A week ago, Marshall released this commercial:
This amp-fridge concept is a brilliant and inventive achievement for Marshall. It’s also a dart-in-the-neck surprise ambush on the mini-fridge industry. The savviest strategists never guessed that Whirlpool would compete for market share with an old music electronics company. That’s as unthinkable as Yankee Candle grabbing market share from the lip balm market.
But wait! You could argue that rockers buy the Marshall Fridge to broadcast their rocker identities, and that a separate demographic buys Whirlpool mini-fridges to enjoy a sturdy appliance that won’t soon break. Thus, Marshall doesn’t really pose any serious threat to Whirlpool’s profits. Right?
This objection misses the point. Marshall’s foray into fridge-making should unsettle market leaders in every niche. If traditional industry boundaries are becoming so frequently and so freely crossed, then what company can predict where its competition will come from next year?
That might not frighten you, but consider this: at the start of 2007, Motorola had no idea that a computer maker would glibly step into the handphone market and become market leader. Knowing nothing of the impending iPhone invasion, Motorola thought the RAZR was a pretty revolutionary device (well it does have a cool name). So the RAZR sold itself (and still does) because it looks good rather than because it is the lowest price phone. That counts for a lo, but its designers misread where phones were going and thus they failed to anticipate what their competition might look like. It hurt them.
Who is most vulnerable?
The glitziest industries are most vulnerable to disruptor brands. For instance, Ferrari is unlikely to attempt a market-share grab from the railroad industry because railroads don’t generate Ferrari brand love. But theme parks do, and woe to whichever park competes with the new Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
So to all the brand managers of theme parks, headphones, apparel, watches, and toys: you cannot survive by coasting, nor by spending your days micro-managing the urgent and the concrete. You can’t even get by on being sort of inspiring or kind of remarkable. Instead of following the disruptors, you need to be the disruptors, slipping in and out of the boundaries that conventional wisdom sets for your industry. You need to be more agile and more aggressive than ever.
Is your team putting their efforts towards designing the next RAZR or the next iPhone? Think hard about the difference.