Guest Blogger: Meridith Peirce
Meridith Peirce has one of the finest planning minds that’s ever graced Element 79. During her for four and a half years here, her restlessly curious mind and thoughtfully considered positions improved the strategic impact of her every brand, as did her natural predilection for proving doubters wrong. Today, she consults from her home in Carlisle, MA where she lives a choicefully bucolic life with her husband Dan and young son David. She stands 5’2″–AND A HALF–and don’t you forget it, Goliath.
When I was a kid, my nickname was Little Lew (Lew being my maiden name). Though I felt cool to have a nickname, this particular name had its downside – it was all about what I perceived to be a personal deficiency. It was a constant reminder that I had to work harder to keep up with the “big” kids. Today, however, I am thankful to this name for teaching me that with extra effort, I would do just fine.
A recent article in The New Yorker reminded me of my days as Little Lew. The article, “How David Beats Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell, states that: “David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability.” In this article, Gladwell chronicles the life of a girls’ basketball team that basically had no skills, so their coach had them play a full-court press for every play. It worked. Gladwell goes on to cite a study by political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft which showed that, among all of the wars fought in the past 200 years, the Davids won over 2/3 of the time when they employed an unconventional strategy! Arreguin-Toft theorizes these victories could be attributed to the underdog’s ability to see its own weakness and to concoct unexpected strategies to secure victory. Ah, the power of surprise!
I think this lesson is particularly relevant today, when purse strings are pulled extra-tight and Goliath brands are hoping to ride out these tough times on top. They are betting that David, too, will be paralyzed by fear and will not disrupt the market share hierarchy. But if the already-troubled auto industry isn’t watching Zipcar or telecom fretting over Skype, they may be in for a rude awakening. Just as Jim Koch took the unexpected (and way more work-intensive) approach of selling his beer one bar at a time to build the Sam Adams brand, the little guys may be more nimble and more willing to try a novel approach in the marketplace. The time is ripe for David to take action.
I, for one, am waiting to be surprised.