Minor Changes Aren’t Remarkable

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Creativity/Innovation, Leadership, Remarkability

If you didn’t read the cover article in the August 7, 2006 Business Week magazine on Mary Minnick’s transformation at Coke, then you need to 
(http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/06_32/b3996401.htm?chan=gl). It’s an incredible argument for just about everything I try to say at Make it Remarkable. 

Over the past decade, Coke has been losing ground.  Though it’s the world’s most famous brand, its brand equity has plunged over 20% since 1999.  Though a decade ago, its market cap was three times that of Pepsi, now they’re virtually even. And even though they used to generate more revenue than Pepsi, now Pepsi’s on top.  Now, one would think, that a big company filled with Ivy League MBAs and seasoned veterans, along with some of the top consultants in the world, would be able to turn that around.  But they couldn’t–that is until new CEO Isdell and Minnick began to shake things up with an “innovate or die” culture.

In other words, Coke played the safe and predictable card.  If they did “innovate”, they merely did a line extension (instead of Diet Coke, they would innovate a new product, Diet Coke with Lime—I can hear it now, “Oooohhh!  Aaaaaahhhh!”). It was all safe and predictable.

But Minnick, who sees the integration of innovation, strategy and marketing, isn’t about safe and predictable.  She wants Coke to innovate– not just with the 1000 new products and extensions she’s overseen the introduction of over the past twelve months, like Coca-Cola Blak—she wants Coke to think in radically new terms.  How?

By refusing to think in the historic categories of colas and juices.  To innovate (and hence be remarkable), she wants Coke to think in categories like creating drinks that have health benefits (for example, a drink that would contain the ingredients to produce a healthier and smoother skin).  If she can pull that project off with Coke, that would not only be amazing, it would be remarkable!

As many of you know, one of my favorite quotes is from Nicolas Negroponte, “Incrementalism is innovations worst enemy.”  Just doing what you’re doing a little bit better than you did in the past is not innovation, nor is it remarkable.  Coke lost billions of dollars because they didn’t this idea.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Take whatever you’re doing and ask, “How can I do this dramatically different?” Line extensions don’t win the hearts of people.  Minor changes aren’t remarkable. So what are you going to do today to create something radically different?

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