The things we want to be true
And why we'll work hard to avoid the hard truth
Am I back to my daily Lateral Thinking emails? Here’s yesterday’s exercise, in case you didn’t see it.
Have you had enough water today?
Will NFTs ever be a thing?
The most likely answer to all of these is no, but the world is full of surprises, so let’s just take it one day at a time.
Firstly, some housekeeping:
This is the 97th Lateral Thinking email I’m sending (gotta do something special for #100). We’ve reached 2,847 subscribers. In total, all of you have opened my email about 130,000 times.
That’s a lot of puzzles and lateral thinking exercises, especially since I’m extremely picky with them.
Truth is, I want to write more, but in order to do that, I’ll have to diversify the lateral thinking exercises. I’ll be trying out different formats and I’d appreciate honest feedback on the exercises - even a simply reply saying “this is the bomb” or “bro stop” will help me move in the right direction.
Without further ado, here’s a question worth looking at:
Red ocean. Let’s say you’re in a truly competitive market fighting against brands with an established distribution system and significantly higher budgets.
What are a few ways to gain an edge?
An, as usual, at the end.
I suggest you write down a few thoughts down before reading my ideas at the end of this email. It’ll help you compare the thought process.
Did an awesome friend send you this email? You’re morally obligated to subscribe. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
We can’t handle the truth
Oh, sweet confirmation bias. We’re all guilty of it.
If you ask bright eyed creatives or people in tech how they feel about innovation, they’ll say it’s one of their core values or even that they’re driving it.
They want to work in tech companies that changes the world we live in or work with leading brands that are pushing forward new schools of thought.
The truth? If you truly want either one of those two things, those are the exact places you shouldn’t work in.
The majority of trending tech companies are already too late stage to drive any real innovation - at that point, you’re playing a PR or VC game. If you’re into politics, branding or lobbying, then that’s the place to be.
This thread explains a fascinating trend at Google. Innovation is nothing more than a promotion mechanic (which would explain why the success rate of new products at Google is so low).
Now, I’m not saying big tech is not a great place to work.
I’m just saying be truthful to yourself. You’re not there to innovate. You’re there to play the game, so play it wisely.
Innovation comes from discomfort. Innovation comes by working at a company (or building one) with limited resources and hearing people tell you “these are just how things are, they will never change”. Until they do.
I realized we have a great opportunity with our business because I kept hearing “great idea, but agencies will never let you do this”. People were right. They would rather us not do our thing. But in time, they didn’t have a choice and we ended up building something great.
So please don’t think innovation is a dream job. It’s a very uncomfortable ride.
Don’t seek discomfort. It’s not for everyone.
Don’t believe every news story you read. Real change isn’t glorious and you rarely get commended for it. You get told for years it won’t work and when it finally does everyone is suddenly your “friend”.
I realize how cynical all this might sound, but trust me when I say it’s not. It means innovation and true creativity is open to anyone, not just to companies with nearly endless resources.
See? Told you we’d end on a positive note.
This question came to mind after seeing the latest Liquid Death news. Here’s the main thing that they did different, at least in my view, to stay competitive:
Different distribution strategy
While other FMCG companies focus on direct to consumer distribution or distribution deals with large supermarkets, Liquid Death identified another opportunity - concerts and events.
They partnered with Live Nation to become the exclusive water brand at all their concerts. Better markups, captive audience - why fight for sales on the shelves?
Of course, having a brand that fits concert goers is a must. But if they tried the same approach with a traditional distribution strategy, they would have never reached the level of success they’re seeing today.
What other out of the box ideas do you think would work in a crowded marketplace? You can either reply to this email or you can: