Raising the level of your leadership

The Big Reveal Was A Big Flop

If anyone understands how to do a Big Reveal, it’s Apple. Steve Jobs started it and current CEO Tim Cook has kept it going. I’m not sure who is involved in planning the Apple rollouts, but they know what they are doing. Each one creates a lot of advance anticipation; most don’t disappoint.

Big Reveals have not always been so successful. Before the days of brand experts, event professionals, and everything-sends-a-message consultants, rollouts were planned by a secretary in the marketing department, or the CEO’s golf buddy. That is what Ford must have done when they rolled out the Edsel in August 1957.

After months of buildup and anticipation, Ford invited 250 auto industry reporters (and their wives) to the Edsel Big Reveal in Detroit. So what happened?

  • The guests were put up in the Sheraton Cadillac Yes, really, a hotel named for their competitor.
  • The star model in a fashion show for the wives turned out to be a female impersonator. Now that may not be too shocking today, but in 1957….
  • The dance band at the big evening gala, a Glenn Miller look-alike band, had GM in large bold letters on the music stands. Yes, really, GM. Can you imagine Apple having an event with the Samsung logo prominently on display?

Now I am not saying that the Edsel was a failure because of these faux pas, but the reporters and wives must have been laughing all the way home. If Facebook and Twitter had existed then, the whole nation would have been laughing by midnight. (Okay, you can stop laughing now.)

What is the leadership lesson in this? The everything-sends-a-message principle is correct. Details matter and it is easy. It is true that the difference between good and great is attention to details. Get help and have more than one set of eyes looking at every detail. Make sure that one of the “one set of eyes” is someone who was not involved in the planning and has a critical eye—someone who loves to point out goof-ups.

If the best hotel in town was the Cadillac, what was the message?

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© Copyright 2017 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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