Category business

In global strategy, we were doing a business case on an Australian wine company. As I was sitting there trying not to yawn (I’m not a wine drinker), I came up with the thought “why doesn’t anyone sell Jug brand wine?” It wouldn’t have to be in an actual jug, though one of those oversized wine bottles would work. But the idea is that it’s a tongue-in-cheek brand. It would just have a plain white label with “Jug” written in a simple, black font.

I can just see the website now:

A Better Use of Your (Reading) Time

How about a website that lays an interface over the avalanche of books that allows people to create playlists of books and articles for people looking for exposure to a particular topic.

While that alone would be useful (to me), how about taking it a step further. Why not expose Pandora-like functionality where I enter a book I read/liked/was told to read and it would show me similar books. This list might be used for additional readings or perhaps readings which would be more appropriate.

How would that work? Well, say you’ve just read a Malcom Gladwell book and you want to read more on the subject, it might recommend you read Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer whom Gladwell drew from.

Or vice versa, suppose someone recommends you read about motivation and drive – they just read Drive by Daniel H. Pink, but it seems a little too difficult for reading on the beach (or bus), wouldn’t it be nice to know that reading Linchpin by Seth Godin might give you some of the same takeaways?

Or I guess in my case, when I have a stack of unread books on my nightstand and a megabyte (what’s the equivalent new term?) of ebooks on my Kindle, how do I know which to read next? I might not want to read two books that are very similar back to back, or I might want to read something lighter after plowing through a scientific treatise.

Who’s going to build it?

Rental Cars

I know enough about business and the world to know that the rental car business is an unglamorous and difficult business. It’s hard to innovate for a fleet of reasons, but that doesn’t always mean one shouldn’t try or that one can’t succeed.

One of our case studies in business school illustrated the difficulties of managing a fleet of cars due to technical constraints, organizational structure and office politics, but there is no doubt much to be gained from centralized buying as well as a centralized strategy.

The buying part is obvious, without a doubt, some savings can be found by buying in bulk and using the muscle power of such larger fleets to draw savings from either standardized models or brands. But the strategy is a little harder to see. What are the benefits that would offset the organizational inertia and fifedoms present in the rental car companies? Well, when what car one rents only matters to the extent that the car runs and is off a certain category, not much. But what if people want more granularity than “compact” or “luxury”?

I think there’s a market for a company to rent specific models to their customers. Say I really want to drive a Corvette, or just feel comfortable driving the same car I have at home, it would mean a lot to be able to rent a specific car and be assured I’d get it. Perhaps I am considering buying a new car? Wouldn’t it make sense to rent one for a few days to see if I really like driving it? I think a system like this would open the door to more aspirational rentals. In fact, that market would be in addition to the current rental market as no one provides for it.

There’s understandable concerns. I think it’s safe to say that currently rental car companies don’t know until the moment you arrive (if then) what car they will have for you. That’s an inventory management issue writ large, with both technical limitations as well as customer constraints. Apparently, by the fees they charge these days, rental car companies are at the mercy of customers returning cars both early and late. Both of which wreak havoc on their inventory. And some drivers drive from on location to another, further mixing things up.

One immediate solution would be to flatten the inventory. One would use the bulk buying power to have fewer models of cars available, so you’d have less variety in your inventory to juggle. Might mean rental car companies would specialize even more by car manufacturer than they do now.

So, it may never happen, but if I could choose a company and rent a specific make and model car, I’d do it and I’d do it direct, meaning I would pass up the current cutthroat lowest price by category model, giving rental car companies a chance to make a little more premium.

No Disclaimers

I work for a certain Financial Services firm and I see various legal and disclaimer text every day. It’s often (sadly) hilarious what requires disclaimers and how unlikely it is to release anything without it.

And it makes me wonder whether disclaimer text has any unconscious effects on consumers. I am not sure that the mere presence of tiny text at the bottom of a page makes me instantly wary or turns me off of the advertisement, but I do know that many times I’ll read some claim in an advertisement and instantly look for an asterix.

So – whether it’s actually legally possible – could a financial institution capture some of those unconsciously disillusioned prospects by discarding the small print?

I could almost imagine faux disclaimers then popping up that say “No disclaimers needed, honest.”

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Taste Inorganic

So, first there were brands sold as brands and store labels hidden where no one could see them. Then store labels became brands themselves. Now is there anything considered “Generic?”

So in a world that’s branding everything, where your brand can reinforce or even reimagine what your product is, why not brand the products no one thought anyone would ever brand?

What do I mean? Well, consumers are starting to buy anything labeled organic. Brands that promote an earth-friendly, organic element adds & legitmates a premium pricing on anything.

But what about the products that aren’t so environmentally sound? What about the same old, preservative heavy foods our parents grew up on? Why not take a stand and brand them? Make them cool through the power of the brand.

We could have anti-biotic, feed-lot fed milk branded as MELK with the tag line of Discover the Sweetness of Inorganic and reinforced by adding extra sweetness to the mix. Could “organic” get away with that, I think not.