May 19, 2015
May 12, 2015
Old Navy is on a tear thanks to its new approach to selling clothes, reports Hiroko Tabuchi in The New York Times (5/18/15). Old Navy’s old approach — selling “clothes by the pound” — emphasized low prices with little to no regard for “the aspirations of low-income shoppers.” The basic idea was “to combine the style and quality of Gap clothing with the low prices and big selection of a Home Depot.” Its styles were adapted, “often clumsily,” from items its merchants would pick up from “higher-end retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue.”
“We were taking a product that was in the marketplace and we were bringing it to market maybe a year later,” says Jill Stanton, formerly of Nike and now Old Navy’s design chief. This has been replaced with a strategy Jill calls “fabric platforming” that allows “designers to quickly test various prints, shapes and sizes in small runs in stores before increasing the production of styles that were a hit with shoppers.” A new design team includes recruits from places like “Coach, Reebok and North Face” who obsess “over every detail.”
Old Navy also recruited Ivan Wicksteed, a former Coca-Cola creative chief, whose first order of business was cultural. “You have to start with the employees,” says Ivan. “If you can’t get your own people to want to get on board and change direction, then you’ll never persuade your own customers to do it.” One of Ivan’s first moves was to infuse its headquarters with “pop photography and upbeat music.” Last year, “Old Navy took in almost $6 billion in sales” — nearly as much as its sister chains — Gap and Banana Republic — combined.
May 11, 2015
A homely style of sandals is enjoying a run as haute couture accessory, reports Ellen Emmerentze Jervell in The Wall Street Journal (5/11/15). Birkenstocks — “clunky, orthopedically formed slabs with a rubber-cork-mix sole” have long been “a countercultural standard with hippies and tree-huggers,” and considered “the antithesis of fashion.” This image took an unlikely turn two summers ago, when Glamour “named Birkenstocks the shoe of the summer.” Vogue later endorsed the look “with a fresh pedicure and a ladylike dress.”
This came as a surprise to Oliver Reichert, chief executive of Birkenstock, a “240-year-old” German footwear manufacturer. “Fashion trends tend to roll over us,” says Oliver. The marketing budget for Birkenstock sandals is “close to nothing,” he says. “We are like dinosaurs in this business — we still think that a good product is all you need.” Yes, that plus some help at Paris Fashion Week in September 2012, “when Celine designer Phoebe Philo” paired “sleek clothing with bulky fur-lined sandals,” dubbed “Furkenstocks.”
Other designers followed with their own version of Birkenstocks — at prices as much as ten times that of the originals, which cost “about $100 a pair.” The Birkenstock boomlet is not expected to last past this summer, although some say they are permanently smitten by the sandal’s comforts and may never go back to “walking on a trail of cold metal.” Oliver is unconcerned: “When you have 240 years under your belt, you’ve seen many others come and go,” he says. “And when they’re all gone … Well, we’re still here.”
May 8, 2015
Facebook’s new headquarters scales its “garage ethos” to that of an aircraft hangar, reports James S. Russell in The Wall Street Journal (5/7/15). To be precise, Facebook started in a college dorm room and the new Facebook digs is the size of “several hangars.” But the new space, designed by Frank Gehry, apparently is intended to take “Facebook’s workplace culture to a new level of fluidity and transparency,” bring out the hacker in its 2,800 inhabitants and “hatch new ideas.” (photos)
The result is “a soaring fishbowl, a contiguous 434,000 square feet on one floor. No one has a private office, so that everyone … is on view, accessible” — including founder Mark Zuckerberg, a recreational hiker who enjoys roaming its “intimate hallways” that “pass between the conference room clusters … expanses of desks, dappled with the sun from skylights above — a high-tech forest.” The space is designed “to make manifest his products’ style of sharing, collaborating, and organizing face-to-face sociability.”
Mark “and his management team sit in the middle of the floor, placing the maximum number of people at close range.” Workers “can turn or twist their desk clusters to optimize the visual and physical proximity of those with whom they work most closely.” The layout, says Facebook VP of People Lori Goler, “facilitates connection, empathy, openness,” not unlike Facebook itself. Frank Gehry’s design subsumes “his bravura tendencies to Facebook’s pragmatism,” allowing its founder’s vision to emerge “with extraordinary clarity.”
April 22, 2015
Ron Johnson is back with a bid to re-invent the e-commerce experience, reports Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times (5/7/15). Ron, as you’ll recall, is both celebrated for his role launching the Apple stores and maligned for his time as CEO of JC Penney. His new venture, an e-commerce play called Enjoy, is designed “to create the friendliness of an Apple Store in people’s homes and offices.” The concept is to “send an expert to hand-deliver tech products” ordered online and help people set up and learn how to use them, “at no additional cost.”
Ron calls the concept “personal commerce.” “E-commerce today is primarily logistics and convenience — you order today, and, boom, get it tomorrow,” he says. While he believes that the traditional model isn’t going anywhere, he also thinks that the smartphone, and “local delivery networks” has introduced new possibilities. The idea does not fall far from the hugely successful Personal Setup service Ron “created at Apple that offers free in-store assistance to people who buy new products.”
“I remember when we launched that, Steve said, ‘Are you sure you can do that? Your stores are busy’,” says Ron. “But I thought it was the right thing to do. And within a matter of weeks of launching it, well over half the purchases were being set up in store.” The Enjoy model calls for a limited selection of “only about a dozen or so high-margin” items. Ron “believes that by limiting selection,” Enjoy can “squeeze enough out of each purchase to cover delivery and personal consultation.” Enjoy initially will be available in New York City and San Francisco only.
April 20, 2015
Francesca Amfitheatrof has “the daunting task of restoring artistic luster to Tiffany,” reports Guy Trebay in The New York Times (4/16/15). “You have a company that’s 177 years old and still here,” notes Stellene Volandes of Town & Country. However: “if you really think of Tiffany & Company in the last couple of decades, there’s not been very much new or creative,” says Daniela Mascetti of Sotheby’s. “They have a legacy to respect but at the same time need to come up with new ideas to bring Tiffany to the forefront again.”
It’s an interesting challenge because, on the one hand, Francesca needs to design “high jewelry,” costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, she created a $400,000 “jeweled bib” worn by Cate Blanchett at the Oscars that involved hundreds of carats of turquoise, diamonds and aquamarines “all contrived to imitate the effect of sunlight refracted through water.” (image) It set off a “frenzy of social media ‘likes’ and ‘favorites’.” Such pieces “increase the luster of a luxury brand in an increasingly competitive market.”
On the other hand, “Tiffany’s bottom line is built on far more prosaic stuff,” such as “Elsa Peretti’s silver heart on a chain — priced at $200.” (image) Francesca seems equally comfortable with both. “I don’t think about the value of the materials all that much,” Francesca says. Indeed, she’s known to pair “relatively worthless minerals like rock crystal with platinum, setting semiprecious gems like opals in diamond-studded bracelets.” “In general I try not to be intimidated,” says Francesca, “and just focus on the design.”
April 20, 2015
Like every astute marketer, George Garvin Brown, founder of the Brown-Forman Company, began with a keen insight. The year was 1870. Mr. Brown was a pharmaceutical salesman and his new venture was selling bourbon to pharmacies. The insight was that his product’s purity would set it apart. So, he produced the first-ever bourbon sold in bottles, which he sealed and personally signed at the distillery. That was a very cool innovation, made possible by emerging bottling technologies. The depth of George Brown’s insight did not stop there, however. It wasn’t so much that his bourbon was the first to be bottled; it was that the brand was sold that way exclusively. It was his way of assuring customers that the integrity of his bourbon hadn’t been compromised.
Can you name that drink? It wasn’t Jack Daniel’s, a whiskey which records show wasn’t established until about five years later. It was Old Forester, which legend has it was named after a pharmacist, and is today the world’s oldest bourbon brand (it outfoxed Prohibition by gaining designation as a medicinal product). Brown-Forman didn’t acquire Jack Daniel’s until 1956.George Brown’s great-great grandchildren continue to build both labels, which are currently riding an astonishing, millennial-fueled whiskey revival.
Jack Daniel’s is, of course, the best known of the company’s many brands, a genuine article of Americana and pop culture, unbound by the usual brand shackles of generation, geography or psychology.What makes this possible? Chief Brands & Strategy Officer Lawson Whiting says it’s all about real people, real stories and a real place: Lynchburg, Tennessee. “Stories about a town with one stoplight resonates with many different age groups,” says Lawson. “At first glance it might not seem to, but it really does.”Authenticity may have devolved into a marketing cliché in a world draped in artifice, but for Brown-Forman, it is a time-honored way of life. Read The Hub Q&A with Lawson Whiting of Brown-Forman.
April 13, 2015
Scarcely a day goes by without news-media coverage about what’s gone wrong at McDonald’s and what to do about it. With a new CEO coming on board, we thought this would be a good time to ask Cool News readers to weigh in: Can McDonald’s recover? What should it do? Clearly, all that glitters is not Golden Arches at the moment. Our survey found that 73 percent are “not lovin’ it” and give Mickey D’s just two gold stars out of a possible five. The overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) said they eat fast food, with 64 percent of those doing so at least once a month.
However, 50 percent said they ate at McDonald’s less frequently than two years ago, and just eight percent said they were eating at McDonalds more often today. This pattern didn’t exactly parallel overall opinions of the chain, which 55 percent said was unchanged relative to two years ago, and 34 percent said had worsened. Only 11 percent said their opinion of McDonald’s had improved.To some extent, these changes in dining habits had to do with life stage: “I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s since my kids were little,” wrote one respondent. For others, it was just the reverse: “I have kids now and don’t want them to get used to it.”
Still others said their kids no longer liked the food, with one reporting that “kids are taught at school not to eat at McDonald’s.” The primary reason, however, simply seems to be the quality of the food, which only one percent deemed ‘excellent’ and just eight percent said was ‘very good.’ A respectable 34 percent said the food is ‘good,’ however slightly more (38%) said it was just ‘fair,’ and 18 percent judged it ‘poor.’ Several commented that the food gives them a stomachache. In terms of what McDonald’s needs to do to fix this, ‘fat content’ was the number-one issue, cited by 58 percent of respondents. Continue Reading.
April 13, 2015
Google spends twice as much on recruiting than the average company, reports Daniel Freedman in a Wall Street Journal review of Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock (4/8/15). That’s all the more startling given that Google attracts “around two million applicants every year for a few thousand positions.” The reason is that “the best and brightest are usually not looking for a job.” So, Google cultivates them, “sometimes over years … networking with them through phone calls and emails, doing whatever it takes to get them hired.”
In some cases, this has meant “agreeing to hire away entire teams and open new offices.” Also unlike other companies, Google doesn’t “limit where they recruit from and the avenues from which to apply.” Instead, they “increase access” and use “smarter filters. In Google’s case this involves using an internal tool called qDroid that provides interviewers with pre-formulated questions.” Most important is a “work test.” For example, “watching how the person would solve a coding challenge” is a more useful filter than reading a resume.
Google stays away from job boards and recruiting firms — the former because they produce few hires and the latter because they “tend to provide specialists and Google wants generalists.” While “it’s harder to get a job at Google than it is to get accepted at Harvard … the company today prefers ‘to take a bright, hard-working student who graduated from the top of her class at a state school over an average or even above-average Ivy League grad’ because Google prioritizes resilience and overcoming hardship.”
April 7, 2015
A surprising number of today’s most valuable tech companies have their roots in PayPal, reports David Gelles in The New York Times (4/2/15). Uber, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp, Square, YouTube and, yes, Tesla, all include PayPal people in their family tree. The phenomenon is all the more striking given that PayPal’s own success happened “against all odds,” notes co-founder Max Levchin. “Like veterans of an intense military campaign, we fall back on lessons learned, and relationships established in our early 20s,” says Max.
After eBay acquired PayPal in 2002, its founders “emerged as among the few willing to invest in new tech startups.” “We went from this bunch of misfits to the center of the ecosystem,” says Keith Rabois, now a partner in Khosla Ventures. “Entrepreneurs needed capital, and the only place to get the capital was from us.” Informally, the PayPal alumni are known as the PayPal Mafia, and are “all men, mostly white, and under the age of 50.” In many ways, their story underscores the old adage that “success begets success.”
“If you have a name that’s associated with success, people will seek you out,” says Jeremy Stoppelman, a former PayPal vp of engineering. “Why do smart people go to Harvard? Because previous smart people went to Harvard,” he says. Adds Scott Banister, a former PayPal board member: “We have a very good collective resume … It’s not just that you’re associated with the company, it’s that you’re associated with the other people associated with the company.”
March 25, 2015
Krispy Kreme Is About More Than Doughnuts. Since 1937, Krispy Kreme guests have lined the block for a taste of its signature hot “Original Glazed” doughnuts. Now in 23 countries, this iconic brand’s secret to success comes from knowing their business is about more than selling doughnuts: it’s about delivering joy.
At Hub Live: The Retail Experience Symposium (April 23, NYC) Chief Marketing Officer Dwayne Chambers explains how Krispy Kreme’s simple purpose “to touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme” drives the decisions that have shaped the experience people crave today. And, yes, there will be Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee for everyone! Tap Here For More Information & Registration Details.
March 24, 2015
Saran Wrap downgraded its brand experience because it was the right thing to do, writes Fisk Johnson, chief executive officer of SC Johnson in The Harvard Business Review (April 2015). At issue was the presence of polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) which provides Saran Wrap with two of its key benefits: “an impenetrable barrier to odor” and “superior microwavability.” The problem is that “when materials containing chlorine, such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and PVDC end up in municipal incinerators … they may release toxic chemicals into the environment.”
PVC was also present in Saran Wrap’s packaging, which was easy enough to change. Creating a PVDC-free wrap was another matter. As Fisk writes: “To provide the odor barrier and microwavability of the original would require a multilayer film,” about the thickness of trash bags. Ultimately, the closest alternative was “less sticky, less effective at preserving foods’ freshness, and a lower-quality product overall.” Fisk decided to replace Saran Wrap with the inferior product, which has since resulted in a significant drop in sales.
The CEO cites something his great-grandfather said in 1927: “The goodwill of people is the only enduring thing in any business. The rest is shadow.” He also recalls that his father had made good on that ethos by banning ozone-damaging CFCs from aerosol products in the 1970s. Fisk sees himself as the guardian of his family’s “good name” and “a legacy built on the hard work of four generations” before him. His Saran Wrap decision, he says provides “a surer sense of who we are as a company and what we want SC Johnson to represent.”
March 19, 2015
“Attempts to reinvent business cards for the digital age have gotten nowhere,” reports The Economist (3/14/15). One might think that in this digital age we would now be exchanging business information with the tap of a smartphone. This ignores that business cards date back at least to 15th century China, and apparently old traditions die hard. Indeed: “Nothing will provoke more discussion at a board meeting than the design of the company’s business cards.” Some companies take pride in making brand experiences out of their cards.
At Lego, for example, employees “give out miniature plastic figures with their contact details stamped on them. McDonald’s business cards are shaped like a portion of fries. Bon Vivant, a Brazilian cheesemonger, uses a miniature cheese-grater as its card. A Canadian divorce lawyer once gave out cards that can be torn in two — one half for each of the feuding spouses … That business cards are thriving in a digital age is a forceful reminder that there is much about business that is timeless.”
In Asia, cradle of the tradition, business cards “are something of an obsession,” even “semi-sacred objects.” Japanese businesspeople “make the exchange of cards as elaborate as a tea ceremony” and in China, even “nursery school children carry cards not only with their own contact details, but also with the job descriptions of their parents and even grandparents.” In any case, the “trust-building process,” seems to be more important than ever, and in an era of innovation and disruption, certain customs appear to be exempt.
March 18, 2015
Brown-Forman hopes the whiskey boom will help revive its founding brand, reports Tripp Mickle in The Wall Street Journal (3/17/15). That brand is not Jack Daniel’s — which the company acquired in 1956 and is flying high. It is Old Forester, a bourbon that dates back to 1870 but has been sidelined amid whiskey’s recent revival. “We’re rolling the dice on a brand that hadn’t had much wind at its back for a while,” says Campbell Brown, a descendant of Brown-Forman founder and Old Forester creator George Garvin Brown.
At its peak, in 1972, Old Forester moved one million cases, but last year just 112,000 cases were sold. “We want to get back over 500,000 cases pretty fast,” says Lawson Whiting, Brown-Forman’s chief brands and strategy officer. Some $20 million will be invested in the brand to boost its “retro-appeal,” says Lawson. This will go towards “point-of-sale materials at retail promotions at bars and digital marketing.” An Old Forester Mint Julep drink will also be the “official drink of the Kentucky Derby” this year.
Brown-Forman will also open a distillery in Louisville next year, “the first in Kentucky where visitors can watch employees make oak barrels and char them with fire, a critical step in the bourbon-making process.” Currently, “almost half of Old Forester sales” occur in Kentucky and Alabama, but plans are to “target people in their twenties in urban markets like New York, Chicago and San Francisco,” in bars with newly popular cocktails like the Old Fashioned. Much of Old Forester’s current growth has been at restaurants and bars.
March 16, 2015
A pair of German retailers have a plan for global domination, reports The Economist (3/14/15). The retailers are “Aldi and Lidl, two German chains founded in 1946 and 1973, respectively. They are now the world’s biggest ‘deep discount’ grocers, offering mostly their own brands of goods and almost no premium-priced products. As mainstream supermarket groups contract, in Europe especially, the German duo continue to eat up market share.” Both are achieving success by “patiently and systematically advancing in their chosen territories.”
Aldi “seeks out countries where returns on groceries are significantly higher than global averages,” says former Aldi UK head Paul Foley. This is typically where “the local market is dominated by a few giants.” The approach is to grow “slowly and organically,” and, as Paul puts it: “suck the profitability out of the industry in favor of the consumer.” Rather than expanding into a large number of countries, the idea is to concentrate on a few, particularly Britain, where together the chains have about 15 percent of the market.
In the United States, Lidl has deferred its entry until 2018. Aldi currently has about 1,375 stores under its own name and another 435 under its Trader Joe’s banner. Plans are to add another “650 Aldi-branded stores” in the US as part of a “$3 billion expansion plan.” By comparison, Carrefour has left “19 foreign markets,” Tesco “lost billions” in the US and Walmart withdrew from Germany and South Korea. One weak spot for Aldi and Lidl might be online, as “neither has yet developed an internet-based sales channel.”
March 13, 2015
A new generation of technology is reinventing the phone call, reports Shira Ovide in The Wall Street Journal (3/13/15). The issue is that while email can be efficient, it also tends eliminate context and collaboration. “You’ve distilled all the waste out of the phone conversation and what’s left are these really important times when you need to talk to someone in real time, and get some emotion and back-and-forth,” says Craig Walker, founder of Switch, a technology platform that replaces traditional telephone hardware with a web-based, subscription service.
Switch enables users to “dial voice calls via computer, switch devices mid-call, and see documents exchanged with the person on the other end of the line.” It can also ring “conference participants automatically at the appointed time, making 800 numbers and PINS unnecessary.” In concept, this is not new, as Microsoft and others have provided similar capabilities. One difference is that offerings like Switch tend to provide greater functionality at lower cost, “and don’t rely on company technicians.”
The technology is similar to that used by Uber, the ridesharing service, which uses Twilio to power “automated text messages that let customers know a driver is waiting,” for example. At Weather Co., meanwhile, Switch is seen as being “less about cost than about maximizing productivity.” Chief Information and Technology Officer Bryson Koehler comments: “My goal for the organization has been to shift the way we work and really empower our company and our people to work in a mobile, agile, collaborative, next-generation way.”
March 5, 2015
Ty Warner is like “some Steve Jobs from a parallel universe ruled by satirists,” writes Daniel Akst in a Wall Street Journal review of The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette (3/7/15). Ty is the founder of Ty, Inc., the toy company best known for Beanie Babies. Perfectionism is common to both men, along with a strong sense of aesthetics. Ty was “forever tinkering with designs to make the toys more appealing, obsessing over each model’s fabric and pose and the distance between the eyes.”
Both men pursued similar retail strategies, and had a keen understanding of “the importance of the retail environment.” Similar to Apple, Ty kept Beanie Babies “out of bins and big-box stores.” Of course, Beanie Babies never rose above the level of a fad, but during its run it was a phenomenon that “appealed to people aesthetically and emotionally,” not unlike the infamous “Dutch tulip mania of the 17th century.” Its heyday, in the mid/late ‘90s, Beanie Babies were well aligned with an era of peace, prosperity and over-parenting.
The strategy was a mix of collectibility and scarcity, which Ty apparently stumbled upon “when a beloved Beanie Baby had succumbed to a production problem” and “salesmen pretended that it had actually been purposefully ‘retired,’ the better to instill urgency in buyers … A toy retirement announcement could send the price of a Beanie Baby soaring.” At one point, in 1998, “a single rare Beanie Baby specimen sold for $10,000.” The bubble burst in 1999, after Ty introduced “too many Beanie Babies.”
March 2, 2015
A near-death experience led Aetna’s CEO to create a culture of yoga and meditation, reports David Gelles in The New York Times (3/1/15). Mark Bertolini was given last rites after skiing into a tree and falling 30 feet into a ravine. He survived, but no longer has use of his left arm, which he says still feels as if it’s being burned “with a torch all day long.” Unable to continue his daily jogging regimen, he turned to yoga and meditation. Where drugs didn’t help ease his pain, yoga’s “vigorous stretching” and meditation’s “mindfulness” provided relief.
Amazed by this, he began “leading brief meditations in meetings with his executive team,” and then offered “yoga and mindfulness classes to employees.” Mark found that “employees who stuck with either yoga or mindfulness reported significant reduction in perceived stress and sleep difficulties.” They also logged increased productivity. In 2012, “he noticed something surprising: Health care costs had fallen … paid medical claims per employee were down 7.3%.” Those costs has since increased, but have held steady at 3% lower than before.
Flush with this success, Mark “announced that Aetna was increasing its minimum wage in the United States to $16 an hour, from $12 … and Aetna would also reduce their out-of-pocket health care costs.” “If we can create a healthier you, we can create a healthier world and healthier company,” Mark told his employees. His “journey of personal healing is now about improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of his nearly 50,000 employees and tens of millions of customers.” “It’s made me question what I do … and how I treat people,” he says.
February 26, 2015
A bad brand experience seems to be Spirit Airline‘s competitive advantage, reports Scott McCartney in The Wall Street Journal (2/26/15). At the core of the airline’s offering is a bait-and-switch plan that advertises low air fares that are then raised via an array of fees for extras. In this case, extras can include an in-flight drink of water. They also include printing a boarding pass, using a credit card, and speaking with an agent by phone. “There’s no fee to recline the thin seats — they don’t recline because legroom is so cramped.”
This works “because other airlines have raised prices so much.” Spirit “is expanding nationwide” and “increased its capacity a whopping 19% last year.” Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza makes no apologies. “No one goes to Chick-fil-A and complains they can’t get a burger,” he says. “And people shouldn’t come to Spirit if they want lots of legroom.” He also says he expects people to complain about all of the extra fees. “Our complaints will be higher than the rest of the industry. We understand that,” he says.
The Spirit gambit obviously plays better with some fliers than with others. “They attract people with cheap flights and then overcharge for everything,” says Emily Alayyan. “If you know you’re taking Spirit, be ready for an awful ride.” Still, Emily has not been able to resist flying Spirit. Susana Farias, meanwhile, says she’s “very, very happy with Spirit” because the low fares enable her to travel more frequently. Bottom line: “The average ticket on Spirit is $73 each way, and passengers pay, on average, another $55 in fees and in-flight purchases.”
February 20, 2015
New Coke’s champion said his greatest failures happened when he lost sight of the bull, reports Stephanie Strom in The New York Times (2/25/15). When the late Donald R. Keough, "who led Coca-Cola through the disastrous introduction of New Coke in 1985," said "bull," he meant it literally. "When I was 15 or 16 years old, I got a job buying bulls to ship back to processing plants," he once told The Times. On his first day, after overpaying, his boss chastised him, saying: "Concentrate on the bull, not on the language of selling."
Following the popular uproar that followed New Coke’s rollout, it was apparent Mr. Keough had indeed forgotten the bull. "All the time and money and skill that we poured into consumer research could not reveal the depth of feeling for the original taste of Coca-Cola," he said. After noting that cynics accused Coke of introducing a new flavor profile to spark demand for the original formula, he commented: "The truth is that we are not that dumb and we are not that smart." Old Coke — re-dubbed Classic Coke — was off the shelves for "just ten weeks."
Mr. Keough wrote a book called The Ten Commandments for Business Failure," in which he recounted his most famous disaster. One of the commandments was: Assume infallibility." As he told The Times in 2008 : "The word ‘success’ has always made me nervous, because I believe built into that word are a couple of viruses — arrogance and complacency — and left unchecked they can ensure failure." At one point, he also "suggested that his tombstone should read: ‘He’s not that dumb and he’s not that smart’." Donald Keough was 88.
American Girl’s latest doll is designed to spark the entrepreneurial spirit, reports Ruth Simon in The Wall Street Journal (2/12/15). As with all American Girl dolls, this one has a name — Grace Thomas. She’s nine years old, and "is a budding bakery owner." Julia Prohaska of American Girl explains: "Marrying the idea of girls’ high interest in baking and cooking with entrepreneurialism was just a natural fit." American Girl is owned by Mattel, which itself has "rolled out entrepreneur Barbie, with her smartphone, tablet and briefcase."
Ted Ganchiff of the Science & Entrepreneurship Exchange, thinks the time is right: "We are creating generations of people who are terrified to make a mistake," he says. The new American Girl doll "plays out in three related books … The story of Grace … illustrates what’s needed to run a bakery, such a registering the business and obtaining a license … the books explain that launching a business can be ‘messy and overwhelming’" but tries to offer practical advice, like buying supplies in bulk, for instance.
According to Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, "women have opened roughly 200,000 new businesses a month over the past five years … Men, by contrast, have opened approximately 325,000 new businesses a month during the same time period." Inspiring more girls to start businesses doesn’t necessarily come cheap, though. In addition to the accompanying Grace Thomas books, American Girl sells "a miniature bakery with make-believe ingredients" for $500. The Grace Thomas doll itself goes for $120.