Hemingway’s bait & switch


Are you using the right bait? And what about the line? The New York Times Book Review published an interesting essay – “How Writers Build the Brand” by Tony Perrottet – on the strategies and tactics that authors use to promote their books and themselves.

The article calls out Ernest Hemingway, who so mastered the craft that he was able to extend his author aura to a range of brands, including Pan Am, Parker Pens and Ballantine Ale.

Image: Advertisement From P. Ballantine & Sons, Newark (1951) via The New York Times

Disruption changes the process of thought and even state of being.

John Sculley here is conflating — if not confusing — creative destruction with disruption. Creative destruction is a paradigm shift wrought by a monsoon of new technology. (To whatever degree pre-existing industries are strong and flexible, this is to their benefit, too. The drastic shrinking of the candle market brought about by the pervasive distribution of kerosene was to Procter and Gamble’s ultimate advantage.)

Creative destruction changes externals, but not the individual’s psyche. Disruption changes the process of thought and even state of being. In the aftermath of a storm of creative destruction, a product still is sold to the customer. With disruption (in either form) the customer is sold to a product.

Yes, Kodak should have understood that their real business was image production, not silver halide laden plastic film. Even so, the needs of the consumer did not change. New grandparents, major newspapers, police photographers, insurance investigators, medical researchers, . . . wanted and continue to want pictures produced quickly and efficiently; digital cameras better serve that need. The many users of WordPerfect, DBase and Lotus 1-2-3 on an IBM XT already were well aware that a personal computer basically had become a necessity. The Mac lowered the learning curve and took the chore out of the use of a computer. Apple did not change the what and the why of computer ownership; that had to wait for the rise of the Internet. As Mr. Sculley points out, Pepsi’s marketing used — but did not cause — a demographic shift. A glass jaw in the strategy of Coca Cola (past experience: old friends, good memories, nostalgia and tradition) left it open to a knockout by Pepsi Generation promotion.

Disruption really refers to two very different things: cognitive dissonance and dissociation / automaticity. Cognitive dissonance affects the schemas. Dissociation / automaticity sculpts identity and habit through memory. An example of disruption is Procter and Gamble’s soap products as candle sales began to contract. An initially rather rough-hewn 19th century USA had to be taught personal grooming in order to be transformed into the great washed.

The risk of ossification and then fossilization for large firms is something that I completely agree with. Procter and Gamble now faces a significant challenge from Green products.