The surest way to win anything in life is to be irresistible. In the world of marketing, I can think of two ways to become irresistible. One way is to be something that everybody wants; the other way is to be what everybody needs. To illustrate this point, I will use the classic Apple vs. Microsoft example.

Apple makes products that are irresistible because their products are exactly what people want – simple, intuitive to use, clean, and stylish. Apple is able to do that because they understand their customers to the core. Some people say Steve Jobs has a heavy hand in all of Apple’s product designs. But if you don’t have a Steve Jobs equivalent at your disposal, you can use market research data to understand your customers. Yet so many companies I know don’t fully leverage market research to plan their product design. That’s really a shame.

Microsoft also makes irresistible products, except their irresistibility comes not from designing products that people really want but from what people need. Even as open source operating systems become more prevalent, the majority of the people still rely on Windows to run their PCs today. Need to write articles or build a data model? You need MS Office.

Apple is very much beloved; Microsoft, not so much. Everybody wants to be like Apple, yet most companies don’t want to put in the effort. If you don’t want to put in the effort to create the darling products that people drool over, then you must think outside of the box and create products that people cannot live without. Short of that, all you will manage is mediocrity and become an also-run company.