Okay, I have a confession to make: I am a Mom. Even worse, I am a Mom with a Toddler. What that means is that as a “Mom with a Toddler,” I know all the words to “Elmo’s World.” I also know how to “Do the Pigeon” and that “C is for Cookie” (which is good enough for me). I know how to read Dora’s map, and I know Hannah Montana’s true identity.
What’s more… I know “who lives in a Pineapple under the sea.”
Why do I know these things, you may wonder?
Well, as any Moms with Toddlers will tell you, having a toddler means having some cartoon playing over and over and over again on the TV. For a mom, that means no matter how much you try ignore your children or their shows, bits of information tend to sneak into your subconscious until suddenly you’ve realized that you’ve been singing “Absorbent and Yellow and Porous is he…” for the past hour without realizing it.
Which brings me to today’s blog lesson direct from The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business…
What the Heck Am I Talking About…(Right?)
(Okay, there’s really no such thing as The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business, but there may as well be. After all, children all over the world are watching this show and learning from this energetically peppy cartoon.)
Recently, my toddler was watching all 99 episodes of SpongeBob for about the 50th time (give or take a dozen), and I mind-numbingly found myself watching one of the many, many episodes. Actually, to be precise, I found myself watching Episode 88 (Episode 9 from Season 5) entitled “The Krusty Sponge.” And as I watched this particular episode, I realized that it was quite brilliant in the very simple business advice it was offering.
To give a quick background on “The Krusty Sponge” episode, the mini-story starts when “The Krusty Krab” receives a visit from a food critic. (The Krusty Krab is the restaurant SpongeBob works at as a “Fry Cook”). The food critic in the story proceeded to trash everything about “The Krusty Krab” saying it was absolutely terrible…except for the food and the fry cook (SpongeBob). The food critic then went on to say that if the owner of “The Krusty Krab” was smart, he would “sponge up” as much of what his cook had to offer as possible.
Thus, as cartoon’s tend to do, the business owner (ie, Mr. Krabs) took the advice to heart and went “way too far.” Mr. Krabs pulled down “The Krusty Krab” sign and replaced it with a sign saying “The Krusty Krab.” He then added in two new flavors of SpongeBob-themed condiments, a SpongeBob Mascot, a SpongeBob Train, SpongeBob napkins and even SpongeBob hamburger patties.
Eventually, all of these items backfired in a big way, and Mr. Krabs ended up getting arrested and brought before a judge for “poisoning his customers with the bad hamburger patties.”
Now, while I am a big advocate of using a theme in any business, of seeing the bigger picture and adding appropriate merchandise in order to increase profits, I could see right away where this business was about to get into trouble (even if it is only a cartoon business). The big mistake that the business owner made in this situation was “taking his eyes off the prize.” It is a common business mistake a lot of business owner’s make without realizing they are doing it.
Here’s what I mean:
In the story, Mr. Krabs got so excited about his new SpongeBob theme, he made one really huge mistake. He took SpongeBob off the grill and put him on the train. (In other words, SpongeBob – the prized Fry Cook – was taken out of the kitchen in order to give “the kiddies” a ride on the new SpongeBob train…Mistake # 1.) Then, Mr. Krabs gave SpongeBob’s kitchen duties to an employee who was unable to run the grill in the same way that SpongeBob could (Mistake # 2). Finally Mistake # 3, Mr. Krabs sacrificed the quality of the one product that was praiseworthy – the product that brought the customers in.
Obviously, I am bringing this up for a reason. This is a common mistake a lot of business owners make in any business industry. They see some exciting new trend coming along, and they re-vamp their business model to include the cool new product. They forget about the one (or two or three) products that brought in the customers in the first place, and they end up weakening the overall business structure. They take the advertising for their prized product and replace it with advertising for the new product. This can have a negative effect in driving customers away instead of bringing them in – especially if the people looking for the Prized Product are not aware that the business still offers that Prized Product.
Just to really drive my point home, I will throw out some examples.
Imagine if McDonalds changed their fries to a new fry with the skin on. Or, imagine if they used a different oil that changed the flavor of the fries. Since McDonalds gives fries with every “Meal Deal,” and the fries are a part of their brand, it could go a long way in hurting their business. People may start to go over to Burger King instead in order to get fries they are more used to.
Jim Carey switching from his classic comic bend to do a movie like “The Majestic.” (In Hollywood, a move like that can kill an A-list actor’s career… luckily, Carey returned to his usual brand of comedy.)
Leonardo DiCaprio stepping back from the Romantic Hero role to pursue the Golden Globe and Oscar awards (meaning he went for the more dramatic and difficult to play roles). While Leo remains an A-list actor, he no longer has the International Heart Throb status that he had after “Titanic.”
Eddie Murphy going from making R-rated movies to G-Rated movies. It has completely changed the demographic of his customer base (ie, his fans).
Roller Derby in the 60’s went from racing and blocking to more violent hits. Is it really a surprise that the sport died out by the 70’s? I can honestly say, Roller Derby today is nothing like the original Roller Derby invented back in the 30’s.
Unfortunately, these are the only examples I can think of at the moment, but hopefully, it helps make my point clear. Taking your eyes off the Prize of your business can really harm your business, or even drive away your clientele. Learn from Mr. Krabs: If you’re going to make a change in your business, keep your eyes on the prize.