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18 May

Nuance as differentiation

We generally use the word ‘nuance’ when it comes to discussions and the various online arguments we indulge in everyday. But the word is just as applicable when it comes to a lot of other things, and we might be seeing nuance return in a big way.

Nuance in products

Take the example of Figma.

Before Figma, the Adobe suite of tools treated design as an individual pursuit. But Figma added more nuance to the discussion. It understood that design today is larger than just designers. Rather, it is all the collaboration and conversations that happens between designers, product managers, and engineers.

Previously, it was very difficult for non-designers to be involvedin the design process due to many logistical challenges. The designer had to send the PM a file. To open the file, the PM needed to have the expensive design tool installed in their own machine. And all the feedback could not be commented on the file itself — it had to be delivered via a disconnected medium like email. After implementing the feedback, the designer had to start this whole process anew by sending the updated file. This resulted in slow feedback loops and impacted the speed of iteration and shipping.

Figma leveraged the capabilities the internet offered to make something that understood a designer’s workflow within an organization in a vastly more nuanced way. It enabled the kind of seamless collaboration that was highly desired but wasn’t possible before Figma. It made companies realize that collaboration was not only possible, it was needed within organizations. And that a design tool shouldn’t just be something exclusively made for designers, but should be easy enough to be used by non-designers as well.

Once Figma added that nuance desired by knowledge workers, there was no going back to tools that didn’t allow this level of collaboration.

You can replace any other widely used app today with Figma and you will still see the steady addition of nuance and functionality that's a result of understanding customer needs really well.

Nuance in marketing

How does one compete with Amazon?

You can’t simply add a million items to your own website and offer the same breadth as Amazon does. You don’t generate enough revenue yet for this to be viable.

So, the only way you can compete with Amazon is to go deep within a niche. To add more nuance to a specific category of products. To make this limited set of products better than anyone else does in the market.

If you have a niche product, you can become an expert in that niche and incentivize consumers to pick you over going to Amazon for the same product. Amazon can beat you on breadth but it cannot beat you on depth, simply because it would be economically unviable for Amazon to do so.

You can create useful content around your products, describing their use-cases. For example, a D2C brand that sells baked goods can start an Instagram page sharing recipes that use baked products. They can talk about the history of baking, different baking traditions across cultures, different kinds of bread, etc. They can educate their customers in a much more nuanced and deeper way and build authority in the space as a result.

Depth over breadth.

Nuance in content

With the amazing breadth in content that the internet offers, people need a way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Naturally, good, insightful curation of content around specific niches is in demand. Simultaneously, there is a slow but steady shift towards long-form content consumption among knowledge workers, as long-form content is generally a lot more nuanced and discusses the complexities involved in everyday work. It is way more practical and actionable to anyone who wants to apply what they read in the workplace.

Distribution naturally incentivizes short-form content because of mimetic fitness. People tend to remember and share pithy one-liners and short posts more than long-form essays. But that kind of content is not very useful in daily life because it misses the important nuances involved in working reality.

Nuance in careers

There is also a steady shift in people appreciating generalists with a specialisation — or as it is more commonly known — with a T-shaped skillset.

Depth of expertise is also how you build a career moat and provide the kind of value that no one else can easily provide.

It is good to be a generalist when you’re exploring what you might be suited for, but the actual compounding happens when you enter exploit mode and go deep within a niche.

Nuance in teaching

Experienced professionals are increasingly opting for 1:1 coaching for specific areas of their life, like writing, fitness, public speaking, meditation, etc. as this kind of coaching 1. selects for experts who know their domain really well, and 2. allows for a very nuanced, context-specific engagement between student and teacher.

In fact, a common marketing funnel these days is to offer free value to people on social media and build a massive following and distribution, post which you can sign up those who want more personalised help for 1:1 coaching.


We might be seeing a gradual shift away from bundling to unbundling, especially when it comes to catering to knowledge workers. They demand more depth than breadth, not only because it is more useful, but also because it feels more meaningful.

Something to think about the next time you’re ordering your custom blend of coffee.

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