Originality — preview

I’m working on a post about the business value of originality.  But seeing this picture today (at PC World) of the Dell Adamo external optical drive, I felt a preview was in order.


While imitation may be a high compliment, it disappoints.  Not simply because people are compelled by innovation (novelty is implied), but because there is real business value in it:

The original is authentic.  Authenticity drives loyalty.  Loyalty drives margin and shareholder value.

ThinkPad was an authentic original in 1992, with its black minimalism and thoughtful engineering.  We at Lenovo continue to nurture that authentic position.  And we enjoy a reasonable premium and customer loyalty.  A milled aluminum rectangular prism with generous radii on the corners, and crisp edges on the planes, is an Apple original.


Dell has (predictably) added some decorative graphics to the surface, but this further solidifies its position as a copy.  Dell has aggressively recruited design talent over the last few years, including from Lenovo, with the promise of investment in differentiating design.  I know at least one person who must be embarrassed today.

The whole PC industry bemoans commoditization; but without originality, it cannot hope to break that cycle.  Plus, isn’t it a whole lot more fun to do things first?


4 Responses to “Originality — preview”

  1. 1 Thinker March 20, 2009 at 9:28 am

    The name Adamo is very appropriate since it means ” To fall in love with” in Latin. It’s rather obvious that someone at Dell is very in love with Apple design. First business notebooks that look like fake ThinkPads and now this. How Dull.

  2. 2 Tim Daloisio March 20, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    And if you were going to copy something from Apple, would the flop that was the MacBook Air really be where you would start? Seriously? A design-centric $2k+ ultraportable? In this economy? Spend that time, design, and money bringing a better $1,200 – $1,750 machine to market instead. Make the mid priced notebook the mainstream instead of the value lines or netbooks. Move AOV up considerably and innovate where the mainstream can push your brand forward.


  3. 3 Gerard Kunkel April 10, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Very nice comparison. Some organizations can only follow. Others can truly lead. Do you think it comes down to the internal culture, a few individuals, leadership, a well concieved, documented and communicated vision, or a combination of all? I tend to think it’s all.

    • 4 Craig Merrigan April 10, 2009 at 11:32 am


      Thanks for the comment. Some obviously examples are companies led by charismatic and forceful individuals (usually founders). But there are many other companies which achieve originality in design, branding, product/service, et al.

      I think what they commonly possess is a internal consciousness of their brand intent, and how it differs from competition. If an organization has this, it naturally filters out inauthentic copies of other companies’ stuff. Harley Davidson people understand their brand instinctively, and Gateway did in the past (then they lost sight of it when they thought they needed to tread new paths to grow). How that installation of a brand compass comes about is a longer discussion, but I do think top level leadership is required. If powerful, this brand compass will also survive leadership successions.

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