By: Stefan Aarnio

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Welcome to the market – welcome to the jungle!


Today’s marketplace is more competitive than ever.


Poor is the new nothing,

Good is the new poor,

Excellent” is the new good and

Extraordinary is the new Excellent!


We no longer can afford to be good, very good or excellent; we must be extraordinary and truly remarkable to survive.


We don’t just compete locally for business anymore, we now compete globally – The world is getting smaller!


There are people in China and India competing for your job and position in the marketplace… they are hungry… very, very hungry!


Ordinary is no good; we need to be extraordinary… EXTRA-ordinary which means we have to give something EXTRA.


We must go above and beyond.


In this new age, product and marketing have to fuse together to become one. We need to deliver a truly remarkable experience and remarkable product to get noticed, gain market share and grow. We need our customers to talk about us (good or bad, they have to talk for us to survive).


There is no more room for “me too” products and “me too” companies.


Vanilla ice cream is no longer an option. The marketplace demands “French Vanilla Bean” ice cream.


Watering down your special sauce for mass appeal is a dead end idea. People buy “special sauce”, “secret sauce”, and “kick-ass sauce”… They want your sauce in the purest, most outrageous form. Not the watered down, safe version of your sauce.


With the fragmentation of mass media, the world has splintered into a million niches and a million little streams of attention.


In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s there was the television and everyone watched it. Everyone knew the same shows; everyone knew the same hit songs on the radio.


Big companies could muscle into the marketplace with advertising dollars and wrestle the market into submission overnight.


You could become the 600-pound gorilla overnight; it just took a huge advertising budget!


Some of these big players could enter a void and fill it so fast that no one else could get in after them. Think of mega corporations like McDonalds and Burger King. But those days are over.


People don’t watch TV anymore. And if they do, they pre-recorded it and removed all the ads. TV advertising is over and the giants are falling.


What remains the same, and will always remain the same, however, is word of mouth marketing. Enter the age of Shake Shack and In’n’Out Burger.


McDonalds and Burger King both offer tasty, unhealthy cheeseburgers and are dying out in the marketplace because the market is changing and the giants aren’t adapting fast enough!


Shake Shack and In’N’Out burger also offer tasty, unhealthy cheeseburgers but they deliver a remarkable burger experience that the customer loves to talk about!


Plus it’s cool to photograph your In’N’Out burger with your iPhone and show your friends on Instagram! No one ever photographs their Big Mac and puts it on Instagram… ever – Unless they are complaining about the experience or telling their friends NOT to eat at McDonalds.


Chances are, YOU don’t even want to tell YOUR friends that you had a Big Mac at McDonalds last night (even though you secretly did at 3am). The Big Mac was tasty, the fries were very good as they always are, and the Coke was even better. But you will never tell anyone, because it wasn’t remarkable…


The irony with the decline of McDonalds is that in the 1950’s in San Bernardino, California there was a little burger stand ran by two brothers. This burger stand ONLY served freshly cooked little cheeseburgers, hand-punched remarkable fries and hand made milkshakes. The people loved the experience and loved talking about it… In other words, McDonalds used to be In’N’Out burger 60 years ago!


Cheeseburgers didn’t change, people still line up for a remarkable burger, and likely always will. But the McDonald’s experience died a long, long time ago.


We are bombarded with literally thousands of marketing messages every day and we are conditioned to tune them out. We skip the commercials on TV, ignore the banner ads and don’t bother reading the newspaper anymore.


The only tried and true way to penetrate through the noise is to have a product or experience that is so remarkable that your customers will have to tell their friends about you!


What you say about you is marketing, what others say about you is brand.


This is why the CEO of your company (maybe it’s you) has to be a product person.


The CEO cannot come from accounting.


The CEO cannot come from marketing.


The CEO cannot come from sales or human resources.


The CEO must come from the product department, perhaps design or engineering.


The product and experience ARE the new marketing! This is the marketing that is impossible to buy! You either have it or you don’t!


There is very little separation between product and marketing in the new economy!


Consider Steve Jobs, one of the greatest CEO’s of all time, he was a product person who understood how human beings wanted to experience technology – and he didn’t even know how to write code!


Consider Elon Musk who comes from engineering to build some of the most remarkable companies of all time Tesla motors and SpaceX.


Consider Richard Branson who comes from an experience perspective and his monster brand Virgin encompasses over 400 companies – all called Virgin! The name Virgin comes from the idea of approaching a new industry with a fresh Virgin mind. (Contrary to popular belief, the name has very little to do with sex!) Branson takes everything that other people dislike about the industries he enters and turns it on its head. He is a product man and an experience man over and above all else.


You can’t compete on price anymore; someone can always do it cheaper. Don’t get into a price war with Wal-Mart or Chinese manufacturing.


You can’t compete on being good enough… good enough is good enough for the graveyard! Don’t be the next Blockbuster or Kodak who should have become Netflix or Instagram!


The only way you can compete nowadays is to become a product driven CEO and create a truly remarkable cheeseburger or cheeseburger experience that will make your customers talk.


When your customers talk about you, they rave about you on Facebook, twitter and your cheeseburger ends up on Instagram!


(What would you have to change about your cheeseburger to get it on Instagram?)


When your customers don’t talk about you, your burger shop fades into obscurity and the traffic doesn’t come around as often. You may even have trouble paying your bills!


Win their hearts and minds… And get your cheeseburger their Instagram!


Be bold, be brave and give them something to call home to tell mother about!


Respect The Grind,

Stefan Aarnio


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