Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hey Corporate America.. The Model Ain’t Working!

The Apple computer ads are great ads.

They feature the big, overweight business PC guy challenged by the smarter, hip, young and agile entrepreneur.

Besides the fact that I am an Apple addict, I personally identify with the ads.

Congrats go out to the Chiat/TBWA LA Team that is doing some cool stuff that propels the Apple brand.

Maybe it’s the Baby Boomer MBA mindset that fostered it, but somewhere the American business community got into glorifying being the BIG corporate star.

Here in Atlanta where BrandVenture is based, the good-old boy Atlanta Chamber of Commerce along with the Atlanta Business Chronicle (our only local business rag) seem to be top addicts of the BIG business glory ride.

Both organizations worship their brand icons like BellSouth, Georgia Pacific, Coca-Cola, UPS, Home Depot and Delta Airlines.

The corporation’s big time CEOs take center stage and the corporate names seem to litter each picture of an Atlanta chamber meeting and each weekly front page of the chronicle.

But as they have said in the past…a funny thing is happening today on the way to the bank!

A few of the news stories of the past couple of weeks paint the picture:

• Home Depot reports another horrible quarterly sales loss while Ace Hardware reports sales growth

• GE earnings are so bad that the corporation is selling off the appliance division and NBC might be on the block next (it is posting some of the worst ratings in the last 20 years)

• USAir announced that they would no longer serve any drinks or peanuts free to passengers and joined the ranks of the rest of the airlines in raising ticket prices and charging for baggage check-ins

• The operator of the Disney Stores filed for bankruptcy… Linens ‘n Things and Sharper Image are closing their doors as well

About an hour before writing this, I drank down a Red Bull. That brand is one super energizer…especially for someone like me that is ADHD.

By the way, Red Bull is not owned by Pepsi nor Coke.

A couple of years ago, BrandVenture spoke at a national marketing conference about “below the surface, counter-conventional brands”… brands that were being powered successfully by avoiding the conventional channels along with the thinking that bigger is better.

Facing economic instability, energy challenges and global economic shifts, businesses today have to be able to change…adapt…re-direct and re-energize FAST.

Just like in the Apple television ads… many of the BIG, bulky corporations in America are unable to take on the challenge.

And that hurdle goes all the way up to the office of top management that in many cases marches to the beat of the band.

What got me motivated to write this Blog was a cocktail meeting I had last night.

Back in the mid-1980s, I had an idea of a cool marketing tool for the healthcare industry that did not exist. In a nutshell, it involved the creation of a service like MRI and Simmons that tracked healthcare usage behaviors and was then further energized with an alignment with lifestyle, geodemographic profile information.

The new venture was a sweet success. It sold for $28 million in less than five years. Course, that was back in the 1980s and certainly cannot compete with the geek-entrepreneurs launching the hot sites that are being acquired today!

The company that bought the healthcare system we built was bought out and then that buyer was bought out again.

Today, the service is delivered as part of a BIG set of services and analytics offered, developed and marketed by a BIG “database” corporation.

About a year and a half ago, I met with the BIG “database” corporation to discuss why our company’s healthcare clients were becoming very dissatisfied with their product offering and found it too complex and difficult to use.

Needless to say, they really did not place much value on the dialogue.

Last year, I found out that the fifth hire of the original new venture group had started up a competitive service offering to the BIG “database” corporation. The name of the competitive service offering is Health Forecasts and the founder’s name is Tim Garton.

Through Tim’s contacts, resources and ingenuities, he has created a richer service offering that is less complex and best of all, costs about a third of the price of the BIG “database” corporation’s product offering.

Because that’s cool…and because we are able to bring to the table a link into the same segmentation model used by the BIG “database” corporation also for about a third of the cost…Health Forecast and BrandVenture developed a joint product offering.

It turned out last night that the folks I met for drinks, really wanted to get the dirt on what was going on with Health Forecasts and my company. They spent much of the time at the bar telling me how questionable any other offering to their product would be.

When I told them that the competitive offering was flexible in application, more advanced in technology and cheaper in price, they literally went into a long discourse about how anything different could never be better.

Turns out that our product has just replaced the BIG “database” corporation’s product as the preferred service offering by one of the coveted statewide hospital associations in Pennsylvania.

Isn’t it interesting how innovation, flexibility and value seem to cause the corporations to hyperventilate?

Not all BIG corporations are bad.

P&G continues to do well because they believe in building individual and independent brands that capitalize on niche opportunities.

Emerson Electric Corporation is one of the top stock purchase offerings because the company re-engineered around energy and also is organized around a portfolio of independent companies.

Maybe its because I really am driven by my passion, conviction and entrepreneurial spirit that believes you must challenge conventions to build brand success.

But right now the writing is in BIG, bold, day-glow type.

The Conventional Model Of Corporate America Ain’t Working And Change Is Imminent!

If this keeps you up late at night… call me… 404.245.9378!

When you are small, flexible and innovative…it gets the mind churning 24/7…course being ADHD helps too!

Come…Let’s Journey!

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.