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Blowing Up the Box

What ensures a brand’s survival? It’s not just about your product or service. And it takes more than a clever marketing or social media strategy. After all, the buzz created by the latest viral video will likely fade away in a mere 24 hours. To help a business survive for the long haul, for decades and decades, an organization’s leaders must be masters of disruption. In Blowing Up the Box: Disrupting the Customer Experience, Root’s Gary Magenta dives into the secrets of the brands that have survived and lived to tell the tale. To inspire you for the coming year and beyond, check out an excerpt from Blowing Up the Box.

Back in 1896 Sears revolutionized consumerism in North America through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The catalog held a central place in households for decades. In the beginning their Consumer Guide was the gateway to everything new, interesting, and innovative. Consumers could buy everything from a thimble to a prefab house delivered from Sears and Roebuck in 1896! They had the largest assortment of products in the world, available under one roof and through a mail order catalog. They were the bees’ knees!

Sears, Once the Great Disruptor, Now Hangs On By a String

Sears, the great disruptor, was the first retailer to allow returns with no questions asked and to offer a rewards program. They were trailblazers that moved from catalog to main street, capturing the hearts, minds, and wallets of their customers for generations. Yes, there was a time when they understood the changing marketplace and were able to disrupt. Transitioning from catalog to stores is a shining example of their ability to reinvent their customers’ experience.

In 1996 Amazon came around and said, “Hey, we have the largest assortment of products under one roof, you can view them all through our online catalog, and we allow for returns.” In time they were even offered a Prime membership. Sound familiar? Amazon perfected Sear’s 100-year-old formula but updated it with the understanding that online was the new catalog. Having appropriately abandoned the catalog in the 1990s and moved to bricks and mortar, Sears had the opportunity to move toward the future with an online catalog business, but didn’t. Why? Why are they on the edge of extinction?

We can’t just disrupt and claim we are finished, like we’ve reached a destination and now it’s time to chill. If we want to not only exist but thrive, we have to continuously disrupt.

Sears failed to take action. They had the opportunity to once again disrupt and move into their third century as a leading business, and they whiffed. What a sight it is to see the rise of Amazon, whose model is so similar to the one that Sears created, while watching the original disruptor hanging on by a thread.

Want to make sure YOUR business doesn’t wind up hanging on by a thread too? Check out proven success stories and tips to help your disruption prowess in Blowing Up the Box.


January 27, 2021


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