The New York Times recently ran a story about the new Catsup from Heinz. It’s got Balsamic Vinegar in it. Can you think of anything more mundane than Catsup? Yet, Heinz builds their empire on it and has reinvented it a kajillion times.
Remember ‘Anticipation’? How about the ever present squeeze bottle. Do you recall when they started marketing the lid on the bottom? It’s all plain old high profit Catsup.
If you’ve had more than a little bit of career, someone has undoubtedly told you that you need to reinvent yourself. If you’re like me, that sounds like a big task and at least a little impossible. I wonder, ‘How do I do this reinvention thing?”
Just think about Heinz. They didn’t make the Catsup into Mustard or Mayonnaise; just new bottles and new theme songs. In this iteration, the balsamic vinegar replaces the standard white vinegar in the recipe. Nothing complicated.
That’s it. If you want to reinvent yourself, you need to do the equivalent of making a new bottle, creating a new theme or substituting one ingredient for the other.
Reinvention really means changing the way that you describe your skills and talents. It requires learning to think about yourself a little differently. Using the song “Anticipation” helped Heinz focus attention on what was always considered a product weakness, the slowness of the pour.
Imagine what it took to think about the fact that you have to hit the bottle as a strength. That’s the only way to get the upside down bottle marketing.
Finally, the squeeze bottle was the permanent solution to the pourability question. It wasn’t possible until technology made mass squeezing available.
Here are some exercises that might help you with your reinvention.
- What is your greatest weakness? The other day, someone told me that I was too smart and always made things complicated. Try to imagine your foible as the trademark for your brand.
- Imagine that you’re a car. What about you is like headlights? How would changing them to LEDs change the way you think about and describe yourself.
- The Art of Shaving has turned a mundane ritual into a celebration of things male. What is something you do so often that you take it for granted? How could you portray it as a serious strength.
My friend Brian was a construction estimator in the first part of this century. He also had a side business as an artist. He was a gregarious member of his church.
Today, he is a pretty successful social media strategist. He took the estimating and project management parts of his construction job, added his reputation for good design and finished it off with business development skills.
It wasn’t easy. It also wasn’t a complete bulldozer job on his life and career. He simply took the bits and pieces and rearranged them. It took about a year.
And now, he’s the new Balsamic Brian.