Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

MTOTD: Nothing Lasts Forever

This week brought news that Conde Nast publishing would be closing a number of magazines, including the major surprise that Gourmet magazine was on the list.  This was not a newcomer to the field, but rather a magazine with close to seven decades of history, with a high profile and highly regarded editor.  It was primarily the drop in advertising sales - a 43% decline for Gourmet - that did them in.  And in the current economic environment, the cultural relevance of the Gourmet name and brand wasn't enough to offset the cold business facts.  Addressing the decline in advertising, Conde Nast's chief executive said "It could take us five years to get back to 2007 levels if we’re lucky enough to."

Here's an interesting thought experiment for the day:  take out a pad of paper and spend just a few minutes playing Cassandra for your company.  Fast forward 5 years from now, and imagine writing the obituary for your company, or even just your product.  What was it that did you in?  A strong, formerly innocuous company finally setting their sights on your market?  Two rivals joining forces to bolster their position?  Aggressive pricing by a competitor with deeper pockets than yours?  Or might your biggest weaknesses come on the internal side, with not enough attention paid to quality, customer complaints or shifting consumer trends?  Too much internally-focused busy work rather than externally-facing progress?

It's a depressing exercise, isn't it?  Now for the good news.  None of those things have done your company in yet.  There's still time.  If your biggest threat is that you can't match your competitor's prices, what can you do to offer a differentiated experience for your customers that will make the price gap irrelevant.  If you're spending too much time meeting with colleagues, put an end to it and get out in the field more.  Do you have the right long term strategic plans?  Do you have the right list of short-term tactical actions?  

Oh, and before you put that pen and paper away, turn to a fresh page and write the front-page Wall Street Journal headline that will appear 5 years from now about your company's runaway success.  Feel better?