Archive for May, 2013

Don’t Be Kodak

Kodak recently announced that they expect to come out of bankruptcy this year. Founded by George Eastman in 1888, Kodak became a cherished household brand name, and the “Kodak Moment” entered the American cultural lexicon.

It’s really sad to see what happened to them. Today Kodak is merely a shell of the company it used to be.

Kodak’s Fork in the Road Moment

Kodak fork in the roadTen years ago, I happened to have a ringside seat at Kodak as they were wrestling with what to do about their future. Initially, I had been hired to create an external positioning and marketing campaign targeting Wall Street. The stock price was languishing, and they wanted to announce how they were innovating around digital.

I went to Rochester and met with their senior marketing team and the innovation group. After looking at their digital pipeline – the “naked truth” of their digital capabilities – I recommended that they not approach Wall Street at that time. They weren’t ready to go digital in an authentic and sustained way and if they made that claim, they would lose all credibility once results came out in a quarter or two.

Instead I recommended that we focus on building a comprehensive internal communication plan that would change the mindset of the organization from print to digital. Bureaucracy to innovation.

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Pharma Brand Managers, Are You Fungible?

In pharma, the focus is always on market share, market share, market share.  Managers are measured by growth and their ability to counter new competitive entrants and offset contracting pressures by private and government payers. Because of this, product differentiation is an important role for marketing. There is widespread fear of becoming a “me-too” commodity drug.

But while the focus of pharma brand teams is on avoiding product commoditization, little attention has been paid to that same danger for the brand manager.

There’s a real danger that brand managers themselves could become commoditized.

“Commodity” is the point when a product or a service is “fungible.” In other words, it can be easily replaced by a substitute. Substitution is the biggest threat to any product or service, because when the buyer (or, in this case, the employer) doesn’t perceive any significant differences between alternatives, they buy strictly based on lowest price.

As pharma management feels the effects of margin pressure on their business, they will look for ways to consolidate or eliminate redundant positions. They will look for ways to substitute expensive talent with technology, lower cost employees, or consolidated roles. In each case, it’s the employee with little to show that’s unique and valuable whose job is suddenly at risk.

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