Once in a great while a leader makes a truly game-changing decision that shifts not only the strategy of a single company but how everyone does business as well. These big decisions are counterintuitive — they go against the conventional wisdom. In hindsight, taking a different direction may seem easy, but these bet-the-company moves involve drama, doubt, and high tension. What made Apple’s board bring back Steve Jobs to the company? What motivated Henry Ford to double the wages of his autoworkers, and how did that change the American economy for the next century? Why did Intel decide to spend millions to brand a microchip? The following stories, adapted from the new book The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time, provide the background to these pivotal moments. You’ll learn how these groundbreaking decisions have shaped the thinking of today’s top leaders.
This week in Colorado, Starbucks opened a store unlike any before it. There are no leather chairs or free power outlets. In fact, there’s no space for the customer at all. Starbucks has reimagined the coffee hut as a “modern modular,” LEED-certified drive-thru and walk-up shop. The building was constructed in a factory and delivered from a truck, but its facade is clad in gorgeous old Wyoming snow fencing. As diminutive as the shop may be, its designer wants drivers to pass by and ask “What is that?” only to conclude that, oh, “it’s art.”
Try as you might, it’s impossible to avoid the influence of advertising in the modern world. Starting as early as age three, kids can recognize and match logos to their respective brands, whether the Disney Channel or Camel. Since we’re surrounded by them every day, brand marks form an indelible part of our collective visual memory. And while they may seem like immutable features of the cultural landscape, they actually evolve with changing times, as companies pour millions of dollars into rebranding efforts in the hopes of appealing to current tastes. Logo Life (BIS Publishers), a new book by Ron van der Vlugt, compiles the stories behind 100 famous logos, from Apple and Adidas to Nike and Volkswagon, providing graphic histories of some of the world’s most influential companies.