Once upon a time when mass media ruled the world, big brands dictated what to believe. Business growth emerged when market leaders innovated and smaller laggards were allowed to scrape for crumbs. Then, something different happened. Smaller businesses rejected cues from market leaders and satisfied customer needs directly. Winners no longer needed to be big. They only needed to win! Sellers experimented with marketing innovations. Customers liked the individualized attention. Differentiation became a thing! The land of the giants still existed. But, the ecosystem of smaller, niched participants evolved and broader competitive opportunities emerged. All because more modest market competitors dared to be different!
Several influences launched this transformation for small, local entities to become significant competitors. Improvements in technology, transportation, capital sources, and education all played a part. But, an inescapable factor featured the individual personality of market leaders. Small businesses emerged into mid-sized businesses and beyond because leaders injected their personalities into their enterprises. Not just being the most popular bakery in town, but displaying ambitions equipped the phenomenal local baker to ship to the next town, then the nearby metropolis, the next state and beyond. Through advertising, word-of-mouth, or social media great products became popular for more customers, because a personality came with it. Newer successful brands became less sterile, and definitely more human. Business growth came with a personality that transcended geography.
Big marketing may have been right. Perhaps, the market wants to hear similar, common messages. However, they were absolutely wrong in thinking that they get to dictate those messages forever. Individualized personalities resulted in better storytelling. Stories targeted the customer. A closer connection emerged between the seller and the buyer. Trust was no longer dictated by the seller, both parties shared in the transaction. Then, the relationship evolved into the customer telling the seller’s story for them. Testimonials became organic. Now, a bad review gives authenticity, not death. Sellers are not perfect any more than buyers are. As buyers become part of the story, the seller earns the occasional pass. By co-owning the story, buyers and sellers collaborate to build better businesses. The story becomes a cooperative tool for both to profit. Customers want to buy from the best provider for their individual needs; and they want a voice in bragging about how smart, cool, and successful they are because they do.
Differentiation has made the marketplace more appealing. Both sides of commercial transactions can now meet more needs with like-minded parties. By proclaiming individualized personalities and participating in the story, both parties contribute to commercial progress. Differentiation empowers buyers to purchase from sellers they better know, like and trust. In fact, buyers now set conditions for those relationships. Brands have more personality. Customers have more choices. Sellers have more opportunities to serve a marketplace that receives distinct messages. All this growth results from smaller market players daring to be different, then responding to niches that want to be heard and included in commercial transactions.
By Glenn W Hunter
Business Development, Birdsong Creative