Why Bad Things Happen To Famous Names
As the president of one of the most prestigious marketing firms in the United States, Jack Trout watches the marketplace from a front-row seat - and in Big Brands Big Trouble: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, Trout has much to say about the gaffs and missteps of big companies that have floundered despite their past successes.
With a no-holds-barred attitude and an uncompromising perspective, Trout digs beneath the surface of more than a dozen companies to examine their biggest mistakes. By gathering a plethora of useful information about their bad moves and decisions, he offers ways for other organizations to avoid these mistakes in the future. The in-depth case studies that he provides detail the steps that have taken these companies over the edge of success into dramatic falls from grace. Included in his unyielding spotlight are companies like AT&T, Levi's, Miller Brewing, Digital Equipment, Burger King, Xerox, and many others.
A Sample of Mistakes
For every failure and downward plummet that Trout highlights, he offers his master marketer's opinion on the matter.
When he describes the importance of finding a unique word or idea to base a marketing campaign around, he points out the disasters that resulted when Burger King tried to sell itself as "fast" when McDonald's already firmly holds that distinction in consumers' minds. He writes that Volvo has preempted the concept of "safety," and Mercedes-Benz and General Motors cannot take that perception from consumers, no matter how hard they try -, in the same way that the Energizer bunny cannot take the idea of "long-lasting" from Duracell. His advice: "It's much better to search for an opposite attribute that allows you to play off against the leader. The key word here is opposite - similar won't do."
Throughout the book, Trout plays branding guru by posting lessons that every big company should heed, and spends time describing why these messages are essential to a company's longevity. His lessons are as simple as:
- Beware of success. "Success often leads to arrogance and arrogance to failure." Trout believes the prestige of owning a Buick or an Oldsmobile was undermined when these companies developed cheaper models.
- Leaders have to block. Leaders must win once to become the leader, and win again when they copy a competitor's move, before the attacking company gets a foothold.
- Don't lose touch. When CEOs lose touch with the front lines, they can be lulled into a sense of security by middle managers who tell them what they want to hear. Top executives should keep a trustworthy soul or two around who can deliver the unvarnished truth.
- If you're known for one thing, the market will not give you another thing. History taught Xerox that the company cannot reach beyond copiers with computers, Ethernet or Team Xerox. Trout writes, "People will give you what made you famous, no more."
- You can't predict the future. When the technology predictions published in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Business Week, Fortune and Forbes between 1958 and 1989 were analyzed, 80 percent were wrong.
- Lack of leadership is often the problem. If a CEO does not take an active role in keeping a company focused on what made it successful and developing strategy, bad things can happen.
- Never underestimate a bigger competitor. Always take a big competitor's moves seriously. The bigger they are, the more serious the threat. If their success could have a serious impact on your business, strike first to preempt their strategy.
- Perilous times require perilous action. The best leaders know when they must retreat.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Written in plain, blunt language, Big Brands, Big Troubledissects the concept of branding with expert insight and a vast wealth of experience.
Trout's words of wisdom are followed by many valuable stories from the front lines. Having played a pivotal role in some of the largest marketing campaigns ever launched, Trout has lived the lessons he imparts, and has the credibility of success to back up his advice. His stories about massive marketing disasters and the occasional stunning recovery provide a gripping framework for his messages, and provide unlimited food for thought for his readers about the wars that are constantly being waged behind the scenes of a volatile marketplace.