The Marketplace of Abundance


There was a time when customers purchased a new product for the explicit purpose of determining merit. Those days are gone. Customers no longer pay attention to products, services, candidates, or causes because they are new.

The effect of this change on product introductions is calamitous. Here’s how Martin Lindström described it in his New York Times best selling book, Buyology.

“In 2005, corporations spent more than $7.3 billion on market research in the United States alone. In 2007, that figure rose to $12 billion. And that doesn’t even include the additional expenses involved in marketing an actual product – the packaging and the displays, TV commercials, online banner ads, celebrity endorsements, and billboards – which carry a $117 billion annual price tag in America alone. But if these strategies still work, then why do eight out of ten new product launches fail within the first three months?”

The answer to Lindström’s question is abundance. A Marketplace Of Abundance exists today, and it requires appropriate strategies.

Abundance means there are more meritorious products, services, candidates, and causes than people need, want, or care to consider. The reason abundance exists is because most new products, services, candidates, and causes are substantially similar versions of those which already exist. This trait is a direct result of the process we call replication.

Replication is a paint by numbers attempt to institutionalize success. It assumes success can be duplicated or extended by transferring the merit of an existing product into a new product.

Regrettably, pre-existing merit lacks the impact necessary to capture or shift attention from one product to another. From the public’s perspective (and from your perspective too) their is no reason to pay attention to a new product, service, candidate, or cause that is substantially similar to one already in existence.

This is not to say merit doesn’t count. Merit does count, and products without merit are that much less likely to succeed. But merit is not enough to persuade customers to try new products and neither (according to Lindström) is $117 billion dollars worth of marketing.

One reason merit and money cannot stem an 80% failure rate is that a replicated product cannot be demonstrated to be the first of its kind. Therefore, promoting a replicated product is restricted to differentiation. Words and phrases like “better,” “improved,” “faster acting,” “longer lasting,” and “tastes better” are ubiquitous to this style of promotion.

Sadly, in The Marketplace Of Abundance there are more meritorious, substantially similar products, services, candidates, and causes than people need, want, or care to differentiate. This condition cannot be circumvented by adding to it. It makes one think that Albert Einstein had The Marketplace Of Abundance in mind when he famously defined insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Data collection and analysis won’t stop the insanity either. The purpose of data collection is to quantize behavior and present such as fact(s) suitable for analysis. The purpose of data analysis is to align (quantized behavior) facts in such a way as to reveal insight about future behavior.

It is true that properly aligned facts tend to interpret themselves. But it’s equally true that facts can only be properly aligned after the behavior they represent has occurred. Put bluntly, behavior is as behavior does, not as it has done. If it was the other way round, if behavior could be determined before it occurred, there would be no innovation, no creativity, and no change! Of course change happens…

As we write this article Nokia & Blackberry (both data rich companies) are loosing marketshare to the iPhone at an alarming rate.

Netflix has just begun to recover market capitalization lost as a result of a “big data” driven decision to split their DVD rental business from their video streaming business.

And JC Penny has done away with both their Sales and their sales as a result of a newly installed data driven marketing program. (At least JC Penny’s commercials have succeeded in elevating Ellen DeGeneres’ celebrity.)

Expensive marketing campaigns and extensive data analysis cannot circumvent The Marketplace Of Abundance. To do so, replication must be replaced with the ability to comprehend the basic and invariable meaning of something before it becomes apparent to others. This requires the talent of an Unusual Mind.

George Ballas put his Unusual Mind to use when he came up with the Weed Eater. We did too when we created the Clear Vue mail sorter system.

Happily, Unusual Mind talent can be developed. That’s good because it will become increasingly indispensable as ever more costly marketing methods and increased levels of data analyses continue to prove futile.

The Marketplace Of Abundance
June 20, 2012 by Bob Manna & Matt Manna
Version: 00544504(R05) • Feb 5, 2014
Photo © soleg –

The Marketplace Of Abundance (PDF)

Article – Changing The Game
Article – Impact
Article – Marketing's Greatest Conviction
Article – On Replication
Article – Persuasive Resolutions
Article – Projection vs. Prediction
Article – Seeing Clearly
Article – Steam
Article – The Weed Eater

Seeing Clearly


Alfred North Whitehead was an English mathematician noted for saying, “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake an analysis of the obvious.” Whitehead made this comment in connection to a method of thinking called Analytic Philosophy. The thesis of this method of thinking is that the solution to a problem will become obvious once the basic and invariable meaning of the problem is uncovered. ()

We accept that you might find it strange to find an opening paragraph about analytic philosophy in a Manna Groups article. We believe you will soon see its relevance. We begin with a question from the remittance processing industry. What is the basic and invariable function of mail sorter bins?

A word of caution, while there is no doubt that the sorting of mail is a necessary duty of mail sorter bins, you should reconsider if you think the basic and invariable function of mail sorter bins is to sort mail.

Before we reveal the answer please allow us to offer a little background.

For years, the authors of this article were members of an ownership team that operated a business developing and selling products exclusively to the transaction processing industry. The strategy behind all product development in that organization was to uncover the basic and invariable function of the products we brought to market. In short, the success of the organization was dependent upon the talent to find answers to questions just like the one posed above. What is the basic and invariable function of a mail sorter?

Our answer to that question led to the introduction of a product that changed the remittance processing industry. This product’s merit was so obvious that it literally “sold itself,” even to remittance centers that already had mail sorter bins.

Our answer: the basic and invariable function of a mail sorter is to be able to see the mail once it has been sorted. The idea that sorting mail is trivial compared to the significance of seeing mail after it has been sorted, literally made our next step clear.

Never loose an envelope again with the Clear Vue mail sorter system!

We developed a transparent mail sorter constructed from the material used at ice hockey rinks. We called it the Clear Vue mail sorter system. Our tag line for promoting the product, “Never loose an envelope again with the Clear Vue mail sorter system!”

The success of the Clear Vue was instant and widespread. After a single installation, articles about, and pictures of, the product appeared in trade magazines. Consultants mentioned the product to their customers, and those customers spread the word to others. In short, the product went viral.

In one case insurance rates were lowered because footstools were no longer needed to see into the bin’s top row. In other cases the product’s glistening appearance became a “high tech” selling point for a process that was traditionally seen as otherwise. In every case, visibility lowered the chance of missing processing deadlines.

Now you see why we elected to begin this article with Whitehead’s quote. It concisely reveals the foundation of successful product development. Basic and invariable function becomes apparent once (and only if) one undertakes to analyze the obvious.

Nowadays it seems trivially apparent that the basic and invariable function of a mail sorter is to see mail once it has been sorted. Of course the obvious always seems trivial after the fact. An important lesson is that until the obvious is analyzed, basic and invariable meaning will not be apparent, regardless of how trivial it becomes after the fact.

Another important lesson is the effect analyzing the obvious has on the competition. Imagine the feeling a CEO of a metal or wooden mail bin company must have had the day after the Clear Vue was released.

The story of the Clear Vue mail sorter (just like the Weed Eater story) stands in direct opposition to the type of analyses usually undertaken during the product development process. Metrics like estimated sales volume, target market(s) growth forecasts, market penetration, etc., are incapable of measuring whether existing products have made the obvious apparent.

Metrics have a part to play in the product development process, but it’s a subordinate part. Until basic and invariable meaning has been made apparent, no other data matters. After basic and invariable meaning has been made apparent, few, if any, data are required.

We can tell you with absolute certainty that every remittance processing center that purchased a Clear Vue mail sorter system had a solution already in place. Or to put it in typical marketing speak, Clear Vue was successfully sold into a market that was 100% penetrated. It was a total repeat of the situation that existed the day before the Weed Eater went on sale.

Until the obvious is analyzed there is no calculus capable of measuring market potential. And there is no limit to the potential success of newly developed products that make the obvious apparent, particularly when they stand in contrast to existing products which have not.

Seeing Clearly
June 5, 2012 by Bob Manna & Matt Manna
Version: 005B0C6E(R03) • Jan 29, 2014
Photo © alphaspirit –

Seeing Clearly (PDF)

Article – An Unusual Mind Ghost Story
Article – Changing The Game
Article – Marketing's Greatest Conviction
Article – Projection vs. Prediction
Article – Seeing Red
Article – The Invention Of The Birthday Machine
Article – The Most Important Resource
Article – The Weed Eater