Another great scene in the movie is when Hanks, who by now has been made a vice president at the toy company, is in a room with a bunch of other executives, listening to a presentation for a new product. In this case, the executive is recommending they build transformer robots that turn into buildings.
“I don’t get it,” Hanks asks.
“What don’t you get, Josh?” asks MacMillan.
“The toy is a building that turns into a robot,” Hanks replies. “What’s fun about that?”
The executive responds by showing Hanks a sales chart and explaining that the company is the market leaders in active toys.
When I think about this, I’m reminded about the remote control lesson from the well-known marketing book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, in which they point out that if engineering had its way there’d be even more buttons on a remote control. But just because the technology allows you to add a feature doesn’t mean you should. It’s everyone’s job to push back and question decisions.
And if you’re getting out and getting to know your customers, you’ll have a better idea of whether they need, want, or desire a robot that turns into a building and vice versa.
And while we’re still on this scene from the movie, it’s also important to be able to take and appreciated the feedback you receive from a colleague or your boss on whatever you’re working on.
“What do you think of that?” MacMillan asks Hanks as they walk through the FAO Schwarz toy store.
“Championship hockey?” Hanks replies. “I love it. Only …
“Only the pieces don’t move … Why did they change it?”
“I don’t know.”
Remember your roots
Eventually, Hanks the adult starts to lose sight of Hank the kid. He begins to wear suits instead of shorts and t-shirts. He replaces playing with his buddy with discussing product manufacturing with his vendors. It begins to dawn on him that he misses being a kid.
It’s important to remember why the business we work at or founded was started. More than likely, the founder was trying to solve a problem he or she was experiencing and trying to remedy. That’s true at Act-On, and it’s probably true at your company.
Equally true is that, as our companies grow, processes, habits, and structures are put in place that help address (incredible) growth. But as that happens, too often those systems and processes can stifle innovation, lose authenticity, or worse yet, make it harder for our customers to be successful using our products.
In the movie, Hanks goes back to his hometown in New Jersey and walks by all the places that are important to that 13-year-old version of him – his school, his playground, his home. He then decides that, despite his success as a business executive, he wants to return to being a kid. Fortunately, he’s able to track down that Zoltar fortune-teller machine and make a wish to become 13 again.
For the rest of us without Zoltar genies, we need to be vigilant to stay true to our core values. This is done through open and constant communications with our employees, with our customers, and with ourselves. Do your customers say you’re meeting your brand promise? Are you solving their problems? Are you making this process simple or hard? Is everyone within your organization on the same page?
Good news. If you’ve read this far, you have the tools to find out. Remember:
- Know your business goals;
- Get out of the office;
- Ask questions; and
- Remember your brand promise.
And if you don’t believe me, go back and watch the movie again.
What are other movies that have a great marketing lesson or lessons in them?