The dangers of categorical denial

Some things are too big to fight. If you’re planning to redefine a whole category for example, then, unless you’re already a market leader, plan on a big outlay and a long runway. You’re literally battling the millions others have already invested to define what it is, what it means, who it’s for, where it’s found, who the key brands are, what the products generally cost and so much more.

If your competitive advantage is predicated on breaking one of those fundamentals, be very aware of the fight you’re buying:

  • You’re battling the pigeonhole that your supply chain will want to put you in;
  • You’re fighting the expectation that your customers automatically have of you;
  • You’re asking for the competition to diss you as unimportant or uninformed; and
  • If you somehow beat all that, and manage to get established, you just pressed the GO button for a whole bunch of imitators to copy your IP and innovation

Here’s the irony. If you’re going to enter/change a category, you must provide the market with enough for them to recognise, but at the same time, you must clearly differentiate your product.

The innovation question is not what are you looking to be, what are you going to invent or even what are you looking to change? It’s – what will your prospects recognise as needing to change, will they welcome that change fast enough and in sufficient quantities, and how much change will you need to generate internally (in terms of systems, skills, offerings and mindsets) to make that happen?

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