Stop Selling Blocks


In 1960, Bob Newhart recorded a best-selling comedy album called The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back. In this album, he did a routine, “An Infinite Number of Monkeys,” which reminds me of how so many technology products are created and funded. Newhart theorized that, by placing an infinite number of monkeys in front of an infinite number of typewriters, they eventually would create all the great books.

Stumbling upon a good idea does happen, eventually. Accidental success, however, is not a strategy. Let me repeat that: accidental success is not a strategy.

Clearly, the accidental approach makes no sense. But, peek at the plethora of incubators and accelerators around the world. You’ll see that it’s exactly the strategy in play. Why?

  • Emphasis on technology and products
  • Too much easy-to-obtain capital
  • Fawning media.

How should company-creation work? Identify a real problem; then solve it. Articulate the value proposition — the brand — effectively. Evidence of an effective brand? The audience reacts to, remembers, and repeats it. Instantly.

To wit: Everybody knows Donald Trump’s brand: Make America Great Again. Do customers, investors, and reporters know yours?
Create Real Value

Alas, product-obsessed tech startups know nothing about branding — and rarely care to learn. They’re building with blocks — because they’re encouraged and incented to do so, and it’s fun — and they believe they can sell blocks. Only collectors and spendthrifts buy what they don’t need.

Branding is about customers, not products. A brand communicates value to customers, in customer language — not vendor language, not industry language. Customers buy value, not blocks — which is why your company needs a strong brand.

Sounds logical, right? Depends on the locus and crowd. Such uttering in, say, Silicon Valley, is considered sacrilege and will earn you condescension, derision, even ostracization.

Newsflash: the build-it-and-they-will-come tactic is a gigantic waste of money, time, and talent. Reject it. Instead create real value.

Take Convoy, for example. Founded by CEO Dan Lewis, formerly with Microsoft and Amazon, Convoy enables freight shippers to find local truckers online, bypassing costly brokers. Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, Henry Kravis, and others have seeded the startup with $2.5M.
Parting Advice to CEOs

Stop selling blocks. Customers don’t buy blocks — they buy value-based solutions to real problems. Now, is there any question about what you should sell?


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2015 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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