Published on: April 3, 2008Now available on iTunes
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
One of the points that seemed painfully obvious as the credit/debit card security breach at Hannaford Bros. unfolded, with experts saying that the retailer did everything it was supposed to do but still was outwitted by criminals, is that we’re all guilty sometimes of not having sufficient imagination.
In retrospect, it isn’t entirely surprising that the bad guys see opportunity where most people would see a foolproof system. Bad guys actually have to be more entrepreneurial about such things…it is how they commit crimes, not to mention stay ahead of the law. (The good news, of course, is that the bad guys often make mistakes, which is what allows the good guys to track them down.)
It sort of reminded me about what a lot of people say about technology and communications – if you want to see where things are going, just watch the pornographers, because they seem to have a better sense of future opportunities, and how to monetize them, than a lot of other people. After all, the porn industry was ahead of everybody when it came to the home video business, and it is my understanding that it also has figured out how to make money off the Internet as well.
But I don't really want to talk about bad guys this morning. I’m more interested in drawing your attention to a couple of stories that caught me by surprise, mostly because they illustrated companies doing the unexpected. And now, more than ever, it is critical to respect the unexpected.
For example, there was the news that the folks at Clorox have actually put out a music album with seven songs – five of which were created for the company’s new advertising campaign, and that are described as “ethereal orchestral music and pop tunes to sell the company's line of bleaches, disinfectants and other home-cleaning products.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “half of the proceeds from album sales will go toward covering the production costs of the project, with the other half going to a charity called Music in Schools Today, which promotes music education for youth.”
What’s interesting about this is that Clorox – and a bunch of other companies, including Allstate and Procter & Gamble – have begun thinking about their advertising in different ways, and they are investing in original music that is really original. It is a new way of differentiating their brands, and while it might not strike a chord with everybody, these companies are thinking different. And thinking different is always the first step toward acting different.
Another company that is thinking different, and in doing so has created an entirely new business model, is a company called Zipcar, which has actually been around for almost a decade but that I only became aware of recently when I read a piece about the company in the Boston Globe.
In case you are equally unaware of Zipcar, the company has completely reimagined the car rental business. As the Globe writes, “Cars are sprinkled throughout city neighborhoods. And there's never any paperwork or standing in line required to borrow one: just wave a membership card over the windshield, and the doors pop open. Seconds later, you drive off in a Mini Cooper, Ford Escape, or BMW sedan. Gas and insurance are included in the hourly rate, which hovers around $10.” The company has a presence in cities such as London, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, DC, and currently has a fleet of more than 5,000 cars and 180,000 members.
Now, the Zipcar business has been so successful that the business model has attracted the interest of companies like Hertz and Enterprise Rent A Car, which illustrates a truism of the “think different” model – you can't stop, because there always will be imitators trying to take away your advantage. (This reminds me of what happened when Netflix introduced its online model for renting DVDs, only to be copied almost immediately by Blockbuster, which I still think is inferior…)
Here’s the moral to the story. A lot of people never would have thought that a seemingly secure credit/debit card infrastructure could be violated, but it was. I never would have thought that a bleach company could sell music albums – or would want to – but it does. And few people could have come up with the Zipcar concept, but somebody did, and now there are imitators.
It seems to me that every company, no matter how big or small, no matter what business it happens to be in, ought to have somebody in charge of imagination, of thinking different. Such a person could end up being the most important player in the company.
I have hanging over my desk some of the original “Think Different” ads created for Apple Computer more than a decade ago. I look at them constantly, and believe them worth quoting…
“Here’s to the Crazy Ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.
“They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can’t do, is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
“While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Respect the unexpected.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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