Nov 11, 2006

What companies can learn from Plug One and Plug Two.

I'm not really into hip hop much anymore. But last night I listened to De La Soul's Grind Date. And it got me thinking about how different they were when their first album came out in '89. How everyone thought they were sell outs, hippies or Buppie dilettantes--or worse.

But they risked ridicule and failure to pursue their artistic vision. And over the years they never sold out. They didn't go gangsta. They never drank Cristal or wore linen in their videos. They didn't bring on a hot white girl. They just stayed De La. And it's worked.

15 years later, their music and rhymes sound different. But it's still the same daring and integrity to do what they think it right.

I think many companies could take a lesson from this focus and dedication to a powerful, honest idea.

Sure, you need to adapt to changing times, technologies and customers. But there's a big difference between doing that and trying to be what you're not. The core of what you're about needs to be integral and integrated into everything you do. I believe that can guide how you adapt and evolve.

Positive examples that come to mind:
G.E. (a culture of perfection and innovation)
Method Cleaning Products (efficient and chemically friendly)
The Holy Brand Trinity (Nike, Apple and Target)
Charles Schwab (respect and listening)
McDonald's (they've added healthier foods w/out losing their status as "fun place to eat")

Negative examples that pop up:
Cell Phone Companies (utilities trying to be entertainment companies that still treat customers like utilities)
Gateway (are they a computer company or an electronics company? do you even care?)
Coach (classic, quality leather goods turned transitory style groupie)
Charles Schwab (before the new branding campaign, when they tried to become another Merrill Lynch)
G.M. brands like Buick/Pontiac (their orignal message has been lost forever, I think)

You can argue that the second list includes viable businesses, and it does. But in today's fragmented, porous communications environment, it's nearly impossible to prop up a false message. Sooner or later the truth comes out, so why not start there and save yourself all that trouble?


EVK4 said...

I'm trying to picture a CEO from the second list wearing linen in the corporate videos....

Tim Rickards said...

Yeah. A magnum of Cristal maybe, you know, pouring some out for the executives who died in the line of duty. But not linen.

Jon B said...

Nice list.