Saturday, March 21, 2009

Collapse of Distinction

I wanted to see how accessible a book like Scott McKain’s Collapse of Distinction would be to someone who didn’t know a great deal about business, so I requested this book from Thomas Nelson to review.

Short answer : quite.

Long answer : here are a few points that can help businesses and laypeople (and writers) alike.

McKain’s argument is that as businesses compete, they often become more alike, especially if they imitate what their competitors do in an effort to attract customers. This doesn’t always work. Firstly, customers can tell when one business apes another – for instance, when a small-town burger place tries to out-McDonalds McDonalds. Secondly, if a business loses points of distinction, how can it differentiate itself from its competitors?

The same concern would apply to the writers leaping on the Twilight bandwagon (or the Da Vinci Code one before it). Agents and editors get tired of seeing the same thing over and over, and this doesn’t help a particular query or manuscript to stand out from the pack.

A more productive strategy would be to focus on, develop and communicate what makes one different. Getting back to the small-town burger place, it won’t be as cheap as McDonalds. But it can compensate with a personal touch, winning points with better customer satisfaction.

A business should also not attempt to be All Things to All Customers, especially if it is best known for some area of specialization and its newer efforts undermine that. For instance, when Mercedes-Benz introduced the more economical A-Class, the prestige of the brand was affected – because the whole point of the luxury car or the black credit card is that most people can’t afford one.

As an example of a successful integration of points of difference, clarity of message, effective communication and the personal touch, the book describes Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. That was fascinating, even though I’m not usually interested in politics (or business). So I enjoyed learning about both, and found Collapse of Distinction both user-friendly and informative.


On a personal note, I've won two things this week. :)

First is the Proximidade Award from GypsyScarlett at Writing the Victorian Gothic, which is a time machine as well as a blog. It takes me back to other centuries.

And the second was a prize of four autographed copies of Liz Carlyle's books One Little Sin, Two Little Lies, Three Little Secrets and The Devil to Pay from a contest at All About Romance, which I've been reading for three or four years now. Haven't read any of the books, though, so I'm looking forward to that.


Anonymous said...


Enjoy the books you won. I look forward to reading your thoughts on them.

Marian said...

Thanks, Tasha! Though I'm afraid that the review(s) might be a while. The contest arrangers only ship to addresses in the States, and I am in the Great White North.

So I've asked a friend in the States to accept them until I can leave the Land of Always Winter and pick them up, though I can't say exactly when that will be. :|

Tara Maya said...

Interesting argument. I hadn't heard of the book; I'll look into it.

Marian said...

Hope you like it, Tara. I don't normally read books on business, but the next one I requested for review is also in this field - except it's apparently written by an ex-Mob boss and has business tips that worked for the Mafia.

I'm intrigued.

GunnerJ said...

BTW, your books have arrived.

Marian said...

Oh, thank you!

And I got another free book yesterday. I signed up for Harper Collins's First Look program and received an ARC.

Barbara Martin said...

Congrats on the books you've won, and acquiring ARCs to review. The latter is a good way to read other genres that inevitably end up helping one's creative skills.