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Are You Expendable?

My eight-year-old son Nicholas is a HUGE movie fan. His favorite genre is action, so we went to see “The Expendables 2.” Yes, it is rated R, which makes me a bad parent, but in my defense I talked to a few people who’d seen it and they gave me the heads up on when to have him cover his eyes. Bottom line—he LOVED it.

Before going to a show, we have this tradition of looking up the film on Flixster and reading the reviews. The comments were pretty funny. “The Expendables 2 gives fans exactly what they came to see, more cartoonish, exploitive, action movie fluff (by means of explosions and guns) more laughable (but utterly ridiculous) one-liners, and overall one of the most immensely entertaining action movies of the year,” said Markus Robinson.

Think about how bizarre this is—people hated parts of the movie but loved it as a whole because they KNEW what they were getting when they bought the ticket. Nobody expected an Academy Award-winning film. People wanted to be entertained, see stuff get blown up, and watch their favorite geriatric super heroes save the world one more time while delivering the much anticipated (and expected) cheeseball one-liners.

Are you ready for me to get to the point? Give this some thought:

●      Are you overselling your mattress products and trying to be something you’re not? Don’t go to market putting on your big boy pants, pushing your way into a product category where you don’t belong. If your product isn’t competitive, your marketing is absent (or non-existent), your sales force under-trained or not equipped to tell the story, or you are just making products without any real strategy behind your approach to market–then hit the pause button. Instead of faking your way into a space you don’t belong, maybe you need to just be what you are. I am not trying to be a hard ass here, but all too often I see where somebody wants to be in the gel mattress space, or put out their brand-new version of a great hybrid product and there is absolutely no real plan in place. If you are not willing to do what it takes to earn your way into the higher-end price points, just be the “product for the price company.” You will probably have more success because people will know what to expect from you, just like “The Expendables 2” movie.

●      Are you defining your company or are you letting others do that for you? If people see you as the lower-end product, or have you segmented as something you are not, then you have a real problem. It is dangerous when an industry defines you as one thing when you see yourself as something else. Not long ago I took a top 20 bedding manufacturer through a day of ideation and we did the following exercise; give it a shot with your executive team. First, list all the ways your customers define your company. If they were to describe who you are and what your value proposition is, what would they say? Next, make a list of who you think you are, or who you want to be, and then capture the differences in the two. You might be very surprised to see what you get. Keep in mind, brutal honesty is the only way this works. “The Expendables 2” made it clear in the trailer what it was all about and delivered on that promise, poking fun at themselves and keeping it real along the way. It takes guts to be honest and do some real evaluation of your brand.

Self-awareness is a big deal for us personally and within our companies. Are you crystal clear about who you are? Or, are you mixing that up with aspirational thinking focused on who you WANT TO BE? Sly, the Governator, and the Texas Ranger himself turned in exactly what I expected, creating a great moment that I was able to share with my son. Don’t disappoint your fans: be who you are and be really good at it no matter what.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the thinking of the company I work for, or anyone else with whom I am affiliated. Except my wife of course, who is good at telling me what not to say.

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