I could set up a lab, synthesize the compounds, and extract the exact recipe for Heinz Ketchup. Actually, I decided to skip all of that and just googled it. The secret formula is no longer a secret but success is rarely achieved by copying someone else work. It certainly doesn’t earn trust. Purple ketchup, on the other hand, will earn lots of attention. Alas, no one trusts that purple ketchup is going to taste better than regular ketchup. (They already tried that.)
Coke in the 80’s changed their secret formula, the first time in a century. After 200,000 taste tests, it was clear that new Coke was better than old Coke by every measure. When new Coke unrolled, angry protests and phone calls ensued. Customers were stocking up on thousands of dollars of old Coke in their basements. Why? Coke underestimated the attachment customers had with their tried and true formula. To the consumers, Coke had betrayed their trust. (We fear change.)
Colgate has over 35 different types of toothpaste. All delivering on the same promise. It’s clear, that there are more choices than ever before. Yet, innovations isn’t turning out another flavor of toothpaste. It’s changing how we think about toothpaste all together. (We’re still waiting.)
Grocery stores carry 40,000 different products. Consumers will check out with about 40 items. How do you compete with limited shelf space and so many products? Of course, it’s worse than we thought. Thanks to Google and Amazon, there is unlimited shelf space and unlimited products.
You can focus on buying better shelf space, slashing prices, copying, polishing, perfecting; it’s working for Walmart. (Can you out Walmart Walmart?)
There is an alternative.
You can forget about mass-market penetration, work on the edges, and do something interesting. You could treat different people differently. Yes, the market gets to decide what product is worth buying, but it’s important to remember that there are unlimited markets to work with. (Don’t believe me?) Find the smallest market that you can lead, that you can change. Spread your ideas. Build trust. Build attention.