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Dear CMO: First, a confession. When I wrote the memo on "Killing Giants, Part 1", I didn't actually have a "Part 2" in mind. I was just hoping that things would progress along and new thoughts would quickly come to mind. Thankfully, a few good questions - .... one spurring a 300-word response - .... shook a few new ones loose....


To be clear, this isn't a recitation of Michael Porter's three generic strategies from Competitive Strategy - .... these zen-like strategies apply broadly, as all marketing koans should; these are specific, tactical lessons either learned first-hand or, at worst, second. And they're up for debate, discussion, and addition.
Our first outing discussed aikido, thin ice, inconvenient truths, and the war of the flea. This note covers a few new ones. Here goes:
Killing Giants, Redux:
Lesson #5: Zag
Your competitor and your industry may decide that zigging is the new black. You can follow them and be another steer in the herd. Or, you can zag. Polarize your market. Be the un-cola, understand why being the un-cola works for you and for your market, and be very, very good at it. Simplifying the content delivery system (a CD, not a cartridge) in your Playstation. Move away from where everyone else is going and figure out how this works for you.
At most, you'll give yourself a clear point of differentiation from the giant in your business and provide your customers a clear choice. At very least, you should consider this is a strategic exercise that forces your team to question sacred cows and ask "why" one more time. I'm neck deep in this one right now and will possibly be giving readers a glimpse of this later .... - story developing.
Lesson #6: Show Your Teeth
If you win on a head to head basis, force a comparison. Show your teeth. Display your superiority like the Beach Master bull elephant seal you are on the beach of your particular industry. The Pepsi challenge. The Folgers taste test.
And be very sure and very careful, because if there's a shred of subjectivity in your face-off, that thing called "user generated content on the Web" will find you. Seen any spoofs on the Apple "I'm a Mac" ads? I thought so. Valeria Maltoni at Conversation Agent gives us a very cautionary tale with her post on Fiji Water, who foolishly called out Cleveland's public water system only to find that the City by the Flaming Lake had a higher quality product. Gulp.
If you're better, make sure everybody knows it. Tell your story in the same language in as many places as possible to as many people as need to hear your story. The homepage of your website, the spine of your PR strategy, the first and last thing your CEO says on Hardball, the first of the three "remember always to say" bullets on your retail channel training laminated pocket cards: everybody gets the same facts with the same proof points. Be horribly and boringly consistent with your messaging when you're better. You will become the itch that the giant can't scratch.
Lesson #7: Speed Kills
Speed kills the slow, at least. Your ability to move faster than the giants do is a lethal weapon. They have Roadmap Review Sub-Committee Task Forces. You launch products. The roadmap moves to the Roadmap Tiger Team. You launch version 2. They are slow. You are fast.
Have you ever done business in Japanese retail? Japanese competitors rev their product lines, on average, between three and four times a year. In the US, we do this once every 12 to 18 months. If you're a US company trying to enter Japan, this will make your head spin. This is why so many US companies fail in Japan, too.
Mass customization is another speed weapon. Can you offer the ability for your customers to personalize their product, service, or use? Find ways of meaningfully delivering this, while your giant plods ahead with a "one size fits whoever fits the one size" strategy.
* * *
Key Takeaways:
> Zag: polarize your market for a good reason.
> Show Your Teeth: force a comparison. If you're better, make sure everybody knows it. But make sure you're better before you go down this path.
> Speed Kills: you are smaller, faster, and hold less baggage than giants. Take advantage of your lighter weight.
* * *
Now, dear CMO, it's your turn .... is there a Killing Giants, Part 3? Any color commentary on the seven strategies? War stories from your own front lines?
More on this as it develops. But in the mean time, collect your forces, bide your time, and plan your own strategy on how you're going to kill the giant in your own market.
Regards,
Stephen Denny

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Stephen Denny

I've spent twenty years connecting brands to the wants & needs of technology users, as a consultant and as a front line executive managing the people, strategy and budgets at brand name companies like Sony, Onstar, Iomega and Plantronics.

This generally means that I've spent a lot of time saying "no" to very charming people and defending very creative marketing ideas in front of people who don't always laugh at my jokes.

What else can I tell you? I've lived and worked in the US and Japan, hold multiple patents, have lectured at top graduate schools and industry forums, and have a Wharton MBA, the diploma for which is somewhere in my office.

My consulting business is focused on helping consumer technology companies nail their branding so they get through the ambient noise in the market, as well as guiding them in how to win in the trenches of the channel, where all business battles are won or lost.

What you see on my blog, StephenDenny.com, is what I've netted out of the conversations I get to have with lots of smart people. Drop in and comment at your convenience ~!