LESSONS FROM THE BUGGY MAKER WHO SAVED HIS TOWN…
As a Detroiter, I am enamored with how the Industrial Age was born in my hometown. I’m especially drawn to the legend of Billy Durant, the spring-suspension innovator of the horse and buggy. Flint, Michigan was flourishing as was the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, until Henry Ford introduced the Model-T.
Durant saw sales reducing each month, but he was reluctant to change. His carriage company was still number one in the world. He was a famous man in his town. Why retool? Why change things? After a series of layoffs, the unemployed buggy workers of Flint came to Durant with one desperate request – “Save this town.”
He joined with David Buick and used his buggy profits to acquire the best businesses in the country including Oldsmobile (inventor of the assembly line), Cadillac and Oakland (eventually Pontiac). He joined with the famous race driver, Louis Chevrolet and formed General Motors. The reluctant innovator became a national hero, and Flint became the epicenter of the automotive “roar” in the “Roaring ‘20s.”
When I was doing an ad campaign for the bank that gave Durant his first loan (Citizens Bank), I learned of his legendary role in building the bank itself. We created a Super Bowl Commercial that depicted his entrepreneurial optimism. We even incorporated his famously reckless driving habits in the spot. I learned about how during the Great Depression, Billy bet it all by putting his personal wealth into the company to “save his town.” He died penniless. Even though they took his “Ds” off the corners of the GM building, Durant made his mark on mankind.
Here is the point…
The Participation Age has begun. All broadcast media as we know it will become digital and interactive over the next 5 years. In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, only 16% of people under 50 years old admit to reading the news on paper yesterday, while 60% read their news in a digitally interactive space. Broadcast TV, radio and home video will follow this same trend, becoming digitized and socialized. All one-way, linear commercial messaging like the Super Bowl Spots we produce are eventually going the way of the buggy.
You can try to market your buggy on Facebook. You can even add spring-suspension to your Website. But, if your business doesn’t digitally “Participate” with your consumers, you won’t be relevant soon. If your business is losing ground already, now is the time to make the change. If your business is a booming buggy-works, it’s time to change. It’s going to be hard. You might not even experience the benefits in your lifetime, but the world will eventually thank you.