Good to Great & The Hedgehog for Brand Positioning

Good to Great by Jim Collins’ outlines the Hedgehog Concept.  It is a framework that can be applied to brand positioning. The concept is derived from the idea of a hedgehog, which has one simple but effective defense mechanism against predators: rolling into a tight ball with its spines pointing outwards.

How does your brand go from good to great?

Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept encourages companies to adopt a similar approach by narrowing their focus and owning a superlative in a specific area.  It helps businesses identify their unique value proposition and focus on their core strengths to achieve long-term success.

The Hedgehog Concept consists of three intersecting circles, like a Venn diagram (5th grade math has its uses, finally):

Hedgehog concept - Venn diagram of passion, perfection, profitability
Find the intersection of Passion, Perfection and Profitability
  1. Passion: This circle represents what a company is deeply passionate about. It delves into the core values, beliefs, and purpose that drive the organization. It asks the question, “What activities ignite our passion and make us feel fulfilled?”
  2. Perfection: This circle focuses on what a company can be the best in the world at. It revolves around the unique skills, capabilities, and knowledge that set the organization apart from its competitors. It asks the question, “What are we genuinely exceptional at?”
  3. Profitability: This circle explores what drives a company’s economic engine and ensures long-term profitability. It involves understanding the key factors that contribute to financial success and sustainability. It asks the question, “What drives our economic engine and generates sustainable revenue?”

The intersection of these three circles is where the Hedgehog Concept resides. It represents the sweet spot where a brand can achieve exceptional performance and distinct positioning. By aligning their passion, expertise, and economic viability, companies can define their core focus and make strategic decisions that enhance their brand positioning.

Apply the Hedgehog Concept to brand positioning

To apply the Hedgehog Concept to brand positioning, a company needs to identify its core competencies, understand what it is genuinely passionate about, and uncover the economic drivers that can sustain its growth. By honing in on these areas, a brand can differentiate itself from competitors and deliver unique value to its target audience. It involves making deliberate choices and saying no to opportunities that fall outside the scope of the Hedgehog Concept.

Also read: Survive ChatGPT with better positioning

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Some brands that seem to get the hedgehog concept

I reviewed some successful brands and applied this concept, and here is what it looks like:

1. Apple: Revolves around their passion for creating user-friendly, innovative technology products. They focus on being the best at integrating hardware, software, and services to deliver a seamless user experience. Apple’s economic engine is driven by their premium pricing strategy and strong customer loyalty.

2. Nike: Nike’s Hedgehog Concept centers around their passion for athletic performance and inspiring people to reach their full potential. They strive to be the best at designing and marketing athletic footwear, apparel, and equipment. Nike’s economic engine is fueled by their global brand recognition, strategic partnerships, and effective marketing campaigns.

3. IKEA: Based on their passion for affordable, well-designed furniture and home products. They excel at providing functional, stylish solutions for everyday living. IKEA’s economic engine is driven by their efficient supply chain, self-assembly model, and cost-conscious approach.

4. Google: Built on their passion for organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. They are the best at providing relevant search results and online advertising.  Their dominant position in the online advertising market and their ability to monetize user data powers their economic engine.

And some brands founded in India that have applied the Hedgehog Concept of positioning:

1. Amul: A dairy cooperative, Amul has applied the Hedgehog Concept by focusing on their passion for providing high-quality dairy products. They excel at being the best in the dairy industry, particularly in milk, butter, and cheese production. Amul’s economic engine is driven by their widespread distribution network, strong brand equity, and cooperative model.

2. Titan: Titan, a leading watch and lifestyle brand, has successfully applied the Hedgehog Concept by centering their passion on designing and manufacturing exceptional timepieces and lifestyle products. They excel at being the best in the Indian watch market, offering a wide range of stylish and reliable watches. Titan’s economic engine is fueled by their strong brand reputation, robust retail presence, and continuous product innovation.

3. Patanjali Ayurved: Patanjali has embraced the Hedgehog Concept by focusing on their passion for providing natural and Ayurvedic products. They strive to be the best in the market for Ayurvedic medicines, herbal cosmetics, and food products. Patanjali Ayurved’s economic engine is driven by their emphasis on traditional Indian wellness practices, affordable pricing, and strong brand loyalty.

Patanjali – Can The Top Upstart Indian Brand Continue To Grow?

5. Zomato: Zomato, a popular food delivery and restaurant discovery platform, has successfully applied the Hedgehog Concept by focusing on their passion for connecting people with great food experiences. They excel at being the best in the market for restaurant search, online food ordering, and food delivery services.  A large user base, strong restaurant partnerships, and effective monetization strategies drive their economic engine. (Down the rabbit hole from 2014: Why Zomato lobbed a Tomato)

Find your unique positioning!

In essence, the Hedgehog Concept helps companies find their unique positioning by focusing on what they are genuinely passionate about, what they excel at, and what drives their economic success. It encourages businesses to carve out a niche where they can be the best in the world and create a sustainable advantage in the market.

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