What Lessons Popcorn can Teach Us

I know, I know. A bit of a stretch.
But I ran across this article the other day in the Smithsonian magazine (the only part of the American government still working is online distribution of content!). Since I love popcorn, I wanted to share it.

And there are lessons to be found in everything. Here is what the history of popcorn can teach us:

“Popped” corn has been around a long time (thousands of years) but has evolved to meet changing consumer needs.

  • Understand the user’s experience and profile when designing and evolving your products and services.
  • Just because your organization is successful now doesn’t mean that consumer’s tastes and needs won’t change as the market evolves. For a more current example of this reality, look at Blackberry and even Apple!

Popcorn is popular because it satisfies a number of different needs: it is easy to make; the process itself is “entertaining”; it is mobile; and it tastes good!

  • The reasons why products are successful can be many and they all need to be considered when introducing changes.
  • BA’s are excellent at conducting “What if” analyses. We need to help our multiple stakeholders understand how changes can impact product acceptability in the market.

The market for Popcorn went through some significant shifts based on external factors.
Lack of money during the depression made inexpensive popcorn one of the few accessible treats for many.
The introduction of television and new household appliances like the microwave changed where and how people consumed popcorn so packaging needed to evolve.

  • Changes in the environment open up new opportunities for mature products if marketed properly. You can help your organizations think differently by asking the right questions.

Movie theatre owners were hesitant to invest in the machinery to produce popcorn for their theatres so they “outsourced” production to third party vendors. They mitigated their risk of investment in an unproven market but were able to change their minds after they realized how profitable popcorn could be.

  • Your companies don’t have to absorb all the risk for trying something new. Partner with other organizations to spread the risk but make sure to have a plan to repatriate the product or service.

Movie theatres make an estimated 85 percent profit off of concession sales, and those sales constitute 46 percent of movie theater’s overall profits.

  • Business models are not always obvious and they can change. What made you successful yesterday is no guarantee for tomorrow. Help your organizations ask the right questions.

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