Compete on Price or Compete on Story




By David Sherry of Death to Stock

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Today the details of what goes into making a product remain absent. We have a generation which has grown up in a world where everything comes packaged and boxed by Amazon. One click purchases remove friction from our lives, and slowly, as these processes are being taken over by automation and robotics.


Are there still people involved at all?


And if not, how would we know?


The only human we see is at the last mile…the USPS delivering the box at our doorstep.


And with that removal of friction comes the removal of connection to the producer of these goods.

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This change in efficiency created the race to the bottom; selling via Amazon often means competing on sort-by-price.


Underneath the giant canopy of Amazon, “micro-brands” show up in our news feeds like weeds. Using advertisements, using global drop shipping operations – they collect small margins on unbranded replica goods all built and shipped from the same factories.


These brands compete on the same vertical as Amazon, and soak up the remaining market share for replica goods.



As Brands, we have one of two options.


Own the small margin play, and automate as much of the process as possible to win the low-price competition, and diversify when the market dries up.


Or, go up stream, avoiding the rat race of utility focused goods, focusing on developing a brand based on story, on human connection, and differentiate by creating something that you can’t get anywhere else.


To the artist, the advantage over Amazon is the personal, and human experience which they can infuse into their work.


To instead play in your own league; and, as you increase your share of mind and heart, you increase your price.


This, too, is the choice for consumers.



The next generation of consumers is intuitively shifting their preferences from utility value to emotional experiences.


And so while the option remains to buy cheap, efficiently shipped sunglasses at a low price, we see consumers spend more, and seek out more interesting products that come infused with a story or experience.


We’re beginning to recognize that the future is not simply about more products at lower prices.



Consumers today are the search for products that ignite our imaginations and take us on a journey.


And all we need is one or two particular types of product that can save us.


We’re preferring products which come infused with a set of values, stories, ideas and connection that is uniquely suited to meet customers in a different way.


When we find products that delight us, we feel in the imperfections, a warmth that only a human can deliver.


In this world, friction, and imperfection is a feature, not a bug.


Although, maybe imperfect is the wrong term.


Rather, “Human” – which naturally means some type of imperfection.


The details, the story, and background, the coloring and layers of a product; you can peel them back and understand and appreciate the direct connection to a creator.


The artist, the human process, behind the product, their story, and background are a core part of that experience.


So the task of creators today is to incorporate a feeling into our work that is uniquely human.



The art you're creating should intimately reveal the process and human behind the work.


For example:


You see live streaming being used by IKEA with IKEA Today, which has shifted their focus to the behind the scenes of how they are designing and constructing their goods.


IKEA TODAY streaming the creators of their new product lines, focused on artist collaboration.

IKEA TODAY streaming the creators of their new product lines, focused on artist collaboration.


Ikea now highlights and collaborates with new individual creators for their product lines, infusing their personality into every design, and showcasing the process and thinking behind the work along the way.


Or, take the use of sharpie as personalization on this pair of Nikes, what says a Human was here, than Sharpied names and drawings.


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Or, take EVERYBODY WORLD, which selects individuals to highlight with every clothing item. In this case, Poloma, who is only 14, sharing her unique take on the world and the medium (garments).

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So what we’re seeing is that If you can’t compete on price, you can compete on story.


Whatever the Medium, the opportunity for brands is to use new tools as portals into the human experience, revealing the process of the creator, their story, inspiration and imperfections.


Art is just sharing the human experience.


And as everything becomes automated, we’re freed up to do just that.