10ish Worst Business Decisions Ever

    Stepping outside the norm and making unconventional choices can lead to unexpected success, recognizing market potential and catering to audience preferences are essential for remarkable outcomes.

    enSeptember 19, 2023

    About this Episode

    It’s easy (and kind of fun) to laugh at the misfortune of CEOs and other high up business types when they bring it on themselves – so let’s do that now. Herein lies some of the worst business decisions ever made, hindsight being 20/20, of course.

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Embrace Change and Innovation: Don't dismiss new ideas without fully understanding them; you might be missing out on game-changing opportunities.
    • Don't underestimate the potential of emerging technologies. Prioritizing short-term gains over long-term innovation can hinder growth and allow competitors to rise. Adaptation is crucial in a changing market landscape.
    • Being open to change and innovation is crucial in business. Failing to adapt can lead to missed opportunities and wasted resources, as shown by Excite's rejection of Google and Kodak's hesitation to embrace digital cameras.
    • Early adopters drive down prices by creating demand, while being aware of manipulative pricing strategies can help consumers make more informed decisions.
    • Customers have a strong attachment to sales and perceive discounted items as more valuable, making it important for businesses to consider their customers' perception of value when implementing pricing strategies. Removing familiar aspects can lead to negative consequences.
    • Listening to customers and understanding consumer sentiment is crucial when making changes to a beloved product, as seen in the infamous failure of New Coke.
    • Stay attuned to customer demands and market trends, embrace innovation, and be flexible to ensure long-term success in business.
    • Embracing change and staying customer-focused is crucial for businesses to thrive in a constantly evolving market. Blockbuster's refusal to adapt led to its demise, while Netflix's innovation allowed it to dominate the industry.
    • This conversation highlights the rapid evolution of industries, from Blockbuster's struggle to adapt to Apple's immense growth, sparking curiosity about the beginnings of the internet and the speed of progress in the modern age.
    • Embracing advertising opportunities can revitalize a brand and ensure its continued existence.
    • Stepping outside the norm and making unconventional choices can lead to unexpected success, recognizing market potential and catering to audience preferences are essential for remarkable outcomes.
    • Monday Night Football revolutionized sports broadcasting by prioritizing football and introducing innovative features, captivating viewers and paving the way for sports programming as we know it today.
    • Embrace your lack of expertise, learn and share information, and have fun while diving into new subjects with the entertaining podcast "Stuff You Should Know".

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Costly Mistake: How Western Union Missed the Opportunity to Embrace the Telephone

    Even seemingly smart and successful companies like Western Union can make costly mistakes. The story of Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone invention serves as a reminder that dismissing new ideas and innovations without fully understanding them can lead to missed opportunities. While Western Union declined Bell's offer to purchase the telephone, they failed to recognize its true potential as a revolutionary communication device. This incident highlights the importance of embracing change, being open to new possibilities, and not underestimating the power of innovation. It's a lesson for businesses to carefully evaluate new technologies and ideas before dismissing them, as they might be overlooking a game-changing opportunity.

    Recognizing Future Potential: A Lesson from Excite's Missed Opportunity

    Excite's decision to pass on buying Google serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing future potential. Hindsight may be 20/20, but Excite failed to see the value of Google's algorithm in 1999. They prioritized their own agenda of keeping users on their site with ads, rather than investing in a superior search engine. This decision ultimately hindered Excite's growth and allowed Google to rise to prominence. It's a lesson in not underestimating the potential of emerging technologies and the need to adapt to changing market landscapes. Excite's outdated website today serves as a visual reminder of the missed opportunity and the consequences of overlooking innovation.

    Missed Opportunities in the Tech Industry

    Both Excite and Kodak made bad business decisions that led to missed opportunities. Excite's CEO, George Bell, passed up on buying Google for less than a million dollars because he didn't want to compromise Excite's search engine. However, Google's algorithm proved to produce better results. Similarly, Kodak had the opportunity to lead the digital camera revolution but hesitated due to their reliance on print photographs and regular cameras. By the time they joined the digital camera industry, they were already behind competitors. These examples highlight the importance of being open to change and innovation in business. Failing to adapt can result in missed opportunities and wasted resources.

    The role of early adopters in lowering prices and the importance of recognizing deceptive pricing strategies.

    Early adopters play a significant role in driving down prices of new technology. By purchasing expensive products in the beginning, they create demand and encourage manufacturers to improve and lower costs. For example, the first flat-screen TVs were initially expensive, but with the support of early adopters, the prices eventually became more affordable for everyone. This principle applies not only to technology but also to other industries. Additionally, the case of JC Penney highlights how retailers often use deceptive pricing strategies to attract customers. The new CEO, Ron Johnson, recognized the flawed practices and implemented a transparent pricing system called "Fair and Square." This teaches us that being aware of manipulative tactics can help us make more informed consumer decisions.

    The Consequences of Disrupting Traditional Retail Pricing

    People have a strong attachment to sales, deals, and the perception of value. Ron Johnson, the former CEO of JC Penney, learned the hard way that customers were not receptive to his strategy of offering inexpensive prices all the time. Despite his belief that cheaper clothes every day was a better situation, customers didn't understand or appreciate it. Studies have shown that people are willing to pay more for a cheaper item if they perceive it as more valuable. This is why a $50 shirt marked down to $10 is seen as a steal, whereas a $10 shirt is considered cheap and poorly made. Johnson's attempt to disrupt traditional retail pricing backfired, resulting in the worst quarter in retail history for JC Penney. It serves as a reminder that removing something that customers have grown accustomed to, whether it's sales or beloved products, can lead to negative consequences.

    The New Coke Debacle: A Lesson in Rebranding Gone Wrong

    Coca-Cola's attempt to rebrand and release a new formula, known as New Coke, in response to Pepsi's growing success was a major failure. Despite conducting taste tests that favored the new formula, the public reacted negatively, hoarding the old Coke and expressing outrage over the change. This serves as a lesson that altering a beloved and iconic product without consulting customers can backfire. The mistake may have been worsened by Coca-Cola's decision to announce the recipe change, which further fueled public discontent. Ultimately, within three months, New Coke was removed from the market and replaced with Coca-Cola Classic. The incident highlights the importance of understanding consumer sentiment and avoiding drastic decisions driven by fear or competition.

    Adaptability in Business: Lessons from Coke Classic and Blockbuster Video

    Both the return of Coke Classic and the downfall of Blockbuster Video highlight the importance of adaptability in business. The reintroduction of Coke Classic symbolized the power of nostalgia and consumer preference, as people eagerly welcomed back the familiar taste. On the other hand, Blockbuster's failure to recognize the changing landscape of movie rentals and embrace emerging technologies like Netflix led to its demise. These examples illustrate the need for companies to stay attuned to evolving customer demands and market trends. By being flexible and open to innovation, businesses can better position themselves for long-term success and avoid being left behind.

    Blockbuster's downfall and Netflix's rise: a lesson in adapting to change.

    Blockbuster's refusal to adapt and embrace the changing landscape of video rentals ultimately led to its downfall. While the company was making significant profits from late fees, Netflix saw an opportunity to provide a more convenient and customer-friendly service. Netflix even proposed a merger with Blockbuster, but it was rejected multiple times. Today, Netflix is valued at about 200 billion dollars, while Blockbuster is a mere memory. Blockbuster's reluctance to recognize the potential of the internet and streaming technology further contributed to its demise. On the other hand, Netflix's ability to innovate and adapt to the evolving market allowed them to surpass Blockbuster and dominate the industry. It serves as a valuable lesson for businesses to constantly embrace change and keep up with shifting consumer preferences to stay relevant.

    Evolving Technology and Industries: A Conversation on Adaptation, Growth, and Curiosity.

    Technology and industries have drastically evolved over time. The conversation between Josh and Chuck touches on various aspects, highlighting the changes and advancements that have occurred. From discussing Blockbuster's adaptation to on-demand movies through Dish to reminiscing about the questionable lyrics of a song, the conversation jumps to the immense growth of companies like Apple. The contrasting worth of AOL in 1999 and Apple in 2023 showcases the astronomical increase in value. Furthermore, the mention of early internet pioneers like AOL and Google sparks curiosity about the beginnings of the internet and the rapid development of search engines. This conversation serves as a reminder of how quickly things can change and progress in the modern age.

    Reese's Pieces and the Movie E.T.: A Profitable Partnership

    Reese's Pieces may not have survived if it weren't for the movie E.T. In 1978, when Reese's Pieces were first introduced, they experienced success. However, they soon began to decline in popularity. Meanwhile, M&Ms had the opportunity to be featured in E.T., but they refused. Universal, the film's parent company, then reached out to Hershey's, the maker of Reese's Pieces, who agreed to pay a million dollars for the advertising opportunity. This gamble paid off, as E.T. became a cultural phenomenon and Reese's Pieces gained immense popularity due to the film's portrayal of the extraterrestrial enjoying the candy. It was the right decision by Hershey's to embrace the opportunity, as it revitalized the brand and ensured its continued existence.

    Taking Risks and Achieving Remarkable Results

    Taking risks can lead to unexpected success. When "ET" was released, it was a different kind of alien movie, breaking the stereotype of creepy and weird extraterrestrial creatures. The decision to create a lovable and huggable alien was a risk, but it paid off. "ET" became a top 30 all-time grosser domestically, and the second highest-grossing non-franchise movie ever. This success shows that sometimes stepping outside of the norm and making unconventional choices can lead to great outcomes. It also demonstrates the importance of recognizing market potential and catering to audience preferences. By taking risks and being innovative, we can achieve remarkable results, even when faced with skepticism or challenges.

    The Impact of Monday Night Football: A Game-Changer in Sports Broadcasting

    The launch of Monday Night Football in 1970 marked a significant turning point in sports broadcasting. ABC's decision to prioritize football over popular programming like the Doris Day show demonstrated a shift in viewers' preferences. This gamble paid off as the show's innovative features, including flashy graphics, slow-motion replays, and a three-person broadcasting team, captivated audiences. Led by notable personalities like Frank Gifford, Dandy Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell, the team brought a unique blend of play-by-play commentary and witty banter, captivating viewers and making Monday Night Football one of the highest-rated TV series of all time. Notably, the inclusion of Joe Namath in the inaugural game highlighted the importance of star power in driving viewership. Despite its age, Monday Night Football paved the way for sports programming and remains a cultural phenomenon even today.

    Learn and be entertained with 'Stuff You Should Know', a podcast that embraces their lack of expertise and makes any topic interesting and approachable.

    The hosts of the podcast "Stuff You Should Know" have a knack for making any topic interesting and entertaining, even if they may not have all the knowledge on it. They embrace their lack of expertise and use it as an opportunity to learn and share information with their listeners. They have covered a wide range of subjects, from satanism to football, and are always open to suggestions for new topics. Their approachable and humorous style creates a fun learning experience, making listeners eager to dive into new subjects. So, if you're looking for a podcast that will teach you something new and keep you entertained, give "Stuff You Should Know" a listen.

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