Death in the middle

In politics, finding the middle ground is often challenging, but typically it’s what is needed to make societal progress.

In conducting our own affairs, behaving moderately–what the Buddhists call “the Middle Path”–is usually the best way to find happiness and serenity.

Yet in business, the middle is often the place to get stuck and eventually die.

Years ago, the middle was the place to be, the way to serve the broadest possible market and to maximize market share. Think Sears.

Today, the middle is the place to try to be something to a lot of people, but ultimately not mean much to any of them. Think Sears again.

In a world where consumers have virtually infinite choices, tremendous access to information at their fingertips and digital business models allow for increasingly deep levels of micro-segmenting, you can’t straddle the line anymore. You need to pick a lane.

The retail graveyard is filled with once great brands that at one time commanded strong customer loyalty, dominant market share and lofty PE’s.

None of these brands got sick and died quickly.

They all failed to understand shifting consumer desires.

They all failed to see how technology would change their core business models forever.

They all defended the status quo, while upstart competition went from interesting to good to great.

They all watched while others acted, and then their belated action came to look more like flailing than strategy.

If you are feeling safe in the middle, you might want to think again.

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