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A few weeks ago I had a chance to interview Sasha Strauss, who is considered an international branding badass.  He helped clarify a common misconception that many companies have, which is their brand is largely represented in their name or their logo.  He counters that narrative saying, “It’s not the name of the business, it’s not the symbol of the business, it’s why I should believe in the business that is the brand.”  This isn’t the only reason that Quibi failed, but it does underpin many of the mistakes it made and gives a clear example of what you should avoid with your business.

 

 

 A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet…Right Quibi?

This famous Romeo and Juliet line just reinforces Sasha’s stance because all Shakespeare was saying is it doesn’t matter what a person’s name is, it’s the substance that makes up the person.  So if it doesn’t matter whether the company is called “Quibi” or “NewTV”, which was Jeffrey Katzenberg’s original idea for the business, then why so much effort and focus on the name?  

Jeffrey and CEO Meg Whitman hired famed brand-strategy firm, Siegel+Gale, and no doubt spent a lot of time and money doing so.  While I don’t think the name is great, I also don’t think Quibi is horrible.  It’s short, punchy, and is easily memorable which are all great foundations for a company name, but what does Quibi even mean?  I posed this very question to Google and found that it stands for “quick bites”, which is on-brand, but it took me 4-5 different sites to discover that.

Your name is important because it is your calling card, whether that’s for your actual business or a specific product or service offered.  However, the lesson here is that you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money developing one.  As a kid, I was in love with Disneyland even though I had no idea what the name was.  I just knew what it meant, which leads us to…

To Stand Out You Have to Differentiate

To be fair to Quibi I think they break even in this category.  On one hand, they introduced media in “mid-length” format in the 5-10 minute variety.  On the other hand, their marketing was heavy on how great it was to have fresh content for those “in between moments” in life when you’re on your phone.  

The problem is those in between moments are already being filled by a multitude of apps, many of which are already provide video streaming services.  There is literally an infinite amount of short format videos already available, and more importantly already being viewed, on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Youtube.  Its notable that all of those apps are free, and so Quibi’s differentiation here is a tough sell.

There’s one final differentiator that Quibi conscientiously made that I question.  They decided to enter the market with a mobile only app.  Combine the fact that nearly every television these days is a SmartTV with the growing cord-cutting trend in favor of streaming services and I’m left scratching my head.  Unfortunately for Quibi the pandemic only exacerbated this difference with so many people sheltering in place within their homes.  

Getting Creative in How You Differentiate

The challenge with differentiation is coming up with the slant that’s not just different but is meaningfully positive for your customer base.  As the Quibi examples indicate this a hard thing to do.  Just this week I spoke to Verne Harnish, aka the “Growth Guy” who has helped countless businesses differentiate and so I asked him, “What’s the best way to come up with ideas on how to differentiate.”  

He told me that in many industries most companies do things the same way.  The first place to start is looking at specific elements of your business like how you price or deliver your product.  If your way is just like everyone else then start whiteboarding different ideas and then test those ideas with your customers.  

The other thing Verne mentioned is to get out of your industry.  You are who you surround yourself with so if you’re surrounded by people doing the same kind of thing as you it’s going to be harder to think outside the box.  Evaluate how completely different industries do things.  In the beginning this feels very foreign because on the surface many things won’t seem applicable to your business at all.  That’s when you’re just getting started though. 

Then you have to think about how these different ideas could be adapted and molded to fit your business.  Even then, many won’t apply at all, but there will likely be one or two that are novel enough to give your business the differentiation it needs. 

The Proof is in the Pudding

Perhaps the biggest challenge that Quibi is facing is it’s actual programming.  On the positive they were able to attract big stars to their platform like Liam Hemsworth, Reese Witherspoon, Sophie Turner and more.  Having nearly $2 billion in funding is out of this world compared to the budgets that we mere mortals have, but big budget or not, it’s crucially important to make sure you’re content is top notch.  

Quibi never managed to produce the kind of breakthrough program(s) that pay-for-play streaming services need to thrive.  These are crucially important to keep your existing customers coming back for more, and just as importantly they’re the kind of programming that generate free viral advertising and social media buzz that helps to bring in new viewers.  Think about about how much buzz Neflix has gotten over the years with programs like House of Cards, Narcos, Stranger Things and more.

You have to make sure that your products or your services are not just meeting your clients expectations, but that they’re exceeding them.  John DiJulius shared with me that when he started his salon business he made the conscientious decision that he wanted his clients to have the best customer experience of their day when they came to his salon.  Note, he didn’t say the best “salon experience”, he literally wanted his salon experience to be the best experience the customer had with any business they interacted with.  

That concept makes perfect sense, but it’s how you actually get there that is the challenge.  If you have 30 minutes I highly recommend you listen to Reid Hoffman’s “Masters of Scale” episode with Airbnb co-founder “Brian Chesky”.  Brain talks about how they brainstormed “How can we make our experience better?”.  Once they had a great idea, the they asked, “Ok, how could we make that even better?” and then they just kept repeating that experience.

Quibi started with a great idea, it just wasn’t executed very well.  Hopefully these ideas can help you take a better approach with your business and clients!

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