Oct 30, 2009

DowJones Acknowledges Innovation Sells

DowJones bloggers John Shipman and Paul Vigna outline in a recent news piece on consumer marketplace trends what they consider breaking news: consumer spending isn’t dead, it’s just becoming more selective (“Consumers Do Spend on innovative Goods”, WSJ, Oct. 27, 2009). My deepest hope is that today’s marketers recognize both the truth and the folly of their view.

First the truth. Consumers do indeed discriminate between alternatives that are made available to them, and they do indeed lean towards solutions that stand apart in providing the best outcome to their personal needs and preferences.

But here’s the folly: they always have. It’s just that we are coming out of a dark age of corporate strategy that has been surreally and myopically focused on low cost, low price, scaled-driven competition. Unfortunately, this has also meant a dearth of undifferentiated offerings. And too often the most “me too” has been coming from leading legacy brands. It’s always led to the same: when all else looks essentially the same, more and more consumers make their choice decision on price. Even highly discriminating ones.

Nonetheless, if Shipman and Vigna’s article is meant to herald a return to the lost wisdom of Drucker, Kottler, Stern, and others then bring it on. A new era of market(ing)-led growth strategy is indeed dawning, and a new generation of business leaders is abandoning yesterday’s spreadsheet crutch and fantastical pro formas to dig in to the hard work of differentiation.

It can’t happen fast enough.

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