuli.

Think of horoscopes. Chances are, when you read them, they seem like they are describing you, right?¬† Mine does!¬† I bet if I was to take another sign and show it to you again, you’d find facts that describe you too. ūüôā

So how can you use selective bias to your advantage?

For starters, be aware of that you’re probably going to be preaching to the choir. ¬†Studies have shown that people who already buy a particular brand are more likely than non-purchasers to notice and have a positive reaction to advertising for that brand. ¬†This is important to note when doing market research too. ¬†The¬†Rosser Reeves Fallacy¬†shows that, when evaluating the effectiveness of an advertising campaign, it was actually that purchasers of a brand were more aware of the ads, rather than awareness of the ads causing people to be more likely to buy that brand.

Messages that fit with what a person already “knows” about a brand / product can be very effective. ¬†Their beliefs amplify the effect of your message so that it has a stronger effect. ¬† Of course, you need to make sure that you have done your research into what people really think about your products, since your assumptions of what their views are may be off base.

It generally isn’t a good idea to work against people’s ingrained biases unless ¬†it’s deemed¬†necessary¬†to try to reposition a product or brand. ¬† One analogy would be attempting to swim against a very strong current. ¬†¬†You’ll need to put in extra effort, and changes in their opinions may take a very very long time. ¬† The further your message is from their existing beliefs, the more likely it is to cause cognitive dissonance, which will likely be resolved by dismissing your message.

Still interested in how to change existing beliefs and behaviour? ¬†I’m separately working on posts on how to change behaviour, and what it takes for lasting change.¬† Since those will take longer, this one first. ūüôā


Posted in Evolutionary psychology, Experiences, Psychology | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

On procrastination

I’ve been procrastinating.

This of course explains why my posting frequency has been so light.¬† I told myself I wasn’t posting till I finished something else first, the end result being neither thing got done for well — kind of a long time.

But I don’t believe people procrastinate from laziness.¬† Here are the real reasons I think people procrastinate:

  • Fear.¬† An uber driver.¬† Whether this is fear that the task at hand cannot be accomplished, or fear that the task is simply too daunting, fear is there.¬† I worked on a project with someone once who kept pushing back deadlines till one day we realized the delay was because he actually wasn’t able to do the project.
  • Adrenaline rush.¬† Think about the sensation you have just before you give a presentation or a talk.¬† Waiting till the 11th hour creates that sensation.
  • Immediate rewards. ¬†Procrastinating gives us immediate rewards such as watching a favorite TV show. ¬†On the other hand, studies have shown that we often tend to discount the value of rewards and consequences that happen in the future.
  • Perfectionist tendencies.¬† This links back to fear.¬† The desire to do things right means that you don’t start until you figure out how to do it perfectly.¬† Is this a chicken or the egg scenario though?
  • ADD.¬† Technology has given us so many potential distractions. ¬†Since 1978, the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as chronic procrastinators has increased from 5% to 26%, and temptation has been identified as the biggest contributor to procrastination.¬†These days, I hardly go more than a few minutes without checking something else.¬† In fact, I stopped to close 4 browser windows while writing this section.¬† Oi.

For some people, procrastinating is a badge of honour. ¬† For others, procrastinating is…kinda stressful.¬† For the latter group, how is it possible to minimize procrastination?

  • Don’t do anything else.¬† If you’ve got an alternative that feels even remotely productive, it’ll give you the excuse to further put things off. ¬†Remove as many potential distractions as you can.
  • Pick small goals.¬† What’s easy thing you can do?¬† Once you’re in the zone, it’s easier to continue than to just get started.¬† Overcoming inertia is the hardest thing to do, after which things just flow.
  • Define your tasks in concrete terms. ¬†Researchers have found that when people think about tasks in concrete terms such as “writing a page of comments” they are significantly more likely to complete the task by a deadline than if they thought about it in abstract terms such as “contributing to the scientific feedback process”. ¬†In fact, up to 56% of the participants in the abstract group failed to complete their task at all.

So there.  Enough procrastinating already.  Up goes this post!

Posted in My life lessons, Psychology | Tagged | 2 Comments

On branding a commodity

I’ve been eating a lot of Cuties.

Yep that’s right.¬† Some orange coalition out there successfully persuaded me to seek out a sack of clementines by brand name.

How on earth did that happen?¬† They’re frickin’¬†clementines!¬† A nice feat indeed.

I started thinking about what other commodity products have brand names, and I realize there are actually a bunch.

Here, let me remind you of a few –

So how do you take a commoditized product and make it a brand?¬† Here are a few things –

  • Have some form of consistency.¬† Cuties has this one down pat.¬† A week after I bought my sack of Cuties, I went to a farmers market and bought a bag of clementines. It was then that I learned — not all clementines are created equal.¬† Not only did I have malformed triangle shaped clementines, some of them had seeds in them.¬† Blasphemy!¬† Branding is about the expectation of consistency and a certain amount of quality.¬† Cuties are about as homogeneous as they come.
  • A story. You and I know the tagline.¬† “Diamonds are forever.”¬† Somehow, this holding company sold you a story whereby millions of fools each year hawk over some large chunk of change for a not nearly proportionate small chunk of non-rare carbon.¬†¬† Or Kobe beef with the cows that are massaged and provided with classical music.
  • Loads and loads of visibility.¬† Gas stations have this one covered.¬† As do certain “brands” of fruits and vegetables in grocery stores.¬† When’s the last time you remember some other brand of bananas or oranges than Chiquita or Cuties at your local Safeway?¬† That’s distribution lockdown right there.
  • Be part of some collective.¬† Typically many of these products are part of a collective so that there’s more negotiating power and a marketing budget.¬† Vidalia Onions are offered as a loss leader in some supermarkets in exchange for muchos visibility.
  • Trademark protection + Regional lockdown.¬† Champagne?¬† Port?¬† Parma Ham?¬† These are all regional products that have name protection lockdown and a good story to make it worthwhile. ¬†As well, the geographical restrictions serve to limit supply and keep prices at a premium.

And with that, it’s time to figure out what product I can commoditize. ūüôā

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