Walk the Line

Sunrise at Bagan - Myanmar (Burma)
Image by Steven Goethals

How do you balance unique ideas, products and services with the need to make them acceptable to large communities?

A significant tension exists.

You have to walk the line and promote the different while currying favor amongst communities with accepted norms. Some see this tense courtship as balancing differentiation and commoditization.

A classic mistake would be for a content creator or innovator to scorn the mass and groupthink, in spite of their flaws. If an idea generator or company wants to be anything more than a niche player, the opposite needs to occur. They need to cultivate influence and acceptance from others so their idea, product and/or service gains market share.

Tightrope Toes
Image by Nataraj_hauser

Groups by their very nature avoid new concepts in favor of safer ones. Every successful business and talent balances uniqueness and commonality.

Working the idea, product or service up an adoption curve demands significant commitment. It can take years to make an offering successful.

Early adopters need to be cultivated. Feedback loops created. Concerns addressed.

The Diffusion of Innovations
Image by ocdqblog

If a product does well it may reach the early majority phase of adoption (see Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation Theory) where the mass market begins to embrace it. We saw this earlier in the year with Pinterest and Instagram.

Conversely, many, many great products and ideas never achieve mass market attention. And that’s because they cannot successfully cross the line of commonly accepted norms.

Then we see bad products make it. I think Google+ in its first incarnation was an example of this, and though people debate Google+’s sticky factor, the company leveraged all of its assets to make Google+ a product that we must contend with moving forward, even if only for search purposes.

Those that want success must walk the line.

What do you think about balancing uniqueness and mass acceptance?



  • It is a very fine line. And the line differs from company to company whether it is B2B or B2C. Some companies are extremely conservative and others are not. Depending on where you sit, you have to first get buy-in from the powers that be before you go after consumers. Then, you want to find the influencers. I think that is key. Influencers begin the word-of-mouth marketing. If I see someone I respect testing something out, I research how they like it, what they use it for, etc. Then I might try it. Other times, I watch the debate between two product influencers. If they are promoting two products that the do the same thing, I might wait it out before jumping in and picking one over the other. Then again, sometimes I think we’re all puppets on a string. ;)

    • I agree, and at the same time, if you go to far, or if the influencers take you too fast, you can flop. I really sense this a tight tension. You can’t just sneeze at it and assume it’s formulaic. It really requires a deft hand, one that understands the market in question very, very well.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Oh, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to get my gravatar on Disqus.

  • I read the above post and watch the determination of Roger. I am agree with Roger that if we want to get a success in a market we must be know about the common accepted norms.
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