You’re never too big to think like an upstart.

June 2, 2009

What exactly is an upstart? Yes, some are entrepreneurs working in their attics, but even the world’s biggest brands can find themselves in the position of being upstarts. And that’s a good thing.

I recently had the pleasure of running a project for a leading child care brand. They weren’t happy with their website. They were writing their own content, which was costing them a bundle, and wasn’t generating much consumer activity or revenue.

I was working with a brilliant creative team, including some of the best creative directors in the NYC and SF. But before they could work their magic, they needed a little dose of McKinsey. That’s where I came in.

First I looked at the client’s goals and resources. They wanted to generate a profit from their website, and to boost online traffic and activity. When I started nosing around, I found that they had several million active customer email addresses. Interesting….

Then I looked at the competitive landscape. The big competitors fell into a few camps. Some sold products. Some fostered conversations between consumers. And others provided expert opinions. Not much room to move in on their turf.

But once again, I did some poking around, and found that there were some things consumers were already doing that none of the big competitors had embraced: Sharing the joys of raising children. For example, some happy baby videos on YouTube were getting over 80 million views. 80 million!!! Baby scrapbook numbers were also off the charts.

I’m NDA bound, so I can’t go into more detail. But we put these pieces together, and found a way to leverage the client’s unique assets, satisfy proven – but unmet – customer needs, establish a leadership position in the market, and achieve profit and usage goals. Pretty nifty, right?

And while the numbers were on a much bigger scale, the thinking wasn’t that different from the way an entrepreneur would approach the problem. After all, to stay relevant, even the most established players need to think like upstarts.