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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Twitter for Content Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Ries & Trout wrote a series of books about Positioning.

I love these books and have written about them many times.

A picture named ladder.jpgThey explain markets in terms of metaphors that help you visualize that markets work differently from the ways we were raised to think they did. Markets are not about features, or about what you remember, they're about the map in people's minds, and about the impressions products leave, not the details.

In Marketing Warfare, they depict the marketplace as a battlefield, and used the principles outlined by the Prussian general Carl von Clauswitz in his writing about war. Minds are where the war is fought.

Then they depict the market as a collection of ladders. On each ladder there's a number one, two and three in any market. Every marketer thinks his or her product is unique and stands alone, but what's important is what the prospect thinks. In colas there's Coke, Pepsi and everyone else. Poor 7Up wasn't even on the ladder, so they invented a new one called Uncola. It worked (but it usually doesn't).

A creneau is one of these new ways of explaining something so that it stands separately in the mind of the prospect. Some creneaux exist, like laptop computers and desktop computers -- we all know the difference. Some creneaux don't exist, though marketers would have you believe they do. "The leading realtor west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies." Yeah yeah yeah. :-)

What about ladders and creneaux in markets that are developing right now. Yammer proved that there is a segment you could think of as Twitter Behind the Firewall or Twitter for Workgroups. The product and company are doing well, because that is a real segment and they are the top guy on the ladder.

Some products are new but so useful that they pretty much form the whole market. Dropbox is an example. That means one of two things may happen: They may add a feature or find a new way to explain it that puts it either into a new segment of an existing market or on the ladder in an existing market. Ries & Trout believe they would do better if they did one of those. Either be second guy on the ladder in a booming market, or split off a piece of a market and own it. Standing alone isn't such a hot deal for the first guys in a market. Just ask Cromemco, Altair and Radio Shack about their leading positions in the personal computer market in the 1970s.

A picture named coke.jpgSo what about Droid. It does so much, it's really hard to figure out what creneau it might be occupying, so I think it's on the iPhone ladder, maybe #2 or #3. Probably #2. Call it the Cellphone as Style Statement market. The other one is probably the Palm Pre. Microsoft, Blackberry and Nokia are on the old ladder, the one that the iPhone refused to get on.

Then there are creneaux that I'm sure are there, but with no products in them, yet.

Communicating Cameras. Oh boy what a great market that's going to be when someone goes after it seriously. No one has, yet. The iPhone is a dress rehearsal for the real product whose communication ability will be as seamless as the Amazon Kindle. The tech industry hardly notices that Amazon has solved a hard problem, in typical Amazon fashion, completely. The Kindle isn't glitzy like the iPhone or Droid, but it works so well you could say It Just Works. A high compliment.

Others: Checkbox News and Social Cameras.

Another creneau that I've been yammering about for years, which I called Payloads for Twitter, I'm now conceiving in a different way -- I'm giving up on Twitter doing this -- and instead hoping that Dropbox may get there first. They have already done an RSS feed for changes to dropboxes. And they have a public folder in every dropbox. If they do a minor cleanup of their RSS and support a realtime protocol such as rssCloud or PubSubHubBub, they will be squarely in what I think of as a new creneau with enormous potential -- Twitter for Content.

PS: This piece ran earlier today on my Unberkeley blog. There are some comments there you may want to read.


Last update: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 6:23 PM Pacific.

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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