Published on: November 21, 2008
The challenge of being relevant to the next generation of consumers is an ongoing theme here on MNB
, so it was refreshing to read in the Wall Street Journal
this week that Google and Procter & Gamble have actually been trading employees in an effort to get people in each company to think differently.
According to the story, “So far, about two-dozen staffers from the two companies have spent weeks dipping into each other's staff training programs and sitting in on meetings where business plans get hammered out. The initiative has drawn little notice.
“Previously, neither company had granted this kind of access to outsiders. Closer ties are crucial to both sides. P&G, the biggest advertising spender in the world, is waking up to the reality that the next generation of laundry-detergent, toilet-paper and skin-cream buyers now spends more time online than watching TV. Google craves a bigger slice of P&G's $8.7 billion annual ad pie as its own revenue growth slows.”
The process has been revelatory. “As the two companies started working together, the gulf between them quickly became apparent,” the Journal
writes. “In April, when actress Salma Hayek unveiled an ambitious promotion for P&G's Pampers brand, the Google team was stunned to learn that Pampers hadn't invited any ‘motherhood’ bloggers -- women who run popular Web sites about child-rearing -- to attend the press conference … For their part, P&G employees gasped in surprise during a Tide brand meeting when a Google job-swapper apparently didn't realize that Tide's signature orange-colored packaging is a key part of the brand's image.”
In other words, things that each side took for granted within the cocoon of their own business ended up being not that obvious or important to people with a different vantage point.
This is an invaluable lesson for P&G, Google…and all of us.
All of our businesses should have gigantic signs that say, “Comfort zones forbidden.” The only way we make progress is when we get outside our traditional boundaries, try something different, take a risk. The downside may be greater, but the potential upside could be enormous.
Which actually brings me to this week’s movie review, which I can use to illustrate the point of business risk.
The new James Bond movie opened here in the US last weekend, two weeks after it began rolling out elsewhere around the globe. To say it is a success is an understatement – the first weekend in the US, “Quantum of Solace” generated close to $70 million in ticket sales, the biggest opening ever for a Bond film. To this point, it has made well over $350 million…a success by almost any measure.
And yet, it is fair to say that many critics were underwhelmed by the movie, which is the shortest (106 minutes) Bond movie ever made, not to mention the only direct sequel to a previous Bond movie (“Casino Royale,” another gigantic hit, which “rebooted” the series in 2006 by showing us the young James Bond).
Much of the criticism seemed aimed at the fact that few if any of the traditional Bond moments are in the movie. Daniel Craig, back for this second go-round as 007, is a taciturn “blunt instrument” in the service of the British government, while mourning the loss of the woman he loved (Eva Green’s alluring Vesper Lynd in “Casino Royale”) and seeking revenge. He doesn’t have Sean Connery’s deadly irony, George Lazenby’s kilt, Roger Moore’s safari suits, Timothy Dalton’s Shakespearean intensity, or Pierce Brosnan’s invisible car. There is no “Q,” no Miss Moneypenny. And the hero doesn’t even say, “My name is Bond. James Bond.”
Which to me is exactly the point, and why “Quantum of Solace” is so appealing to modern audiences. The plot has a specific through-line, going from point A to point B with maximum efficiency and speed. True, they could have dallied on some typical Bond moments, but that actually would has distracted from what the producers and director Marc Forster were trying to do – build a Bond for the 21st century. Was this a risk? Sure. Audiences might have rebelled, and the producers would have had a very expensive flop on their hands. But they seemed to know that staying stagnant was not an option – and let’s face it, that is exactly what they did from ”Diamonds Are Forever” through “A View To A Kill,” and only on tentatively moved away from the formula in the movies that followed until “Casino Royale.” (“Die Another Day” is a perfect example – the first 45 minutes are terrific, and then it devolves into just another megalomaniac wants to take over the world flick, and Bond foils him with an invisible Aston Martin. Though it does have Halle Berry in a bikini, which is actually the movie’s best special effect.)
Now, I have fond memories of Connery (“From Russia With Love” has always been my favorite Bond movie), Moore (who could not like at least parts of “The Spy Who Loved Me”?), Lazenby (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is actually one of the best movies in the series), Dalton and Brosnan (I always through their performances were better than the movies in which they existed). But Daniel Craig’s Bond actually may be my favorite, since he seems like a character who actually is affected by his own deeds and the circumstances in which he finds himself. He bleeds, he mourns, he even shows some moral indignation…and yet he exists within movies that are, at their essence, roller coaster rides.
I’ll tell you something else about the new Bond movie. Mrs. Content Guy liked it a lot, even more than she liked “Casino Royale” – and I don't she ever liked a Bond movie before. So they are reaching out to a new audience without disenfranchising the old audience. And least, not all of the old audience. The appeal was strong enough to put the movie on course to making at least $500 million in ticket sales worldwide.
“Quantum of Solace” in some ways feels like the middle movie of a trilogy, much in the same way “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” did. “Casino Royale” introduced us to James Bond as a young and largely unformed agent, and showed some of the ways in which he evolves, and “Quantum of Solace” shows him running an emotional and physical gauntlet as his development continues. I have no idea what the next Bond movie will be like, but I suspect we may see a little more of the old joie de vivre
, though with a harder, more cynical edge.
I’m just fine with that. I loved “Quantum of Solace,” and at some point will line up to see it again. And I suspect that no matter what the critics say, a lot of Bond fans feel the same way.
Gotten some requests from MNB
users for suggestions about wines for Thanksgiving. My general feeling is that if you are going to eat turkey – I’m not – a good pinot noir is almost always the best choice. If you are going to have beef – I am – my choice would be a cabernet or a zinfandel.
Then again, I also think that one of the best things to do on a holiday is to just have a wine that you love.
Here are three wines I’ve recently enjoyed…and would be thrilled to have on my dining room table next Thursday:
• 2006 Concannon Limited Release Zinfandel from California, which is wonderfully smooth.
• 2005 Francis Coppola Reserve Pinot Noir from California’s Sonoma Coast – fantastic!
• 2004 Mosaic Chardonnay, which is a great balance of citrus and oak…lovely.
I want to thank the dozens of you who send congratulatory notes this week on the occasion of MNB
’s 7th birthday. I always tell people who question how I maintain my sanity working by myself that I get more positive reinforcement than any person has a right to. I may be sitting at the laptop alone, but I’m hardly by myself.
One other thing. Thanks to those of you who remembered – based on previous years’ columns – that yesterday was Mrs. Content Guy’s birthday. (I can’t tell you the year because her tolerance for my mischief only goes so far…)
The person really responsible for getting MNB
out each day is her, because she puts up with my schedule, my jokes, and even my propensity for airing family business before the MNB
I think it means she must love me. Because if she didn’t…
Have a great weekend. I’ll see you Monday.