Arena Thinking: Rocket Fuel For Brands

A question: What do Apple do?

Rewind 15 years or so and the answer would be “They make computers, of course”. Back in the present, the ‘Mac’ only contributes about 7% of the company’s revenue. Of the $383+ BN total, iPhone contributes just over half, accessories (headphones, Apple TV, Beats etc.) delivers about 10% with the growing ‘services’ revenue (ads, cloud, subscriptions etc.) growing strongly and contributing over 22% in 2023.

Over the past 15 years, and with increasing intensity in more recent times, Apple has been leveraging its brand’s connection with customers to produce products which deliver on customer truths instead of category norms. Arena Thinking. It has become impossible to place Apple, and for that matter many of the world’s leading brands into a single category.

The Science

According to academic and business consultant Clay Christensen, the secret to winning the innovation game lies in understanding what causes customers to make choices that help them achieve progress on something they are struggling with in their lives. To get to the right answers, Christensen says, executives should be asking: What job would consumers want to hire a product to do?

Christensen explains “Every day stuff happens to us. Jobs arise in our lives that we need to get done. Some are little jobs, some are big ones. Some jobs surface unpredictably. Other times we know they’re coming. When we realize we have a job to do, we reach out and pull something into our lives to get the job done.”

It’s this way of thinking about a brand and organising around it that is rocket fuel. Arena Thinking puts human motivation and evolving expectations at the centre of strategy. Nike, Google, Microsoft and Disney have all lit the afterburners with this way of thinking.

Enabling Arena Thinking

The enabler for a successful Arena strategy? It’s a strong brand, and by strong, I mean one which consumers completely ‘get’ and identify with. A brand which has a clear and simple origin or cause that connects with our archetypal subconscious. A strong brand will create its own gravity and only then can the magic happen that enables the brand to transcend categories and connect with people’s lives in new and exciting ways.

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