Me-Too Companies: Imitation is Not Flattering
How do you tell if you’re a Me-Too company? Are you in second, third or fourth place in your segment? Were you founded by a smart person who focused on the top competitor and made a cheaper version of that product? Is your enterprise satisfied being second or third rate? A Me-Too brand is just a few steps away from being a commodity. It takes a strong leader to right the ship or risk being relegated to a lower-volume, low-price brand that lacks customer and employee loyalty.
The key is to show respect to your brand by exploring what makes it the choice of your best customers. They usually have many options when it comes to the products they buy, yet these customers choose to buy your product. Your mission is to learn why. And as that exploration deepens, learn from your sales network what has allowed this brand to survive, ignoring, of course, the standard answer of lower price.
I worked with a Me-Too brand that was launching a new truck destined to replace its highest-selling product. Determined to break the Me-Too spell, the leader met resistance throughout the company. Even his engineers were indifferent about it. Fortunately, this leader realized it was a lot to expect of people who were working in a culture dominated by a Me-Too mentality.
Our Technical Immersion team took a deep dive into the truck’s manufacturing, design and engineering, uncovering many brilliant features and components. As the differentiation story of the truck was being built, so was the enthusiasm and belief in the product. The entire enterprise went from “why” (why are we wasting time on this?) to “wow” (I can’t believe how impressive this product is).
As the first unit came off the production line, dealers were invited to experience it. Employees were so excited, they cleaned and repainted the plant in advance of the event. With pride, the engineering and sales teams told the story of the unique material used, the inspired innovation and the smart customer-centric design of this truck. The energy was amazing; the dealer support was the strongest in their history.
This product was a game-changer and represented the best of what made the company unique and valuable. It was a far cry from being just another truck imitator.
A company may be founded as an imitator brand, but that doesn’t need to be its identity forever. As a leader, challenge yourself and your team to look for every differentiation in your products, features and technologies to separate you from the pack. Then share that story, inspire the entire enterprise and rise from being a Me-Too to being an original.
Barry LaBov is founder and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training. He is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year recipient and author of numerous business books, including the upcoming book The Power of Differentiation. Since 1981, LABOV has differentiated and launched products and brands around the world.