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Selling Today and Gone Tomorrow?

In 1993 I was running the Budweiser account for DMB&B/St Louis. Bud was the King of Beers, 2 1/2 times the size of Miller Lite, its nearest competitor but the brand team was nervous because there was change in the air.

On one side the light beer segment was gaining momentum as Brands like A-B's own Bud Light along with Coors Light were gaining share at Bud's expense. On the other side, imports and regional craft brews were gaining traction and making noticeable inroads.

One day, while we sat with the Bud brand team, invited guest Phil Columbato, the Budweiser Master Brewer, shared what for me was a startling revelation.

"Pour any 10 domestic premium beers into glasses and put them on this table," he said, "I will pick the glass of Bud out every time, just by sight." And after a short pause, added "It will be the lightest in color."

He saw the blank look on my face and, not knowing it was my normal expression, continued slowly. "We've brewed out any taste profile that anyone might not like. And when you brew out taste, your brew out color."

Bottom line: to be for everyone, Budweiser had to brew out every unique aspect of its personality.

A few years later, after holding the top position for more than 40 years, Bud slid quickly before settling in at number three where it sits today.

So why tell this story?

I think of it every time I sit with CEOs who proclaim their brands as being "right for everyone."

These are the Grinders who, rather than develop a more defined, stronger and more competitively strategic position as a better solution for a specific audience, take this easier position as a universal solution. In doing so, they shift all the pressure onto the shoulders of their sales people.

Then the Grinders take every opportunity to say things like, "We need to focus on selling today because if we don't, we won't be around tomorrow."

Their solution to every problem is to put the blinders on and pound the phones harder. They're everywhere, in every industry and there's nothing we can do for them. They are too afraid to listen and quick to blame.

Grinders are the primary reason that half of new companies fail in the first three years and 9 out of 10 don't last a decade. They insist on going a mile wide; selling anything they can to anyone they see, believing they have something for everyone."

But the world continues to change and whether they accept it or not (and they won't), Grinders are staring extinction square in the eyes. Gone are the days when any of us will accept something made for all of us.

Brands in every category are facing a similar situation as consumers refuse to settle for brands that try to cover too much ground and appeal to too broad an audience.

Today, consumers want brands that are more specifically designed for them. Beyond understanding the detail of the specific product, they also want to understand what a company stands; its values and beliefs. They want to know the brand has a soul.

Companies that stubbornly refuse to define themselves out of fear of losing business, will tumble back into the Sea of Invisibility. They will be forgotten; replaced by companies that proudly state their brand purpose, play to their strengths and refuse to compromise their values and beliefs.

The one stop shops and one size fits all brands will disappear and a new breed of visionary innovators will take center stage; intent on helping a well-defined group of people reach more of their full potential.

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