McCracken backs real case studies into his assertion that the CCO is the missing component of the 21st Century Executive team. Some companies have had defacto CCO's that have made a difference, but these individuals took on more than their job descriptions. They made decisions based not on financial analysis, but on something not as easy to measure (and yet obvious to those who look for it): cultural trends. What would the companies be like if we institutionalized this job?
"Quaker Oats paid $1.7 billion for Snapple. It sold 3 years later for $300 million. Best Buy paid $700 million for Musicland, a retail music store, just as kids were embracing peer-to-peer file sharing. It had to give the store away two years later. Facebook decided to take ownership of the billions of photos its users had lodged there. Millions took umbrage, and the Facebook franchise was suddenly at risk.
In a turbulent marketplace, culture feels a little like the stormy North Sea. We never know what it’s going to throw at us. Culture matters. Get it wrong, and we miss opportunities..."
Among the opportunities McCracken cites as one missed is social media. Microsoft, which was always first to the table in tech, is scrambling to catch up.This is in the opening passage of the Change This summary presentation for McCracken's book (read the PDF, but also read the book, which is chock full of examples that make you wonder why you hadn't thought of things his way before.) Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but you have to wonder what business blunders could have been avoided with a Chief Culture Officer, someone empowered to observe the cultural marketplace thoroughly enough to think beyond what makes business sense.
I think about my own company, and how lucky we were to be so fully ensconced in a movement (blogging, and more specifically women's blogging) that we could define a pulse as it was beating. The challenge now is maintaining such a close connection with our community as well as with the trends in marketing and social media, to not lose that intuitive knowledge. But it gets harder as you get bigger.
This year we hired a creative director, but I swear he's actually McCracken's CCO. Sure, we're not as big as Microsoft, but he's helped us define what we accidentally bottled when we built our event so that we can remain true to what we created. We run decisions by this definition--business partnerships, programming and editorial direction, relationships with sponsors, and our Website redesign, which will launch in a few weeks.
Some of McCracken's examples were stretches, or not as obvious as others. The reasons for failed product launches or businesses that lose relevance are nuanced and complicated . But on the whole I was in absolute agreement that many of these missteps can be tied to a failure to align culturally with the market.