The Intersection of Innovation & Irrelevance

I snapped this picture while in San Francisco at Ad:Tech last week (appropriately with my iPhone) and it stood out as the perfect example of the classic business speak of   “innovate or fail.”

Here it is, the intersection of innovation and irrelevance with the bustling Apple store on the left and the once vibrant but now abandoned Virgin Record store across the street. I remember when I first started traveling to San Francisco in the mid-nineties Virgin Records was always a drop by destination while in town for a wide variety of media consumption – movies, music, books and the pop-culture novelty. “Megastore” was even boasted on their marquee which in locations like NY Times Square equated to 3 floors of media nirvana.Of course the build up of Virgin Record stores predates iPods, iPhones and the new love it or hate it iPad and the true category killer: iTunes (mixed with big box WalMart low prices, Napster and illegal downloads).  So during this same period of “media mega stores”, Apple was in a state of recovery and soon to dawn on an innovation renaissance.

The image paints the classic Tom Peter’s mantra circa 1998 and all the more relevant today: INNOVATE or DIE. So as Apple continues to be a trailblazer of innovation, driving technology demand and entire new ecosystems for business (apps anyone?)… I have to wonder if Virigin had no other path but failure or if they neglected the opportunities to innovate and build new business models? There are many parallel brands that have been facing this same path: Blockbuster v. Netflix, US Post Office v. FedEx v. Email… and what current hot  brands face a similar fate? Apple, Facebook, Google?

We often challenge our clients to think beyond what they can imagine and carry the perspective of “all things are possible” … it’s a key component in how we approach any project and case in point – can be the difference in being on the innovative side of the street versus on the corner of irrelevance.

Posted on April 28, 2010 in Ideas, Inspirations, Observations & Trends

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