Superstars of the business world


I was at Oracle Open World last week, and sat through Larry Ellison’s closing keynote. Twelve thousand people in a closed and dark room, six massive TV screens behind Larry, and the blaring rock music that greeted his arrival on stage. Before he came on the stage, the audience is treated to a montage of Larry’s fantastic yacht race victory in his sci-fi new yacht. His hard-working team, and their hard-charging victory in the America Cup. Thus primed, the audience sat with bated breath, waiting for Larry to speak. And then, he spoke, the audience hanging on to every word. The man can surely hold a crowd.

(You can see clips here). This guy is a rock-star. It is rumored that the IronMan character in the movies is based upon Larry Ellison- that’s how much of a rock star this guy is.

Corporate CEOs need to be rock stars to impress their clients, share-holders and employees, all the while creating fear in the minds of the enemy. It’s all for effect, this audience baiting, this hyper-enunciated speaking, this rabble-rousing. It’s all to good effect.

The question is: Does everyone in the business world have to be a rock star of this variety?

I think not.

It depends on what the person’s strengths are, and what the company needs at the time. Even in the music industry, the true home of the “Rock Star” phenomena, there are different types of musician-heroes. Not everyone is a glam-rocking-fist-pumping-bad-boy! On the contrary, most are not at all in line with this stereotype.

This bad boy image works only for those people who need to reach large stadium-type audiences, and who get their popularity through the media. Exaggerated actions are what will get the attention they want- be it in the stadium, or be it in the press.

There are other types of musicians in the world of music, and in the world of business. All are needed. Here’s a list.

The Songwriter who, like Gulzaar, writes the songs that others become famous for. In the corporate world, this person may be doing all the thinking, allowing others to take the fame.

The band-wallah who, like The Edge or George Harrison is part of successful team, and is not in the limelight, but not too far behind. The show is not about him, but the show cannot go on without him.

The playback singer who, like Sonia-ji is calling the shots but can only be heard through other people. These could be the power-brokers, or the agenda-formers in any company.

Many times the press- even the business press- looks for the rock-stars who can quip in real-time, and who can give fantastic sound-bytes. That’s what the press needs to make their stuff readable. Doesn’t make the “superstar CEO” any better than the effective manager who does not give interviews.

Just a thought! My sketch below. Oh, and the audience soon grew tired of Larry’s pitch. By the end of his presentation, more than half the audience had quietly shuffled out. It was good to have the room darkened!

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The New Product Life Cycle


Marketing isn’t what it used to be.  In business school, we read about the product life cycle (PLC) – a curve that traced the evolution of sales from introduction to decline.  The traditional PLC was characterised by an underlying “evolution”.  After introducing a product, a marketer would see slow adoption, followed by strong growth, a period of stability where one could milk the product, followed by a slow decline.

That isn’t happening anymore.  PLCs have gotten incredibly compressed – and resemble “fads” in many cases.  The new PLC is characterised by rapid adoption (or failure), a short sharp peak and rapid decline – followed (hopefully) by a long tail.  The true blockbuster product – with the traditional PLC is increasingly rare.  You see this in several industries – entertainment (music, movies), mobile phones, cars, apparel – name it.

All this changes the job of the marketer quite considerably.  One can’t hope for a gradual diffusion of the product anymore.  A new product introduction requires speed and scale in order to be successful.


What are the implications of the new PLC:

1. Intense marketing activity up-front in order to break through the clutter

2. Widespread distribution arrangements to capitalise on the marketing activities and the short sales period

3. Flexible manufacturing capacity that can ramp-up and down rapidly

4. Risk-management techniques to manage exposures caused by intense up-front investments

5. Use of low cost distribution channels to extract value from the long tail

6. Rapid product development processes

Are you configured to succeed in this new environment?  Or, are you still trying to milk the old?

Tweet, Meet, Call or email…what’s a girl to do?


Here’s an interesting article on how to choose your communication medium wisely. This is on HBR’s blogs from a Wharton Professor.

Prof’s post.