Last week we talked about the value of partnerships in helping to obtain scale, but the ultimate acceleration of your impact would be to be sought as a partner -- to build a brand so powerful or respected that there is value in lending your name and support to any other cause or product, or to build a name so authoritative that you could lend it to your own ideas to enable greater results. This is what we call platform, and if you can achieve this you've struck gold. It takes significant effort and a track record of success, but if you can build platform you can continue to take greater risks and, ideally, drive greater impact than ever before. In essence, the goal is to generate your own celebrity status and to harness the power of it as fuel for your ideas.
I'm not saying that the work doesn't need to be done on the front end, nor that you must continually innovate and improve, but if you do it well you might pave yourself an "easier" path in the future. Take, for instance, the case of one of the more influential brands in today's market...
Before Apple released the iPad mini last year, Jimmy Kimmel did a hilarious bit on the evolution of the iPod, featuring a spoof commercial from Apple:
First came the iPod (2001). Then a slightly thinner iPod (2003). Then a tinier iPod (iPod Mini, 2004). Then a taller thinner iPod (iPod Nano, 2005). Then a taller thinner iPod that shuffles your songs (iPod Shuffle, 2005). Then a pink one, a blue one, a green one (iPod Nano, 2006). Then an even smaller iPod (iPod Shuffle, 2007). Then a wider iPod (iPod Nano, 2007). Then an iPod you can touch (iPod Touch, 2007). Then an iPod you can talk on (iPhone, 2007). Then an iPod you can talk on with a G on it (iPhone 3G, 2008). Then a shorter fatter iPod (iPod Nano, 2010). Then a shorter fatter iPod that shuffles (iPod shuffle, 2010). Then a thinner iPod you can talk on with a 4 on it (iPhone 4, 2010). Then a gigantic iPod you cannot talk on (iPad, 2010). Then a gigantic iPod you cannot talk on that's a little faster (iPad 2nd Gen, 2011). Then a white one (OMG OMG OMG). Then a thinner taller iPod you can talk on (iPhone 5, 2012). And now a bigger, not gigantic iPod that you can't talk on (iPad Mini, 2012).
While this pokes fun at Apple for unveiling what they deem revolutionary products (iPod, iPhone, and iPad alike) that in reality all may be slight variations of one another, you cannot downplay Apple's obvious mastery of our platform concept.
The company has created a cult-like following by knowing how to play up their past success and to unveil each product iteration at exactly the right moment to almost always compel people to set up camp outside their doors. They've generated such a high level of trust and commitment from their customers that they can continue to throw the Apple logo on products and almost certainly find themselves successful.
Consider the buzz around one of Apple's rumored upcoming products: the iWatch.
With potential release in 2014, hype has already begun around this "revolutionary concept." But this isn't really a new concept. Companies like Microsoft attempted to launch a watch back in 2006, but with limited market success. One might argue that their watch was more of a proper "watch" than what Apple has envisioned -- something to be used less as a time piece and more as a biotech piece, but even that has been done (consider the Jawbone or Nike Fuel band currently in the market). My bet, though, is that the Apple iWatch will establish itself as the market leader, dominating its direct competition. Why? In part, yes because its product will likely be well designed, but even more so because of their reputation and hype... that existing platform.
Watch the video below and continue to explore what is possible when you drive hard towards building brand platform. And even if building such a platform proves too big a leap at this stage, the discipline and ideas presented are invaluable to your journey of making it happen.
After you watch, do some thinking about other ways you might build a platform. Is there a social cause or broader trend that you could get ahead of and ultimately become synonymous with? A trend that you may later be able to leverage off, and use your own brand to lend credibility to another company's brand or offer?
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.
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