Topic: Book Club

Ries: Can Convergence=better?

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
First, I loved how in The Origin of Brands, Al and Laura added history to make their topic more interesting. Al and Jack Trout used historic battles to punch up Marketing Warfare, and it's one of my favorite business books ever, mainly for that reason.

Now having said that, something that the authors said concerning the pencil struck me. On page 85, they say "After all, the eraser did combine with the pencil. Did this combination result in a better pencil? No. A better eraser? No. But the combination was convenient."

And I would argue that many of us see that convenience as being a sign of a better product. We could have the best pencil in the world, but if it doesn't have an eraser when we make a mistake, the dime pencil that DOES is a far SUPERIOR product. Because it does a better job of satisfying our need at that time.

I think the author's main point that convergence for convergence's sake doesn't work is exactly right, and I agree that on the average, divergence works better. But I also think there are cases where convergence, especially if it leads to convenience, can result in a 'better' product, at least in the mind of the customer.

What do you think?

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!
To continue reading this question and the solution, sign up ... it's free!


  • Posted on Accepted
    Mack, I think that in the case of multiple features (as that's how the customer sees the camera phone or the tricked-out car) that they do see "more as more." While the pencil is a hard one to argue since I just don't envision pencils without erasers, I can say that while I have a camera phone if I want to take a better picture I definitely use my digi camera. I've only taken pics with my cellphone when I've either forgotten my digital camera or the first 30 minutes I had the camera phone (because it was novel ;-).

    And when I was shopping for printers I had the choice of going with an all-in-one but found the quality to be lower than the singular printer (which actually cost more than the converged product). So while multiple features is appealing and may be seen as 'better', the actual quality of singular products is higher.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Convergence can be great when it does provide convenience ... but it can also provide unexpected benefits. This is particularly the case when a convergent product either creates a new market or anticipates an emerging social need.

    But if we apply Nussbaum's design democracy (per David Armano's recent post) to a convergent product, then the convergent product may well be about constructing new modes of interaction and human behaviour. This may be why, as marketers, we are drawn to novel devices/products such as the iPhone. Not because of the device, but because of what it says about the emerging social milieu.
  • Posted by lrmarroquin on Accepted
    Hi everyone, indeed convergence is a way to add value to products and that does not compromise the sense that in the long run divergence rules. The point of the authors works very well, but it needs to be framed in what matters in the short and in the long run.

    A pencil with an eraser is very convenient, but in a struggle of use, who do you think will survive, pencil+eraser pack, or pencil and eraser in the "diverged" version?

    Let me recall school times where we used to complete tests using a pencil, didn´t you bring eraser and pencil as separate items? I did, because when I forgot it was so frustrating to rely on the little eraser on the top of the pencil, isn´t it ? it was worse that the eraser on the top of pencils usually are lower quality than separate ones and when you used it left ugly and dirty marks on the paper :( !

    That example can help us understand that even a "convergence" product might work in the short run we are prone to use/rely on divergence items, they work much better!

    as better prices, quality, information, selection, service and entertainment do.
  • Posted on Accepted
    The pencil/eraser, the clock radio, the Swiss Army knife, the all-in-one printer/fax/scanner and other products are examples of "convergence" products which are successful because they are convenient. But in the overall scheme of things these are all relatively minor products compared to divergence products as laptop computers, cellphones, plasma TVs, etc. Furthermore, most convergence categories generate very few powerful worldwide brands. Compare convergence categories with divergence categories which have generated such brands as iPod, Nokia, Starbucks, PlayStation, Lexus, Red Bull and dozens of other brands. If you want to build a brand, think "divergence."
  • Posted on Accepted
    "..convergence, especially if it leads to convenience, can result in a 'better' product, at least in the mind of the customer."

    I agree in basic principle IF the products are complementary, and the new product is targeted for a unique audience.
  • Posted on Member
    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

Post a Comment