I used to work at a company where the staff meetings were called “Pizza Meetings”.
The meetings were held straight after lunch. To make sure that everyone came, the company would buy us all pizza. We’d munch on a slice or two, chat with colleagues about the day’s events, then head to the conference room for the staff meeting.
The place where they bought the pizzas didn’t offer a huge choice of toppings, so they’d be selection of all the options available. However, of the various toppings on offer the most popular choice (and the one that always ran out first) was margarita pizza.
Pretty much every pizza restaurant or takeaway joint offers margarita pizza. And why not? It’s one of the most popular. It’s also the most inoffensive.
And that’s the problem.
Margarita pizza is like vanilla ice-cream, or maybe salted potato chips. It’s a compromise flavor. It’s the one that you get when you don’t know people’s preferences. It’s the one most likely to be accepted by the majority.
But margarita pizza is also boring. It’s safe, unexceptional, standardized. It’s average. It’s unoffending pizza.
In pretty much every industry that you care to mention, there’s already a company filling the “boring” slot. To clarify, I don’t mean that these are necessarily boring companies (though they may well be). I just mean that the lowest-common-denominator value offering placeholder has already been filled.
In most any industry you care you mention, the product or service created to appeal to the widest possible audience already exists. If you want to compete in that space, trying to usurp the incumbent is always going to be difficult – not least because of the banality of the market space. How do you go about positioning yourself as being “more boring than boring”?
Instead, today’s opportunity exists in the periphery. In offering a product or service that doesn’t cater to as many people as possible. It’s about garlic ice cream, hedgehog-flavor chips or mashed potato pizza.
The market-leading companies occupying the middle ground may well have started-off as pioneering mavericks, carving out a space that – today – is seen as grey, trite or conservative. However, their continued success is dependent on them maintaining their average positioning – i.e. catering to the masses. By definition, they’re not in a position to Stand Out.
Which is where you come in.