Branding isn’t a game of Casino Or Is It?
Summer of 2018 @ Gambling Capital of the World, Macau.
I was sitting and observing hoards of people (my friends included) and was thinking to myself — Why are the same people who yearn for 100% certainty of their investments, their future are squandering away their money in a game with a 2.63% probability of winning.
And in a matter of seconds, my friend Rajat exclaimed “Let’s become billionaires” pulling us to the nearest roulette table, as if he had read my thoughts. It was this statement, which reminded me of Mr. Taleb’s concept of “Mediocris-tan” and “Extremis-tan”.
Let me try and explain this concept in a bit of detail:
Assume while at Venetian Macau — I was able to persuade everyone (approx. 10,000 people) to let me measure their heights. And the moment I finished, Mr. Sultan Kösen, the tallest man alive, with a height of 8 feet 2.82 inches walked into the arena. What do you think would have been the change in the average height of everyone in the room? Insignificant.
But now assume if we were doing a similar experiment but instead of height we were calculating the average wealth of everyone present at Venetian and Mr. Jeff Bezos walked in. What do you now think would have been the effect caused by Mr. Bezos on the average wealth of everyone else present at Venetian? Humongous
Summary, when in Mediocristan, no single instance will have a significant effect on the total (assuming the sample to be large enough), but in Extremistan, inequalities are such that even a single instance can disproportionately effect the total.
The Flight Of Idea
Probably that’s the reason why I advise all the young and the driven to get a profession that is scalable.
Scalability: Great Idea + One time effort → Continuous Benefit
Ideas are what push your limits and then liberate you. eg a writer may have to put a lot of effort, in order to bring out a masterclass. But once that masterclass is created he/she doesn’t have to put any extra effort irrespective of the number of readers he is planning to serve. They can then relax, sipping Pina-Colada at a beach and still add zeros to their income. The same is true for movies, music, etc.
This differentiates a writer from a dentist who will have to physically present himself every time he needs to pull out a tooth from his/her patient’s mouth. These professions (chefs, doctors, workers), no matter how highly paid, are subject to gravity. The growth in the income for such a profession depends on continuous efforts rather than the quality of work alone.
The Fight of Ideas
ut is this a good advice that I am doling out to the young and impressionable minds?
A scalable profession is only good if you are successful. There is a huge disparity between efforts and rewards, as these professions are replete with monstrous inequality. These professions are far more random in their output when compared to the non-scalable professions.
While non-scalable professions are plagued with mediocrity, one is still at the same level as others. But with a scalable profession, one is either a Giant or a dwarf. In fact, one is either amongst the very few giants or amongst a sea of dwarfs.
The Ensuing Conundrum
Brand Managers today are faced with the exact same dilemma, and with technology disrupting the way the world behaves (including branding & marketing) the situation has become even more precarious.
Technology is a double-edged sword, and it has presented brand marketers with options of choosing “Mediocristan” or “Extremistan”.
Eg: Technologies like video recording, digital storage devices gave audiences around the world an option to watch big stars at their discretion, pushing the local artists in the sea of dwarfs. But it is the same advancement in technologies like Netflix/Youtube which has given a platform for the same local talents to come out and present themselves to the world.
In the world governed by Zeroes and Ones (How many steps walked, how many calories consumed/burned, etc. etc.), matrices have been created to justify each and every effort of human existence.
The same has happened with branding too, which is not incorrect (totally at least). But the concern arise when brand marketers use short term matrices to score a long term strategy. Performance marketing/ROI monitoring is just one part of the overall marketing arsenal, and is a great & VERY IMPORTANT tool for the sales team. But these bottom of the funnel marketing efforts are subjected to gravity. These activities will never give you extra-ordinary gain (as everyone including your competition will be at it), but is required to keep you at par with the world.
These efforts will only sustain till the time you are investing in them, just like the doctors/dentist who will get his wealth only if he returns back to work again and again everyday (Always on).
But a loved brand just like a writer will be able to reap the benefits of its effort much longer. Off-course just like writer a brand managers has to keep flirting with new ideas (writing new books) to keep strengthening his brand.
So What am I Saying
Brand Managers: Don’t choose “Mediocristan” howsoever big the desire.
Any effort which is subjected to gravity will lead to Mediocrity.
Mediocrity leads to common outcomes following the principles of the “Normal Curve”.
Even a few outliers following similar matrices won’t create a huge impact on your overall results.
Branding lives in the world of “Extremistan”
Therefore, in a world where consumers are inundated with content, a branding effort that looks similar to the regular is not Low Risk, it is a sure shot failure.
To win the battle of positioning, you have to spin the roulette wheel. You either win big or you don’t win at all.
Yes, Branding is a game of Casino and that’s exactly what it’s meant to be!
Disclaimer: Digital is the most important medium for brand managers today, and should be explored in greater depth to extract the best out of it.