Friday, July 03, 2009

"Swing for hits, not home runs." Michael Dell

"The secret isn't counting the beans, it's growing more beans." Roberto Goizueta

"To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success." Henry John Heinz

Today's image: Skull Creek by pearson251. Incredible capture. Thank you for sharing.

What we can learn from a ketchup bottle

The Heinz folks are very successful. They've been in business since 1869. So why did it take them so long, over one hundred years, to reach the most obvious ketchup "delivery" solution? We can all relate to that moment of being in the position of having to shake, then tap the bottle side or bottom, to get the ketchup flowing. Let's come back to that.

What about the label? What image has been on the Heinz Ketchup label since the 1890s? Not the obvious, a tomato. The correct answer is - a pickle, the gherkin pickle. It's been retired, replaced, after over 100 years, by the image of a "vine-ripened" tomato on the new label design introduced earlier this year.

Back to the bottle. For decades Heinz invested significant marketing resources in efforts to turn a weakness, their product delivery problem, into a strength, a key positive attribute. From acquiring the rights to the Carly Simon hit song Anticipation to casting popular sitcom celeb Matt Le Blanc to star in the TV creative featured here above, Heinz demonstrated exceptional message discipline. Their economic success in the market bought them the time and luxury to finance these marketing initiatives focused on changing consumer perceptions, attitudes and values. One can imagine the argument supporting this creative approach..."the best gimmick here is to introduce the truth in a fresh, new way." Bottom line, the Heinz team went to work to make the best of what they had. Accepting the "delivery problem" they sought to reframe the issue and sell "slow is best" or in the least slow is better.

Tony, a NNJ/NYC chef, posted this pic and wrote on his blog "...awesomely innovative upside-down bottle. all of the annoying things about ketchup: the crust around the lid, that nasty juice you get before the ketchup actually comes out and of course, the wait... all deleted like a bad term paper thanks to heinz. frankly, i don't know how we ever lived without it."

As we compare the original and new bottles, the most effective delivery solution, the new upside-down bottle, seems obvious. As Hersh Shefrin said "Reality looks much more obvious in hindsight than in foresight. People who experience hindsight bias misapply current hindsight to past foresight. They perceive events that occurred to have been more predictable before the fact than was actually the case."

How difficult is it to see the obvious? Let me suggest it is very difficult.

"It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious," so said Alfred North Whitehead. Too often teams are not focused on the forest or the trees, rather they are preoccupied with the bark of a single tree, they become lost in the detail. Unable to grasp the obvious they fail to grok the fundamental issues at play burning precious bandwidth and resources in construction of the most logical (sometimes even elaborate) "work-around."

"Table-ready lettuce. $1.4 billion. If someone can do this with a vegetable, what the hell is our excuse?" Gary Hamel

One of the most important responsibilities of leadership is to ensure that the team sees "reality" sees things as they are, not as they once were or as the team wishes things to be. In sum, discovering the obvious solution set demands that one first gain perspective, my notion is this requires the hard work of thinking for which there is no substitute.

There is great benefit, advantage and power in being open to the ideas of others. Listening deserves to be among the most prized skill sets in every organization. Doris Willens writes in her wonderful new book, Nobody's Perfect. Bill Bernbach and the Golden Age of Advertising (Amzn) "From Helmut Krone's wastepaper basket, Bernbach fished wads of crumpled papers and beamed upon spreading open a sheet with the words, "We're only Number Two. So we try harder."

Opportunity abounds for those willing to do their homework; for those serious about listening, observing, thinking and acting the possible is practically without limits. A bias for action rewards all.

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