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:

Brands Will Last Forever… Right?

I was reading this article, 5 Industries On Life Support via Yahoo! that really got me thinking about whether brands can last forever? You see, one of the core tenets of branding – in my humble opinion – is that it needs to stand for or mean something. Beyond the fact that the logo looks attractive and memorable, there must be some rational and emotional meaning attached for a brand to truly resonate with the customer. The trick, of course, is finding that delicate balance between having a brand mean something that is neither too generic (happiness, success, etc.) nor too niche (“the friendliest turtle shell scrubbing brush in this city”, etc.).

This, in turn, led me to think further about whether brands can last forever – since a brand is supposed to stand for something, what if the times change? How can you successfully transform or reinvigorate the brand accordingly? (Well, I suppose I just gave you all the answer as to why branding and rebranding experts will continue to be around for a long, long time! Read here on how to choose a brand consultant).

This line of thought then reminded me of the following clip from the movie, Other People’s Money, starring Danny Devito. I especially liked how Devito’s character, named “Larry the Liquidator”, talked about obsolescence with the example of “the last company around […] that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw”. Enjoy the clip:

What do you think? Will brands last forever? What must they do to keep relevant and be built to last?

Do You Have a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal?

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras introduced the concept of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (or BHAG) in their 1994 book Built to Last. According to Collins and Porras:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort…It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People get it right away; it takes little or no explanation.

BHAGs are more than just the set objectives or goals that describe what companies hope to accomplish over the coming days, months or years. While these goals help align employees of the business to work together more effectively, often these goals are very tactical, such as “achieve 10% revenue growth in the next 3 months.”

BHAGs define visionary goals in a more strategic, in the form of a vision statement “…an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.” According to Collins and Porras:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.

Set correctly, BHAGs work – where it can even change the very nature of a business’ existence. And get this, I believe BHAGs work great in a branding and marketing context as well.

But what makes a good BHAG? From Collins and Porras, a good BHAG has four qualities:

Continue reading “Do You Have a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal?”