Convergence vs. Divergence

I have begun reading “The Origin of Brands” by Al Ries and have been pleasantly surprised how well written it is. I am becoming a firm believer in his idea of divergence vs. convergence in marketing, and how if one wants to establish a brand, you need to find an opportunity where there is zero competition (create a new category). He makes it clear that most people in marketing look at solutions in convergent mentalities, but that is where they are usually wrong. I agree with that thinking, to create a new category and diverge away from the masses is a much harder thing to do, but usually the correct way to go if you want a long term successful brand. He lists several brands that have been successful in creating new categories as divergent thinkers, and list several brands and categories that continue to converge and suffer.

There is one area where I disagree with Ries about his predictions of success or failure, and that is about PDA/Smartphones. Granted, the book was written in 2004 and phones are not what they are today, but I think of my iPhone and how it has converged several aspects of my life and brought them all to one single unit (phone, internet, iPod, weather, stocks, camera). A recent report from Google stated, “On Christmas, traffic to Google from iPhones surged, surpassing incoming traffic from any other type of mobile device.” This goes to show, that even though it does not have the masses of other cell phones such as Treo and Blackberry, the users are using it for more than just a phone call.

This is great news for interactive marketers, as more phones enter the market with features that are actually used by their users, applications will become more common for these phones. As these technologies converge on single handsets, the amount of applications developed will increase, thus increasing the usage of the new PDA/Smartphones.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of ‘The Origin of Brands” as it has listed several examples and expanded my view on the importance of convergent vs. divergent thinking and how to market new products. 

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