Change - First Understand, then Plan
June 8, 2005
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Sorensen of Sorensen Associates Inc recently copied me on one of his internal memos. The memo had to do with some words of wisdom from G. K. chesterton relating to organizational changes. The point of chesterton's material questions, "why would someone presume to change something if they had no idea why it was the way it is?" I believe one of the major reasons changes are made is the result of a person wanting to put their "mark" on a project. One of my more memorable experiences in this area was with a company that I was helping develop a new product. Each time we seemed to have our brand, market and positioning in order, they changed presidents. Each new president decided to change the positioning of the brand within the market. Three presidents in four years and three changes in positioning. As a result of this constant state of flux, I slowly backed away from the company. It was not worth the aggravation.
For good examples we need look no further than the famous "New Coke" blunder of the 1980s. Also, in the late 1980s there was a movement within P&G to change the famous Floating Ivory bar to a non-floating beauty bar. At least that change did not survive the Test market. In the 1970s, General Foods purchased the fifth largest fast food chain, Burger Chef. Its share position was ahead of such companies as Dennys, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, Arby's and Bonanza. Within three years of the General Foods purchase, they encountered a dramatic decline. As the president of GF stated, "we sent in our own men and they just did not know their way around this kind of operation."
It is very easy to see what is wrong with a product at any given time. It seems to be difficult, however, for most people to see what is right about a product, especially if they are experiencing a problem. It is like trying to take a Cub Scout Troop on a camping trip in the family car. The urge is to redesign the car into a mini-bus.
Seldom are things the way they are for no reason. Determine the historical facts before rewriting the history of the brand. Take the advice of the railroad crossing sign, "Stop, Look and Listen" before proceeding. Venture into a change much like the way most people approach a swimming pool. They stick their big toe into the water as a test before diving in. I'm sure P&G was glad they stuck their big toe into the non-floating Ivory Bar project before making a major commitment.
I believe that a proper perspective on a brand change is to first "review the brand's Mission Statement (the brand's reason for being). Is the Mission Statement still appropriate or should it be changed? If it is still appropriate, ask "how might the change in the brand affect the Mission Statement?" If the Mission Statement is no longer appropriate, change the Mission Statement before changing the brand.
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