Different: Can Associations Escape the Competitive Herd?


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In the digital world, is there really value differentiation between what associations offer and what is available from the abundance of content sources, and social media connections? The table stakes are high as traditional communications, networking, advocacy, and education are all being redefined in a globally mobile connected world. Are associations truly innovating or merely following the herd?

This CEO panel from the 2013 Digital Now conference examined the key principles and issues explored in Youngme Moon’s book “Different,” in exploring how marketers incrementally focus on the same opportunities as everyone else and consequently lose sight of their mandate, which is to create meaningful grooves of separation or differentiation. Is this happening in associations as well, and are their ways to escape the “competitive herd” that Moon describes? When it comes to thriving in an age of widespread uncertainty and rapid-fire innovation, the only thing more worrisome than the prospect of too much experimentation and change may be the reality of too little experimentation and change. There are too many competitors wearing non-profit or for profit hats with products and services that look too much alike.

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  • Youngme Moon isChair of the MBA Program at Harvard Business School.Professor Moon's research and course development focuses on the intersection of business, branding, and culture. Different is her first book and was published by Crown Business/Random House in 2010.She has previously published articles and studies in a variety of journals, including the Harvard Business Review, and she has published case studies on companies ranging from Microsoft to IKEA to Intel. Prior to Harvard, she taught at MIT. From 1991-93, she was a producer for NBC News affiliate KRON in San Francisco.Professor Moon serves on the Board of Directors of Avid Technology, creator of digital audio and video technology tools for the entertainment industry. 
  • Coke and PepsiPowerBarCoke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Coca Cola Classic … in 32oz bottles, 16 oz. bottles, 12 oz. cans, 8 oz. bottles.40 different PowerBar varieties
  • Novice: Sees similarities.Distinctions without a difference.Wants to differentiate along one or two dimensions (cost, sweetness) not thirty.Connoisseur: “Somehow, you have learned to deconstruct the product category the way a product marketer would: as a cascading set of subcategories and mini-categories. Somehow you have learned to segment the product array across a range of dimensions, and somehow, you have learned to make distinctions between brands that come down to the most minute detail."
  • Easiest to be introduced to a product category when it is at a relatively young age. You simply evolve and mature as a consumer as the market itself evolves and matures.It is far more mentally demanding to have to catch up to a category midstream. Because connoisseurship often goes hand-in-hand with devotion, we typically have strong affinity for the category. While the affinity may not be irrational, it has no objective or rational basis beyond history, experience, familiarity and inertia.
  • The minute we choose to measure something, we are essentially choosing to aspire to it. A metric, in other words, creates a pointer in a particular direction. And once the pointer is created, it is only a matter of time before competitors herd in the direction of that pointer.Jeep scores high on ruggedness and lower on reliability.Volvo scores high on reliability, lower on ruggedness. Both companies focus on where they can "improve." Jeep increases its reliability Volvo increases its ruggednessThe two become more alike.Once everyone starts doing it, no one stands out.
  • The minute we choose to measure something, we are essentially choosing to aspire to it. A metric, in other words, creates a pointer in a particular direction. And once the pointer is created, it is only a matter of time before competitors herd in the direction of that pointer.Jeep scores high on ruggedness and lower on reliability.Volvo scores high on reliability, lower on ruggedness. Both companies focus on where they can "improve." Jeep increases its reliability Volvo increases its ruggednessThe two become more alike.Once everyone starts doing it, no one stands out.
  • Hedonic Treadmill:The human predisposition to feel entitled to today what we used to feel thankful for yesterday"An expensive route to commoditization”
  • We become increasingly jaded with the claims of differenceOur minds cope with the overload of choices by caring less about what choice we make.It all becomes a blur: the category takes on an identity of its own and we lose sight of the individual brands with it.
  • Based less on market research or any tangible metricsDoes not try to augment by addition or multiplicationBased on a different idea of what it means to be diffe
  • Furniture you transport and assemble yourselfFurniture for a while, not for a lifetime plus Swedish meatballsNo first class cabinNo discount for round trips Personal entertainment at every, leather upholstered seat
  • Although unique and different … it leads to someplace familiarWatches that are not expensive or permanent --- instead interchangeable fashion accessories. We already know what FASHION ACCESSORIES are, so we already know what we're supposed to do with them. Circus without the animals, three rings, cheapness --- instead an upscale entertainment.We know what diapers are for and we know what underwear is for, and we know the limitations of each. Can we create a new product that bridges the gap in between?
  • Yes,MiniCoopers are small.Birkenstocks are ugly and hard to find. (limited distribution)I know you are uncomfortable with RedBull and we won’t do anything to alleviate your concern over whether it is a refreshment beverage or a drug.Beneton will promote controversial and divisive political and social issues in its ads Totally unrelated to its products Guaranteed to alienate large parts of their market who might otherwise like the productHarley Davidson We’re loud and lawless. And we don’t care what you think about that.
  • In order for the difference to make a difference, not only must there be some kind of departure from the mean, but the departure has got to carry enough significance to be meaningful. There is a kind of difference that says nothing, and there is a kind of difference that speaks volumes
  • E.g.; Repurposing the same content for web and print.E.g.; Subdividing membership into SIGS.Actively engaged volunteers and long-time members are connoisseurs.Non-members, new members, perhaps even young members are category novices.
  • The crying need for better means of differentiation may be more pressing in those categories that are hyper-mature than for newer categories of association products/services, where traditional augmentation-by-addition or augmentation-by-multiplication may still have legs.
  • Example: NCRA insurance offeringsThe membership are Independent Contractors who work at their client’s location and transport specialized and costly (personally owned) equipment to the client’s site. A lot of the typical exposure to liability or loss they faced would NOT be covered by a generic business property and casualty or liability insurance offering. E.g.; most policies would NOT cover equipment stolen from your car.Most would not cover accidental damage to your equipment caused by someone else at a third-party’s place of business. Opposing counsel knocks over reporter’s equipment at deposition held at a different law firm’s offices.Most would not protect against an injury if someone tripped over the reporter’s power cords.Replacing damaged or stolen equipment does NOT protect the reporter from liability for any deposition records lost.NCRA created property and casualty and professional liability coverage specifically tailored to the kinds of mishaps reporters were likely to face. In this case, the differences were real, but hard to communicate to the market. Our coverage and generally available coverage “looked” the same to most consumersThe average insurance salesman wouldn’t recognize or appreciate the kind of unique coverage a court reporter needed for the policy to be truly valuable.The generally available insurance was usually CHEAPER and more heavily MARKETEDOften, court reporters weren’t even aware of what they assumed was covered and wasn’t until they actually experienced a claim (that was denied.)
  • Say "Harley Davidson" and what image does it evoke? Hell's Angels at the Rolling Stones concert or Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, Bill Macy and John Travolta in "Wild Hogs"?
  • https://digitalnow.anancloud.com/docs/100/6069be3a-8c77-4cac-9068-15c5dd0ac1f9/Different_Golden_Lachance_Dorsey.pptx
  • Different: Can Associations Escape the Competitive Herd?

    1. 1. Different: Can AssociationsEscape the Competitive Herd?Mark J. Golden, FASAE, CAEMark Dorsey, FASAE, CAEJanice LaChance, Esq., FASAE
    2. 2. The BookDifferent: Escaping the Competitive Herd byYoungme Moon• Marketing has always been about making yourbrand stand out from the crowd: being different.• Yesterday’s different is today’s thesame.─ Paradoxically, over time, the more wetry to be different, the more alikewe become.─ “The Herd Instinct.”
    3. 3. The Book• Truly distinctive brands have found new waysto be different.─“Idea Brands”• We have to constantly find new and differentways to be different.─It is an endless process, not an achievable goal.─Competitors will always look at each other to seewhat is working and then copy it.─Different will become the same again.
    4. 4. • Product categoriesstart with a singleor small set ofproducts.• Increaseddifferentiationcreates anincreasing numberof productvariants.Market Lifecycle: Product Categories
    5. 5. Market Lifecycle: ProductsAs the number of products withinthe category multiplies, thedifferences become increasinglytrivial.Only category experts/connoisseursappreciate the difference.
    6. 6. Market Lifecycle: Consumer• Novice─ Is overwhelmed by the variety of offerings.─ Sees similarities where the marketer wants to pointout differences.─ Wants to differentiate along one or twodimensions, not thirty.• Connoisseur─ Recognizes & appreciates subtle shades ofdistinction.─ Can segment offerings across a wide range ofdimensions.
    7. 7. Market Lifecycle: Consumer• Acquiring connoisseurship.─ Introduction to category when it was new.─ Immersion.• The Unaware Brand Connoisseur.─ Emotional Affinity.─ Brand Loyalty.• Expertise Exhaustion─ Occurs in mature category markets.─ Consumers stop believing that comparative diligenceis worth the effort.• Distinctions without difference.
    8. 8. Why Products Become the Same: TheHerd Instinct• Metrics cause competitors to herd in onedirection.─The minute I discover my competitors score higherin an attribute, I focus on increasing my own scorein that area.
    9. 9. Why Products Become the Same: TheHerd Instinct• My competitors do the same.• We both, independently, focus on eliminatingwhat makes us different.
    10. 10. The Paradox of Progress• Two Ways to Make Products Better.─Augmentation-by-Addition.• Add a new feature or benefit.─Augmentation-by-Multiplication• Hyper-Segmentation: offer more & more specializedvarieties• The “Hedonic Treadmill”─Each improvement causes consumer expectationsof the acceptable minimum to go up.
    11. 11. The Disconnect Between Marketer &Consumer• Marketers experience this evolution from theoutside in.─ How is the category changing?─ How do we adapt our brand to retain customerattention & loyalty?• Consumers experience this evolution from theinside out.─ Brand promises “jump the shark.”─ Loyalty to brand diminishes.─ Loyalty shifts from brand to category.
    12. 12. Idea Brands Break OutFrom the Herd• Reverse• Breakaway• Hostile
    13. 13. Reverse Brands• Disrupt product evolution from its predictable,augmentation path.─ Instead of augmentation, eliminate those things themarket only thinks it wants.─ Add unexpected elements that others in the category donot.• Examples:─ IKEA─ JetBlue• Danger: Once established, there is a temptation tostart adding back in, driving you back to the herd.
    14. 14. Breakaway Brands• Different while remaining recognizably similar.─ Hold on to enough of the original category to allow formeaningful comparison.─ Add enough that is new/unusual/unexpected toconstitute a legitimate difference.• Examples:─ Swatch─ Cirque du Soleil─ Huggies Pull-Ups
    15. 15. Hostile Brands• Do the opposite of trying to attract or convince you.─ Feature, rather than hide deficiencies when compared to othersin the category.• “I dare you to ignore me.”─ “Temperamental bipolarity:”─ You are as likely to feel negatively as to feel positive, but you willnotice.• Examples:─ Mini Cooper─ Birkenstock─ Benetton─ Red Bull─ Harley Davidson
    16. 16. Common to All Idea Brands• Eliminate the option of mindlessnessindifference.─Marketing message might not be effective, but itcan’t get lost in the white noise.• Separate rather than compare.• Focus on differences that make a difference.
    17. 17. Extending Concepts from Differentto Associations …
    18. 18. Which Came First: The Product or theConsumer?• Most commercial providers start with a productor service in mind, then try and identifyconsumers who will find that product valuable.• Associations start with a predefined customerbase (a profession, industry or cause) first, thentry and identify products and services thatwould be valuable to it.• What does this mean for associations seeking tobe different?
    19. 19. Market Lifecycle• Have associations experienced the sameexplosion of product/service variants andreached a stage of increasingly trivialdifferences?• How does the novice/connoisseurbreakdown within association markets playout in the association space?
    20. 20. Avoiding the Herd• How many of our strategies for change start from thestatement, “We need to be more like …”─ Additive, rather than: “What do we need to pare down inorder to be truly responsive to member needs?”• Rather than focusing resources on improving areas ofweakness where we lag behind “the competition,” aresuch “deficiencies” opportunities to “stop doing?”• Are we participating in the herd mentality by flockingto conferences like this to share “best practices”?
    21. 21. Diversity Within Association ProductMix• Traditional association product lines includeboth:─Hyper-mature product categories:• Meetings and Conventions.• Publications.─Less mature product categories• Social Media-based services• Mobile• What does that mean for associationbranding efforts?
    22. 22. Possible Association Opportunities• Add product categories that are less mature/lessover saturated but are absent from your currentproduct and service mix.• Concentrate on what is unique about yourdefined audience (membership), not on whatyour competitors are doing.─ Differentiate based on your definedindustry/profession’s unique needs within a broadermarket space (such as insurance).• Are there others?
    23. 23. Idea Brands• Are there association examples of:─Reverse Brands,─Breakaway Brands,─Hostile Brands?• Are any of these approaches reallysustainable?─Will their very success in the market simplyredirect the attention of the herd?─Do they risk growing stale?
    24. 24. Additional Questions• Moon argues that applying proven marketing“best practices” over and over again has led tothis state of affairs. Entirely new approaches areneeded.• As association executives, have we “over-learned” traditional marketing differentiationtactics in the same way?─ If so, what traditional marketing best practices do weneed to jettison, and what do we replace them with?─ If not, what traditional marketing best practices stillhave life for associations and why?
    25. 25. Your Questions?
    26. 26. Thank you!Find this presentation online at:https://digitalnow.anancloud.com/docs/100/6069be3a-8c77-4cac-9068-15c5dd0ac1f9/Different_Golden_Lachance_Dorsey.pptx