Posted by: brandextenders | January 5, 2016

Innovate or Die

Fortune_500The first Fortune 500 list debuted in 1955 and 60 years later, 88% of those companies are gone. See if you can name the companies below that were once common names and are now symbols of what not to do:

  • This company sold 90% of all film and 85% of all cameras as recently as 1976. They invented digital photography, but didn’t pursue it as a business and filed for bankruptcy in 2012
  • This is where you went to rent videos and games at any of their 9,000 locations. They passed on the opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000 for $50 million and shuttered their last locations in 2013 after becoming irrelevant.
  • Once one of the largest booksellers in the U.S., this company chose to outsource their online sales to Amazon rather than do it themselves. When they finally launched their own site in 2008 they still didn’t embrace digital media and closed their doors in 2011.

Businesses must continue to innovate each and every day or they will become irrelevant and ultimately out of business. But so too must we as individuals work to always be evaluating and rethinking the way we do things in our daily lives.

Gen X and the Millennials have changed the way business is being transacted and if you can’t or won’t change the way you are going after these younger buyers, your business will suffer a slow death. My 23 and 19-year-old sons are a prime example of this for me, preferring text and emails over talking on the phone. These younger generations also educate themselves online about the products and services they are pursuing prior to buying and they like to post reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp to let others know about their experience. They also have an aversion to traditional and even online advertising so the traditional ways of reaching these generations doesn’t work anymore.

New generations have always brought with them new ways of doing things however the Internet and social media have created disruptive changes at an ever-increasing pace. That means those of us in sales must continually be looking at the value we bring and how best to present it to these new buyers. It also means we can never rest on our laurels and must always be looking ahead and educating ourselves on the newest trends in selling, marketing and advertising. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, but something will and it’s our job to understand what that something is.

Companies like Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders did a phenomenal job of creating businesses that worked, but theirinnovate-or-die leaders weren’t looking ahead far enough ahead to understand how to continue their growth in an ever-changing marketplace. As the New Year kicks off, take a look at what you’re doing to innovate what you do on a daily basis. That means asking the right questions of your customers and yourself to evaluate if what you’re doing is working.

Companies like Apple & Google continue to reinvent themselves through research and innovation. As individuals should we do any less? As Henry Ford, someone who changed the world with his automotive innovations said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”


  1. […] Steve Woodburn shares his thoughts on branding and life in general from his 25 years of experience in the industry. Check out: Innovate or Die […]

  2. Maybe it should be innovate or die!
    Here’s a question for distributors, which type of supplier advertising spending works to help you most , emails, direct mail , flyer ads , trade shows, rep calls?

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