Ralph E. Grabowski - marketingVP - fact-gathering, analytical Marketing to steer the enterprise

 

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Why good products fail
Skimping on market research can prove a fatal flaw
By Robert Weisman, Boston Globe Staff

 
 

 
 

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When I first began to look for Marketing/Engineering Ratio™ data in 1992, I realized that opportunities for research were all around me: with my clients, in the MIT Enterprise Forum cases, in my professional circles, and in the newspaper.  The Boston Globe's Business Section, day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-after-year chronicles the rise-and-fall of many technology-based enterprises.  The Globe's rich tapestry of business successes and failures became:

  • a source of company names to target for research

  • corroboration of my business judgment that a company is at the extreme; because of bankruptcy, by business woe, or by summary of spectacular success or turnaround

  • a supply of relevant material to flesh out the stories around the data

  • an additional guide to the financial and human impact of Marketing

For example, Aaron Zitner's Globe article, "Thinking Machines To File For Bankruptcy"  (August 16,  1994) led me to target Thinking Machines and triggered five personal visits to gather data while the key players were still available.  Aaron's nearly 4,000 word historical panorama, "Sinking Machines ... Lack of Market Vision Blamed in Fall," Boston Globe (September 6, 1994) supplied corroboration of the extreme failure, validation that lack of Marketing was decisive, and further relevant material.

Fifteen months after I had garnered M/E Ratio™ from Intuit, a pair of Globe articles supplied financial details just in time for inclusion in my June 1995 paper, "Who Is Going To Buy The Darn Thing?"  They were "Intuit Deal OK May Cost Microsoft," Wendy Goldman Rohm, Boston Globe (April 21, 1995) and "Analysts Shrug Off US Suit Blocking Microsoft Merger," Beppe Crosariol, Boston Globe (April 29, 1995).

By 2001, I already had Polaroid's M/E Ratio™ for three years and had been predicting bankruptcy when, just four months before Polaroid declared bankruptcy, Steven Syre and Charles Stein wrote a powerful comparison of Polaroid and Xerox:

 “It's hard to imagine them now as technology champions of any era, buried as they are under a thick record of disappointment, piles of debt rated as junk, and the pressing weight of corporate desperation.  American business icons of another day, charter members of the 1970s Nifty Fifty stock market phenomenon, Polaroid and Xerox … share a common heyday and current abyss.”

“It's the best business model, the best marketing.  I think they've had lousy business models.”

“Our question: Can the stories of these two companies teach today's technology elite anything about the challenge of long-term success?”

"Business Lessons From The Abyss,” Boston Globe, (June 17, 2001)

Exactly!  Let’s learn.  Their article presented a challenge to garner M/E Ratio™ from Xerox, which I did within three months.  It was my professional pleasure to quote this story and the following one in "The Board of Directors; Vital Partner for a VoC Culture."

More recently, Robert Weisman revisited the Polaroid saga in comparison to other rise-and-fall companies:

“Indeed, the Polaroid saga resonates in a state that has spawned other rise-and-fall technology titans, from Digital Equipment Corp. to Wang Laboratories Inc., and in an industry where the pace of innovation is accelerating.  The fate of Polaroid may pose a warning for modern-day technologists …” 

“Polaroid Preserved” Boston Globe, (October 17, 2006)

In turn, Robert Weisman of the Boston Globe wrote a story on the Grabowski Ratio™.

 

Ralph Grabowski

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Forward
Boston Globe article opens in a new window
The evidence from the Globe's role models
How the
microwave oven
became a super success
Dig deeper

 
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