I heard once that there are three types of companies: rule makers, rule followers, and rule breakers. It’s easy for rule makers and rule followers to get complacent, particularly in industries that have been around for a while.
As marketers, we often focus so closely on our direct competition, we can miss the big picture. I had a manager once who described looking at market share graph lines week after week as watching “worm races”. One week, our brand was up. The next week, our direct competitor was up. By obsessing over the worm races, he told us, we would miss what was really important to the consumer. We would move in lock step with our competitors and miss larger market shifts. We would get stuck in the status quo.
The status quo creates real opportunities for rule breakers and brand challengers. I learned from my time at the method brand that mature categories start to accept rules of the category as infallible that may not be true (like the “rule” that packaging design doesn’t matter in home cleaning products). It’s up to the challenger to break those rules.
This is what Chobani did in yogurt, coming from nowhere in 2005 to hit $1billion in sales last year. Their founder Hamdi Ulukaya described their founding approach, saying “We came from the angle that this is a boring category that we will change”.
In most markets today, the pace of change is so fast that we all have to think like brand challengers even when we’re the brand leader. We all have to question, and be wiling to break, the rules. If you want to remain number one, you have to think like number two.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)