Stories and Strategies from Real Life: 12/18/15

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Some of the best learning happens when you read stories about real people and real companies. Read them for ideas, for lessons, and inspiration. This week’s stories and strategies from real life are about Blackberry, Avon, Mattel, Hasbro, Disney, Bratz, and Plaza Pizza.

From Wharton: Victim of Success: The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry

“Though BlackBerry has less than 1% of the smartphone market share today, it once had more than 50%. The question is how such a successful company could fall so far. Journalists Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff provide many of the answers in their book, Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry. Wharton marketing professor Americus Reed recently had an opportunity to talk with McNish about what we can learn from the rise and fall of BlackBerry”

From the Economist: Ding-dong

“A TRAVELLING salesman founded Avon in 1886, recruiting women to hawk perfumes while their husbands were at work—a chance for them to earn an independent living at a time when such opportunities were rare. By 1920 Avon had more than $1m in annual sales. By the early 1970s the company’s advertising campaigns had made the cheerful, confident ‘Avon lady’ an instantly recognisable figure, and its sales had reached $1 billion. Today the company boasts that its brand ‘stands for beauty, innovation, optimism, and above all for women.’ To many investors, however, Avon now stands for incompetence. Its share price has plunged by nearly 60% so far this year.”

From Claire Suddath: The $500 Million Battle Over Disney’s Princesses

“Mattel has worked with Disney since 1955, when it became the first sponsor for the Mickey Mouse Club, and it’s been the company’s go-to dollmaker since 1996. Last year, Mattel put the size of its Disney Princess doll business at $300 million, though analysts at Needham say it’s closer to $500 million. With sales of Mattel’s most famous toy, 56-year-old Barbie, tumbling 20 percent from 2012 to 2014 and still falling, Princess dolls have been a much-needed revenue stream. But not for long: The princess business disappears on Jan. 1, when Disney packs up its glass slippers and takes them to Mattel’s biggest rival, Hasbro”

From Shan Li: Bratz dolls look to make a comeback with an updated vibe

“At MGA Entertainment’s toy design center, an inspiration board features of-the-moment celebs: model Cara Delevingne, rapper Nicki Minaj and singer Selena Gomez. Less au courant is the name emblazoned in neon cursive at the board’s center: Bratz. Fifteen years after their debut, the pouty-lipped dolls with huge heads and attitude to spare are back.”

From Kurt Harden: The business model

“‘Plaza Pizza,’ the young man answers. ‘Our wait is an hour, ten to an hour fifteen.’ ‘That’s fine,’ I say and place my order. At most places, I would say ‘no thanks.’ But not here. This is the best pizza I have ever tasted. A crispy, then melt-in-your-mouth crust, tangy, garlicy sauce, perfect ingredients – the cheese pizza tastes like a masterpiece.”

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