The many shades of grey

I have come across many people who believe that that can make it in business if they just copy what the leader is doing and make one minor tweak. Many good business folks reason that if the leader is having success, then the more similar I am to the leader the more I should share in the success. This rarely happens.

Most markets look this:


You have the market leader on one side, the product that stands as the opposite of the market leader at the other side and in between you have many other products that try to compete by being as close to the leader as possible.

And many people have wrongly assumed that the market share also follows this same pattern. In reality, market share tends to look like this:


The market leader is in first place, the opposite is second place and the many shades of grey are clumped together way out in last place.

Take for example, the energy drink market. In the energy drink industry Red Bull has reined supreme for some time now. Many others have tried to dethrone the king by having slightly different ingredients. That hasn’t seemed to work to well up to this point. Up till now, it has only added to the shades of grey. I mean, who would have time to investigate all of the subtle differences of the 1,000 plus energy drink options?

Now take the energy drink called Monster. Instead of the normal 8.3 oz. can that everyone else was using, Monster went for a 16 oz. can Monster now has a 32 oz. version). This opposite approach has landed them in second place in the energy drink category. (The interesting thing is the smaller 8.3 oz. can was used by Red Bull to distinguish itself from the other soft drink and sports drinks and to create the energy drink category.)

In the real world, people’s lives are extremely busy. We don’t have time to investigate what makes your company slightly better than the rest. Since we have limited time, the opposite usually does well because it is easily understood with minimal effort. The many shades of grey products take considerable amount of brain power and time to distinguish the differences. Most consumers do not have this kind of patience.

To succeed, the old adage of “if you can’t beat them, join them” does not apply. Doing more of the same will not get you ahead. You’ll only succeed in getting lost in the shuffle with the other shades of grey.

What you have to do to compete with the leader is to be different. When the leader stands for one thing, stand for the opposite. Instead of being just a slightly different shade of grey, go for a completely different color.


4 Responses

  1. Great post – good advice for any business or service trying to get noticed and differentiate.

  2. Jason,

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. […] this at Ubereye. Then figure out what you need to do to introduce a whole new color to the […]

  4. […] or compliment your competition? That is the question.Ross the Intern meets the Subservient ChickenThe many shades of greyWhy customers leaveAre you t-shirt worthy?Their mistake is your gainMarketers: Avoid “Jumping the […]

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