Obsolescence Makes VCR Manufacturers Press Stop

Photo credit: Adam Wilt, Provideo Coaltion
Photo credit: Adam Wilt, Provideo Coaltion

The news that the world’s last manufacturer of Videocassette Recorders (“VCR”) will manufacture its last VCR has gone around the world. 40 years after the first VHS video cassette recorder was manufactured, Japanese consumer electronics company Funai Electric – the last known company making the devices – is ceasing production of its VCR products. The company cited declining sales and difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts as reasons to cease production. At its peak, the company sold 15 million VCRs per year, which has since dwindled down to 750,000 units in 2015 (Frankly, still an astonishing number! Who knew that three-quarters of a million people still bought brand new VCRs?!).

The news caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

Recorded Nostalgia

First of all, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. When I was growing up, we had limited screen time (television, not tablet). My mother would record our TV shows during the week and we’d watch them during the weekend; after homework and revision, of course. Or that time when my friends discussed the first time they saw what was on the tapes dad had hidden away. 😉

I also remembered the “accessories” industry that sprouted around the VCR and VHS tapes. Who didn’t have some sort of VHS tape rewinder placed near their TV stand?

Remember these?!

Fast Forward To The End

Secondly, I was impacted by the fact that obsolescence has claimed yet another victim. Very specifically, it reminded me about the following clip from the movie, Other People’s Money, starring Danny Devito.

The bit when “Larry the Liquidator”, talked about obsolescence with the example of “the last company around […] that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw” is especially powerful for me.

This company is dead.

I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me.

It was dead when I got here. […]

You know why?

Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence.

We’re dead, all right. We’re just not broke.

And do you know the surest way to go broke?

Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.

You know, at one time there must have been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw.

I turn to this scene time and time again whenever I think about my career or the brands I am working with (see: “Brands Will Last Forever… Right?” and “A truly innovative agenda and prepping for jobs that do not yet exist“).

Sometimes, it’s not just about product excellence or an endearing (even enduring) brand. Or, if you think about it from a career perspective – it’s not about your productivity or your personality.

It’s about whether you can successfully adapt to defend your place in this world.

Or, as General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff puts it: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

News sources:

3 Lessons From Jack Ma’s Original 1999 Sales Pitch For Alibaba

I was on Facebook when I came across a video billed as “Jack Ma’s Top 10 Rules For Success“. Jack Ma (马云), of course, is the founder of Alibaba.com. While the video had some good pointers, what really caught my attention was the last one spliced in: Ma’s original sales pitch in 1999.

Listen to the passion, conviction and hunger! Speaking to 17 friends in his apartment to introduce Alibaba, Ma was already laying out plans to take on the global internet players of the day back then:

  1. Swim for the bigger pond:

    “I’ve always said our competitors are not domestic websites, but overseas websites. Our competitors are not in China, but in America’s Silicon Valley.”

  2. Believe in yourself:

    “Chinese brains are just as good as [Americans]. All of our brains are just as good as theirs… If we are a good team and know what we want to do, one of us can defeat ten of them. We can beat government agencies and big famous companies because of our innovative spirit.”

  3. Commit to paying the price of hard work:

    “We need to learn the hard working spirit of Silicon Valley. If we go to work at 8am and go home at 5pm… Alibaba will never succeed… We will have to pay a painful price in the next 3 to 5 years. It is the only we way can succeed.”

All this was way before the worldwide fame; becoming the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes; becoming the richest man in China and 18th richest person in the world (with an estimated net worth of $24.1 billion); or the world’s biggest IPO.

This is how lunches get eaten.

 

Communications Is Here To Stay, In Good & Bad Times

My friend Gabey recently wrote a helpful article in PR Week featuring the kind of validation every communications professional seeks after: No matter the economic outlook, there will always be a place for the communications function in an organisation.

This was according to Wendy Heng, associate director for sales & marketing at Robert Walters Singapore, a specialist recruitment firm. She said, “In good times or bad, you’re still going to need a communications practitioner in-house,” adding, “It is a necessary and stable function in most companies and I’ve never seen a huge rise or fall in the number of positions.”

She observed that comms staff tend to escape restructuring or cost-cutting measures because they are viewed as a necessity. She added that if a company does undergo cost-cutting measures, communications roles are typically shielded, as it is one of those functions recognised as a necessity rather than a luxury.

“There is always going to be need for it because how you could not have someone look after external outreach or crisis communications?” she said.

However, while the comms sector is quite stable, it is also a double-edged sword as in-house teams are not big to begin with. “They’re always stretched too thin with a limit to how much external agencies can do. So while its stable, it is also not seen as revenue-generating function so it’s hard to justify additions to the head count – In contrast, the sales function is easier to justify.”

In the same article, Robert Walters’ also shared the findings from their latest annual Global Salary Survey last week. Data published suggested that salaries are expected to remain relatively flat in 2016, though candidates with in-demand skills can anticipate an average salary increment of 10 to 20 percent when switching jobs.

The following are some excerpted salaries from around Asia, from the Robert Walters Global Salary Survey. Salaries are listed in USD per annum, converted from local currencies.

Position Industry sector Salary range (USD)
2015 2016
Sydney, Australia
Communications Manager Banking & Financial Services 77,000 – 91,000 84,000 – 98,000
Senior Brand Manager Sales, Marketing & Communications, Consumer goods 87,000 – 98,000 87,000 – 105,000
Brand Manager Sales, Marketing & Communications, Consumer Goods 66,000 – 84,000 66,000 – 91,000
Shanghai, China
PR manager Sales & Marketing, Cosmetics 30,000 – 76,000 45,000 – 76,000
PR manager Sales & Marketing, Professional Services 45,000 – 84,000 45,000 – 90,000
PR manager Sales & Marketing, Retail & Luxury – National/Regional 45,000 – 90,000 45,000 – 76,000
PR & Events Manager Sales & Marketing, Retail & Luxury – National/Regional 60,000 – 90,000 53,000 – 68,000
Hong Kong, Greater China
Head of Corporate Communications Sales & Marketing, Financial Services 193,000 – 257,000 193,000 – 282,000
Head of Internal Communications Sales & Marketing, Financial Services 167,000 – 205,000 167,000 – 218,000
Corporate Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, Financial Services 77,000 – 116,000 77,000 – 128,000
PR Manager Sales & Marketing, Retail 58,000 – 83,000 64,000 – 90,000
Jakarta, Indonesia
Marketing Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, Marketing 28,000 – 33,000+ 28,000 – 42,000+
PR Manager Sales & Marketing, Marketing 23,000 – 33,000+ 23,000 – 36,000+
Tokyo, Japan
Communications Manager / Director Sales & Marketing, Retail & Hospitality 59,000 – 110,000 59,000 – 110,000
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Communications Director Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (consumer) 42,000 – 62,000 42,000 – 65,000
Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (consumer) 25,000 – 37,000 25,000 – 37,000
Communications Director Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (IT&T / Industrial) 42,000 – 62,000 42,000 – 62,000
Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (IT&T / Industrial) 20,000 – 28,000 20,000 – 34,000
Singapore
Corporate Affairs Director Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 98,000 – 125,000+ 98,000 – 140,000+
Public Relations Director Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 84,000 – 125,000+ 84,000 – 125,000+
Corporate Communications Manager Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 56,000 – 84,000+ 56,000 – 84,000+
Public Relations Manager Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 49,000 – 84,000 49,000 – 84,000
Corporate Communications Director Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 105,000 – 175,000 105,000 – 175,000
Public Relations Director Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 84,000 – 140,000+ 84,000 – 140,000+
Corporate Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 56,000 – 105,000 56,000 – 105,000
Public Relations Manager Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 56,000 – 84,000 56,000 – 84,000
Bangkok, Thailand
Public Relations Director Sales & Marketing, Consumer & B2B 42,000 – 55,000 44,000 – 61,000
PR Manager Sales & Marketing, Consumer & B2B 24,000 – 42,000 27,000 – 44,000
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Corporate Affairs Director Sales & Marketing, Marketing 90,000 – 105,000 84,000 – 105,000

Full article here.

Edelman Trust Barometer 2016: All My Posts

As a convenient reference point, here are all the posts on the the recently released Edelman Trust Barometer 2016.

  1. Global Trust Inequality Growing; In Tandem With Income Inequality
  2. Influence Levers Shifting To Peers, Employees
  3. General Public Turns To Business For Problem-Solving, Leaders’ Regain Credibility As Spokespersons
  4. Changing Rules Of Engagement To Build Trust
  5. Purpose-Driven Brands Engender More Trust

More:

Edelman Trust Barometer 2016: Purpose-Driven Brands Engender More Trust

Given the Trust Barometer’s findings that the general public is (re)turning to the business sector to solve “big problems” it might not be surprising to discover that having the right focus matters for both a business and its leaders, for action impacts trust. 45 percent attribute a business’ contribution to the greater good as the reason that their trust in business has grown. Conversely, of those whose trust in business decreased, half cited a business’ failure to contribute to the greater good as the main driver.

PurposeImpactsTrust

I think there is a strong impetus for brands and organisations today to tap deeper into their brand purpose and corporate narrative – and communicate this through their leaders and employees. The Barometer’s findings reinforce this: The public is responding positively to CEOs trying to realize the dual mandate of profit and societal benefit, as CEO trust has risen substantially in the past five years to 48 percent.

At the same time, organisations and leaders need the help of their employees, whose trust levels (52 percent) are on the rise. Respondents are more likely to trust an employee compared to a CEO for information on treatment of employees (48 percent versus 19 percent) and information on business practices and crises (30 percent versus 27 percent).

A strong brand purpose and corporate narrative is also valuable for internal engagement and morale. When business—and more specifically when the CEO—is involved in societal issues, employee advocacy and engagement increases. When a CEO is engaged in addressing societal issues, an employee’s motivation to perform escalates by 22 points. Similarly, an employee’s willingness to stay working for the company climbs by 22 points, and inclination to recommend the company as an employer grows by 25 points.

According to Kathryn Beiser, global practice chair of Edelman’s Corporate practice, “Business can be a big part of the solution because it is apolitical, fast, and tracks its progress. Now is the time to lead from the front with the support of their employees and passionate customers. No longer can business leaders focus on short-term goals. The new model CEOs are taking action by addressing the issues of our time, and taking a personal interest in the success of society. Stakeholders expect business to have a solid and steady focus on financial returns, but also on actions around key issues such as education, healthcare and the environment.”

More: