Brand Philosophy Differentiation Innovation Strategy

Crazy. Inspired. Bold. Successful.

April 15th, 2013

Here’s one plan… innovate a dynamic, new service or product; one that can change staid perspectives or whole industries… and then place it in the hands of people who only know and understand how to do what has always been done… and you will get bored and lackluster results.courage

Here’s another plan… innovate a dynamic, new service or product; one that can change staid perspectives or whole industries… and then entrust it to a team that will explore the limits, play at the boundaries, and harness the unique competencies that will actually disrupt business as usual creating new possibilities and offering a completely new experience.

In other words…“Stand out.” “Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses” (Robert Greene. The 48 Laws of Power). Ease the resistance, command attention, and never forget that everything is judged by appearance…so keep it real and dream big. When the stakes are high, timidity is risky business.

Everybody buys a vacuum cleaner at one time or another. And then they buy bags and more bags and more bags for the rest of their lives. The bag industry is a $500M business… why would anyone interfere with the magic of the razor/razor blade, keep’em coming back for more, classic approach to revenue generation? So it should be no surprise that when James Dyson invented a bag-less vacuum cleaner in the late 70’s, the big manufacturers didn’t get turned on, but rather turned him and his design away. Dyson and his crazy, inspired and bold innovation threatened to destroy dependable revenue streams. Today Dyson is a $10B success and much bigger than the bag industry that James Dyson threatened.

Crazy. Inspired. Bold. Successful.

And speaking of interfering with the tried and true, bored and lifeless approach to the razor/razor blade loyalties… Once upon a time Mark Levine had about 250,000 twin razors that he wanted to unload. Michael Dubin was an improv comedian that just so happened to create promotional online videos. A chance meeting at a party led to the idea that they could “be the easiest place for guys to get the things they need every day”. In 2011 the two men launched the Dollar Shave Club. Pick a quality razor, pay one low monthly fee, and wait for the shipment to arrive. Never overpay or forget to buy blades again. Oh, yeah…for as little as two bucks a month.

Crazy. Inspired. Bold. Successful.

First, they were crazy. Sweepers pay twice as much for a “cyclone” vacuum cleaner in outrageous colors, designed around “ball technology” that redistributes the center of gravity for easier maneuverability, using a filter rather than a bag. Men (and women) love the mindless, thoughtful, inexpensive, cheeky and “no pressure” approach that the Dollar Shave Club delivers. Two great ideas turned break-a-way successes all because the founders turned an audacious opportunity into an entrepreneurial reality that met needs with a bold twist and a lot of heart.

Second, they were inspired. The inventors, the backers, the founders, the employees… and the market all wanted more. The Dyson vacuum worked for people that didn’t expect to suction bowling balls but did have the need to finagle, swivel, and groove along smoothly in pursuit of tucked away dust bunnies. As it turns out wanting more or less was exactly what a large market segment had been hoping for all along in each category. People have been gravitating to products and brands that mine deep and go big in lieu of what has always been available time and time again. So… why isn’t dull the outlier?

Third, they were bold. They broke the rules, invented new ones and disrupted the markets in grand style. These are the visionaries that fearlessly parted from the herd and refused to be homogenized. They were different; they created value in a style that was all their own. They were the masters of their own experience and hence, the experience of others, driving customer loyalty unlike any advertising scheme or shallow gimmick. These fearless and humanized brands look good because they are good.

And then they became successful!  These geniuses created new categories because they were just crazy enough to do what they imagined (and validated) despite the disbelievers. They were inspired enough by the possibilities and willing to act bold rather than mute their offering to a bland brand of same ‘ole. Success came because they did something different and weren’t persuaded by those that see through the lens of what can’t be done.

We all want to be a part of the crazy, inspired, bold successes. Go do the thing that makes you feel alive, before some coward talks you out of it or someone crazy does it before you!

Afterthought… This Crazy. Inspired. Bold. bit is actually the result of a collaborative effort that I wrangled with my faithful and madcap colleague, Charlie D’Estries (@CharlieDestries). We included this piece in a brand proposal that we co-wrote in the hopes of securing a project that riveted and intrigued us. We did our research, laid out a smart plan, reduced the price to advantage our odd, and were anything but Successful. The only feedback that we received in response to our Crazy. Inspired. Bold. proposal was a brief email that began in the tone of “WTH?” and ended with something about just needing a logo.

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