Are You Trying To Be New Coke?

This post is long overdue…

What’s up with change? I challenge you to answer this question.

Change has its ups and downs. Sometimes its great, other times it sucks and leads to some of the biggest regrets. My question is whether change is really good. I believe change can be great, but often change is completely misunderstood.

Let’s make like Doc   and go back in the past.

It was April 23, 1985. A normal day for the most part, but there were big plans. Roberto Goizueta and Coca Cola were about to make one of the dumbest business decisions in history. The sweet tasting Coke that everyone ALREADY loved was about to change. For some reason, Coca Cola thought their formula was not good enough. Pepsi was in the picture and they were feeling threatened. Being threatened they made a logical decision, change the whole foundation! Imagine a backfiring rocket launcher. What an explosion at Coca Cola.

Get in the Delorean, we’re going to January 22, 2001. The trend had ended for Converse a long time ago. You think they would have figured that out, but they didn’t and instead of making a CHANGE, they filed for bankruptcy. Here comes Puma, Nike, Adidas and Reebok. What are you going to do Converse? Did you really think Chuck Taylors were going to last forever? Come’on Converse!!

If only Marty and Doc could have helped with this one. Actually, never mind. They would not have listened anyway. They being American automakers. The change that they all decided on was a thing called quantity. They forgot about quality to focus on making as many cars as possible. The Ford Pinto is a great example of a quality failure. Gas tank trouble in the cars led to the demise of the Pinto, a problem that may not have come forth if they had focused more time on quality. Good thing Bailout Hero came to save them in the end!

Any thoughts on change yet?

The most recent use of change was with the current President of the United States. I don’t like to talk politics and I did not even vote actually, but President Obama used change in probably one of the most successful ways in history. I consider his change campaign to be a big reason why he’s President. Obama did it right. It was a time when the United States actually needed a change. He didn’t even need to describe it. People just wanted something different and it worked.

What about when people like things the way they are? Lots of people voted for McCain, so we can assume that they were pretty content with the way things were. He didn’t speak about making a ton of changes.

Websites are always changing. eBay recently made some changes and Facebook has changed numerous times. And then there was Craigslist. The founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark truly understands change. Well not so much change, but the community. He understands the users. This is something that websites/businesses forget about. Craigslist refuses to change its interface. I asked Craig Newmark why and he responded, “We listen to our community and react to that.Very little interest from the general community regarding changing the user interface.”

Lessons learned:

  • Ask yourself/company whether a change is really something the people want (New Coke).
  • If you’re failing, change might be the answer (Converse).
  • Make you and your market a winner (American automakers).
  • Change can be a wild success if used properly (Obama).
  • Sometimes keeping things the same is the right thing to do even though everything around you might be changing (Craigslist).

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