Digital Domain: Failing Like a Buggy Whip Maker? Better Check Your Simile

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Today, many businesses facing life-or-death challenges from digital technology are described as contemporary buggy whip makers. This short-hand may not be the right simile according to Randall Stross. Nevertheless, what is important, is recognizing change, buggy whip or not, and fully acknowledging that business and brands are a function of a consumer’s need.

Therefore, our axiom is: Create a meaningful difference or be ready to only embrace, a better sameness.

Here are a few noteworthy extracts from the New York Times article.

NY TIMES January 10, 2010
Digital Domain:  Failing Like a Buggy Whip Maker? Better Check Your Simile
By RANDALL STROSS

  • Today, any line of business facing the life-or-death challenge of a digital age will be described, sooner or later, as a contemporary buggy whip maker.
  • The buggy whip analogy is “an obscurity sitting on an anachronism,” said Daniel M. G. Raff, an associate professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
  • It’s unlikely that we would even refer metaphorically to buggy whip makers if it weren’t for Theodore Levitt, a Harvard Business School professor. In 1960, he wrote about their plight in a Harvard Business Review article, “Marketing Myopia”; hundreds of thousands of reprints have been sold.
  • Mr. Levitt said that businesses should concentrate on their customers’ needs, not on specific products. If only the buggy whip makers had thought of themselves as being in the personal transportation business, providing a stimulant or catalyst to an energy source, Mr. Levitt wrote, they might have survived into the automotive era.