Just came across this yesterday and I think it provides an excellent example of a differentiation strategy from an industry I know nothing about: cover bands. It inspired me to write because I think this shows that there are some fundamental lessons about differentiation that you can apply across any industry/market.
Check out the video below (Here’s a link in case you can’t see it). It’s from a band called “Walk off the Earth”.
Are you blown away by this? I am. I love the song. I think the fact that 5 people are playing one guitar is pretty amazing and it stopped me in my tracks to actually watch the whole video. And I enjoyed the song thoroughly. In fact, I like it better than the original.
Like any of the million other cover bands out there, these guys take popular songs and play them for others – attempting to put their own twist on the original. Most of the time, no one notices the cover version. Sometimes a cover song will stand out. Check out this cover of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi by teenager Greyson Chance . He’s gotten 45 million views. It’s a genuine hit.
If I were to compare what Greyson is doing to marketing technology, he is differentiating by being the best (I think most people would agree that Greyson is exceptionally talented. It might be hard to define a “best” cover song but I think this would be up there as one of them). If you can be the categorical best in any market, that’s a strong position. However, it’s hard to be the categorical best in any market. There’s only one! And everyone is claiming to be the best so it’s not often even clear who is actually the best.
So, being “best” is not a great differentiation strategy for software, and it’s even harder to achieve for cover bands since there is a lot of noise (no pun intended) in that market. Just search you tube for a popular song and add the word cover. You’ll find a bunch of teenagers with guitars in front of web cams. It’s a crowded market. Most of the time you see cover bands trying their hardest to do a compelling original take on a song. And leave it at that. From an art perspective that might be enough. But from a business perspective it’s not enough to stand out.
Here’s where Walk off the Earth’s strategy comes into play. First off, these guys are fantastic musicians and have beautiful voices. Their version might actually be the best. But talent is table stakes in the cover band game. You sound awesome…great. I’ll listen a few times and probably never think about your band again
What Walk off the Earth is doing is that they added some unique elements to their rendition that sets them apart from other cover bands. And they have applied them consistently across their entire catalogue. I clicked through some of their other songs. They are fun. They are interesting. They are entertaining. I played them for my kids. They absolutely loved these videos. And it’s not just my kids. These videos have millions of views.
For example, I can’t even begin to describe the belly laughs 1:04 of this Adele Cover brought my kids. At 0:47 of this LMFAO Cover they jumped out of my lap and started dancing around like crazy. At 2:22 of this Radiohead Cover (not to mention the amazing musicality and instrument tricks) my kids laughed a ton again. It’s not just comedy, in this Eminem cover, they use looping technology to interesting effect.
My appreciation for the band built with every click. The “Walk off the Earth” story became clear and differentiated to me and I started to appreciate the other elements of their brand and become comfortable with their product. Bottom line, when I click on a Walk off the Earth song, I’m going to get a great musical rendition, and they are going to do something with instruments/performance that entertains me in other, usually funny, ways. Having engaged their brand for about a half hour now, I’ll probably buy an album from them.
Bottom line, in an otherwise crowded market they found a way to stand out and get me to engage with their brand. Kudos, it’s a great differentiation strategy. I do wonder what is next for them. How do they parlay that into a successful business model? Right now I’m checking out some of their original music (and enjoying it obviously), so they are moving me along the path to being a customer of that content. There could probably be a more obvious path, but that’s a thought for another post. For now, great job standing out in a crowded field with a consistent, differentiated positioning for their product.
Editors Note: I used to be in a band so I’m not just a technology geek. :)