Today’s news that shares of Palm have slipped is not news to me. Its failure in the smart phone industry has been a long time coming, as Palm tries to figure out how to be relevant in the era of the iPhone.
Most news reports blame the drop in trading to the unexpected departure of its software and services chief. While that certainly made traders wary, Palm has been trying desperately to fit into a changing game it once dominated for years.
It’s a case study we’re seeing more and more. Blockbuster is trying to find its way after Netflix, iTunes and Hulu have changed their game with downloadable content. Cable TV and satellite companies are on the cusp of irrelevancy with content developers (TV networks, movie studios, etc.) realizing they don’t need the middleman anymore.
All of those, and many more (including Detroit automakers, for example), are finding that their inability to change before the consumer habits change lands them right into insignificancy.
Just look at the difference between Fortune 500 companies in 1990 and how it looked just 15 years later in 2005. For example, Eastman Kodak was 18th in 1990. Now, it’s not even on the list.
Same goes for Xerox, 3M and even Whirlpool.
My point is that being stuck in a business model when markets are evolving rapidly is a recipe for becoming unimportant to consumers. For all of those failing brands, however, there is a solution: It’s about defining what your brand is so it is meaningful to target audiences. This meaning gives focus to your business, and guides you through the changes because now you can innovate where you have brand permission.
Even Palm has opportunities that will save it, ones we’ve uncovered at Stealing Share. It just needs to look at things from a brand perspective, and be brutally honest in how consumers really see themselves, and the forward-thinking openings will appear.