Don’t be Blockbuster.


Earlier this week, an e-mail went out to my department with an offer for free tickets to the FutureM2016 conference in Boston. I immediately signed up, seeing this not only as on opportunity to learn about marketing technology, but also as a great source of material for tweets and blogs! There was a lot of great material and presenters, but the most anticipated was clearly the presentation by Facebook. I decided to use what was presented to share and build on in my blog post today, as I thought it was a great and simple way to view innovation in an organization.


Andrew “Boz” Bozworth is Vice President of Ads And Business Platform at Facebook. In his presentation he explained that while mobile technology is here, there is still plenty of new innovation around mobile and opportunity for businesses. He shared three key things businesses need to do from a high level in order to stay on the right side of innovation and avoid becoming the next MySpace, Kodak, DEC, etc. That list can go on for quite a while!

1: Understand what you do

This probably seems like a no brainer point, or at least it did to me, but this is probably the most essential piece of this framework. The key point here was that this question needs to be answered through the eyes of the end consumer. What you do is not what you sell. It is what you do for your end customer or guest. For Facebook, what they do is centered around connections. Every innovation that Facebook begins development is aimed at improving communications, whether it’s solar powered drones to deliver internet to the poorest parts of the world or developing VR technology to more intimately connect people, regardless of distance. If Facebook limits their definition to a “social network” however, these  ventures may seem out of it’s strategic scope.

Dish Blockbuster Store Closings

Blockbuster didn’t realize that they are not a video rental store, but an entertainment provider. Don’t be like Blockbuster!

I found this very interesting with regards to how I and other people in my organization view what our company (Dunkin’ Brands) does. It’s easy to say we sell coffee, donuts and breakfast sandwiches. The problem is that this limits us to selling… coffee, donuts and breakfast sandwiches. What we do for the guest is truly energize and reward them so that they can continue on with our day. Through this lens, we are not limited to specific products and also can even focus on more experiential aspects of the business such as payment and ordering innovation.

2. Structure yourself for success


The second point about being nimble enough to take advantage of technology and innovation was that a company needs to be structured in a way that breaks down walls rather than silo-ing out the digital/innovation teams. As an example, while mobile was something Facebook began supporting years ago, the focus at the time was still on desktop. The desktop team, which was much larger and better budgeted, would develop features. The mobile team, which was significantly smaller, was expected to replicate these in mobile with significantly less resources. Clearly this was not a winning formula in mobile. As, mobile became more of a priority, they decided to merge the two team rather than just adding more developers to the mobile team. Having everyone responsible for both platforms ensured that ideas that were presented would work for each, rather than having one platform be an afterthought.


I think this is another key area where non-tech companies need to look to their counterparts in Silicon Valley for guidance. Every company need to be a digital company, not just have a digital team. If people have no idea what other people in their company are doing, there is no way they can truly understand the company from the customer’s view and best meet the consumer’s need.

3. Commit to the Change

1133431This one is probably the easiest to understand, but the hardest to do as an organization; making the leap and committing yourself to a new or different direction. People in general don’t like change. Whether it’s graduating from college, removing a headphone jack or changing a technology within an organization, change is hard and not really that much fun. It’s really hard as an entire organization to shift away from strategies that are working in the short term, especially if those strategies are working for your organization now.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, I thought that this was a worthwhile framework and hope you will too. As modern day workers we are going to need to continually be willing to adapt to shifting organizations and job titles as technology begins to enter into every single daily task. Having the right mindset is the first step to succeeding in the digital economy. It’s a scary time to be in or soon to be joining the workforce, but also extremely exciting.

Some final tidbits from the presentation!

  • firstkodakKodak actually invented the first digital camera (right) in the 1970s but passed on bringing the idea to market because of how much money they were making at the time off of film sales.
  • Great quote on how being a large company is not an excuse for failing to innovate: “Failure to innovate is not a function of size. It is a function of vision.”
  • As the company began to push mobile, Mark Zuckerberg would end a meeting immediately if an idea was presented for desktop without a mobile solution accompanying it.


  1. Nice post. I do think it’s a little more challenging than that, though. For some companies, digital technologies come in and changes the entire nature of an industry, rendering previous skills obsolete. For instance, Kodak had no real expertise in developing digital chips and CCD (they were a chemical company) and Blockbuster didn’t know much about building ecommerce platforms (let alone websites). Knowing that a change is happening is often very different than being able to capitalize on it.

  2. Very interesting post. I see the point you are making here, and I agree with the tree keys completely. However, this brought me to mind the case of Nokia. Nokia suffered a major defeat in a market were they ruled, and in a way they didn’t do anything wrong. So in a way, the big problem of being a technological company today is that it is very hard to maintain yourself being the innovative leader in an time that will be probably seen as the era of the biggest technological development since the discovery of fire. Maybe the only way to maintain the leadership is following the strategy of Facebook, if you cant defeat them buy them for billions of dollars.

  3. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Great post, I felt like I was able to attend the conference without being there. The understand what you do comment resonates with me. I think that this can expand past the overall company mission and down to each function. For example, I work for a large insurance company in Boston and I’ve heard the IT team say they don’t work for an insurance company, they work for a tech company that happens to sell insurance. When you make the goal of your “product” more important than the product itself then you find success.

  4. magicjohnshin1 · ·

    Cool read here! It was a very structured and straightforward read. “Understanding what you do” is actually not very surprising to me. I feel that businesses can get caught up in so many other parts and functions of what you can do once you reach a certain point in your business. Often times, you can lose track of what your core business is and what is really making your money. Also, I completely agree with how difficult it is to “commit to the change.” Commitment can be scary at times, but if its the right decision, then it should be carried out. Great fun facts / information at the end of the blog. I really like that idea. Hope to read more of your work, cheers!

  5. mashamydear · ·

    What you do is not what you sell is a super important point that I think gets lost in business. The owner of New England Cranberry came in to talk to my class in applied marketing management and discussed a product of hers called fruitations– it’s essentially a fruit concentrated that can be used in smoothies, cocktails, etc. When she spoke about bringing it to bars she emphasized the point that people didn’t come to bars because of the alcohol. People have alcohol at home. Instead, they came for the environment. Providing a crafty cocktail is an aspect in completing that picture, and that’s what New England Cranberry’s role was in that situation.

%d bloggers like this: