I was talking to my fiend Lynda last Friday and I was shocked.
Lynda moved to the United States about four years ago from the UK and she said he was missing Heinz Baked Beans because she couldn’t get them where she lived, except from a speciality import shop a long way away from where she lived.
That doesn’t make sense says I, slightly patronisingly. Heinz are a huge American company and they must sell one of their most famous products in the States.
Well it seems that I was wrong.
Heinz Baked Beans (or is that beanz because we all know that “Beanz mean Heinz”) is an iconic brand in the UK (it was number 19 in the UK Top Brands in 2010).
According to Wikipedia, “Heinz Baked Beans were first sold in the UK in 1886 in the upmarket Fortnum & Mason store in London as an exotic import at a high price.”
These days baked beans are considered a staple, an integral part of the Full English Breakfast and an easy and quick snack for lunch or tea.
In the States, things are a bit different.
Again, according to Wikpedia,
“In the United States, Bush’s, B&M, and Allen’s are well-known producers of baked beans. B&M concentrates almost exclusively on Boston-style baked beans, while Bush’s produces several flavours; both use cured bacon to improve the flavors of their products…
Heinz also sells baked beans in the US, but there are substantial differences between the Heinz baked beans sold in the UK and the nearest equivalent American product (Heinz Premium Vegetarian Beans). The American product contains brown sugar where the British beans do not, and the US product contains 14g of sugar per 16 oz tin compared to 7g for the British version (equating to 140 vs 90 calories). The US beans have a mushier texture and are darker in colour than their UK counterpart.”
So while interesting (to Heinz baked beans lovers) what does this have to do with business strategy?
What are you assuming to know or believe in your market which isn’t true?
My logic for Heinz baked beans was impeccable.
- Heinz are an American company.
- Baked beans are from America.
- Therefore Heinz baked beans are American.
But it was wrong.
Make a list of the fundamental beliefs you have about your market – about your customers (and non-customers), about your competitors and about the wider environment.
Then ask yourself what proof you have that each of your beliefs is true. Look for evidence both ways – that it is true or that it may be wrong.
We live in a word of mental models based on our beliefs, assumptions and knowledge.
What we perceive is real to us. Even worse our minds have a nasty habit of ignoring stuff which conflicts with our own beliefs.
But we can get into trouble if our perceptions are wrong.
And even if it doesn’t cause problems, we could be missing an opportunity.
Many years ago, a fundamental assumption in the banking industry was that to compete you had to have branches in the city and town centres. And that meant a huge financial commitment.
But it wasn’t true.
Technology meant that first telephone banking (with First Direct) and then Internet banking were viable opportunities which could offer a better value proposition to customers for much less cost to the business.
Sure some people still want a bank with a physical presence near them but many are happy to deal with a bank at long distance – over the telephone and the Internet or through the post.
That’s just one example.
Amazon could be another.
Imagine twenty years ago, if you had the ambitious to build a huge business selling books and CDs. Your mind would focus on a chain of shops up and down the country. We know it’s not true and again, the value proposition presented by Amazon is very strong.
Challenge your beliefs and see what insights you can find.
Me? I’ve got to get a food parcel ready for Lynda.
Paul Simister is a business strategy coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace.