Man who sold record labels launches a fancy airline.
That’s Richard Branson for you! The man who took a leap from an industry he dominated to an industry where he started a virgin, purely on the basis of two things: instinct and experience. Not industry experience, mind you.
The problem with facing a challenge is not experience but ignorance. Ignoring the right questions and thinking upstream often pulls back people and brands from trying new things and exploring new ideas. When you want to establish a new brand or if you want to enter a different category it’s often thought that along with vision, prior experience would be necessary, but many people and brands proved otherwise. Category experience will certainly help in foresight and will relatively make our decision-making process easier, but it may also hinder lateral thinking and confine our ideas to that industry or category.
Jeff Bezos was a hedge fund manager before starting Amazon and Richard Reed worked as an account manager at an advertising agency before starting Innocent Drinks with two of his fellow Cambridge graduates. They were not just successful in making a mark, but also in making a difference in their respective industries as we knew them.
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We usually interpret groundbreaking as ideas that have not been executed before but it’s not entirely true. Groundbreaking ideas can be those which are packaged and presented differently as compared to how they were treated before. When people or brands with experience in different categories pursued a new domain, they changed the status quo by doing things differently. Moreover, the end users chose brands according to their preference and beliefs. If a transport service treats them the way a neighborhood restaurant does, they will prefer their services over others.
By imagining products and services differently than the established brands, new brands can create their own space in the market; and to do that one need not be from the same category and the so-called category experience doesn’t have much role to play. There will be situations where experience will matter the most but when we understand how users consume products or services of the category, we can bring freshness and innovation to the fore and reinvent the category. In our experience in branding we have seen, read and experienced many ambitious people and brands that challenged market leaders and unfortunately many succumbed to the pressure of category standards or archaic stereotypes.
With a long-term vision and a strategy-driven business plan brands can defy standards and offer products and services that resonate well with those who matter most – the consumers. By failing to invest in new ideas and innovation in set categories, established brands tend to make the category mundane and open doors to fresh brands. To conclude, we should always ask the question whether we should disrupt the core of the category or develop the product or service to the point it hasn’t reached yet. To further conclude, after years of Coca Cola calling itself the official drink, Pepsi came in and said, ‘nothing official about it.’ A game is best enjoyed when it’s played with the intention of changing it, and only a fresh new perspective can achieve that.