The Beauty Industry and Missed Opportunities: Lessons from the IT Sector and The Writing on the Wall.
In business, we’ve all played the “if I only knew then what I know now…” game. And yes, most – if not all – of us would lunge at the opportunity to jump into a time machine and emerge at the fabled right place at the right time: say, just before a wild stock market surge, or just as valuably, right before an impending crash.
But of all of the “if I only knew then what I know now” ponderings, the ones that are the most painful – the ones that keep us up at night, lamenting not just what might have been, but what should have been – are the opportunities that we let slip right through our very own fingers.
Those are the opportunities that sting the longest and cut the deepest, because in hindsight we see, with tragic clarity, that they were actually designed for us. Those opportunities came knocking at our door, and all we really needed to do was turn the doorknob, let them in, and reap the life-changing rewards.
But for a variety of reasons – call it destiny, bad luck, or anything else – we missed it. And so the knocking stopped, the door remained closed, and the opportunity went elsewhere.
Top Missed Opportunities (and Blunders) in Tech History
If reflecting on missed opportunities has you feeling pretty lousy, then take heart: at least you didn’t make PC World’s harshly (but accurately!) entitled “The Top 10 Stupidest Tech Company Blunders” list. Indeed, while you may occasionally lie awake in bed at night wondering “what might have been,” the folks on this list are probably knee-deep in therapists by this point. Behold:
• In 2006, Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel reacted to some bad company financial news by pulling back a virtually sealed $1 billion dollar offer for Facebook. The offer was reduced to $600 million, which was too low for Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Just five years later, Facebook is now worth a jaw dropping $80+ billion.
• In 2000, an engineer, Tony Fadell pitched a music player that was an innovation from the current mix of MP3 players. He was shown the door by Real Networks and Philips, but he did capture the interest of some guy named Steve Jobs. Jump ahead a decade and Fadell’s vision – which became the iPod – commands 80% of the digital music market and has transformed the way the music industry produces and delivers its product.
• In the early 2000’s, monoliths Sony and Toshiba waged corporate warfare over who would define the new high definition DVD standard. Sony had a thing called Blu-ray. Toshiba had a thing called HD DVD. The battle waged on until 2008, when Sony finally won – but only after paying Warner Brothers Studios a tidy $400 million to kill HD DVD in favour of Blu-ray. Had they worked together, they would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars and profited hundreds of millions more. Talk about a missed opportunity!
• Folks of a certain age will easily remember the days when MS-DOS ruled the computer operating system world (can I get a dir, please?). But most folks don’t know that before IBM chose Microsoft, it tried to strike a deal with a guy named Gary Kildall of Digital Research. As it turns out, the day that IBM stopped by Gary’s place to forge a deal, he was out delivering a product to a customer – leaving his wife to handle the negotiations. Mrs. Kildall didn’t like some of what IBM was proposing, and sent them on their way. IBM went straight to Bill Gates and Microsoft and the rest is history.
• In 1973, Xerox built something very interesting and called it the Alto. At the time, nobody really knew what the Alto was, because nothing like it had ever existed. All they knew was that it had a windows-based GUI, ethernet networking, and a WYSIWYG text processor. But who in their right minds would want that? There was no personal computer market in 1973, and so the Alto was put on the back burner. However, this wasn’t before that iPod guy Steve Jobs played around with one, went “aha!” and then spun the vision into Apple’s Lisa and Mac computers. By the time Xerox woke up to this, it was too late and they never did catch up.
• In 1999, millions of people basked in front of the warm glow of their monitors and loaded up on digitial music courtesy of Napster. But not everyone was thrilled – including the music industry itself, which went into DefCon 3 mode and attacked Napster and thousands of the “pirates” who were using it to “rip’em off”. That’s when Napster CEO Hank Barry offered this revolutionary solution: license the music and pay royalties to the artists, just like a radio station. To put things mildly, his suggestion was not heeded. Nor was it heeded by the music industry when a similar solution was proposed by MP3.com, or any of the other sites where music loving “pirates” were congregating. Of course, we know how this story ends: today, Barry’s licensing model is worth billions of dollars a year – and growing. The digital music industry could have avoided years of missed sales, legal costs, and the ire of music lovers (especially the 30,000 or so that it sued) if it had simply seen the writing on the wall and READ it.
• Back in the 90’s, the Internet Service Provider landscape was dominated by Compuserve. It had everything that a CEO, investor or shareholder dreams of: massive market share, established customer base, huge resources, little competition, and technical advantages (particularly around data) that functioned in some ways like a natural monopoly. So what happened? Neglecting to fortify its leadership position, re-invest in innovative technologies and services, Compuserve in essence held the door open for AOL to come in and within a few years – kicked Compuserve out of the marketplace altogether.
• For years, Craigslist was seen but not heard by the newspaper industry. Who could imagine anyone turning away from (the very lucrative) newspaper classifieds and putting their truth in some weird ads on some weird website named after some (presumably weird) guy. Instead of understanding Craig Newmark’s business model and exploiting it, the newspaper industry went on whistling, while Craigslist and friends – eBay, Google, and so on – kept growing exponentially. And now, there’s a good chance that the only place future generations will see a newspaper, or at least the classified section of a newspaper, will be in a museum.
• We live in the Google Age, but we could be living in the Open Text age – that is, if the folks at Yahoo! and its new partner Open Text had, in 1997, decided not to abandon their plans to create a search engine that could quickly and accurately scan documents on the web and bring back search results. Their oversight was Google’s invitation, because in 1998, Google launched its search engine and, well, the rest is history (and, no doubt, the stuff of nightmares for the people at Yahoo! and Open Text who missed out on tens of billions of dollars in profits).
• At the turn of the century, Apple and its advisor Steve Jobs (yes, him again) were facing a very scary problem: they didn’t have cash, their stock was close to worthless, and it didn’t even have a CEO at the time. So why didn’t Apple fade into oblivion? Enter: Bill Gates and Microsoft, who sent over a check for a cool $150 million to keep Apple from rotting to the core. Obviously, Microsoft never realized that this strategic miscalculation would cost the company billions of dollars in lost profits and market share in PCs, digital devices and software. But it did, and that’s why Bill is on the list.
The Ingredients of a Missed Business Opportunity
While all of the shockingly big missed opportunities (and blunders) have different details and paint different pictures, it’s insightful to look beyond the surface to the common denominator – because in doing so, it becomes evident that there are some key, common ingredients to every missed business opportunity. These include:
1. Misjudging the marketplace. Each of these sad tales wraps itself around a core mistake, which is that the marketplace was woefully misjudged. Either markets that truly did exist were assumed to be nothing (or, at best, not worthy of consideration), or basic fundamentals of what consumers wanted was ignored in favour of what businesses wanted and figured were in their best interest, rather than the consumers’.
2. Not seeing the warning signs. While hindsight is 20/20, it’s fair to conclude that the writing was already on the walls for these folks – and for some of them, it had been there for years if they would only pay attention. But instead of reading the signs, accepting reality and making adjustments, they either pretended that everything was fine, or did an ostrich dive and insulated themselves against what was really going on. The irony here, of course, is that the people who were charged with seeing reality – the leaders – were the ones who were dead-set on seeing anything but what was really happening. In the end, their failure was much bigger than them – it crushed entire companies to the ground.
3. Not partnering with the right solutions provider. All of these businesses can be faulted for failing to look outside of their organization. If they had, they would have no doubt connected with the right solutions provider and obtained invaluable access to knowledge, products, services, channels and systems – any or all of which could have saved them from economic catastrophe and a spot on this terrible list. In other words, they couldn’t solve the problem on their own (presuming they saw it in the first place) and failed to work with partners to solve it smartly and successfully.
The Writing is on the Wall for the Beauty Industry
We’ve seen how the three core mistakes identified above – misjudging the marketplace; not seeing the warning signs; not partnering with the right solutions provider – have led to untold billions in losses for IT leaders who would do anything to go back in time and undo the damage (and not be the laughing stock of future generations). And chillingly, we can also see how these blunders are making their way into the Beauty Industry – specifically, in how the Beauty Industry deals with men.
Frankly, the Beauty Industry, for all of its combined intelligence and experience, is woefully neglecting men in its product development, its marketing, its advertising and especially its retailing. Why? Well, if you ask the Beauty Industry, you won’t get an answer – because most industry insiders don’t think there’s a problem! The few who do, their visions are so myopic they can’t see their way to a clear solution. In fact, the traditional Beauty Industry would have you believe that men in general, are well on their way to be ‘feminized’.
It would be unfair to say that the Beauty Industry made no effort toward creating products and marketing campaigns that “appeal to men”. But the little that they did, is so far off the track that pulling the train back would be akin to getting it to stop on a dime. That’s no surprise because meaningful change from the ground up takes money – lots of it. Yet because masculine men don’t wield nearly enough buying power to catch the Beauty Industry’s attention, the Beauty Industry figures that you aren’t important enough for them to invest in a complete and costly overhaul of their current practices toward the marketing of men’s skin care and men’s anti-aging products.
Besides, the modern Beauty Industry as a whole, like some of their counterparts in the IT section that made the List, are still so confined by traditions and influences of their feminine roots that have defined the Beauty Industry for nearly 200 years, one doubts that they’d see the solution even if it were right before their eyes.
But that is a MONUMENTAL problem, and writing is clearly on the wall.
It’s an undisputed fact that men’s skin care and anti-aging is the fastest growing segment of the Beauty Industry today. But note that this growth isn’t the result of the Beauty Industry’s efforts to respond to the needs of masculine men, it’s actually the opposite. Earlier issues of this article series talk about this extensively, as well as the Beauty Industry’s practice of recruiting and bribing of women to do their heavy lifting – that’s why up to 70% of men’s skincare products are bought by women.
No wonder everything from the packaging to the marketing to the ultra-feminine department store “beauty jungle” experience is totally designed for the ladies. Even the most frequent promotions are geared towards women – who else would be expected to make use of a “pretty” make-up bag full of lip stick, eye shadow and mascara!
Does this sound familiar? Kind of smell like some of the staggering miscalculations that the IT leaders on the list above made back when they had a chance to get ahead of a trend – instead of lie awake in bed at night (or on their therapist’s couch in the day) thinking about it.
So that begs the questions…
• Who will be the Beauty Industry’s Yahoo! and profoundly misjudge the value of Facebook?
• Who will be the Beauty Industry’s Xerox, and assume that simply because it doesn’t have a distribution channel to a marketplace, then that marketplace must not exist?
• Who will be the Beauty Industry’s Open Text, who was well within grasp of being, well, THE Google of the tech industry today, but figured back then that it wasn’t worth their time to listen to what the marketplace was really saying. Enough said.
• Who will be the Beauty Industry’s Real Networks and Philips who, despite their success in other fields, will never get over the financial loss of having held the future iPod in its hands, yet dismissed it as a thing “that will never catch on”?
The list could go on, but the point is clear: this is the Beauty Industry’s wake up call. Masculine men are a real – and really big – piece of the global marketplace puzzle, and they’re ready, willing and able to spend billions of dollars on men’s skin care and anti-aging products that are designed and delivered to them on their terms – not their wives’, not their girlfriends’, not their sisters’. They want masculine men’s face care products that are designed from the ground up for masculine men – products and messages that meet the needs and befitting the lifestyle and self-image of the modern masculine man – The Man’s Man.
Beauty Industry visionaries who see this writing on the wall, accept the new reality, and take smart steps to engage masculine men will not only position themselves to profit and thrive. They’ll do something just as gratifying:
They won’t end up the “The Top 10 Stupidest Beauty Industry Company Blunders” list when it’s time to write that one up.
Candace Chen is the world’s foremost authority on the marketing of Masculine Face Care (men’s skincare and men’s anti-aging) products, her credentials include over 150 U.S. and international patents issued and pending. She is also the founder of the FaceLube Marketing System and FaceLube, the Home of Ultra Masculine Face Care for a Man’s Man®. FaceLube is Ultra High-End Masculine Men’s Anti-Aging Technology with everything he needs, nothing he doesn’t.
FaceLube’s vision is to make High-End Masculine Face Care products readily available to the general public at an exceptional value and at retail locations convenient to you. This is made possible, because FaceLube puts our tremendous buying power to work for you. Compared to less than 2,000 retail locations where high end men’s skin care and men’s anti-aging products are traditionally sold in the US, FaceLube’s exclusive distribution channel has over 50,000 first tier retail centers and another 100,000 second tier locations. With this kind of buying power, FaceLube has the ability to negotiate exceptional bulk pricing with many of the top beauty and personal care manufacturers around the world and pass the savings on to you.