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The Way of The Cheetah – What We Can Learn From the Research In Motion/Apple Rivalry

Research in Motion (RIM) co-CEO’s are stepping down. RIM stock has gone nowhere since 2008. Today, RIM’s (RIMM) market cap is $7.74B. Apple’s (AAPL) market cap: $391.88B. Which means that Apple is 50 times more valuable than RIM!

There was a time when RIM seemed on top of the world, and Apple was the challenger. There’s a lot that mid-sized challenger organizations can learn from the way that Apple approached competing with RIM.

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing midsized companies and I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.” Of course, the Cheetah is by far the fastest land animal, clocking bursts of up to 110 MPH. Cheetah leaders do move faster, eliminating or hurtling obstacles to growth.

One thing Cheetah leaders do is overcome their existing business. In other words, they don’t let their current “success” stand in the way of their future growth.

Note the contrast between RIMM and AAPL. Then and today, Blackberry is the most important product of RIMM. According to, all but 1.8% of the value of the company comes from sales of Blackberries and related internet service and from cash. The story at AAPL is much different. Then, Apple was a computer company with a hot little mp3-player (iPod) business. Today, according to Trefis, fully 52.3% of the value of Apple comes from sales of iPhones, twelve percent each come from iPads and Macintosh, 4% from iTunes and 1.6% from iPod. In short, the vast majority of the value of Apple is from new products in new categories.

If you’re trying to run a Cheetah organization, where are you looking for future growth? If you’re like most of your competition, you’re looking at your existing products and markets. If this represents an exclusive focus or a hard bias, as it does in the vast majority of companies, you may be slamming on the breaks.

Go back to the reason your organization exists. Not merely to make a certain kind of product but to create a change in the world that your tribe can get excited about. Make sure your corporate brand is built around this WHY. Then as how your vision for future growth furthers this mission and enriches this role for the company.

Apple, the company that invented the personal computer to empower the individual to compete in creativity, ideas and awesomeness against giants, aimed toward a world in which Apple products complete a closed circle across all the key technology and media. The plan keeps adapting but the drive remains the same.

Why do Cheetahs run so fast? Sure, to catch dinner – and because they can. But also, because they must!

Learn E-mail Marketing From The Motley Fool


Someone over at The Motley Fool knows a hell of a lot about how to create emails that cheer up the CFO. These are industrious testers, not lazy followers. In this era of short, sweet, vacuous little telegrams, only rigorous science could have led to these enormous letters. But let he or she without an ounce of the human emotion of greed just try to stop reading before either the end or clicking on a link. And when you do click on a link, you have another pleasure waiting for you, because someone at The Motley Fool knows how to do landing pages too. The center of these overwhelmingly seductive experiences is an at least equally lengthy video – I mean the thing just seems to go on and on as long as a presidential primary debate. But it’s like that swirling hypnotist’s spiral – I defy you to try to pull up and out of it. What story telling! What wonderful stimulation of curiosity, admiration and greed. What direct response writing! What direct marketing! What was the symbol of that stock again?

DiMassimo of DIGO Brands Newt Gingrich on FOX

Mark DiMassimo sat down with Neil Cavuto for a one-to-one conversation on the fatal flaws in the Gingrich “brand.” DiMassimo argued that Gingrich is a “Challenger but not a Champion,” that the perceived brand negatives of “disloyal, devious and deviant” would ultimately undo his candidacy. DiMassimo concluded, “Newt is a historian burdened by his own history.”

Read the transcript here.

What a Lincoln and A. Lincoln have in common

Presidents and Companies as Challengers and Leaders.

Successful presidential candidates and innovative fast-growth companies have lot in common. Both must succeed first as challengers and ultimately as leaders. This is as rare a trick among companies as it is among politicians.

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing mid-sized companies. I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.” Cheetahs out-challenge, out-pace and ultimately out-lead their competition. They do this through a process of brand-driven growth.

Brand is a much-abused word, mostly by overuse. To some it means merely a name. To others, it embraces a product’s visual identity as well. To still others, brand denotes the dollar value of the corporate reputation. My definition is a simple one.

To me, your brand is the emotional idea that people have of you.

So brand isn’t something that exists in here and can be managed directly. You can’t change it in a logo or ad or website. Brand is something that exists out there and can only be managed indirectly. It can be influenced.

Perhaps paradoxically, brand perception is ultimately most influenced by the things that are most consistent in an organization. Its reason for being. Its mission in the world. Its why. Yet companies suffer from the same sort of conflicts, integrity lapses and failures of nerve that politicians often do. They are often confused about their own brands. By which I mean not what they say they stand for, not what their mission statement or brand strategy or positioning document says. But what they truly do stand for by virtue of the experience they deliver over time.

When the ideas, enthusiasms, values, efforts, markets, products and experiences are aligned, something extraordinary happens. The experience the company delivers shatters the foundations of expectation that had well supported the competition. Like successful candidates, they teach people to expect something different. They face and overcome challenges and they lead. In this way, successful challengers often lead the ideas and expectations of their categories long before they become the vote or market share leader.
So, this election season is a boon. If you are working on building a business or a brand, you can learn a lot from watching the candidates. If you’re part of building or leading a political campaign, you can learn a lot by studying the successes of the brands and businesses you admire.

At last, perhaps, this is something about which we can all agree.

New Yorker Reports Brainstorming Doesn’t Work

I used to think that I had to overcome people’s natural reticence in order to get them to be more creative.

I suppose I thought this because I had overcome my own natural reticence in order to be more creative.

I was reinforced in this belief by the Rules of Brainstorming, which had come down to me as secular commandments. Though I started my career at BBDO, I didn’t know then that Alex Osborn, the O in Batten Barten Dursteen & Osborn, actually introduced the world to the Brainstorming session.

I also didn’t know that decades of studies have concluded that creative problems are better solved outside of traditional “no bad ideas” brainstorming sessions. So, I cheerfully harangued and pushed people out “of their comfort zones” and felt I was doing my creative duty. But, I couldn’t help noticing that breaking up our sessions and letting people work alone or in much smaller groups to write down ideas actually yielded many more good ideas!

And people instantly enjoyed themselves a lot more too. My job is to get better ideas sooner and more often, and this worked better so we threw the old rules out. Maybe, we thought, all the rules in the world won’t overcome the natural hesitancy most people have to calling out their best ideas in a group. Or maybe people get into a different mode when they sit alone or nearly alone and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

But, until now, I hadn’t seen the science. The New Yorker has published a piece that reviews the findings of several studies of brainstorming vs. alternative techniques. The common outcome is that the other techniques win.

Gingrich Caught in Lie in Debate?

DIGO Founder Mark Dimassimo on the impact on Gingrich’s character and brand of his response to his ex-wife’s claims in an interview.

Neil Cavuto: There was no admission. ABC News did NOT offer us any opportunity to have surrogates in the piece. It took THREE DAYS of putting pressure on ABC News before they agreed to interview anyone to give our side of the story. Branding expert Mark DiMassimo says that what happened here could be sort of the tip of the sort of character iceberg here. Explain that, what do you think this tells us.

Mark: Well, I’m a brand guy and I look at Newt Gingrich’s brand and the strategy that he is pursuing to try and win this nomination. Now Newt is a great strategist he knows that the conservatives need a champion, so he tries to position himself as a champion. But he’s not just a strategist on this campaign, he’s also the product – the product- and the product has a problem. And the problem is that the brand is certainly a challenger brand but there’s a difference between a challenger and a champion. A challenger is aggressive, a challenger fights, a challenger can be hopping mad and excessive. Right? But a champion is loyal, honorable, fare, a gentleman. A champion will stand by you and look what happening now with this story. There’s the personal life – by the way go to right now the most popular story is this story. The most popular…the most discussed are the political stories, so the political folks don’t necessarily want to talk about the personal. People are interested because it connects at the brand level. Disloyalty.

Neil Cavuto: What this goes back to is, I always think that people who are gifted, he’s very gifted as a speaker but usually your greatest gift can also be your greatest weakness and I remember the boxer Mike Tyson, he tried to corral a bull, at the strength of tin man, and he could just beat the crap out of everybody. But it was that same out of control recklessness in the ring that was very common behavior outside the ring and ultimately torpedoed his career. And I know no one is going to confuse Mike Tyson for Newt Gingrich but my point is that they both suffer the same problem, of both having a wonderful strength that can be their wonderful undoing.

Mark: It’s the tragic flaw. In characters and in brands. In order to be a successful candidate you have to look like a successful president. So, yes he’s the fighter, he’s the challenger, he’s hopping mad. “Hot-headed arrogance,” said Coulter today, right. “Hot-headed arrogance.” So, he’s the fighter but is he also the leader?

Neil Cavuto: But isn’t that his selling point right now, you need that, you know take prisoners and bang up the china shop kind of guy.

Mark: The other elements of the brand are too negative, disloyal is the key word. Devious… and deviant, now how can you represent…

Neil Cavuto: Where did the deviant come from?

Mark: Oh let’s see here- Emmitt Tyrell, The American Spectator

Neil Cavuto: Well that’s crossing into a dangerous territory when you move into that. But you think that he’s in trouble on the character thing that ultimately he tried to dismiss is going to be his undoing.

Mark: I think that it connects to the political issues and his own history. He’s a historian burdened by his own history. And what they’re saying is he has a history of disloyalty. Even to Reagan that’s another very big story today, He criticized Reagan and he was disloyal … that’s what they’re saying.