Iconopoly - A Made-Up Word That Should Exist

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May 25, 2018
Thoughts by
Tyler Hagler

Before you eye-roll too hard on this article, hear me out.  

Yes, I combined Iconic with Monopoly, but the word has good reason to exist

Iconopoly was inspired by reading Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One, (Chapter 4: the Ideology of Competition) in which he makes a compelling argument that, in order for any company to exist, they should seek to become a monopoly. He describes the lengths to which companies like Google will go to pretend to not have a monopoly to the outside world (especially regulators).  By contrast, most companies are commodities, not substantively differentiated, yet claim to have some form of monopoly. Without a monopoly, competition erodes profits in a race to the bottom where everyone loses. Thiel takes delight in using obvious behavior to distinguish truth from fiction.

Iconopoly: A monopoly derived from creating an iconic brand and/or intellectual property around an iconic product.

The term was coined by Trig to describe the unique value of industrial design, and human-centered design, in creating long term sustainable value for companies.


A New Definition of Monopoly  

"To an economist, every monopoly looks the same, whether it deviously eliminates rivals, secures license from the state, or innovates its way to the top. In this book, we’re not interested in illegal bullies or government favorites: by “monopoly,” we mean the kind of company that’s so good at what it does that no other firm can offer a close substitute" - Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Thiel’s Four Forces of Monopoly

  • Proprietary Technology: Having a product that's so unique it cannot be replicated
  • Network Effects: How the end user affects the sustainability of the product
  • Branding: Creating a unique brand image to last in the minds of customers
  • Economies of Scale: Production costs should go down as demand goes up

Industrial Design Directly Addresses Half of Monopoly Creation

Creating intellectual property and brand asset management is Trig’s core service model. Companies hire industrial design firms to bring their fantastic ideas and experiences to life in such a way that is not only functional and unique, but also guarantees that the end creation has its absolute best shot at winning the hearts and minds of a target audience. Companies like Apple and AirBnB are well known for using iconopolistic practices to build great product experiences and brands. While the industrial design and design thinking methodology alone won’t ensure market success, it is undoubtedly a critical factor in the success of an innovation program or startup.

Further Exploration

We are thrilled with the genuine pragmatism of this bold concept, and are grateful to author Peter Thiel for the inspiration. If you are similarly passionate about creating iconic work then you will certainly enjoy Zero to One. For more thoughts on the novel itself, take a look at Trig's book review.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel is available for purchase here:

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Tyler Hagler

As a career industrial designer and innovation practitioner, Ty Hagler has managed hundreds of new product development programs through the process of opportunity identification guided to commercialization.


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