June 20, 2006
    the Simpsons Guide...

The Simpsons
"Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Original Airdate: 2/21/91 Nr. 215

I never thought I’d get a lesson in business strategy & marketing from the Simpsons… Still could be worse.

250pxoh_brother_where_art_thouSo Homer discovers that he has a long-lost half brother, Herb Powell, who is the wealthy CEO of Powell Motors. When Homer and Herb meet, they instantly hit it off and Herb hires Homer to help design a car for regular guys, as Homer, being an "average" American, is the perfect person to design a new car for his company.
Homer is given entirely free rein in the design, too late for Herb to realize that his brother is somewhat "unaverage."

Lesson #1: no such thing as a typical or average consumer.
Winners: Amazon, Expedia, Carlton Ritz

Lesson #2: Commoditization is the kiss of death
Winners: Intel, Apple

So after a little research, and my first real use of Wikipedia, I realized that the Homer mobile is in fact the Edsel, a make of automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company 1958-60. The car brand is best known as the most spectacular failure in the history of the United States automobile industry.
Edsel_man Design wise, men often referred to the horse collar grill as being akin to a woman’s genitalia, and even though it was discontinued, I’m not convinced that that contributed to the failure. However…

Lesson #3: design is a fundamental part of the product
Winners: Apple, Apple, Apple

The Edsel is most famous for being a marketing disaster. Marketing experts hold the Edsel up as a supreme example of Corporate America’s failure to understand the nature of the American consumer.

Lesson #4: Know Thy Customer

Business analysts claim that this also resulted from the weak internal support for the product inside Ford’s Executive offices.

Lesson #5: make sure everyone in the company is onboard
Winners: Ikea, Starbucks

The main reason why the Edsel's failure is so famous was that it flopped despite Ford’s investment of $400,000,000 into its development. Adding to that, the public also had a hard time understanding what the Edsel was, mostly because Ford made the mistake of pricing the Edsel within a different market price segment.

Lesson #6: money doesn’t guarantee success – actually it almost always breeds contempt
Loser: Donald Trump Exception: Oprah (Money breeds money)

Lesson #7: be very clear to your customer. Talk to him/her and make sure they understand! Winners: Virgin,

Lesson # 8: ensure the product is correctly positioned in the marketplace

One of the external forces working against the Edsel that Ford had no control over was the onset of the Eisenhower recession in late 1957. The seven years it took from planning to product launch was way too long. The car ended up being too big and expensive to run when what was wanted was small and fuel efficient. The Edsel was entering into a shrinking market place.

Lesson #9: speed is of the essence. The longer your product takes to reach the market the lower the probability of success.
Winners: Progressive Insurance, Dell Computers, Cisco

Thus, the large expensive Edsel that was planned to be all things to all people suddenly stood for excess, not progress.

Lesson #10: concentrate more on why people hate your product than why they like it & don’t try to be everything to everyone – that concept doesn’t exist

The automatic transmission interface, named Teletouch was placed in the center of the steering wheel in the car's debut year of 1958 but reverted in 1959 to column shifters after consumers complained about "Teletouch" placement where a horn should have been.

Lesson #11: listen to the consumer!
"You can never find a horn when you're mad. And they should all play `La Cucaracha'." Homer

Mechanics disliked the bigger engine because of its unique design. This design reduced the cost of manufacture and possibly carbon buildup, but appeared strange to mechanics.

Lesson #12: brand advocates, network hubs, experts – they are fundamental and should be part of the information reconnaissance. It will ensure great buzz at product launch

There were also reports of mechanical flaws in the models originating in the factory, due to lack of quality control.

Lesson #13: don’t screw up the product… D'oh!

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D'oh!"D'oh!" is the comical catch phrase of Homer Simpson, from the long-running animated series The Simpsons. It is typically used when Homer injures himself, realizes that he has done something stupid, or when something bad has happened to him.

Posted by Nuno Machado Lopes in business strategy
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