Brand or Die!

A Small Business Survival Guide

The Strange Case of Otto Rohwedder...or...Is your business the best thing since sliced bread?

I was skimming through Wikipedia (don't ask...) and I came across the story of Otto Rohwedder. Apparently, he invented the first single-loaf bread slicing machine in 1928. The thing is, when it was first launched it didn't really catch on. It got him some regional attention but most people thought it was unnecessary and kept right on going to the bakery for a whole loaf.

Then two things happened that made sliced bread the staple that it is today. First, Wonder Bread started marketing sliced bread nationally in 1930. Wonder Bread was already a popular bread bakery, but they used the innovation of sliced bread to launch their national brand. Even with this national push, it still probably wouldn't have caught on as well if it wasn't for another man named Charles P. Strite.

Who is that? He's the guy that invented the spring loaded, single slice toaster. He invented the machine in 1919, but he couldn't sell more than a few as a novelty. But it soon became apparrent that the Wonder Bread slices fit perfectly into the toaster. Now there was a practical reason for both sliced bread and the toaster and as a result, sales for both skyrocketed.

What struck me is that the biggest beneficiary of the invention of sliced bread wasn't the inventor of the new innovation. The biggest beneficiary was the one that was able to spread the IDEA of the innovation. In your own business, you could (and should) probably boil your company down to one Big Idea. This is the problem you exist to solve. The improvement that you represent over what was there before you. Whatever your Big Idea is, this is the idea that you want to spread. A good portion of your marketing effort should be directed to ensuring that the IDEA of your company catches on. Especially if you're offering something that either wasn't there before or hasn't really caught the mainstream attention yet.

So think about what the Big Idea of your company is and look for ways that you can invade the public conciousness with that idea. After all, at the end of the day, who would you rather be: Wonder Bread, or Otto Rohwedder?

Go forth and be Ruthless!

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