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Orchestrating the Obvious: Scaling your Business via Metaphors

by Vincent Chan on Oct 2, 2009

orchestration
The Mind Reader“, Steve McCallion from Ziba Design, recently wrote a series of great posts about Consumer Experience on Fast Company Magazine.

Steve argues that entrepreneurs are always looking for a silver bullet or killer app but forget that orchestration can also create significant value to their customers. According to Steve:

In an orchestration it’s the collection of things that create value, not necessarily the things themselves. It’s not the individual notes in the song, but the collection of those notes. When creating meaningful experiences, it is often this orchestration that is the primary source of value creation.

By innovating the user experience using a “metaphor”, a collection of products and services together can help your business win in a competitive market. Steve believes:

A metaphor creates value by transferring associations from a previous experience to a new one. It functions as shorthand to help people understand the offering and what it means in their lives.

So how can you use “metaphor” as the silver bullet or competitive advantage for your company?

Steve gaves us some good examples in the offline world. These companies redefined their respective categories by leveraging the power of metaphor to create a meaningful experience for their customers.

Business Metaphor
Apple Retail Store A Learning Center
Whole Foods An Outdoor Bazaar
REI An Outdoor Industry Expo

A lot of the products selling in these companies are obvious and shared by other competitors (may be except for Apple). However, orchestrating the obvious around a metaphor helped them become winners in their industries.

Can we do the same on the web? I think so. Below are a few examples of online businesses which understand the power of metaphor.

Business Metaphor
Etsy A Friendly Neighborhood Store
Foodzie A Farmers’ Market
ModCloth A Thrift Store
Polyvore A Scrapbook

Do you know any other web businesses using the power of metaphor? Let me know in the comment area. Thanks!

I find this idea very similar to the concept of “Those little ladders in your head” in the classic marketing book – “Positioning” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

The authors believe our mind will reject new idea that is new and different. It accepts only that new information which matches its prior knowledge or experience. To put it another way, if your product is truly new, you should look into the mind of the potential customers to see what mental images already exist and then select one you can tie your product/company into. Using a metaphor is a good way to do so.

Did you pay too much attention to find a silver bullet or create a killer app for your company? Have you make your business meaningful to your potential customers using the power of metaphor? Never ignore the obvious.

Photo source: steve xavier @Flickr


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