Published on: June 27, 2013
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Once again, I'd like to turn to the entertainment industry to talk about the notion of business change, and what companies have to do to adapt to new realities.
I was prompted to think about this by a Fast Company piece about a recent appearance at the University of Southern California (USC), celebrating the opening of the new Interactive media building at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, by two fellows who know a little something about the subject - Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
You can read the whole story here. Essentially the argument that both men made was that the industry is changing in such fundamental ways that it may be almost recognizable in just a few years.
Lucas, for example, said "that the collision of movie, television, video game, and Internet content represents a rare godsend for creative types: 'Right now, there are amazing opportunities for young people moving into the (entertainment) industry to say 'Hey, I think I’m going to do this and there’s nobody to stop me’ because all the gatekeepers have been killed!'"
And Spielberg, talking about the fact that so many of the big movies are mega-budgeted explosion fests with more focus on special effects than plot and characters, said: "There’s going to be a big implosion, a big meltdown where three or four, maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground."
The irony, of course, is that Spielberg pretty much invented the summer blockbuster movie with a little film called Jaws, and Lucas perfected the concept with the Star Wars films. So they have some culpability here, though I think it is fair to say that it is studio chiefs who wanted every movie to be Jaws or Star Wars, and who were better at reading spread sheets than screenplays and the books on which they were based, that bear a greater level of blame.
In their USC session, both Spielberg and Lucas talked about how films and games may be merging, how virtual technologies could reinvent the entertainment experience, and even how variable pricing may at some point mean that you'll pay a lot more to see Man of Steel on opening weekend than you will to see Lincoln. But the big point, and the one that every business needs to think about, is how even the most successful practitioners of the movie art and business are thinking about how they need to change in order to be relevant.
That's something that retailers need to think about. The world of big data, of mobile marketing, of e-commerce, of higher transparency and increased expectations - all these things mean that they have to raise their game, learn new tools and tricks, and be willing to totally reinvent themselves in order to stay in and sustain the business.
The good news is that the core business - selling things that consumer need, want, and value - stays the same. It is just everything else that has changed, including the interests and compulsions of the end users.
Spielberg made the same point at USC. While the audience and available technology continues to evolve and change, he remains convinced that in the end, is the great story and the compelling character that will be the difference makers. He said, "The thing I emphasize to everybody who comes to work at my company is, don’t play with the toys until you have something to say."
The lesson is clear. Stay true to the core mission. But be willing to challenge virtually everything else about the business model. Because if you don't, somebody else will. And that somebody else, as it happens, will be the competition.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: