Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Corporate Creative Comas

Did you know that no one in the consumer packaged goods industry has launched a successful new product that's topped $319 million in sales (within the first year) in at least the last 30 years? I mention this particular number (for Frito-Lay's Baked Lays Potato Chips) because it is the least successful (#10) of the top 10 most successful new products of the past 57 years tracked by companies such as my own Calle & Company, IRI, NPD, ACNielsen and others.

So why do many consumer packaged goods companies miss the big ideas and consumer cultures? I mean companies like Miller Brewing, surfing upon the fame of post-High Life Lite Beer have not been able to internally develop another major brand since the introduction of Cold-filtered Miller Genuine Draft - the number two brand behind Lite in their portfolio - and I assisted on the delivery of that one. And then there is Coca-Cola who can't come up with a big idea on its own to save its life. So they outsource all of their new products to mergers and acquisitions - way over paying for brands like Vitamin Water.

So here's a story called "The Smuggler" describing how easy it is for big companies to miss the big think.

A clever smuggler came to the border with a donkey. The donkey's back was heavily laden with straw. The official at the border was suspicious and pulled apart the man's bundles till there was straw all around, but not a valuable thing in the straw was found. "But I'm certain you're smuggling something," the official said, as the man crossed the border.

Now each day for ten years the man came to the border with a donkey. Although the official searched and searched the straw bundles on the donkey's back, he never could find anything valuable hidden in them.

Many years later, after the official had retired, he happened to meet that same smuggler in a marketplace and said, "Please tell me, I beg you. Tell me, what were you smuggling? Tell me, if you can."

"Donkeys," said the man.

No comments: