It’s Foodie Friday, and this week, boys and girls, I’m not having any fun. I’m experiencing feelings I haven’t had since I found out about the Santa thing many years ago. I’m sorry to end your week on a down note, but I found something out that I need to share. It is, of course, helpful to those of us in business, but it’s really a bummer.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You know those cans of pumpkin you use to make pumpkin pie this time of year? That orange goo that turns into warm spice wonderfulness? It turns out that it’s not pumpkin. Nope. It’s squash. In fact, it’s multiple kinds of squash (Butternut, Hubbard, and others) blended together and labeled “pumpkin. The Libby’s people actually have their own variety to replace actual pumpkin, which apparently is too watery and stringy when canned.
I’m sorry if I just ruined Thanksgiving for you. But it points to a broader issue, which is that of transparency. The can says “pumpkin.” I suppose not many folks are lining up to make squash pie, but a lot of folks do think they’re paying top dollar for one species of fish and they’re getting another. They also think they’re buying organic when they’re not.
Trust is among the most important things we try to develop wth our customer base. Once we violate that trust, it’s almost impossible to get it back, and consumers have enough choices that they can move on to someone more trustworthy pretty easily. When you’re pushing pumpkin pie that turns out to be squash, Boston Cream isn’t that far behind. Oh wait – that’s not a pie at all – it’s a cake, technically. OK, apple then.
Don’t serve squash and call it pumpkin, no matter what it is you’re selling. Please?
Anyone with whom I speak these days has a lot to say about competition. Every business seems to have many more players going head to head for customers, and I suspect that nowhere is that more true than in the media business. The Boss wrote about “57 Channels And Nothing On” a couple of decades ago. He characterized it as having been “Shot back in the quaint days of only 57 channels and no flat screen TVs”, and 25 years later the average home can receive nearly 206 channels, according to Nielsen. What is instructive to anyone is business, however, is that they watch fewer than 20, or under 10% (19.8 channels, to be precise).
Obviously, consumers are spending just as much, if not more, time with video content. It’s not a matter of the video business being imperiled. What is a problem, however, is the manner in which the traditional business model operates. Video providers have bundled together dozens (hundreds!) of channels and sold them to consumers who really had very limited choices in breaking the bundle of channels apart. You’re beginning to see “skinny bundles” which focus on a few popular channels. Although I’m not aware of any “roll your own” packages in which a consumer can choose any channels and create their own bundles, they aren’t far off. Rest assured that if the cable and satellite guys don’t offer them, someone will.
Consumers aren’t rejecting TV – they’re rejecting a business model which forces them to pay for TV they don’t watch. That’s something that isn’t unique to cable and satellite. Fast food does it. You might end up paying more for something if you don’t want the fries or soda and, therefore, buy ala carte. Software companies do it. The music business did it (an album was always cheaper than buying the best songs on that album as singles). 5 years ago, researchers found that consumers might actually value a bundle less than they would value the individual component products. There was a “negative synergy” associated with the bundle. The key to successful bundling it seems is to provide an option to buy the individual components or the bundle. When that option isn’t there, sales actually declined significantly.
We can’t sit on existing business models anymore no matter what business we’re in. We certainly can’t force consumers to pay for things they don’t really want to get those things they do want. I’m watching the changes in the video business with great curiosity (and some degree of thanks that I’m no longer in it!). You?
If you have any interest in presidential politics or are the kind of person who can’t look away from a trainwreck, then you probably tuned into the shouting match between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton last evening. It was billed as a debate but as we’ll see in a second, it was anything but. It did, however, teach us something about business.
Debates between presidential candidates have been going on for centuries. You’ve heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. While those weren’t about a presidential election, they are fine examples of classic debating form. This is an excellent definition from the International Debate Education Association:
Debate embodies the ideals of reasoned argument, tolerance for divergent points of view and rigorous self-examination. Debate is, above all, a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insult, emotional appeals or personal bias. A key trademark of debate is that it rarely ends in agreement, but rather allows for a robust analysis of the question at hand.
Was that what we watched last night? I think not. But it’s something to keep in mind as you bring together people in business to debate ideas. How often are ideas discussed freely and openly in your place? When a boss is in the room, how free do the subordinates feel to oppose his or her point of view? Do facts surface that allow for the robust analysis which is the goal, or are people entrenched in the positions with closed minds?
Imagine if last night had been a moderated discussion, based in fact, of how to fix a problem our country is having. The goal isn’t to convince people to vote one way or the other but to surface the different, well-reasoned points of view about approaches to an issue and allow the voters to make their minds up on that basis. Nice dream, right?
Now think about trying to do that in a business setting. Maybe it’s the person or persons who need to make the decision that moderate. I suspect the decisions taken after such a debate will be sounder than those that follow free-form arguing, politicking the boss, or emotional exchanges. Maybe we should debate it?