Three ways to navigate the content trap

Team Culture Lab

18 April 2017

Businesses are looking at two things in today’s digital world: how to get and how to create a market for one’s product or service. At the Godrej India Culture Lab, master business strategist Bharat Anand shed light on how using siand not fall prey to The Content Trap, also the title of a book he’s authored.  

In February 2017, the Godrej India Culture Lab hosted a special lecture by Bharat Anand which provided a new perspective on one of the key questions society faces: how to thrive instead of being destroyed by digital transformation.

Anand is a Henry R. Byers professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (HBS) and also heads its online education course. His talk was an extension of the book, The Content Trap, which uses the latest research in economics, strategy and marketing to reveal important lessons, smash celebrated myths and reorient strategy for companies. Anand spoke of how HBS’s online education programme – a project he passionately led – had unknowingly fallen into the content trap and the smart manoeuvres he and his team used to achieve 90 percent completion rate. Here are three takeaways from the masterclass:

The power of connected decisions

Each business has its own DNA, so content and marketing strategies that have worked for one might not succeed for others. Businesses essentially succeed or fail based on two models: an individual customer’s decision-making or through customers’ connected decisions.

In the individual decision-making model, when a business wins or loses consumers, it loses them one by one. But in the second model, it either wins the entire market, for example, like Uber has done, or plummets to the bottom and exits, like eBay did. Airbnb, Facebook and Uber are classic examples of businesses that have succeeded massively through the connected decisions model. They practically spend next to nothing on marketing and their users have become their sales force. If you want your business to grow exponentially, focus on changing the way consumers would use your product and analyse if it can positively affect other consumers’ decisions.

Be yourself, even in your business

The biggest advantage of online presence is its massive reach and while cashing in on this, businesses should also concentrate on the crucial aspect of customer engagement. Use digital platforms to connect with your customers and listen to their needs. Try and find scope for connectedness and integrate community into content or the core product.

Your business need not tread the path most taken; concentrate on your value proposition and think of ways to separate digital from traditional. Moreover, beware of the best practice trap. There are bleak chances of one business being best-in-class on all parameters that a customer wants or needs. Also, your customers, your product DNA and your business history could be very different from that of your competitors; hence, prioritise based on what matters to your customers.

The rule is simple: Align, prioritise, say no once in a while and follow less is more. When creating a product for the digital world, swear by these three things: Create to Connect, Expand to Preserve and Dare to not Mimic.

Complementarity is emperor

What is complementarity? What ketchup is to hot dog and French fries, what roads are to tyres, and what carpet cleaners are to pet owners is what complementarity is all about. The availability of a complement increases the demand for your core product, and pricing it cheaply boosts your business even further.

In the US, finding child care is not as easy as it is in India. Young parents find it difficult to leave their kids under reliable supervision and enjoy leisure time. Identifying a business opportunity, movie theatres rushed to rescue and now offer child care services adjacent to the theatre, the prices of which are absorbed in the movie tickets. And despite soaring ticket prices, movie shows are sold out — this is the beauty of complementarity.    

‘Content is King’ is an often-heard adage, but a lesser known reality is that ‘Complement is the Emperor.’ Do not miss out on an opportunity to be another business’ complement.