Published on: September 18, 2008Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.
There was a piece in the Washington Post the other day worth revisiting, about companies that consumers actually care about. The story suggests that there are actually very few such companies, but that they “represent a distinctive and distinctively American contribution to 21st-century capitalism.”
The four companies, at least according to the Post are these: Starbucks, Apple, Google and Amazon. The SAGA companies, in the words of the columnists, James Ledbetter and Jacob Weisberg.
What makes a SAGA company?
Well, it isn’t size – because these are organizations with vastly different market capitalizations, ranging from Starbucks’ $12 billion to Google’s $158 billion. But Ledbetter and Weisberg argue that each of these companies “has transformed not only a specific commercial marketplace but also some important aspect of contemporary life -- computing and music for Apple, information and advertising for Google, coffee for Starbucks, books for Amazon. In doing so, each has had an appreciable impact on our daily routines, taken on a looming presence in popular culture, and often engendered an intensity of feeling more often associated with tastes in entertainment or political views. Together, they have created a new model of business innovation, culture and values.”
What else do they have in common? There are three areas cited by the authors, two of which I think need to be taken seriously by retailers in almost every venue.
Ubiquity, for one thing. It is hard to find a teenager who does not have an iPod, just as turning to Google is almost second nature when you go online. Amazon certainly dominates the online marketplace, and Starbucks sometimes is on every street corner in America…though it can be argued that, at the moment at least, circumstances and maybe even a little arrogance have conspired to make that ubiquity less of an advantage than it was a few years ago.
How does this relate to other retailers? Well, I’ll go back to the statement I keep making ad nauseum here on MorningNewsBeat – that modern consumers, and certainly the consumers of the future, wants products to be available where they want them, how they want them, when they want them, and at a price they believe is appropriate. That, my friends, is a kind of ubiquity that the 21st century retailer needs to embrace.
Another common trait, according to the authors, is the ability to “engage consumers on an almost spiritual level.” I ordinarily would be inclined to dismiss this as sort of new-age nonsense … but the fact is that I am one of those consumers, especially when it comes to Starbucks, Apple and Amazon. (Google not so much…though I get the point.)
The authors describe it this way: “Think of the reaction this summer when Starbucks announced it would close 600 outlets: There were protests and petition campaigns throughout the country. Americans reacted as if they had a legal right to lattes within short reach of their homes and offices. In large part, this is because the companies inspire both a sense of community and the ability to create personal brands -- I am my iPod -- which is a powerful combination.”
This ties into what the folks at Management Ventures call “The New Premium” – the ability of a brand to transcend the value of a product, and communicate the values of a company. And it is becoming increasingly important to consumers. The current economic straits in which many of us find ourselves may slow down this trend a bit in the immediate future, but it is likely to be a trend that will outlive today’s recessionary climate.
Finally, and I think this is very important, the authors argue that all of these companies are iconic American brands…and yet, they have global appeal. The SAGA companies reflect an essential kind of American innovation. According to the Washington Post column, the SAGA companies “represent the dramatic shift away from domestic manufacturing and toward an idea-driven, consumer-focused, value-added economy. It is also not coincidental that all four companies are based on the West Coast, reflecting the shift in America's demographics and centers of innovation.”
Ubiquitous, engaging to consumers in an almost spiritual way, and reflecting companies that are idea-driven, consumer-focused, and value-added.
Sound like ingredients for success in my book. Ingredients that more companies need to put a premium on as they define their cultures and their strategies.
And accept nothing less.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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