Identifying Sacred Cows Part 2 of 3

The Competitive Cow

In the business industry today, just trying to compete will lead you nowhere. If you spend all of your time trying to keep up with the moves of your competitors then when will you control the field? You have to be willing to change the way the game is played.  If you are the one controlling the market then the competitors are keeping up with you. Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers looked at The American Girl Company, for example. When you think of the doll market Barbie is definitely a frontrunner. When Pleasant Rowland set out to develop a doll company she knew she couldn’t compete with Barbie. She had to dominate her own niche. She created the Pleasant Company now known as the American Girl Company. These dolls are historical, have family values, and are self reliant (Kreigal, Brandt, p. 61). They sell their dolls through mail order versus big box stores. They are also more expensive than Barbie, but do you think that is hurting the company? No, as a matter of fact according to Vault, a ranking company for companies, internships and schools, American Girl reported 2013 sales of $659 million. American Girl took a generic idea, dolls, and made it into a multi-million dollar company, all the while not trying to compete with Barbie but instead dominate it’s own product field.

The Change Driving Thinking for competitive cows is: “Tilt the playing field in your direction, don’t play by someone else’s rules, make your own and head to head competition will give you a headache” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 63).

The Customer Cow

Customer satisfaction is status quo today. Everyone has to do it if they intend to be in business for long. “So don’t just satisfy customers; everyone does that. Surprise them. Give them something they don’t expect” (Kreigal, Brandt, p. 68). Knowing what the customer is looking for can be a daunting task. It can require surveys, focus groups and critical conversations between customers and leadership. Can you really rely solely on a survey to help guide you into knowing what your customers need? They can be inconclusive and not qualitative enough. Sometimes it is much better to talk to the customer directly. Yet, the idea of having focus groups can be toxic itself. Depending on the makeup of the focus group at any given time the result could become clouded by someone’s bad commute or incorrect morning coffee order. What should you do? Think like the consumer. Do you remember the reality show about undercover bosses. This show allowed CEOs to see what was really going on in the workplace and often they all ended the same. The CEO was surprised by the feedback, whether positive or negative, from the customer’s, employees and low level management. Their surprise is attributed to a sense of disconnect from the “real world”. An example here of a company performing their own reality television version of Undercover Bosses is 3m’s medical and surgical product division.  All members of the division have opportunities to meet with doctors and nurses at local hospitals to watch their products in action. 3m gives pointers to the customer on how to better use the product and in turn the customers give feedback to things they would like to see improved (Kreigal, Brandt, p. 72).

“For the customer cow the change driving thinking should be: don’t follow customers; lead them, don’t satisfy customers; surprise them and don’t be market driven; be a market driver” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 77).

The Low Price Cow

Cheaper isn’t always better. Today, people do not shop around for prices like they once did. Now they go where they know quality, service and prices will be predictable and acceptable. It’s all about value. It’s not about price it’s about relationships. Remember the last time you went to the beach on vacation? There was likely several advertisements around the community for stand up paddle board (SUP) rentals.  If two SUP rental stands were side by side on the street; one low cost and low value and one moderate cost and high value, which one do you believe would be busier? The one that provides this year’s boards and delivers them for free but charges significantly more per hour on a rental will be busier. Meanwhile the stand with outdated boards and dirt cheap rental fees with no convenience to the customer will be wondering, where did we go wrong?

The Change Driving thinking for a low price cow would be “sell cheap and that’s what people will think of you and loss leaders lose. Overall, customers look for price and value and service and quality and convenience. And you’d better give it to them or someone else will” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 82).

The Quick-Reactor Cow

It’s all about the difference in being reactive versus proactive. The competition is being proactive and anticipating the changes in the business market before you are even aware of what’s going on. If you are spending your time reacting then you are wasting your time while your competition pulls away to win the prize. The analogy of catching a wave was used in Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers. You have to watch the horizon, pick a set of swells, and begin paddling well before the wave is upon you, otherwise it will come crashing down on your head.

It is important to listen to the customer needs but if your actions are based on the customer’s need at the moment then how will you be producing a product they need in the future.  You have to look at the lives of your consumers. It isn’t terribly scientific nor does it require a special equation to predict the change. There are a few things you can look at to keep you in tune to your customers needs: 1. Demographic, sociographic, and psychographic trends of your customers; 2. Emerging social and cultural directions; and 3. Advances in technology (Kreigal, Brandt, p. 86).  

Change Driving for the quick-reactor cow is that “good companies react quickly to change; great companies create the change and move before the wave; change before you have to” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 89).

The No-Mistakes Cow

The big mistake with trying to live a business life of no mistakes is innovation dies.  It is understandable that you don’t want to make a mistake. We are taught from childhood that mistakes are bad. Sometimes we are told they help us learn, but learning can be painful and costly. If the concern of making mistake begins to diminish innovation, creativity and original ideas then the possibility of gaining competitive edge goes along with it. (Kreigal, Brandt, pg. 90).  What is the cost benefit analysis here? Can you afford a few mistakes at the cost of growth? Would you rather play it safe and leave money and new developments to the competitor? Coca-cola CEO, Roberto Goizueta is quoted saying, “The moment you let avoiding failure become your motivator, you’re down the path of inactivity” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 91). The super cautious and over analytical approach can mean that by the time you reach certainty and are ready to commit to the innovative idea the window of opportunity has closed and  your competitor has walked away with, not only your idea, but your money.

The no-mistakes cow comes along with it’s own change driving thinking. “Don’t penalize mistakes; reward good tries. The biggest mistake: not learning from mistakes and if you’re not making mistakes you’re not trying anything new” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 98).


2 thoughts on “Identifying Sacred Cows Part 2 of 3

  1. Heather,
    I loved the “sacred cows” concepts you mentioned, and how these theories challenge outdated methods and concepts of innovating. It seems that the answer to the problem presented here is to consider the successes and problems with each “cow” model, creating a diverse “tool kit” to manage the struggles of innovation. Each example you’ve given harnesses the power of people in some way or another. So, the underlying theme here, (in my opinion), is that we can no longer consider profits over people, and that identifying with ALL stakeholders is crucial to success. Extensive research has proven that companies who honor a “quality-of-life” organizational model actually reap the reward of higher profits, despite focusing heavily on people and their experience. I really enjoyed reading this post!


  2. I like the section about giving your customers something they weren’t expecting. I am currently working on a toy and building a brand around that. I have created packaging for this toy, which is normally no more than a bag of a piece of plastic with cardboard on the back of it. You don’t expect to buy this item in a nice, well designed case. Yes, the case makes the cost of production go up a little bit, but the added value it provides means you can sell it for 2 or 3 times what your competitors are selling theirs for…and beat them in volume sales! Would you expect a padded cigar box for a fancy pen? Yes! But would you expect the same box for a highlighter? No! This can build value and create a cool fad that people like buying into. You could even create business fortunes and stick them inside each box, just like cookies!


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