Sunday, June 15, 2008

Freedom and Choice

Recently, I returned from a trip to Washington D.C. with my 15 year old son Jordan. It was amazing to see how many incredible individuals have gone before us to make this the greatest country in the world. As I was able to take in all of these individuals, a repeating pattern began to emerge. What really made these individuals great was the central fact that they believed with all their being extending freedom and choice to ALL individuals.

After this eureka moment, I then started to realize that these are the same two reasons why some companies are successful in good times and bad. Two cases in point: Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. Southwest’s motto is “Your are free to move about the country,” and they have always tried to be the no frills people centric airline. Yes, they did not have first class, but they gave the customers what they wanted (freedom) and choice of low cost fares. JetBlue also realized that Southwest was leaving open the “high-end” choice segment, so they offered EXACTLY what Southwest was offering but at a slightly higher price AND with a lot more perks (seat assignments, no center seats), but again at a choice point that exactly hit consumers sweet spot.

Another way of looking at Freedom and Choice is looking at the power of “AND.” JetBlue looked at the market and asked, “What if we combing first class AND low cost?” Essentially, combining features of the more expensive airlines, such as American Airline’s First Class with those of a discount carrier, such as Southwest’s low cost fares?

Looking at other notables who have employed the “power of and” you have to include Wal-Mart, Target, Virgin Atlantic, Apple, Google, eBay, Linux, Cisco, Hyundai, GE, and Procter and Gamble. Note: Apple and Google are starting to move away from the Freedom and Choice model, and are starting to be perceived as trying to control their markets. Look how the world perceives Microsoft, and how Freedom and Choice will eventually lead to Microsoft’s demise.

(Prediction: Obama will win the Presidential contest NOT because he is a better candidate, or more qualified, nor because he is African-American. He will win for the same reason that Reagan won. He brings the promise of Choice and Freedom. How is not as important as what, and What is the power of AND. If he stays on message, he may well carry over 55% of the popular vote.)

Anyway, how can any of this help you or your business? Well, ask yourself. Is what I am doing really helping people, and if not, how can I give my customers more freedom and more choices. This is NOT to say that you offer all things to all people. THAT is a recipe for disaster. What I am saying is that you FOCUS on offering MORE of what people really want, and if possible, things that until you can along, might have been mutually exclusive (like high quality, and affordable pricing; or like overnight letters and ground package delivery; or more taste and less filling).

So remember, are you on the side of control or on the side of freedom. People in general love the freedom fighters (cue “Braveheart,” “Star Wars,” “Mad Max”). We naturally abhor being constrained, and as Thomas Jefferson once said, “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.“ Make this your motto in business, and you are almost guaranteed success.

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