Otto Rohwedder thought he had invented the greatest thing because he invented sliced bread. He thought that if he got a patent on sliced bread, he will be rich. What Otto forgot was to ask a very important two-word question:
Who cares? No one knew about sliced bread. No one cared. It wasn’t until Wonder Bread came around and marketed it that sliced bread took off. It wasn’t the bread that won, it was the packaging and distribution.
Ideas that spread, win. What we have been living through is the greatest culture of spreading ideas that there’s ever been. At one level, that’s great because it’s easier to spread your ideas than ever before. At another, it’s harder because we keep raising the bar.
One of the biggest tools in this is television. I’m not just talking about the box, but television thinking. Ads on the radio, ads on the billboards, ads everywhere you go. The important thing is paying attention. Attention is a valuable thing. They want you to pay them your attention. And what do you get? Absolutely nothing. The media companies get everything. There’s the military-industrial complex. I like to talk about the TV-industrial complex. Buying ads gets you more distribution, sells more products, makes you more of a profit with which you can buy more ads.
What you do for a living, people, is you spam people. You wait until you get someone when they are really enjoying themselves, and you interrupt them with TV ads. We spam people for a living. I don’t want to even talk about how unsolicited email brings brand rage, not brand equity.
That bus is gone. It’s not my idea. It’s not what I wanted to happen, but it’s true. If everything is good enough, consumers are going to just pick the close one and the cheap one. What you need to do is not be close and cheap. Close and cheap is not what they paid for. Your boss hired you so you can be the only pumpkin in the pumpkin patch.
The world revolves around me. Me, me, me. My favorite person: Me. I don’t want email from you. I don’t want junk mail from you. I want me-mail.
So I’m driving through Polokwane with the family. And for the last 2 and a half hours, there’s been nothing but noise of the kids playing in the back seat. Suddenly, it’s quiet. My kids are transfixed, looking out the window at these beautiful cows. Then it’s noise again. Because cows are boring. If you have seen one cow, you have seen them all. But what if one of the cows were purple?
Purple cows are remarkable. At least for awhile. Remarkable means two things. One, it means cool, neat. Two, it means worth making a remark about. If you make stuff that’s worth making a remark about, you are 99% of the way there.
The first time you saw a Hummer, your jaw dropped. How could someone be driving that? The first time you saw a Mini, your jaw dropped. How could someone be driving that? See my tekkies (sneakers)? They are made by Nike. They weigh nothing. They are sold in Japan. In vending machines. Rolled up like a tennis ball. They are remarkable. They are also fashionable.
What you need to understand is that you are in the fashion business. Things go in and out of fashion. Accounting standards go in and out of fashion. Fashion is about things that come and go because people talk about it. The Aeron chair from Herman Miller is a perfect example. They changed a chair to a fashion statement for white-collar executives.
This is the standard adoption curve. Your boss may want you to go the juicy middle, the early and late majority. The problem is that these people are professional. They are professional at ignoring you. What you need to do is sell to the geeks and the nerds, innovators and early adopters, and give them a way to make remarks about you.
Don’t be boring. If you don’t have some people who don’t like what you are doing, you are not remarkable. You need to have the right audience to spread the word.
If you think you are being risky, you are doing the safest thing you can. If you are playing it safe, you are taking a big risk.