As a professor, I teach strategy to college and graduate students. One thing that I notice about a lot of company strategies is that they are generic, bland, ambiguous, vague, uninteresting, undifferentiated and monotonous.
The biggest mistake seems to be that they don't want to offend anyone. They don't want to exclude any potential customers. They don't want to miss out on a sale. So, they try to become the ultimate company where everyone shops for everything all the time. This never works. Even the biggest (Walmart, Starbucks, McDonald's) don't appeal to everyone. In fact, many people actually hate these companies.
Seth Godin has a great post about this on his blog today and I've included an excerpt below.
It's frustrating to watch marketers, politicians and individuals fall into the obvious trap of trying to stand for something at the same time they try to please everyone or do everything.
You can't be the low-price, high-value, wide-selection, convenient, green, all-in-one corner market. Sorry.
You also can't be the high-ethics CEO who just this one time lets an accounting fraud slide. "Because it's urgent."
You can't be the big-government-fighting, low-taxes-for-everyone, high-services-for-everyone, safety-net, pro-science, faith-based, anti-deficit candidate either.
You can't be the work-smart, life-in-balance, available-at-all-hours, high-output, do-what-you're-told employee.
To really stand for something, you must make difficult decisions, mostly about what you don't do. We don't ship products like that, we don't stand for employees like that ("you're fired"), we don't fix problems like that.
It's so hard to stand up, to not compromise, to give up an account or lose a vote or not tell a journalist what they want to hear.
But those are the only moments where standing for something actually counts, the only times that people will actually come to believe that you in fact actually stand for something.
As I share the Freak Factor concept with audiences, most people are comfortable with the idea of building on their strengths. But everyone seems to really struggle with accepting their weaknesses, with not being well-rounded, with not being the perfect person, parent or employee. As Seth explains, success is dependent on our ability to make difficult decisions about what we aren't going to do and who we aren't going to be.
What don't you stand for? What don't you care about? What aren't you good at?
Admit it. Accept it. Appreciate it. Flaunt it.