I met with one of my clients and friends, Armen Alajian, co-owner of Artobrick. Now Armen runs this business with his brother, Vod with the respect and tradition of a family business that has been passed down to younger generations.
However, one of the things that makes me proud to have them as a client is their aggressiveness to continue to test new ground. The latest is the “Ceramic Paintings” shown on this page. They brought an artist into their game to paint original artistic works on ceramics that can cover any size of walls and floors. Basically, Artobrick has merged the art world and the ceramics world. But what they don’t realize is they have increased their market space to the “unexplored” non-customers. This is a concept discussed in the Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne.
Kim and Mauborgne lay out three tiers:
1st tier, “Soon-to-be” non-customers who are on the edge of your market waiting to to jump ship;
2nd tier, “Refusing” non-customers who consciously choose against your market;
3rd tier, “Unexplored” non-customers who are in markets distant from yours.
I would argue that these tiles will attract a 3rd tier customer who loves art. These customers may not consider installing bricks, but may consider installing a Jackson Pollack-type tile just for the artistic addition to their home or business. This attraction gives Artobrick a distinct advantage over other tile/brick manufacturers who cannot compete in this market space because they don’t have the strategy to see buyer needs.
The initial step for this to venture to be successful is for Artobrick to distinguish a buyer utility. Some companies do surveys or venture into a new concept slowly gauging buyer and market response. I don’t know if the brothers took this step, but assuming they did, the next step is to make a price easily accessible to buyers. Third, at this price point, can they make money? And lastly, what other hurdles can restrict the market roll out.
According to the Blue Ocean authors, if Armen and Vod get past these steps, then they can have a viable Blue Ocean idea where competition becomes irrelevant. All small and medium-sized businesses should take this approach in their businesses by thinking about the non-customer.