I remember years ago when I bought my first real sports car. This was a car that could literally give you neck pain from its acceleration. It was a rocket on wheels, and honestly a lot more car than I knew how to control. Going zero to sixty was a thrill, but the most fun was it’s handling on turns. Unfortunately this was before a lot of electronics made car handling much more manageable for the average driver and the enthusiast like me alike. If you didn’t know how to drive this car, it would get out from under you easily–like an untamed horse.
Here’s what I quickly learned–what you think you should do is sometimes the opposite of what you ought to do. The natural tendency of most drivers going fast into a turn is to apply the brakes just before and into the turn. Don’t do that! I learned that the hard way by finding myself spinning around in circles. I thought it was the car, but it turns out it was me. Braking into a sharp curve from a high rate of speed changes the dynamics of the car. By doing what is normal, braking, you essentially shift the weight of the car forward on the front wheels, take weight off the rear wheels, and voila the back of the car becomes the front of the car–sometime several times in succession! And while this can be a lot of fun, it’s also scary as hell.
What I quickly learned is that you actually do the opposite. When going into a sharp turn, set your speed into the turn so you can ACCELERATE through the turn; brake before, accelerate through. Who the hell would think to do that? Perhaps a physicists or engineer, but certainly not me. Yet by accelerating through the turn, you improve the dynamics of the car by applying downforce on the car’s center of gravity, which lets you zip through the turn with great force and control. You zig when you think you ought to zag.
My description of physics in the above example is elementary at best. I also don’t recommend most people going out and trying this aggressively. There’s a fine line between accelerating too much and too little. If done correctly however, you are faster and safer–unless of course you want to crawl through the turn; in which case there’s no sense having a spiffy little sports car. It takes time and practice to become comfortable zigging when you think you ought to be zagging.
The point is that you need to apply this to many real-life circumstances. When you’re in a hurry, slow down. When you’re angry, breath. It works! Zigging instead of zagging is likewise critical for brands and businesses. If sales are bad, don’t take markdowns. If competition is aggressive, think smaller. When everyone is zigging, zag. And if everyone is zagging, zig!
Brands have a habit of focusing too much on product and not enough on experience. I see this happening a lot with fashion. Fashion brands used to create collections of products and then advertise and market around a lifestyle. That doesn’t work anymore. Consumers want experiences. They want something unique and special that adds value to their life.
Restaurants have learned this. Go to Dig Inn or Sweetgreens and you are part of an experience. A great experience lets you become part of a community. It allows you to interact, make your own choices, be a part of the process, and feel good telling friends and colleagues about your what you’ve done. If it weren’t an experience with good product, people wouldn’t stand in line for half their lunch break to get some quality food.
Brands need to come to the realization that truthfully no one cares about their products. Consumers care about the experience. How do you make it interesting for your consumers to connect with you? How do you make them feel engaged with what you are doing, thinking, creating, and producing? Are they part of the process? Would they stand in line for your products because they are excited to tell friends and colleagues about what they’ve gained from you?
Brands that are focused on product and not creating an experience for their consumers are racing to the bottom with price. Let’s be crystal clear–discounts and promotions are not an experience, and consumers aren’t transactions. Brands have to move beyond creating a lifestyle to creating an experience. Your brand is only as good as the experience you give your fans.
Many brands and retailers are adding fuel to the fire that is decimating much of the industry. Suffice it to say many business leaders are literally in a state of panic. Mall traffic is down double-digits, comp-store sales are weak, promotions are rampant, coupons are common, and fashion has no clear directional trend. The forest is on fire.
Oxygen fuels fire. Blow some air on a good hot fire and see what happens. Fires love oxygen and they need fuel like dead trees, grass, and brush to grow. To control a forest fire you clear surrounding areas of fuel, dowse the fire with water, keep it under control, and wait for rain.
INVENTORY IS OXYGEN. As much as you need oxygen to breath, you need inventory to generate sales. But like oxygen ignites flames that destroy a landscape, so does inventory to ignite markdowns, obliterate margins, and devastate a brand.
When the forest is on fire, you have to contain the burn by managing fuel and oxygen.
Do more with a less inventory and your forest will thrive. Drive your planning teams to constrict the flow of oxygen and charge your buying teams to identify only the best sources of fuel.
Photo: National Geographic
It was announced today that Walmart is acquiring Jet.com. Jet set out to become an Amazon killer. The purchase of Jet by Walmart is an effort by both companies to do just that.
What intrigues me the most about this is that it leads me closer to the belief that Amazon will likely acquire Macy’s in due time. Walmart needed Jet to get deeper into the E-commerce space. Amazon needs Macy’s to get deeper into the store space.
The question I think other retailers and especially brands need to ask themselves is how do you compete or manage into this new retail model. It’s sort of like LinkedIn selling itself to MicroSoft. LinkedIn, as big and successful as it was, didn’t have the resources to advance itself and compete against Facebook and Google. As a brand or retailer of fashion goods, or any consumer good for that matter, you need to ask yourself what this really means.
It’s no longer about product, it’s about marketing and inventory. As a brand you need to market a lifestyle concept that people really freakin want. And if you have any hopes of being successful you’ll need to crowdsource those product to make sure you manage inventory. There will be no room for mistakes when you have what amounts to two behemoths controlling the entire marketplace.