The aim of any company is to create two reactions:
You want to create the WOW reaction in your customers and their customers. You want to surprise them time and time again by being awesome, crazy, unexpected, special, simply great and unbeatable.
You want to create the Uh-Oh reaction in your competitors and their customers. Similarly, you want to take them by surprise time and time again by being awesome, crazy, unexpected, special, simply great and unbeatable.
Mimicking competition won’t create WOW, nor will it create Uh-Oh. What it creates is commodities. We all know that commodities are next to zero in value and there is quite frankly nothing sexy about being a commodity. So why not do something of value? And further why not do something your competitors can’t or won’t do? The catch is that today, features and how you make or do something hardly separates you from your competitors. You need take a closer look at design to create something that is a WOW and an Uh-Oh and simultaneously something your competitors can’t do.
Take for example the iPod. It was hardly the first portable consumer mp3 player and since its launch there have been many attempts to overthrow its position. So what made it a WOW to millions of consumers and an Uh-Oh to all its competitors. I’m sure you guessed already. Yes, I’m talking about design. The iPod was a masterpiece of design. It actually combines several forms of design that makes it almost impossible to copy. It is a product design, a fashion design, a marketing design, a business model design, a manufacturing design, a business system design and so on.
Looking at the iPod it is easy to see that there is a clear distinction between tactical design (making pretty things – design as a noun – attempting to compete with features or looks) and strategic design (form and function from a user perspective – design as a verb – competing by separating yourself from all other actors). This is quite the same as attempting to compete in terms of price, there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper. Similarly there will always be the new model that is prettier, faster, lighter, shinier etc. So be and think different by looking at different forms of design. Figure out how design can make your competitors look like commodities.
Design is to companies what sunglasses are for Neo or what a special ring is to Frodo. You just shouldn’t separate them.