The Book Summary of Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson

In today’s competitive business landscape, being a second-tier company isn’t an option. Play Bigger, authored by Al Ramadan, Christopher Lochhead, and Dave Peterson, along with business writer Kevin Maney, advocates a strategy for companies to become market leaders by creating entirely new markets for their products, rather than merely competing in existing ones.

The core idea is to identify unique attributes of your product and design a market that showcases these qualities, positioning your company as the sole and superior solution. Market leaders, including some of today’s most successful companies, have achieved this by unveiling customer problems they weren’t aware of and then presenting themselves as the only answer.

This guide will delve into the concept of market design and the importance of being a market winner. It will outline a step-by-step approach to creating and maintaining a successful market, making a compelling case for this strategy in the modern business landscape.

“Play Bigger” – Part 1

The book “Play Bigger” introduces the concept of market design and market winners. Market design is the creation of entirely new markets for products, focusing on solving problems that people may not even realize they have. The goal is to highlight your product’s unique advantages, making it the exclusive solution.

The key to being a market winner is designing a new market that sets your product apart. Market winners can dominate their market, securing the majority of profits and value. However, market design is challenging for several reasons:

  1. Simultaneous Development: Building your company, product, and market simultaneously is a complex task. Achieving this alignment creates a flywheel effect that propels your company toward market dominance.
  2. “Better” vs. “Different”: There is a natural tendency to create products that are better, not different, in an existing market. This approach is more comfortable and profitable in the short term but won’t lead to market leadership.
  3. Resistance to Change: Convincing consumers to embrace a new solution or market can be difficult, as people tend to resist change. Shifting mindsets and demonstrating the benefits of your market and product are crucial in overcoming this resistance.

The book illustrates these concepts with an example of a low-tech device competing in a market for those seeking a solution to tech overwhelm. By creating a new market that highlights its unique attributes, this company can become a market winner.

Part 2: Three Steps to Market Design Success

In this section, we delve into the three crucial steps for effective market design and positioning yourself as the market leader.

Step 1: Identifying Your Market

The initial step in market design involves pinpointing an unmet need or a fresh approach to an existing problem. This is where you identify your market. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t first create a product and then define its market. Instead, you should simultaneously develop your product, market, and company to support each other. This synchronicity creates a flywheel effect that propels you towards market domination.

The authors suggest breaking down the process of identifying an unmet need into five parts:

  1. Decide Who Leads the Identification: Someone with an outsider’s perspective should spearhead this effort. They should be dedicated solely to this task.
  2. Conduct Research: Gather information about your company, its industry, and the problem you’re solving. Avoid seeking customer opinions at this stage.
  3. Hold Ideation Meetings: Brainstorm with your team about your target customers, the problem your product solves, how you express this problem, the required mindset shift in your customers, and the details of your new product.
  4. Choose a Name for Your Market: Start identifying a name for your market. Keep it concise and memorable.
  5. Document Your Work: Create a document summarizing your market’s description, ecosystem, required mindset shift, final market name, and the reason for this new market.

Step 2: Crafting Your Company’s Take

Once you’ve defined your market, it’s time to establish your company’s “take.” Your take comprises your identity, guiding principles, outlook, and a compelling story about how your company uniquely solves a problem.

A robust take sets you apart from competitors and fosters an emotional connection with consumers. It’s especially vital when introducing a new market. Your take should change consumers’ mindsets and make them embrace your innovative solution.

To create your take, answer essential questions:

  1. How is your company and product different from others?
  2. How will you create the product and ensure its success?
  3. What impact will you have on consumers and the world?
  4. What identity, culture, and employees do you envision for your company?

Step 3: Launching Your Market Design with a Big Event

To reveal your market and take to the world, plan a “Big Event.” This event should be attention-grabbing and make a lasting impression on consumers. Your Big Event should convey two main messages: that you understand the customer’s problem better than anyone and that your company is the market leader.

Here’s how to prepare for your Big Event:

  1. Set a date for the event, typically three to six months after defining your take.
  2. Mobilize your company to delegate responsibilities and ensure everyone understands their role.
  3. Track your progress and make necessary adjustments.
  4. Be alert to potential obstacles and address them promptly.
  5. Ensure cohesiveness in all aspects of the event, from venue to messaging.

After the Big Event, sustain the momentum with follow-up smaller events and campaigns. These should emphasize your market’s uniqueness and maintain your position as the market leader. Bold and aggressive messaging is key to differentiating yourself from competitors.

Incorporate these three steps into your market design strategy to increase your chances of becoming a market winner.

Part 3: Sustaining Market Dominance

After establishing yourself as the market winner, maintaining long-term success involves two key steps:

  1. Expanding or Creating New Markets: Every company eventually saturates its existing market, requiring the expansion or creation of new markets to continue growing. For example, in the low-tech devices market, you might expand to include customers looking for analog products like paper agendas and notepads.
  2. Building a Flywheel: A flywheel, composed of aligned company, market, and product, reinforces your market leadership. To maintain this momentum, the authors suggest:
    • Strengthen your company’s identity and mission.
    • Conduct ongoing events and campaigns to reinforce your unique market position.
    • Gather data to improve your products.
    • Attract and hire the right talent.

By diligently maintaining these elements, your company can refine its identity as it grows and ensure it remains at the forefront of the market.