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Brands should 'flip' conventions

News, 18 December 2014

BOCA RATON, FL: Brands aiming to stand out from the crowd could benefit from trying to "flip" category conventions, a leading professor at Harvard Business School has argued.

Youngme Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation at Harvard Business School, discussed this subject at The Market Research Event.

And she reported that pioneering companies like Google, IKEA and Mini generally share one thing in common. (For more, including more detailed insights into this strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: Why brands need to "flip the fundamentals".)

"They have figured out how to flip on the fundamental; how to take a fundamental assumption about their category, something that everyone else in the category assumes to be true, and flip it upside down," said Moon.

Successfully challenging widely-held assumptions in their industries helped these organisations achieve differentiation.

The launch of the Mini Cooper in America provided a paradigmatic example of this process in action, as the auto marque made the comparatively small size of its cars a true marketing strength.

"It took what was considered to be a weakness and transformed it into a strength. Indeed, it took what was considered to be a weakness and filled it with pride," said Moon.

"It flipped the fundamental … When the folks at Mini Cooper were preparing to launch, they agonised over their 'size problem'."

Pursuing such a strategy, however, requires a willingness to take a bold step which is not guaranteed to work.

"At the end of the day, to be different is to be alone. It is to be doing something that nobody else in your category is doing and that is a really scary thing for a business to do. And it is a really scary thing for an individual to champion," Moon said.

Data sourced from Warc