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If you are a great marketeer but you want to be seminal, read on. If you are a pragmatic visionary, keep reading, if you are a care taker marketer then honestly don’t bother. If you are a pragmatic visionary without an organization committed to longterm change, then read it when you are in a new organisation, I’d rather save your time. This article will give you the simple step by step framework to create break through categories that provide sustainable advantage – very simply it’s about the power of reconciling opposite end benefits in a category to create a new one. Reconciling opposite end benefits (like Apple did, see below) is very, very hard to achieve and that’s what makes it sustainable. A lot of people talk about the concept but they don’t illustrate a) why its useful or b) a systematic way to achieve it. Karen Walker is a big believer in the power of opposites; she quite rightly knows that trends go in cycles so the ‘next new thing’ is usually the opposite of what came before. But this article isn’t about fashion’s fads, it’s about making money by creating lasting change through using a new oxymoron. So for example having had about ten years of minimalism – new London restaurants are embracing opulence, out with white and Asian simplicity in with gold and black. (For example, Places like The Wolseley in Piccadilly.) This example is just about a change of style, the very opposite of whats required to create longterm change. Examples that illustrate category break through New Zealand is extraordinary at coming up with ingenious new ideas for niche concepts but there is no example whatsoever of creating a new oxymoron for a new category consciously, opportunity knocks and that’s why we are writing this article. The closest example would be New Zealand wine with its down to earth sophistication but that was an accident and arguably owned as much by Australia as New Zealand, no brand consciously set out to establish the wine category using this oxymoron. Although it’s old, ‘Apple’ is one of the easiest example to illustrate the concept. Before Apple in the 80’s – computers were seen as the domain of geeks, they were black boxes that were hard to use. In fact the whole category of electronic goods was dominated by the following key dynamics: High Tech/ High Quality & Boring = Difficult to use for non IT specialists Low Tech/Low Quality & More Interesting = Easy to use for non IT specialists but no good!
The result was that people thought of ‘good computers’ being mainframes or you had to use code which hardly anyone could use. So what’s the Oxymoron here – the opposite of what the computer category offered in the early 80’s? It’s simple to say – I want an interesting, high tech/high quality computer. Now we all know that Apple isn’t as big today as in its heyday but it is still owns and continues to own the idea of a quality computer with a difference. It still owns the category it established. Sounds really easy to say now but I’d like to give you some idea of how shocking that would appear at the time by translating that into some modern day examples. I want weight loss by eating super indulgent desserts. I want cigarettes that help clear out my lungs. I want a car that actively improves the environment. I want a customized holiday without any effort doing the research myself. Getting the picture? Malcolm Evans is a leading global semiotician who is employed to find the oxymoron (see below) – he runs a unique company which consults globally for Coca-Cola, Levis Unilever and many others who search out the Holy Grail oxymoron. We’re lucky enough to have worked with him on several occasions, the trick lies in finding the most powerful oxymoron that is relevant for the customer and believe me when I say this is very hard to do. The Steps Step 1 – Generate some core end benefits of a category What are the core end benefits of your category? Now this sounds really easy doesn’t it? We did this exercise for the brand think tank for a large trans Tasman bank who shall remain nameless. They collectively had been in the industry for about 400 years. Guess what, they didn’t know what their core category end benefits were. They had never thought about it and none of their millions spent on research could answer the question for them. So some examples of core end benefits would be for drinks, refreshment and for Palm Pilots portable organization. Step 2 – Focus on the end benefits that are the most extreme and yet generic Let me give you an example of this. Timotei shampoo (a little known brand in New Zealand but it was huge in Europe/US) started off the whole trend of reconciling the idea of high tech science with nature in the shampoo category in the early 90’s. It is the reason why Pantene was developed by P&G and a whole
host of new entrants like Fructis. They were all kicked off by the market situation in shampoo prior to Timotei, which went something like this: Natural Shampoo = Natural & Gentle - Natural shampoo is gentle on your hair but doesn’t clean it effectively Chemical Shampoo = Chemical & Effective - Chemical shampoo is effective on your hair but damages it New Timotei Oxymoron = Natural Effectiveness – Potent natural shampoo which works gently and effectively Timotei however didn’t continue to revitalize its products (particularly its product ingredients) and so it lost ground, it couldn’t hold onto the category it had created. As the anonymous saying goes, ‘Common sense isn’t common.’ Step 3 – What fundamental change to the product would be required to make this happen? In the case of Timotei they used nature’s ‘extracts’ to give a sense of potency and create a multi million dollar brand. But the point is to find out if the ideal oxymoron is hard to do or physically impossible. For example cigarettes using tobacco which clean my lungs are (to my knowledge) a physical impossibility, so the idea is flawed. However you can ask yourself to approach the product construction from another angle. What other ingredients or service elements could be put together to give the same result? If the idea is hard, not impossible, like customized package holidays, then you are onto something – but the central guiding thought needs to be opposites an oxymoron. Step 4 – Develop some brand directions Once you’ve created new brand space – you’ve got to own it permanently. You’ve got to implicitly create a brand which reconciles these opposites – for example Rexona (made by Unilever) being a mega brand does this well – it’s about safe efficacy and it defines this for the category – but the brand does not say this directly. Contrast this to Lynx which is a second entrant from Unilever, its brand essence is about attraction, Lynx can never recreate the category as it stands because it hasn’t created a new oxymoron, its just a very successful niche brand. Step 5 – Test your brand directions and ensure they own the core category space Step 4&5 are intertwined and they are crucial for longevity – BA tried to own the airline category’s core benefits of personal, anonymous service in the mid to late 90’s. Guess what? They didn’t have the organizational commitment to sustain it;
furthermore they relied on ads vs product/service investment to pull it off. The central oxymoron in the airline category is up for grabs – nobody really owns it, there is no mega brand in airlines – just many successful ones competing for the same market space. Marketing is so easy to talk about and so hard to do, that’s why the best marketers are pragmatic visionaries but the truly seminal ones are oxymoron builders. Come on New Zealand let’s make our first oxymoron. Jake Pearce – firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.jakepearce.com
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