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Scott McKain

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Monty Python, the Black Knight, and Tablets from HP & BlackBerry…

What would make a PlayBook or TouchPad a better decision than an iPad? We don’t know…so we don’t buy.

Remember the great scene in classic movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” between King Arthur and the Black Knight?

Wanting to pass over a bridge protected by the Black Knight, Arthur compliments him, then asks the Knight to join Arthur’s quest. When the Black Knight tells Arthur that he shall not be permitted to pass, the two engage in a sword fight. Arthur immediately chops off the left arm of the Black Knight.

(from the script by Monty Python:)
ARTHUR: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
BLACK KNIGHT: ‘Tis but a scratch.
ARTHUR: A scratch? Your arm’s off!
BLACK KNIGHT: No, it isn’t.
ARTHUR: Well, what’s that then?
BLACK KNIGHT: I’ve had worse.

Arthur then chops off his other arm. The Black Knight continues to challenge saying it’s “Just a flesh wound.” After Arthur has taken both the Knight’s legs — and, I realize if you haven’t seen it, this scene doesn’t sound funny…but, trust me, it IS! — the Black Knight says, “All right; we’ll call it a draw.”

Earlier in the scene, the Black Knight has said, “I’m invincible! The Black Knight always triumphs!” It’s the Black Knight’s total lack of respect for his opponent that is part of the great humor in this vignette.

As I travel all the time, airport billboards are always in front of me. And none make me flinch more than BlackBerry’s promoting their PlayBook tablet, saying “Amateur Hour is Over.”

What? Are you kidding me? There are plenty of points you may want to make about your product compared to the competition — in this instance, the iPad versus the PlayBook — but, for goodness’ sake, you must respect a worthy adversary, otherwise you look as loony as the Black Knight does when he’s getting his butt kicked.

The BlackBerry’s sales are moribund — and now, the news that after less than 50 days on the market, HP is killing its tablet, the TouchPad.

Here’s the most important point…remember that “ALL business is show business.”

If I come out with a movie about a bomb on a bus…I had better have something in the product and marketing mix to convince my potential audience it is going to be a superior experience for them to see my film than to just watch “Speed” again. If (as is happening in a couple of weekends), there is a movie about sharks attacking people, they must have something (like 3D) to make you want to spend the money and make the effort to see the new film — as opposed to just remembering the times you’ve watched “Jaws.”

There have been a million romantic comedies — however, it’s the “twist”…the uniqueness…that makes the most successful ones distinctive. Whether it’s that the two lovers know each other as friends from the very first scene (“When Harry Met Sally”)…or that they don’t even meet in person until the very last scene (“Sleepless in Seattle”)…it’s possible to take an existing format and create a wildly profitable variation. However, the point is that there MUST be variation!

What would make a PlayBook or TouchPad a better decision than an iPad? We don’t know…so we don’t buy.

If you don’t have something — product, service, experience, lower price, ANYTHING! — that you can promote to attract interest, why would you even go to market?

(Andy Inhatko had a great point in the Chicago Sun-Times: HP would have been smarter promoting the TouchPad as a superior choice to the Kindle than the iPad.)

And, when the main point of the marketing has been the superior competitor is an “amateur” — or that, “trust us; we’ll show you a good time” — with little to no price, service, design, performance, or experience incentive — isn’t that just the perfect recipe for failure? You’re nothing more than the Black Knight, proclaiming your company’s invincibility as you slink away from your latest failure.

Do you consider your competitors to be worthy adversaries, even as you promote your points of distinction to the marketplace?

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More Stories By Scott McKain

Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.