Topic: Book Club

Al & Laura Need Your Insight! Help Divergence.

Posted by Anonymous on 1000 Points
Oops! Trying to be helpful, I edited Laura's question. Then meaning to SAVE, I diverged a bit, and hit the DELETE button instead. Iyiyiyiyi!

This "question" is a placeholder, so we can regroup the replies in our database for this discussion. Unfortunately, Laura's original question is gone. But you can see a rough synopsis below. My apologies!

Your humble (klutzy) moderator,


SYNOPSIS OF ORIGINAL QUESTION: Convergence is getting all the press, yet divergence is the key to success. Did our book change your mind? If so, do you have any thoughts on getting the media to pay more attention to it?

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
    Well, while divergence has always offered the opportunity, it's not perceived as such. Convergence is. And marketing is about minds. Yes, I learned all these nuggets from you two :-). But perception is reality and changing minds and behaviors is the hardest thing in marketing (if not in life). I learned that one all on my own.

    So in this case Divergence needs to make Convergence the enemy. The "Big Bad" as they so aptly call it on Buffy (a visionary TV show that, mind you, was also ignored by the public and press). As it stands now, convergence stories are sexy. "All in one, baby!" "Cutting edge" "The future...all rivers flow together." You get the point.

    So we need to make convergence dismal, dirty, ugly. If it's true (and I believe it is) that the majority of convergent brands fail and that companies put HUGE budget dollars behind hawking them then that means they're operating at a loss. What happens when that happens?

    Lay-offs. Lay-offs are sad, the public hates it when big co's lay-off workers and leave them penniless (and, many times, pension-less). What really sold press exposures on the Enron case? The pictures of the people who were hurt by the scandals; those who really suffered. The average Americans that went to their jobs day in, day out and had no say in the boardroom's decision to act irresponsibly.

    While convergence may not be a too is irresponsible. They're gambling it all on the latest/greatest converged product.

    So...if you were to make the case that Companies A/B/C/D didn't do their homework and took the irresponsible--and harmful--route that wound up in not just one round of huge layoffs, but many, many rounds, then it becomes a human story. And convergence becomes the enemy and cause of sorrow and grief (vs. sexy, cutting-edge).

    Worse still? Companies are still being irresponsible. Everyday. They're doing it right now. Gambling with people's jobs. Humans have an easy time ignoring products that fail because, well, products are plastic. But humans are our species and we don't like to see suffering...especially when it can be all but avoided.

    If you can link hard data on layoffs correlating to convergence over, say, 5-10 companies spanning back a decade to recent day it would make for a good "dirty little secret" story on a Dateline or 20/20 or 360.

    It just comes from the "human" angle. And makes convergence a lot less sexy--and highly irresponsible. That might be brainy or bonkers. Hope it helps.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I think it needs a new brand. Divergence sounds bad. Convergence sounds good. When things converge in business, that feels like the right direction. When things diverge, it sounds like separation, diversion, moving away...

    Know any good branding people who could come up with a better name? ;-)
  • Posted on Accepted
    Hi Laura and Al --

    I'm 99% sold on divergence. The way you've laid it out makes sense. My only problem, as you'll see from my discussion thread and from my blog post today is there are always exceptions to the rule.

    I don't know how you or your publisher went about trying to promote the divergence concept. Since you are believers in the power of public relations, I don't have to sell you.

    A problem is that this isn't a sexy business story with scandals and people going to jail. It's a story of business or marketing theory, which probably seems dull to many. Too academic.

    It would be interesting to see who the opponents of divergence are and what they're saying. Depending on what would be found, I would probably approach this by identifying some key business journalists and see if you can sit and talk with them. For some of the broadcast/cable business shows, you could propose a debate, of sorts, on convergence vs divergence. The fact that you have a book out on the subject gives you credibility and might provide the fodder for stories.

    It might pop as a story idea if you can tie it to timely news -- like when a big or popular brand shuts down, or announces layoffs because business is failing. That might give you the "news hook" to hang your story on.

    I'm happy to talk with you further offline. My contact info is in my MarketingProfs profile. (The meter won't be running -- I'm happy to help for the fun of it and as a favor to my friend and bookmistress CK.)
  • Posted on Author
    I agree divergence sounds scary, but it offers the best hope for future success. If more companies studied history they would understand that. TimeWarner-AOL bad. Google good.
  • Posted on Accepted
    That's so nice that David is offering free advice...he's worked with HUGE brands in media/etc. for many years and scored big wins. I'd take him up on it.

    And I highly suggest the "human" angle I offered above. Makes convergence less sexy.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I think it comes down to making specialization exotic again. It's more focused on the individuals/companies' needs and being more personal. Not trying to be everything to everybody. Be that Small Giant or be the Corp with focus on where they can be great.

    Let's promote that thinking in our communications with others.
  • Posted by Ann H. on Accepted
    Here's a thought: Try authoring some trade articles about the issue. Your line above: "Al and I have been frustrated by a simple fact: Convergence has gotten all the press, while divergence is happening all over the place"... is a great start to an article or series of articles. Running in, say, MarketingProfs.

    Getting the word out is the first step in settling the record straight, right?
  • Posted on Accepted
    Al and Laura: I think CK is onto something: language. Let's take a look:

    "All in one, baby!" -- On the brand side: maybe convenience. On the personal side: yes, we'd like to think one person satisfies all our needs... what is the reality?

    "Cutting edge" -- On the brand side: trite! What does it mean? I like being at the edge, but edge often means unproven, risky, different.

    "The future...all rivers flow together" -- Reality check: we never step into the same river twice. When all rivers flow together, we have flooding. Too much.

    So what's the answer? Divergence may not be the appropriate term. Divergent almost equals myopic (distant object appear blurred because the images are focused in front of the retina). Divergent also means to deviate -- and we can be devious, can't we?

    Let's take a look at the root. Lat. dis = apart; vergere = to bend. Same family as diverse.

    Convergence is more likable because we prefer to do things "with". Being on the verge of something may be good. And focus can be good. Maybe the answer is somewhere closer to ramification or branching out. Closer to nature in a positive fashion = new growth.
  • Posted on Accepted
    CK and Valeria have some good ideas re language. But I still think reporters will look at this as relatively dry marketing theory. Using the good ideas above, I think a key will be to time it to a news hook when we get one. Could be an announcement of major layoffs as a brand is suffering, or something else I'm just not thinking of at this moment. But that'll be the way to break through all the clutter with reporters, by tying it to something they want to or must cover.

    Doesn't mean you shouldn't try the traditional routes, including authoring think pieces in trade journals, as has been suggested above.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I agree with Doug that the word "convergence" sounds good and "divergence" doesn't. The problem is, what name should we have used? I can't think of an alternative.

    I also agree with David that it would be great to sit down and talk with journalists about the issue. We have offered to do so with a number of reporters and editors we have worked with in the past. No far no takers.

    We are keeping an ears and eyes open for a news hook that we can hang the story on. At this point in time that's probably our best strategy. We are closely watching the success or failure of PlayStation 3 which was designed to be a convergence device. This could be the news hook for the divergence story, especially since Nintendo seems to be cleaning Sony's clock.

  • Posted on Member
    I think in order to get the press talking about divergence, you need to get the companies talking about it first. And the companies won't talk about it until they believe its what the consumers want.

    I think Ann has a good idea about writing more articles. And if you can continue to blog about good examples of how divergence did, or would have worked better than convergence.

    And if Al could blog, that would be even better. If Al started a blog, that would be a story in itself, and would generate a lot of buzz. And if Al started blogging by making his case for why divergence trumps convergence, that would draw even more attention.

    I think CK was right, you need to paint convergence as being something bad. Right now it sounds great because it often provides the 'best of both worlds'. I think you need to make the point that convergence can provide convenience, but that in most cases, divergence works best.

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