It shouldn't be a surprise to any of us that some of the oldest, most traditional brands are having the most difficult time dealing with disruption. “Making the turn,” as I have come to call it, has a very high degree of difficulty, especially the longer a company has been around.
I listened to a great podcast the other day – “Spectacular Failures.” (Yes, right up my alley.) It deals with businesses and brands that have gone belly up, failed, screwed up, or otherwise missed the moment. Hosted by Lauren Ober, it's a powerful series that is highly instructive for brands, companies, and entire industries trying to execute the pivot.
The episode that jumped out at me is about Kodak, and its travails defending its massively successful business model – film photography and photo developing – in the storm of digital cameras. But as many now know, Kodak actually developed this disruptive technology, but failed to make the turn. The company finally declared bankruptcy in 2012, and Rochester, New York has never been the same.
The harsh lessons of Kodak are the reason why so many other legacy brands are innovating, experimenting, and flat-out scrambling to figure it out.
Which brings me to the powerful Goldman Sachs situation. You're hard-pressed to find a bigger, more influential investment bank, and one that has spawned more “graduates” who have gone on to fame and fortune in all sectors of business and politics.
“Goldman Slacks” – as it is sarcastically called – is a 150 year-old institution…that is still functioning as a 150 year-old institution.
That's why Goldman has developed a mobile app with Marcus, its consumer bank. CNBC's Hugh Son reports that while Goldman Sachs is also the financial institution behind Apple's new credit card, their need is to become a force in consumer banking.
For the first time, the app enables Goldman customers to perform basic functions – like checking account balances and set up recurring transactions. This may not sound especially cutting edge, but for Goldman, it marks a first step in mobile becoming the centerpiece of its digital banking services.
The driving force behind this effort from Goldman and Marcus is Adam Dell (yes, brother of Michael). His goal? To create the leading bank, ultimately using this new app as the main interface between it and millions of consumers.
It's a smart idea, of course, in a world where the traditional way of dealing with banks – walking into one, using the drive-thru, or finding an ATM – has changed in obvious ways. Millions of consumers have become accustomed to banking while riding a subway, eating lunch, or watching a sporting event. As a result, the storefront bank business is eroding, being replaced by web services, easily accessible on handheld mobile devices.
For those of us on the outside, we have no idea why this very basic idea has taken so long to take hold at Goldman Sachs. There may be institutional problems we can only imagine, preventing obvious tech improvements from being previously designed and implemented.
But the debut of an app that performs these simple tasks in 2020 speaks to a larger problem faced by so many storied institutional brands and legacy companies – the inability to grasp how commerce has ported from personal and desktop to mobile and to rapidly respond.
Better put, a strong presence on the desktops of millions of smartphones.
That meant – and it's only a greater truth today – that radio apps shouldn't just check off the mobile box – they should provide a smooth, simple experience that enables listeners to access station content on their iPhones and Android phones.
On the surface, that's not a heavy lift. But many companies have taken the easy or cheap way out, creating a mobile interface that suits their needs, rather than those of the audience.
That's been the goal at our mobile apps, company, jacapps. From the git-go, we believed mobile distribution of radio content would become – in essence – the new Walkman; that in a world where a mobile phone was a consumer's most important possession, broadcast radio needed to have a seat at that all-important table.
As I believe we've proved these last 11 years, our apps have provided a strong platform of performance and features that matter to consumers. Like the Goldman's mobile effort, radio apps needs to go beyond basic functionality like streaming, while providing a great experience.
Otherwise, why bother?
To that end, Dell reminds us (and perhaps Goldman Sachs' board and senior management team, too) that success on the consumer banking level will only come when the company builds “the best digital banking experience that any customer can have.”
Down the road, Goldman's purchase of Clarity Money adds an important AI component to their digital arsenal, focused on helping customers develop better saving and investment habits – in much the same way so many insurance companies are using this same technology to help us become safer drivers.
(Interestingly – and a reflection on yesterday's post about inspiration – Dell has embedded little quotes about good finance habits from people like Benjamin Franklin and himself.)
And here's the kicker. CNBC's tells us that at a conference in 2019, Dell had this to say about the state of traditional banking – and why he's so bullish on Goldman/Marcus succeeding in this space.
“There are two kinds of incumbent banks. There are banks that are screwed, and there are banks that don't know they're screwed.”
You have to wonder that in light of broadcast radio's travails with creating great apps, and clean mobile interfaces, digital companies aren't saying the same thing about us.
Maybe there are two kinds of radio stations.
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