To Lead Your Industry, Look Outside of It

To Lead Your Industry, Look Outside of It

Here’s a question we often hear from clients:

“This has always worked for my industry; why mess with the formula?”

Any brand that wants to dramatically grow market share or take that coveted number-one spot from a competitor has to reject this thinking.

No one can innovate in an echo chamber. When direct competitors copy each other, making incremental improvements to their brand experiences, they aren’t really bringing value to clients or customers. They’re contributing to a predictable sea of bullet points, bland promises and brand parity. That’s no fun for audiences – or brand marketing managers, either.

Cross-industry exploration is a great way to break out.

A Proven Model

Cross-industry exploration has long been a hallmark of product design.

BMW’s iDrive system was inspired by video game controllers that allow players to navigate complex scenes with a simple set of buttons.


James Dyson visited a sawmill that used centrifugal force to spin dust out of the air, and the first bagless vacuum cleaner was born.


Designers take inspiration from the animal kingdom, too: Japan’s bullet trains were inspired by hummingbird beaks. (This is called “biomimicry,” and it’s worth Googling.)


This model of thinking is a universal problem-solving tool, and it works beautifully for branding, marketing and brand experience design. It’s a chance to push boundaries, and to create experiences that your customers haven’t yet seen in the context of your industry.

More Competitors Than You Imagined

Here’s a hard truth: customers are comparing their experience with your brand to their experiences outside of your industry anyway.

As marketing becomes more relationship- and experience-based, brands from different industries will begin to find themselves on the same playing field. In an issue of Airline Passenger Experience, JPA Design Founder James Park made a simple but poignant observation: “Travelers see aircraft seating and interiors and compare them with the kinds of things they get in the automotive industry and hotel industry.”

Airlines aren’t just compared to other airlines. Their brand experiences are in competition with every other brand travelers come into contact with.


That’s a B2C example, but it’s still true for B2B brands. That CEO you’re trying to reach is comparing his personal shopping experiences (buying glasses online from Warby Parker, Prime delivery from Amazon, a slick “configure your own vehicle” tool from Audi) with his professional experiences with vendors and partners. And if your brand experience pales in comparison, that can threaten your long-term relationship with the client.

How To Move Forward

If you’re interested in cross-industry exploration, here’s the first thing you should ask: who else – aside from my direct competitors – is talking to my target audience? Which brands, in any industry, share audience demographics with mine? Who is engaging with my audience, where are they doing it, and how?

Read. Explore. Dive deep. Then consider: Which strategies have been successful? Which platforms? What kind of language? Which experiences – digital and experiential – have been valuable to my audience?

Finally, ask: How can I apply what I’ve learned to my brand, my business model, and my interactions with your customers? How can I do something truly different?

Time for a second hard truth: you may be competing in those “outside” markets soon enough. So it’s time to push some boundaries.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2015 US CEO Survey, 56% of CEOs across the globe (61% in the US) believe it’s likely or very likely that they’ll be competing outside of their own sectors within three years. 33% of CEOs (36% in the US) are already there, with their companies or brands having entered a new industry in the last three years.

It’s on the horizon, and it can’t be ignored. In the meantime, engage in cross-industry exploration, and don’t be afraid to partner with innovative brands in other industries who share your brand’s values. Cross-industry collaboration offers its own insights, benefits and surprises.

WATCH: Jazzy encourages businesses to look outside their own industries for innovative ideas and fresh perspective. Watch below or on YouTube:

What does it take to beat the competition?

Download Mike & Jesse’s presentation on Competition & Positioning to hear more advice and tips to lead your industry.

Jazzy Danziger

As a senior copywriter at Atomicdust, Jazzy is dedicated to crafting compelling strategies and stories for brands and their audiences.

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