If you sell the same products or services at the same price, in the same way as everyone else, you will be marginalized by the marketplace.
What does this mean for you and your organization? It means business is tough and acquiring customers is an expensive process.
When there's nothing to compel the market to come to you, action needs to be taken, but most businesses are content to stay put. You have to distinguish your product, service or firm in ways that make you unlike anyone else. Do that and you will stand out and distance yourself from the world of commoditized companies.
There are countless ways to do it. One is to change the game.
Changing the game means challenging expectations. When something isn't where it should be, when something is hotter than it should be, when something is bigger than it should be, when something is safer than it should be, the market notices. It sticks out and demands attention.
GM changed the game by producing the Hummer, the largest vehicle that could be driven on city streets, a topic discussed in a recent column. And while many are now quick to discredit the vehicle, it did quite well in its early days. But Hummer is only one example of many that continue to change the game.
• Cranium changed the game because it could only be bought at Starbucks.
• Voodoo Doughnut changed the game because of its bizarre promotional concepts.
• Domino's Pizza changed the game because of its guarantee.
• Costco changed the game because of its large-quantity packaging.
• Howard Stern changed the game because he was so offensive.
• Vitaminwater changed the game because it added value to a basic product.
What all of them have in common is that they went against a particular status quo by challenging expectations. They acted in the face of marketing cowardice and took a risk by doing something completely different.
We can now add one more to the illustrious list of strategic risk takers: Chunky's.
The spiciest burger in the world
Chunky's, a restaurant based in San Antonio, Tex., made headlines worldwide with its burger, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It's not only a spicy burger, it claims to be the spiciest burger ever made. It contains four of the hottest items on the planet: Serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, Chunky's signature habanero pepper sauce, and the infamous bhut jolokia. The burger is so spicy you are required to sign a waiver before you can even touch it. Some people are so worried about the juices from the peppers they request gloves before they eat it.
To pull people in, Chunky's put out a challenge to try to eat the burger in under 25 minutes and go five minutes after that without liquid. The prize for completing the challenge? A photo on the wall of Chunky's and the burger is free. Sounds like a fair deal for a self-induced overdose on capsaicin.
Chunky's wasn't content with making a really hot burger. If this was the goal, the restaurant would have been just another burger joint with no compelling impetus to make it stand out. Instead, Chunky's changed the game by putting together the hottest burger it could possibly make. It enjoys a steady line of customers, it received lots of free promotion and stories told around the globe.
Why change the game?
The marketplace seldom remarks on average products and services. If no one talks about them, they won't spread fast enough or far enough to grow a business. Products and services that change the game stand out, they spread, and people talk about them.
Customers from Germany and Italy flew to San Antonio to accept Chunky's challenge. Stories about people eating the burger spread through blogs, YouTube and on television. As a result of these stories, people were drawn to Chunky's.
How can I change the game?
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. Instead you must engage in creative problem solving to discover unique ideas. You must act in spite of that feeling we call marketing cowardice. And you must be willing to challenge the status quo within your market. If you can do that, you will be leaps ahead of achieving a competitive advantage.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who believes many organizations are wasting their money on ineffective marketing tactics, many professionals and students feel lost because their actions don't translate into positive results, and all three groups are too comfortable blending in and following the status quo. He is driven by the desire to refocus their efforts on what needs to be done to resurrect the impact of marketing.