“The world is divided amongst those who are with us and those who are against us.”

A number of thought leaders who have been miffed with strategy losing its meaning, have often simplified its essence to a set of choices one makes towards a challenge or end goal.

Which means for any Strategic thinking, two things become imperative,

1. The challenge / end goal at hand

2. All possible and equally powerful ways one could go about to reach that goal

PS – If the choices are not equally powerful in themselves, then there is no strategic choice, it’s the only choice one could make, means everyone makes the same choice.

Which is why, Thinking in Binary often helps bring clarity to the mind.

Take Apple for example,

The Binary choices it defined for itself were as follows,

1. Positioning itself as a domestic computer when others were office / work computers

2. Positioning itself for creative people Vs. the corporatised suits

3. Positioning themselves as lifestyle and art as compared to efficiency and effectiveness

And you can see this with all great brands, both leaders as well as powerful challengers.

On the contrary, a powerful path for a challenger brand is to craft the right binary narrative

Fogg asked consumers to choose between value and attraction.

Volvo asked consumers to choose between safety and speed (remember the 100 to 0 in 3.2 secs ad).

Think, ideal mothers Vs. real motherhood for a diaper brand

Think, passion for driving Vs. best in class transportation or the most feature rich bike

Think, the tried and tested market leader or the underdog who will deliver because they try harder being no. 2.

And this binary may not only be about brand choices or POVs, it could also be about two possible futures or two versions of one self.

– “A vacation to experience it all Vs. a vacation to do nothing and laze around”

– “For those who love being a diva Vs. those who are made of more”

– “Super strong (Muscles) Vs. being super fit (Agility)”

“The only thing to keep in mind is that both paths offered, must potentially be a win-win – only then will the choice create tension that must be resolved, only then will the choice taken be strategic.”

“An airline that caters to family or an airline that caters to business travellers, one that focuses on efficiency versus one that focuses on hospitality.”

Because if it is not a win win, then the choice is obvious,

Eg. Are you someone who cares for your family (health insurance), is a no brainer and when a brand paints a singular positive narrative as such the consumer is quick to ignore or delay the choice, since there is no motivation or tension to act implicit in the question.

Which is why in research we often tell partners to study both loyalists (users) as well as non loyalists (non users), because the frames of references used are often where real opportunities are hidden.

Because once you understand the two contrary choices being made, you can not only build a better narrative, create brand distinction and position yourself strategically, but also decide who your go to customer would be and tailor make a better, relevant product.

Finally, a thought on the flip side, and a question to ask ourselves,

Is thinking in binary, even relevant to a generation that wishes to choose from a variety of pronouns

– A generation where grey is acceptable and celebrated

– A generation where there is yes, no and maybe for now….

In that sense, would a brand that paints or communicates ‘us versus them’ be preferred or lose favor?

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