I didn't even realize the thread was 3 years old when I responded.
I definitely don't disagree about the similarities between products in the hammock market and it's obviously something I think about often (hence this novel length forum post). All of us will hopefully continue to innovate and try to differentiate with technical differences, weight differences, design differences, etc., but it's often inevitable that similar and even nearly identical products are available in any market. Especially when you're dealing with lightweight products that require simplicity in design to be effective.
Sleeping bags are a good example of this in the outdoor gear industry - the overall design is nearly identical
across so many brands and yet we still find reasons to choose one over the other. As to why some parachute hammocks manufactured in different places have nearly identical designs, I think it's obvious that when something works it gets replicated (not necessarily a bad thing) and the pure simplicity along with the 'it just works' design is most likely the biggest reason for the shared dimensions, style, etc.
As a consumer, if there are clear differences between products the choice can be easy - maybe you prefer a WBBB style over a TLG design or vice versa. There's a lot of room to create new designs that are more along the lines of a backpacking-specific system (like WB and some of the great cottage manufacturers on this site) but in terms of a simple hammock that has broad lifestyle appeal for its comfort and simplicity, the overall
hammock experience itself will likely be 'similar' for a while. Even small differences that differentiate brands (dimensions, features, materials, etc.) won't necessarily change that overall experience until larger innovation comes.
The point I really want to make is that we always have these similar choices as consumers. And, like with the sleeping bags, backpacks and so much else, when products I'm looking at are essentially the same it becomes more about the overall experience than anything else - you start looking at things like who's got better customer service, community, etc. or, what brand just makes you feel better.
That's been my primary focus with Trek Light Gear and will always continue to be. I have every intention of continuing to add new products and finding ways to make the hammock experience better while differentiating from the competition. But the most important thing I can do every day is form a connection with customers, be honest and transparent, and give them a reason to feel good about choosing TLG over a similar or even identical product.
This weekend, TLG passed 10,000(!) fans on our Facebook page, a huge testament to the community and connection that people feel and something I'm extremely proud of. If someone asks me what makes a TLG hammock better than an ENO for example, the fact that our hammocks weigh a couple ounces less is awesome but it just isn't enough (it is for many of you here but not necessarily for the masses) - it's often the details outside of the product that matter just as much. It's little things like our 'Buy A Hammock, Plant A Tree' program and giving 1% back to the HF community that I believe mean more than a slightly different hammock design that provides the same overall experience.
Sorry for the long winded response, those that know me or follow along with the blog probably know how important these aspects of running a small business are for me and I'm happy to talk about it.
I believe strongly that you don't need to reinvent the wheel to start a successful business. You can start selling toothbrushes tomorrow and if you focus on creating a positive experience and impact you'll know exactly how to answer the "What makes your toothbrush better than any others?" question.
(By the way, @angrysparrow - please don't think this was a rebuttal to your post or directed specifically at you in any way. I appreciate the point you made and since it's something I'm passionate about it just gave me a chance to share my thoughts on the subject!).