Straddle Categories, Redefine Competition

Quick Read: Straddling categories can sometimes help redefine competition and build a unique position in the market place. 

“If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B … “

began Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011.

Sarah Kay is called a genius. She has invented a new medium, a new way of sharing an idea. It’s called Spoken Word Poetry. Arguably others have done spoken word poetry before, but not like this.

Mixing in the magic of her poetry, presence, and exuberant energy her art form straddles two categories – poetry and theatre. This unique combination has helped her redefine her ‘comparison set’ – not poets and not theatre artistes, but someone at the intersection of both to become a truly unique voice to reckon with.

Today she is the founder and co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E., founded in 2004, a group dedicated to using spoken word as an educational and inspirational tool. Her TED talk has been loved so much that Seth Godin has published her poem ‘B’ by himself.

Why Do We Love Some Comic Strips More Than Others?

Most of us have our favorite four paneled comic strips that we enjoy and share on a regular basis. Why do we love them so much? Is it because they resonate with us at a deeper level? Is it because they have that spark of insight – a blinding flash of the obvious? Or is it because they remind each one of us that we are not alone?

calvin-and-hobbes-relativism(Source: Calvin and Hobbes)

Seth is a cartoonist, illustrator and book designer based in Guelph, Ontario. Based  on his research on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, his insight is that most of the best known four paneled comic strips have one thing in commonthey straddle the art forms of graphic design and poetry and occupy a truly unique space of artistic expression. He calls such comic strips Visual Haiku and elaborates.. 

It seemed so clear that his four-panel setup was just like reading a haiku; it had a specific rhythm to how he set up the panels and the dialogue.Three beats:doot doot doot— followed by an infinitesimal pause, and then the final beat:doot. Anyone can recognize this when reading a Peanuts strip.These strips have that sameness of rhythm that haikus have — the haikus mostly ending with a nature reference separated off in the final line. (source)

Peanuts - pe_c140414.tif(Source: Peanuts)

What Sets Brita Filters Apart?

Ever heard of Brita Filters? A leading company in portable household water filtration, its products are distributed in more than 60 countries world wide. But what sets it apart is how it straddles categories and redefines competition. As per this HBR article..

Brita filters compete against other filters when they are placed in the kitchen appliances section at big-box stores, for instance. But Brita changes both its comparison set and the economics of the consumer decision when the filters are placed in the bottled-water aisle at supermarkets. Here Brita filters have a competitive cost advantage, delivering several more gallons of clean water per dollar than bottled water. Of course, not all buyers of bottled water are buying solely for the criterion of cost (some are buying for portability, for example), but for those who are, Brita is an attractive choice.

Brita Filter Jugs

As the article goes on to say, in choosing how to position products, there’s a tendency to pay attention to the size and growth of the market and overlook the intensity and identity of the competition. Such times, all it might take is to challenge our playing field (the category) and see new niches emerge for tapping into a new consumer base.

Opportunity – it seems – could sometimes be rife at the intersections.  

For artistic forms of expressions or water filters.

(Featured image: Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson May 05, 2014)

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3 thoughts on “Straddle Categories, Redefine Competition

  1. Sarah Kay is one of those women I deeply aspire to emanate. I wrote a whole paper on her for an Arts Leadership course this year because I love how she makes poetry accessible. You’re right – it’s all about the intersection, especially with her. She understands how to make words pop off a page and into significance in the here and now. Thanks for featuring her.

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