Worlds Apart

24 04 2008

I came across two interesting articles on digg today.  I’m going to share them with you and put my 2 cents in on them, but I would love to hear your interpretation of how the companies in these articles are heading down different paths.

Here’s what I found:

Starbucks has recently cut its profits forecast for FY 09, blaming the economic housing crunch in the US.  Read More

Apple on the other hand as announced, among other things, a 51 percent unit growth and has had their best March ever.

Read More (Note – in the article, you’ll see they made no direct reference to the MacBook Air… interesting, but besides the point)

How is this happening?  A year or two ago, these companies seemed to be on the same path, but as Apple has flourished, Starbucks is struggling to maintain in these times.  Many of you out there might be thinking “Aaron, I barely have enough money to deal with $4 gas! How am I supposed to handle $4 coffee!?!”  You could then go on to point out how McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts are simply stealing Starbuck’s customers with cheap, quality coffee.

But explain to me how Apple can sell $200 iPods and $400 iPhones and $2000 MacBook Pros consistently when you can buy any other MP3 player, cell phone and a laptop for a quarter of these prices?

…seriously, explain to me…

The way I see it is that Apple has been able to develop a “perceived need” among all consumers.  Because of their “everyman” marketing, they’ve made their brand into a unique image that crosses all boundaries – economic intellectual and cultural.  The focus for customers isn’t on the price but on the Mac movement.  And when your computer has that little piece of fruit on the front, you’re a member.  This is what causes a college student to take out a loan to buy a 2.16 GHz, Intel 2 Core Duo MacBook Pro (I NEEDED IT!)

Meanwhile, Starbucks focused their brand towards the on the go businessman or the overbooked sorority girl with her hair in a pony tail and father’s cash in pocket.  Many paying customers are left out of this picture, which let them find other coffee.  Their competitors capitalized and proved themselves worthy adversaries.

So, what do you think?


Idea Machine

21 04 2008

I have ideas. Many different ideas actually. I’d wager to say though that you have ideas too; we all do. But I think my ideas are special and I want to save them for that right moment to get a “wow” from my next employer. But I’m afraid… I’m afraid that one day the ideas will run dry, and when they turn to me and say

“What should we do, Aaron?”

I’ll freeze and look like a “one-idea-wonder”.

But last Friday I found ideas I didn’t know I had. I went to lunch with a good friend of mine, Paul Matson and as we sat around – first at a bar having lunch, then out on his roof playing djembe and guitar – and talked. We talked about everything, from communications to politics to life in Athens. Paul had some great insights into many things I never thought of, but that’s not what surprised me (not because his ideas weren’t great, but because I’ve come to expect him to bring interesting thoughts to the table). What shocked me was some of the ideas I had. Things that I knew, but never articulated. And once I got them out there and talked them out with someone, I found new value in them.

This made me wonder, “why haven’t I talked these ideas out before?” So I came up with a list – Top five reasons we are “Idea Hoarders”

1) Like my example above, we want to save our ideas for that right moment in order to get “fully appreciated” for our thoughts.

2) It’s not socially acceptable to have ideas. Just try to think back to the last time you were in class and the prof asked a question that you knew that answer to, but didn’t raise your hand… you know what I mean.

3) We’re afraid of idea thieves. We know that someone’s around the corner waiting to take what we have and run with it.

4) We’re just not smart enough. That guy over there has better ideas so why embarrass ourselves and get shown up by the real geniuses.

5) Ideas take time to grow and it’s 73 degrees outside and my dog, Cubbie is here with me. I’m going outside to play.

These are all reasons I’ve used to swallow my words and keep my thoughts to myself. But think about the last really good idea you had and what you did with it. If you kept it to yourself, talk about it with someone – a friend, a teacher or even your mom – and see where it goes. You’ll be surprised at what your capable of, I was.