Topic: Book Club

Ries: Devil's Little Divergence Advocate

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
Al and Laura present a strong case on divergence vs. convergence thinking and focus us on why we should be thinking MORE brands (that do less) vs. LESS brands that do more.

They point out that 'convenience' is a key factor that favors convergence products but that's pretty much all convergence has going for it. And, for it to be a true convergence product, it needs to replace all other products (so a camera phone wouldn't necessarily be a convergence product since most people have a digital camera, too).

But playing devil's advocate in a convergence-crazed world, do you marketers agree that convenience is the only benefit in convergence's corner? How about price? Or fewer products to clutter our homes, offices and lives? Do you folks agree that convergence just isn't what it's cracked up to be...and that all these corporations have been myopic? Do tell!

Moderator Note: This discussion refers to the book The Origin of Brands by Al and Laura Ries (topic: branding). Click the title to learn more. Then join the conversation. We'd LOVE for you to participate!
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  • Posted on Accepted
    I think some companies can profit from convergence, but it probably won't be a long-lasting ride. One example the book gives is Polaroid, where they've been diverged out of business.

    But they had a long and profitable run. And it may have been their own inertia and short-sightedness -- and maybe some arrogance, too -- that kept them from seeing the future and adapting.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Convergence is a trend. Its long-term success varies by the categories involved. Some will be pure novel (sunglass-mp3 player) and others can be useful (phone, PDA, other features).

    Convenience is always a great factor. But additional motivators in purchasing include: fashion (ex: the exotic brown that phone has), the prestige (of owning your first Treo or Blackberry...I'm so important now), and of course the price! (That's not too bad...I just got a credit increase).

    I personally don't like to buy into the convergence trend because futurists and their techno gadgets get on my nerves, not to mention all those late night infomercials promising simplicity with an all-in-one product.
  • Posted on Member
    Point-taken. Let me say 'trend' then as an ongoing phenomena, rather than perhaps perceived as a 'fad'.

    Convergence for sustainable reasons is a noble cause indeed, not just for environmental reasons but for manufacturing excellence as well.
  • Posted on Author
    Jackie & Mario: I so love it how the discussion threads take different twists and turns. Some of the best divergent products are "green". I completely see Jackie's point in preserving the planet but also want to point out how everyday products...take how disposable placemats have diverged into corn-based, 100% decomposable placemats. Or cell-phones, like in the U.K, that have many features (convergence) but have diverged to use build a category of less harmful materials and even, when disposed of, have nutrients that can help the soil (as many people lose their cellphones...these happen to enable sunflowers to grow).

    While "green" is socially responsible and is divergent thinking when it comes to new products.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Speaking of the "devil", Apple's :30 TV spot, "1984" (which ran once in the SuperBowl over 20 years ago) has created a firestorm of debate with its use in - not one but two - 2008 presidential candidate branding campaigns

    Ridley Scott directed it, who also directed sci-fi author Philip Dick's "Blade Runner" novel/film, set in the year 2014, which focuses on "Replicants".

    Defined/borrowed roughly from Wikipedia, a "Replicant" is a term for a robot genetically designed to be virtually identical to human beings, but have superior strength, agility, and variable intelligence, but lack of emotional responses and empathy.

    While certainly centered in the political arena, it seems to be a useful tool by two opposing brands to focus on the dangers of Replicant-like convergence/divergence.

    Ironically, the same content is used by two competing brands to make the same point about "Replicants". Go figure.

    Notwithstanding the copyright issues, is the resurrection of "1984" an example of the twisted misuse of convergence or divergence ... or neither?

  • Posted on Accepted
    Convergence conjures that image in my mind of "they don't make them like they used to." In other words, I rarely have found a convergent product that I thought lived up to any other single component product that I have had. Once the novelty wears off, the products usually become useless. I would rather have a high quality camera or cell phone or organizer than something that does it all not as well.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the Marketing Profs Book Club review of our book The Origin of Brands which I co-wrote with my daughter/partner Laura Ries.

    And an extra special thanks to CK for all her hard work and dedication to the improvement of marketing minds everywhere.

    For more branding information and debates check out

    Laura's blog at:

    and CK's at:

    - Al Ries

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