It’s easy to criticise the failure of an idea after the event, but every now and again we are alerted to a situation where business is guilty of massive error. For instance, I cannot for the life of me understand why, some ten years ago the board of Coke gave a marketer the freedom to change the flavour of the world’s most popular drink. You’ll recall they attempted to change the flavour to ‘cherry’, and what a veritable cod’s head Coke made of that.
Yet another illogical resolution has recently been perpetrated by Daimler Benz, who after buying Chrysler found the vehicles’ market share was decreasing. Hiring the best CEO they could find, they determined that the problem with Chrysler was not the car, the brand or its product performance but its ability to produce a vehicle more efficiently and with greater speed. Economic rationalists were ringing their hands with glee and all those bespoken businessmen were delighted until it suddenly dawned on them that such a solution didn’t actually sell any more Chryslers. Pretty obvious to most of us who couldn’t care less about how cheap it was – to us it was a brand we didn’t want to own. Would you buy a Chrysler?
My point here is not so much to demonstrate that big companies have feet of clay, but rather that the failure or success of a plan, lies in the diagnostics. Getting it right depends on understanding what’s wrong and most companies simply don’t get close enough to the problem to know. The answer is almost always found at the consumer point. It is seldom economic and more often than not it is absolutely human.
As a dimensional thinker, I look at things very differently and I think it’s unfair to ask others to think using the chaotic process that I and some of my colleagues adopt. But the truth is that the problems of business are seldom if ever obvious and the answers often lie in a remote area of the business process which is influenced by the idiosyncratic consumer.
My advice for all businesses, large and small is to go to places that they’ve never been to before. If you’re not selling enough hamburgers, your accountant is probably going to tell you to cut staff, or decrease the size of the burger. As practical and logical as that might seem it isn’t going to improve your sales. Less staff probably means poorer service, smaller burgers probably means less customers and both of these options result in the same downward spiral as the one you’re already on.
Go somewhere different, discover why your burgers aren’t being purchased – ask the customers, gather together a focus group, ask yourself what you’re not doing. Strengthen the brand, improve the service, look at your 1%ers. Diagnose the problem in a different manner.
If you’re looking for examples, look at the real winners and you’ll find they all have one thing in common, – their weirdos. They do extraordinary things, they identify the hidden truths and no matter how hard it is to swallow they cop it sweet and do the unusual.
I can’t tell you why a better brand beats a better product but after 45 years at the steering wheel I can vouch for one certainty. The answer to any business challenge is never found in the basic instruction manual. Most remedies are found in the dingy little places that occupy very little of our time or energy. They are the molecular failures; the atoms of rejection, so small we never take any notice of them. They mask the obvious and disguise the real issues. They are illogical, they defy understanding and when you discover them, the remedies you develop will be laughed out of the boardroom. Despite this, they will always remain the answers, lying dormant until someone catches up.