I was an early-adopter, and to a certain degree I still am.
I like what I have (and what I’ve had.)
Technology is cool, fun and there are those of us (and you know who you are), who revel in it. There is always a latest-greatest-gotta-have-it something or other that gets our juices going. It drives us as journalists, salespeople, and consumers. It’s, to a great degree, why we do what we do.
Back in the days of VHS and BetaMax and camcorders and CDs, I was new to all of this. I got to know some of the now legendary people of our industry. They taught me a lot. A few years after VHS won the market, one CE executive surprisingly announced his retirement. His company was at the forefront of this product and he was a passionate and dedicated advocate of both the technology and his company’s position in the market. I called him and asked why he was walking away.
Although far from traditional retirement age, he said it was time for him to go, “it isn’t fun anymore.” I am probably paraphrasing him, but he said it was energizing and exciting to introduce a new technology and bring it to the market. But, by the time he decided to say goodbye, that thrill was gone. Everyone was selling VHS decks.
“We’re just selling toasters,” he said. “I don’t want to sell toasters”. (That, to the best of my recollection is an exact quote.)
I never met Norio Ogha, the former head of Sony who passed away this week. I wish I had. He had a passion for both technology and its applications and implementations that re-invented Sony at a time when no one thought Sony needed to be re-invented. It did. And he did it. I mourn his passing. (And I wonder why there is not a greater mourning in this industry as we honor his life’s work.)
The electronics industry and the retail world are rife with the likes of Norio Ohga, and my old friend who helped make VHS a success. There are pioneers aplenty who invented, created, manufactured, marketed, sold and made dramatic and long-lasting changes in both what we wanted to buy and how we bought them. Maybe it is just nostalgia, or a touch of the curmudgeon in me, but I wonder “where are the Ohga’s of today.” With apologies to Steve Jobs, Bezos, Meg Whitman and Zuckerberg, who have admittedly, in their way, reinvented our electronics and retail experiences, I wonder if we need something more.
Perhaps in some garage, or the back room of some retailer, there is a glimmer of a great idea that someday we will celebrate as the reinvention of our industry and marketplace.
I have no idea what it is. But I do know that we need it. Whatever it is, and I sincerely hope that is it there, it needs to be a unique convergence of tech and sales. Of gizmos and marketing. Of gee-whiz and gotta-have.
By “it” I mean both products and the sales channels.
We’ve had it. We’ve reveled (and profited) in it.
We can spend our time wondering if the next generation of sales is coming from the Internet, or from smaller stores, or lower prices (and lower margins), or, god bless ‘em, those proponents of better customer service (of which I am admittedly an advocate). Or maybe we need something new, different and radical - something re-inventive.
I have no idea what it is. (If I did, I would be writing a business plan instead of this commentary.)
If we do nothing, we will gain nothing. It will be business as usual.
If all we make and sell are toasters. We will become, say it with me…..
John Rice is a writer, consultant, and occasional sales professional. Komedia Group provides marketing, training and informational services to companies in the electronics, automotive and pharmaceutical fields. He can be reached at 267-980-5919, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.komediagroup.com.