“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” (Ryunosuke Satoro)
One of the truisms in business is that competition and competitive advantage are key to success. This is mostly true. But sometimes competition takes a back seat to shared goals that benefit an entire industry or product category.
We have more to gain by accelerating consumer adoption of the clean economy as a whole than we do by competing directly with other sustainable brands. Here’s an analogy that I think we can learn from.
Creating a New Market
In the late 1960s, Robert Mondavi set out to create a wine culture in the United States. More than simply bringing to market a better product to compete with the mass market jug wines of the day, Mondavi set out to create a new market of knowledgeable wine consumers. His innovations included winery tours, wine tastings at retailers and local events, collaborations with chefs who paired specific wines with specific dishes, and a constant stream of educational initiatives. We know how successful this work was.
Mondavi’s competitors certainly benefitted from his work. However, Mondavi benefitted from his competitors, too, as well as the mainstreaming of premium wine consumption. The thousands of wineries that followed his example were his competitors, of course, but more important, their existence validated and stimulated the growth of the premium wine market. Without them, Robert Mondavi couldn’t have spurred the growth of an American wine culture and the industry that supplied it.
The sustainable economy is at a stage much like the early market for premium wine. A few pioneers, like Patagonia and Seventh Generation, have led the way. They created demand for better products that appeal to consumers’ values and self-image. They set the bar and articulated the principles of sustainable business.We have more to gain by accelerating consumer adoption of the clean economy as a whole than we do by competing directly with other sustainable brands. Click To Tweet
Pooling Resources to Overcome Obstacles
Thousands of new sustainable companies have come into being and consumer interest is gaining strength. But statistics show that the number of consumers who like the idea of buying sustainable products is much larger than the number who actually buy them. As each company has thrown its resources at trying to close this gap, each one has fallen short. It’s a challenge that is bigger than any one company can solve by itself.
Like Mondavi, we need to cultivate knowledgeable consumers with a preference for something better. We need to streamline the consumer’s path to action (buying). We have to change millions of consumers’ buying habits. We can’t accomplish all this by spending our limited resources competing with each other.
So how do we make this potential real?
Sustainable Business Partners offers one answer – not the only one, but a powerful one. We are assembling a network of social enterprises and a shared toolkit of collaborative marketing methods that make all of us stronger together. We enable network members, by sharing access to each other’s audiences of conscious consumers, to expand each one’s reach many times over. Most important, we do this simply and inexpensively. (How we do this.)
“Those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” (Charles Darwin)