- It's Brand City
We went to Wal-Mart this week to stock up on toiletries
and such. Wal-Mart sells everything from bicycles and
toys, to greeting cards and paint, to laundry detergent
and toothpaste. In fact, I was amazed to find that Wal-Mart
carries no less than 34 different varieties of toothpaste.
Every brand now has a special blend that Whitens; Whitens
with Bleach; Whitens in a Fluoride Paste; Controls Tartar
in a Gel; in a tube, in a bottle, and in a pump.
wasn't too long ago when all you had was Crest, Colgate,
Pepsodent, Aim, and maybe Pearl Drops. It also wasn't
too long ago that the CEO simply ran a successful and
profitable toothpaste company. Today, however, that same
CEO is programmed in today's big business mentality and
charged with 'branding,' 'market share' and '18% return
on the investment.' On toothpaste!
it working? I'm no economist, but it seems that with the
softening economy, massive layoffs, falling stock prices,
elusive financial goals, and angry shareholders demanding
faster returns, companies are being forced to move at
an almost frantic pace. More product, more expansion,
more change. From Technology to Entertainment; Automotive
to Energy; Pharmaceuticals to Insurance, the forecast
seems to suggest "slow down!" but Wall Street
continues to threaten, push and speed up the process.
CEO's, charged with making sense of it all, find themselves
rushing head first into media blunders, internal personnel
bungles, and down right major corporate disasters.
in the last 11 months, we at 2 Adults - 1 Child have been
participants in to two fairly big public relations nightmares
involving major companies Ford, Firestone and Disney.
and Firestone - Welcome to Splitsville
August, prior to all the excitement, we bought our first
new car -- a 2000 Ford Explorer. 4 door, gold paint, some
nice extras -- and factory equipped with Firestone Wilderness
AT Tires. Within days after driving our shiny new Explorer
off the lot, a recall began involving several million
Firestone Wilderness AT tires. The recall involved only
tires made in Firestone's Decatur, IL plant. Since ours
had been made in Wilton, NC, we were supposed to safe
and sound. After
spending the next 4 months discussing, researching, and
frankly worrying about tires, we sucked it up, and replaced
the Firestones with brand new Michelins. Cost: $654.00.
(those doing the figuring there's a total of 5 tires)
this past May, Ford CEO Jacques Nassar announced the recall
all 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires on their
Explorers. I loaded up the tires (still wrapped in plastic
in the garage), and drove them to my Ford dealer to for
a refund. Two weeks later, a $654.00 check arrived, and
the saga of the Firestone Wilderness AT Tires ended. We
got our money back, we have some great new tires, we had
no accident or roll-over, and we love our new Ford Explorer.
something about the whole thing stinks.
Firestone tires really bad? Would Firestone knowingly
produce shoddy tires? Is the Explorer as safe as they
say? Are we going to roll this thing or what? Once the
questions started, we had trouble finding the answers.
Firestone CEO John Lampe and Nassar couldn't find answers
and ended the 100+ year partnership between Ford And Firestone.
No wonder consumers are confused.
Nassar appears to be working hard to restore consumer
confidence in The Explorer, and Ford. He recently hired
'turnaround specialist' Nick Sheele to help with negative
surprisingly, Firestone tire sales have dropped since
the recall, and the Decatur, IL plant may be shuttered.
Their latest campaign 'Making it Right' is a huge understatement.
Lampe has his work cut out for him.
close to 50 years building the world's best theme parks,
Disney's California Adventure is receiving the ultimate
Industry kiss of death: bad buzz. It's not enough for
$43.00. It looks cheap. The California theme is too provincial.
It was thrown together. All the attractions are imported
from Disney World. Not enough for the kids. It's not Disney
enough. Bottom line: Even though we enjoy the Park with
the luxury of an AP, the public at large clearly isn't
rushing to see it.
first hoping that rainy weather, soft economy, and soaring
price of gas were keeping people away, Disney's newest
theme park debacle is hitting the company at the heart
of their most profitable and popular division. This Summer,
Michael Eisner & Co. decided to discount tickets,
add in more live entertainment, resurrect "Disney's
Electrical Parade" and are fast-tracking a "Who
Wants to be a Millionaire?" live show. But, like
Firestone Tires, even with the addition of attractions
over the years, Disney's California Adventure has developed
a negative connotation that may be hard to shake.
Disney's is not an issue of consumer safety and well being,
but the current leadership must remember that Disney Theme
Parks are still considered the best when it comes to design,
innovation, cleanliness, cast member courtesy, and value.
You can't just design, build and open a half-baked theme
park, slap the 'Disney' name on, and expect the masses
to come flocking. It still has to be outstanding. It still
has to have value. It still has to exceed the guest's
expectations. Have Eisner & Co. learned the lessons
here? Time will tell.
the flipside, since the opening of Disneyland in 1955,
we've become a country themed entertainment -- Themed
restaurants, themed shopping plazas, themed game arcades,
themed movie theaters, and themed malls. Everywhere you
look, from Las Vegas to Pasadena, is in-your-face architecture,
sound effects, animatronics, neon lighting, and menus
with funny food names. Which puts the pressure on Disney
to make their theme parks even better if they want to
remain the leaders.
Outlook - Curiouser and Curiouser
within the themed world, three big companies are still
working through three big messes. Henry Ford started making
cars 98 years ago. Harvey Firestone began 101 years ago.
Walt Disney created the first theme park almost 50 years
ago. Today, their respective companies are in crisis,
and although Nassar, Lampe, and Eisner continue to make
major bank, running these worldwide organizations must
be something akin to madness - like traveling through
the meantime, the theme of big bad business seems to be
go-go-go. One wonders if these fast-tracking companies
are capable of slowing down to even consider their future
strategy. Probably not. Since nipping at their heels are
more shareholders who are demanding better return for
their investment, and at a faster rate.
were moving fast at the un-themed Wal-Mart too, and as
I shoved through the aisles, I realized that the trend
not stopping anytime soon. To keep the economy moving,
we can look forward to more and more product offered up
at a faster and faster rate, in an attempt to go after
higher and higher shares of consumer dollars.
us, that translates into more SUV's, more tires, more
theme parks, and thank goodness, more varieties of toothpaste.