Photo: Gabor George Burt
How is that now? Just how might it be possible to open the floodgates to unlimited growth? The alluring answer can be distilled down to two words.They are two words whose powerful combination companies like Apple, Virgin, Zappos, Amazon and MTV all get and use to fuel their growth. Here they are: Lifestyle Enrichment.
These companies all understand that they are not in the business of making a specific product or providing a specific service, but something much more encompassing, much more fundamental: They are in the business of enriching people’s lives. They are in the business of making people’s lives more fun, more thrilling, more simple, more comfortable, more liberating, more safe, more meaningful, more efficient, more harmonious, and so on. This seemingly small shift in strategic thinking is in fact huge, and can lead to a dramatic increase in the growth potential as well as the sustained relevance of a business.
Consider this contrast: On one hand, Apple and MTV both bravely left behind their original core businesses 30 years on. In 2007, Apple symbolically removed the word ‘computer’ from its name, and Steve Jobs recently revealed his vision for leading a Post-PC world. Last year MTV ceremoniously dropped the word ‘music’ from its logo, while posting its largest rating increase in over 10 years via a music-free programming lineup.
On the other hand, Blockbuster and Borders were both forced to declare bankruptcy with their futures in doubt, and General Motors needed both bankruptcy (the biggest failure of an industrial company in US history) and a $50 Billion government bailout in 2009 to stay afloat. What gives? What do the former companies understand that the later ones missed? The concept of lifestyle enrichment, of course.
Apple and MTV see themselves as being in the business of lifestyle enrichment. This perspective allows for a much more panoramic view of strategic possibilities and the willing abandonment of core businesses in case more enriching ones are identified. Blockbuster and Borders were too busy trying to tweak their core businesses instead of realising that they were becoming obsolete. They should have scanned the horizons more flexibly and defined their businesses more broadly. And General Motors was caught in a perfect storm of adverse market conditions and insufficient customer enrichment to necessitate its drastic rescue.
Guess what is number one on the list of 10 core company values at Zappos: “Deliver WOW Through Service.” And guess what is number two: “Embrace and Drive Change.” The notion of selling shoes, which is the company’s current core business, is not directly referenced a single time in the 10 core values. Clearly Zappos is not looking at itself strictly as a shoe retailer, it understands that its real frontiers are much wider than that. In fact, it is actively promoting change and transformation from within in pursuit of delivering lifestyle enrichment to an ever growing band of customers.
How about Virgin? Founded in 1970 by Richard Branson as a music mail-order business, the first Virgin Records shop was opened a year later. Today, Virgin is one of the most recognised and enriching global brands. The group is involved in diverse businesses ranging from music to mobile telephony, transportation, travel, financial services, media, and fitness. They succeeded in branding their lifestyle concept of sophisticated fun, which they replicated consistently across market spaces in a way that consumers followed. Virgin’s next lifestyle-driving frontier is to make space travel accessible to the public. Virgin Galactic calls itself the first spaceline and aspires to give consumers the cathartic experience of looking back on earth from above.
Finally, let’s mention Amazon.com. This is a company that soared in annual revenues from $4 billion in 2002 to nearly $20 billion in 2008. What is the philosophy that enabled such growth? “If you want to continuously revitalize the service that you offer to your customers, you cannot stop at what you are good at,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told BusinessWeek. “You have to ask what your customers need and want, and then, no matter how hard it is, you better get good at those things.”
When you ask such questions regarding consumer relevance continuously and intensely enough as an organisation, you will start to infatuate consumers and enrich their lives more and more. Just look at the progression of Amazon. First, it was selling new books online, then the company expanded to providing
a marketplace for used books, then all kinds of consumer goods, and in 2007, Amazon jumped from the services platform to a product-service hybrid with the Kindle eBook reader. Along the way Amazon has been transforming the very essence of the book industry as well as its own business in pursuit of the most lifestyle enriching offerings.
So now it’s your turn. How can you elevate the strategic goal of your business to delivering lifestyle enrichment, in order to unlock its full growth potential? In a follow-up article, I will provide ideas to guide your path.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.