I was originally going to name this post “Adapt or Die,” but with the pending Star Trek film by my boy JJ Abrams (and I pray a rebirth of what was once a brilliant sci-fi franchise), I had to go with those three, bone chilling words used by the Borg Collective to herald in the complete annihilation and/or absorption of a civilization.
In my last post, “Should You Invest a Lot in a Logo,” I made the bold (and apparently controversial) claim that with respect to a wedding related businesses, a logo mark is the least important part of the branding elements of a company. Many people agreed with my overall argument. But there were a few strong objections to my claim (primarily, no surprise, from those in or closely related to the graphic design business). The impetus for my post was that a couple of colleagues of mine who specialize in wedding cinematography turned to some online logo competition sites to get logos that cost about $200 and $350 respectively. Another colleague of mine suggested that this was a cheapening of their brand. You can read the post if you need to get caught up.
CHANGE…IT’S A COMIN’
Throughout the history of business, change has come, and it has been a scary thing. Whether it’s change of government, the economy, technology, business philosophy, one thing is for certain. Change (like death and taxes) is always certain. How you deal with that change will mean the difference between succeeding in business, or not. Here are just a few of the changes in this past generation that have had significant impacts on our businesses: the Internet; Beta to VHS; VHS to digital; SD digital to HD digital; large and medium format film to 35 mm film; film to digital; etc…etc…etc. Whenever these massive changes occur, there is always a vocal minority that screams foul, no fair, we need to go back, or whatever else they can think of. But, no matter how loud they scream, change still happens.
And change affects companies of all sizes. Don’t believe me? Ask Blockbuster. Crown Books. Sears. Hollywood. The music industry is actually an excellent case study. The onset of high speed internet helped sites like Napster herald in the age of digital downloads of music. The music industry, with billions of dollars behind them, kicked and screamed, and even stooped so low as to take 14 year-old teens to court. What happened? A computer software company became one of the largest (if not these largest) retailer of music. Hollywood is heading down the same path.
ADAPT, OR DIE
So, what is a small graphic designer to do when he sees his multi-thousand dollar fees for logos and web design dry up with the birth of logo competition sites or template web design sites? What’s a 25 year veteran of the photo industry (who doesn’t know Facebook from a facelift and has no idea what a blog is) to do when some young whipper snapper with a keener marketing sense and just two years in the business skyrockets to stardom and takes much of her business? What is a small town studio to do when a large national behemoth enters its town? The answer to all these questions is one word: adapt.
Here are three ideas to consider when the storm of change comes beating down your door:
- Be unique: if you haven’t already figured it out, this is a soap box of mine. Be unique. Set yourself apart from the pack. Offer something (a service, an experience, whatever) that the harbinger of change can’t, or won’t offer. There’s a coffee shop in Campbell, CA called Orchard Valley that is just one block down from a Starbucks. Often times they are more crowded than Starbucks. Why? Because they offer a very different experience (more like 60s beatnik to Starbucks’ yuppie conclave) and have learned to market and cater to customers who crave that experience.
- Sell shovels: during the “gold rush” of the 1840s and 50s, the people selling shovels to those looking for their next big fortune in the ground more often than not made the most money. Change always brings with it new opportunities. Look for those opportunities. Examples of some great “shovel” sellers: wedding photographer Kevin Kubota building an empire with Kubota Image Tools; wedding photographers Jessica Claire and Jim Garner helping photogs carry their gear; videographer wunderkind Joshua Smith doing just about everything (video compression software, DVD cases, education).
- Hang 10: when the wave of change comes barreling in, instead of fighting the wave, grab a surf board and ride it. When media formats change, start learning and offering the new format. In fact, anticipate the wave, and stay ahead of it. Become a leader in the new “whatever” before anyone else does. While your competitors are kicking and screaming, you can be the one racking up the dollars.
THE KIRK FACTOR
Since I started this post with a Star Trek analogy, it’s only fitting I end with one. I like to talk about something I call “the Kirk Factor.” In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (heretofore the BEST Star Trek movie, bar none), we learn that James Kirk is a man who has an uncanny ability to cheat death. As he says, “he doesn’t like to lose.” Whether it’s re-programming the computers at Star Fleet so he could pass the infamous Kobayashi Maru test (a scene I pray they show or at least allude to in the new Trek film); or tricking Khan by speaking in code over monitored radio waves; or even going so far as to destroy his beloved starship in order to buy his crew more time while dealing with renegade Klingons (Star Trek III). James Kirk always had a way out.
So my question to you is this: do you have the “Kirk Factor?” Are you willing to do what it takes to survive and thrive in a changing business environment? Even if it means doing the unthinkable, like destroying your “Enterprise” in favor of a new one?
Live long, and prosper.