Hi, Steven here. This is Product Matters, a semi-regular (lol) newsletter on Products and Strategy. Each issue I try to share something I’ve written on the topics of products, digital strategy, and design.
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Wow, kind of crazy that this newsletter still exists. COVID certainly did a number on my drive to do anything remotely productive: reading, writing, exercise. While most people felt (at the start) that this newfound time would give them time to do a life makeover and be healthier and more productive, it had the inverse effect on me. My healthy & productive routines from Normal Time™ were disrupted and I spent the last 7 months playing video games, watching Twitch, and getting a new dog. The only exception was the brief time I spent writing Munny.club, a short-form newsletter on Personal Finance that reached its natural conclusion.
More recently, I have started to pick up books again and writing internal notes to the team at Versett. This will be my first return to public writing in a while.
This newsletter was taking me upwards of two months to write, despite its shortness, because I felt like I needed to come back with more. Instead, I’m just gonna keep it short.
Instead of interesting links, I want to plant some seeds for thought. These may turn into blog posts in the future (double lol), I just don’t have the energy to spend fully exploring them right now.
The DTC revolution is not “just a fad” - it’s the future of retailing. We have seen countless brands from every size adapt to the demands of 2020 - resilient retailers are climbing to the top. This year has also shown us who will be left behind…
I saw this tweet from the President of Shopify and am not sure if I agree with the sentiment yet. Part of me wonders if retailers are the next wave of intermediaries that are being disrupted, the travel agents of today. I think this might be the case. Counter to this though, there are certain capabilities/benefits to retailers (distribution, marketing, aggregation of customers) that would now fall on brands if DTC is the future. Perhaps this is simply the cost of entry for 2020 onwards.
There is a great older article from Venkatesh called The Calculus of Grit that clicked on of the missing pieces for me in a problem I was thinking before: why are generalists so in vogue?
I think people are coming around to the realization, though not fully, that problems span the boundaries of disciplines/domains. Unfortunately, careers are structured around artificial domains/categories whereas problems don’t make these distinctions. This phenomena feels so revolutionary because we are used to operating in categories. Once you realize that your goal is to solve a problem and aren’t concerned about what falls into “your domain”, you get a bit of a superpower that can guide your interests and capabilities.
Related, kind of: Robert Sapolsky talking about the power and problems with categories
Going to try to make a case for no, it doesn’t. The “theory” of differentiation is that there should be a clear reason why you are different when compared directly to an alternative. People generally don’t make informed decisions; they don’t stack up and rank compare, trying to find the optimal one. They often make decisions for reasons like: - The previously purchased from you (favourite brand) - Your product looked cool (visually appealing) - It was the cheapest option - It was the closest option - It was recommended by friend You may argue these are differentiation, but most people won’t select these are reasons they are different. Companies aren’t making positioning decisions based on these things. I wrote a bit about this here, but don’t specifically address it.
Simply planting this seed. What do you think?
That’s all for this time. I’m always looking for feedback on both my writing and my ideas. Have something on your mind? Just reply to this email. I would love to hear from you and I read every response.