I started my career with a fascinating company. Innovativ, first mover in the IT industry. The first enterprise that build network computers and installed a global e-mail system already in 1980. In the middle of this decade 120.000 employees were connected through this system. All of this made us proud. Still today I use "we" when I talk about the time I spend in this corporation. We had state of the art technical solutions and personnel programs. We were a tightly knit team. We grew fast and were highly profitable, we reached the no. 2 worldwide position, right behind IBM. But who knew it? Digital Equipment Corp., short DEC, was the name of this global heavyweight. Digital, a landmark name. Nevertheless: Do you know it? Probably not.
There was a big weakness. The corporation did not value marketing at all and sales not much more. As we were the technical leaders and highly innovative, what did we need marketing for? This was communicated to all advisors who recommended to build and strengthen the brand. Even though there was strong competition. The sales people had a hard job to sell against IBM. You may still remember the saying: nobody was ever fired for buying IBM. Additionally in Germany Siemens was a trusted local hero. But that did not mean that DEC learned to think in marketing and branding. Management and Sales, who in reality were technical consultants, were convinced that these fearful decision makers who needed such an reassurance did not deserve our innovative, superior products. And communication took place only with technical specialists and even they were encountered with a certain arrogance, because we had long delivery times and a sustained high demand for our products.
But then in the beginning of the eighties the first PC was announced by another firm. Naturally the R&D department of DEC also had one ready. But the management was´t convinced that it would sell. Ken Olsen, CEO and founder believed: "Nobody ever would need such a device. A non-professional could not do anything with it. It could only be an improved typewriter." Then other manufacturers of midsize computers crowded onto the market. They were faster in developing new products. The next generation of DEC computers was delayed and suddenly others surpassed. That was the start of the ending. Half-hearted attempts to catch up with software or services didn´t help to survive. 5 years later the company was sold, first to Compaq -also this brand does not exist anymore- and then to HP. And so a proud star disappeared in the no-where.
There wasn´t any strength of the brand, no awareness, no trust, no sales people who knew what clients needed and who could help to bridge bad times. Also IBM had hard times when new smaller devices came up, but the brand value helped to cover the time until IBM has reinvented itself as service provider. HP for long time was better in tailoring its products and services to the changing needs of its target groups, one of the prerequisites for good marketing.
What can we learn from this:
Not only today, but today even more so: Innovation and technical progress is good and often important for survival, but this alone is not enough: Innovation has to be geared at the needs of the clients, it is important to find useful products and solutions. In addition marketing is needed to create and build trust and a strong brand. And : brands have to be build fast. In todays fast moving world competition, copyists and re-inventors crowd the markets within shortest time. Any technical edge is lost rapidly, due dates for news, products and corporations shrink constantly.
The Wächter & Wächter consulting and communication agencies may help you in building and strengthening your brand. I am finding that me and my people, experienced and independent consultants, are uniquely suited to provide the entrepreneurial approach corporations need in these challenging times more than ever.