Basic concepts of convergence and divergence
The concepts of convergence and divergence came from the natural world and were introduced almost two centuries ago by Charles Darwin. One of the pillars upon which Darwinian theory is based is natural selection. This theory assumes a parameter of evolutionary change for all living organisms through the development of adaptive skills to the environment in which they live. The great diversity of species and organisms found on the planet is proof of these changes.
According to Darwin, there are two forms of evolution according to the diversification of organisms. On the one hand, convergent evolution occurs when organisms occupy similar environments. These tend to have significant similarities in their forms, even if they are unrelated species. And on the other, divergent evolution occurs when a population is isolated from the rest of the species. As a result, and according to different adaptations, different forms emerge. However, they maintain the structures of the original type.
At this point, an analogy with the natural world can offer fruitful insight into creating lasting brands. To discuss brand evolution and survival, we must consider the above forms (convergence and divergence).
Since the 2008 crisis, we could observe a trend in companies’ unstoppable search to secure a dominant position in the market. That is the commitment to the convergence of its products and services. In this way, they added features and incorporated functionalities that, in most cases, didn’t provide significant competitive advantages. Finally, this led them, in many cases, to a resounding failure.
Therefore, what companies need to strengthen their brands is, first of all, to be clear about the power of the divergence principle. Second, they should apply it in developing new product categories from existing ones. And finally, put all their efforts into becoming the first brand in these new categories.
The power of consumers
If we consider what Al Ries explains, the product categories stay consistent until the products are available on the market. However, we don’t believe that consumers are ignorant people who don’t know what they want until someone shows it to them. Consumers today are becoming more informed, connected, and confident of what they want and what they don’t. On the other hand, although it sounds paradoxical, they are more open to trying new things. That implies exploring, experimenting, and putting all their senses into play to affirm their identity.
Traditional marketing sought to discover customers’ desires and exploit them to the fullest at a lower cost than the competition. That would inevitably lead to convergence, lack of innovation, and loss of audience interest in brands.
On the contrary, generating divergence means jumping establishment, breaking the rules with products and services that become value propositions that meet customers’ needs, not impose them. That also implies a change in how they connect and interact with them.
Therefore, this speaks of a new era of consumers. More mature and determined, who know what they want and, if they can’t find it, they do it themselves. It is worth noting the exponential growth in entrepreneurship, many of which began as the solution to an unsatisfied need of the entrepreneur himself, who had no choice but to investigate and put it into practice.
New markets, new opportunities
To summarize, the opportunities for a brand’s growth and positioning are not in the existing markets but in creating new ones. In this globalized world, competing in already consolidated markets is impossible. There, supply and demand are fragmented, with little room for new players.
As Al Ries clarifies, for the launch or relaunch of a brand that intends to last over time, we must seek to separate it from the existing products or services to generate a new market in which to establish its dominance. That is, to go from the convergence to the divergence of the markets.
The main objective of any brand management process shouldn’t be to create a specific market but to try to understand the minds of potential customers. This search is neither more nor less than positioning. The key is understanding the consumer, knowing and valuing him, achieving his respect and recognition, and then offering him what he needs resoundingly.
Where are the brands going? From convergence to divergence
For Al Ries, two principles governed the theory of evolution: the gradual change of the same species and the separation of one condition from another to create a new one. The first occurs slowly. It is based on competition between individuals of the same species and the survival of the fittest. The second occurs abruptly and is produced by the increasingly accentuated division between them. That is also the case in marketing and business. The rivalry between brands drives improvement, and competition between categories drives them apart.
That is why, although convergence seems to be an attractive path for developing a brand, it ends up locking it into a range of multiple attributes, of which we finally use a few, turning it into a failure.
In conclusion, the principles of convergence and divergence are closely related to a significant concept, such as positioning. This concept frames the “reason why” for every brand. That is to leave a profound mark on customers, become their standard, and become a loved brand.