When companies look, feel, and sound the same as everyone else in their space, we call this the Sea of Sameness. Indistinct communication, plain language and similar products or services plague today’s business world, as companies willingly plagiarise each other’s ideas. Copying is much easier than being original, and with minimal barriers to creating a new business, it becomes more challenging to stand out amongst the sea of competition.
A perfect example of the lack of differentiation that is prevalent today comes from the websites of two very well-known Australian banks. When browsing one bank’s “About” page, they express that their purpose is that “we are here to serve customers well and help our communities prosper.” The other bank in question articulates its mission statement as “Our purpose is to shape a world where people and communities thrive.” These statements look pretty similar, don’t they? Essentially the purposes from both these companies offer no differentiation for why a consumer should choose them. A further investigation into both banking companies would likely find further similarities in their products, pricing, and channel strategies.
Over time, competitors become more similar. With any industry, companies compare and benchmark themselves against their competitors to gain insight into their own performance. Comparison is an important tool, but issues occur when companies forget that benchmarking is only an operational device. Companies often use comparison strategies to validate mimicking and copying their competitor’s offerings.
The constant comparison (and subsequent copying) eventually leads to widespread conformity, and competitors become less and less differentiated over time. The result is everything looks the same, and there is no differentiation. To customers, you are all different in the same way, and your products or services are increasingly becoming mere commodities. As a result of commodification, your profit margins decrease, and you face the unwinnable fight of competing purely on price and other competition-based strategies.
To escape the sea of sameness, you need to break free from the competitive mindset by diverging from conventional industry thinking and creating a leap in customer value through reconstructing industry boundaries. To do this, you can use tools such as the Strategy Canvas or Four Questions Framework to really deconstruct factors that the industry prioritises and find areas where you can offer divergence and a real point of difference.
Be warned, this isn’t an easy exercise and is not a set-and-forget solution. To offer long-term differentiation and market leadership, you must remove yourself from traditional and valued beliefs and dismiss the current boundaries that confine the rest of the marketplace. Breaking away from familiar and proven strategies in your sphere can be scary and confronting. It can make you question everything that you know to be true, but if done right, this practice can give you something you’ll never get with competition-based strategies. That is a big blue ocean all to yourself with no competitors in sight.
If you need help shifting your mindset around competition, we’re here for you! Get in contact today to discuss how we can help you break away from the sea of sameness.