A good marketing question: “Would you cannibalize a number one position that you’ve achieved, when you try to introduce another new concept?”

I’ve been seeing this happen lately in the wine business, and it got me to thinking…

Becoming number one is a feat unto itself. It takes decades upon decades to establish this triumph, because first you have to create that which will qualify you. Then, you have to let history play itself out, in order to fill that number one niche. Finally, your story is now picture perfect, and you begin to spread the word that you’ve established that number one position, when you did… years ago. And, you become a rock star. That’s how it happens. Rarely does this happen overnight; perhaps more frequently in Silicon Valley, but that’s for innovation, not for brand building.

Once someone has indisputably got that position, getting the word out also takes years in order for people to “get it.” If a company is over 100 years old, and that moment of prominence didn’t arrive in that first one hundred years, but came along later, the 10 years that it took to establish a number one position is still history building upon itself. And, it’s important to note that that position is still in a very fragile state. If the assumption of the marketing crew believes that the “job is done, let’s move on,” this is a major marketing oversight. Moving on had better include massaging that is also kind to the original number one position, before it’s abandoned in any negative way… like cannibalizing the prior 10 years.

I recently witnessed this, which I’ve never seen before in marketing. Witnessing this has inspired getting this marketing message out there as a “Marketing 101 message” of what not to do, when trying to create new success within the same company.

For instance, and I’m going to use a shoe company as an example instead of a wine company… protecting the naivete…

EXAMPLE MESSAGE: My colleagues and I tried on 12 of our Two Shoes for One Price sneakers today. It started with the Hyperspeed and finished with the Hyperquicker. Our overall favorite was the Hyperquicker. It gave us a superior running ability.

The flaws in this marketing message are the following:

    • Competing against oneself is cannibalizing one of your products for another.
      • Would anyone now want to buy the Hyperspeed anymore?
      • Write the Hyperspeed off, you’ve just told everyone it’s not as good as you once stated, and built your company on.
    • Comparing to anything else is never a “win,” regardless of the comparison.
      • “We’re better than” is a message that states you’re not “all that” to begin with.
      • Are you sure you want to go this route?

If this were a client of mine, I would tell the client, “If you’ve got a position, stick with it and have ‘extra’ messages. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.”

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