Bill Corbin - Idea Guy

Big Value Story Shifts from Small Changes


One Digit and Its Meaning Led to an Empire Collapsing

 For approximately 50 years, General Motors ruled the automotive world. Where they led, Ford and Chrysler followed meekly. They made big, shiny cars. They had a brilliantly tiered product line, so a family could recognize its life progression by whether they drove Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick or Cadillac. The idea was to trade up every 2-3 years...for the latest look and features and the glow of knowing you had advanced socio-economically. It was also good to trade often, because somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 miles, parts began falling off your car.

Then these strange looking little foreign cars began showing up. They were mocked as too small and too plain... but people began noticing a strange little feature. There were six numerals on the odometer... and when asked about the sixth digit, foreign car salespeople said things like, "Yep, and we mean it too...imagine a car with 120,000 miles on it driving across a railroad track with nothing rattling  or falling off."

It didn't happen overnight, but IN THE MIND OF MANY DRIVERS, the value story that resonated had little to do with latest model or social status. The valued value become solid reliability, longevity and economy. An industry was transformed and General Motors required complete humiliation to get it.

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Can THREE Words be a Value Story?


Steve Jobs said We'll Make "Insanely Cool Stuff" and it Resonated Emotionally with His Target Markets...

There's not much explanation necessary to grasp the visionary brilliance of Steve Jobs. He rarely pioneered... there were computers and ipods and tablets and phones before his. But he innovated, polished, added chic and promoted brilliantly -- his products, his company and himself. 

Note that the value story is far simpler than the vast number of moving parts inside a company, even inside its sales and marketing activity. But the ones that work best have straightforward emotional appeal that embodies the company's brand and marketplace edge.