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What Can a Killer Reuben Sandwich Teach You About Innovation?

February 8, 2023

My friend Bob does not prefer sauerkraut. He doesn’t really like corned beef all that much, and if he has to pick a bread at the grocery store, rye isn’t going to be high on the list. Oh yeah, and he would like to be 1,000 miles away from the 1,000 Island dressing on a salad. 

But something funny happens when you take all these disliked and despised foods and slap them together; you get a Reuben sandwich – that old-school deli staple. In a twist befitting an M. Night Shyamalan movie, Bob enjoys a Reuben sandwich. Even though he would pass on every individual ingredient, he genuinely likes it when you put them together. 

Sometimes the sum of the parts far outweighs the individual pieces. 

Innovation isn’t necessarily creating something from nothing. Sometimes it is simply the task of making a new math equation – building a new idea, product, or service model out of parts that haven’t been used together yet. 

As a marketer, you would never try to sell rye bread, thousand island dressing, or corned beef to Bob separately. He already told you he doesn’t like them – he is not your target market. But, when you create something new, give it a new name and identity; it may be marketable to him. When creating something innovative and fresh out of existing parts, market it to a broad audience. Even the sworn enemy of corned beef might like when it morphs into something new. 

The deli sandwich is an exercise in product creativity. We all know it will have bread, some sauce/oil, cheese, greens, or another topping, and miscellaneous condiments, yet each combination can be uniquely delicious. Some even become ubiquitous, like the Reuben.

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When you are stuck in your business, look at the ingredients you already have and think about how you layer them, swap them, and make new combinations to create something unique. You may open a new door to a customer who had written you off. 

The point is simple. Even though Bob doesn’t like the individual pieces in Reuben, he loves them together. How can you take what you already possess in knowledge, creativity, and product features and innovate something new that even the haters will love?

Be on the lookout for ways to turn ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary.