business news in context, analysis with attitude

There is a wonderful piece in US News and World Report this week about what CEOs can learn from The Boss – rocker Bruce Springsteen. Some excerpts:

• Momentum is everything. The story notes that when Springsteen ends a song, he launches into the next one almost before the first one is over…keeping up a steady rhythm that never lets the customers rest. This not only keeps the customers engaged with the product, but it also doesn’t allow them to stray to the competition.

• Innovate. Constantly. But never lose sight of the core product. Springsteen has brilliantly remained faithful to his rock ‘n roll heritage while continuing to explore other kinds of music, such as folks music and the blues. This keeps the customers happy while offering him a kind of creative journey that feeds his soul.

• Always play the favorites. A Springsteen concert wouldn’t be complete without “Born To Run” and “Dancing in The Dark.” They keep the customers coming back for more.

• Share the spotlight. The article notes that Springsteen constantly gives the E Street Band a ton of attention…a quality that few business executives seem to share.

I have to be honest. One of the real deficiencies in my cultural resume is that I never have seen Bruce Springsteen live, but that’s going to change.

And it has nothing to do with the lessons he can offer business leaders.

Another unlikely source for good business lessons is the new Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe movie, “American Gangster.”

There is a moment in the film when Washington’s character, a Harlem drug dealer named Frank Lucas, is explaining to a rival why he can’t use a brand name that Lucas uses for the high quality heroin he sells for a cheaper variety. Pepsi, Lucas says, wouldn’t allow it…and neither can he. (The folks at PepsiCo must have loved the product placement…)

Lucas gains success in the movie by cutting out the middleman and getting his high quality heroin from Thailand, and then selling higher quality drugs for less. Because he can. And in doing so, he becomes a greater force in New York City than even the Mafia.

“American Gangster” is a terrific movie – hard-driving, relentless, violent, and with two wonderful performances, one by Washington and the other by Crowe as the New Jersey cop who tracks him down. It isn’t at the level of “The Godfather,” which transcended the genre and showed Michael Corleone’s descent into the moral abyss; “American Gangster” starts too far down the road in Lucas’s career to hit the same kinds of notes. It is much closer to being the other side of “The French Connection,” which it even references at one point, noting that after the dope was captured by the detective played by Gene Hackman in the movie, in real life it was simply stolen by other, corrupt cops and put back on the street, where it ended up in the veins of various junkies.

Go see it.

By the way, I got an email the other day from an MNB user who was distraught that some Hollywood studio apparently is considering the production of a remake of “High Noon,” the 1952 Gary Cooper-Grace Kelly classic that is one of the best westerns ever made.

I have no idea why this person wrote to me, except that he probably figured I’d share his pain. Which I do…except that I made it worse by telling him that, in fact, a television movie called “High Noon Part II: The Return of Will Kane” was made in 1980…and starred Lee Majors in the Gary Cooper role. (Oy!) But here’s the really funny part – the sequel was actually written by the great Elmore Leonard, who also wrote such classics as “3:10 To Yuma.”

Go figure.

However, isn’t this the ultimate question that all creative types – whether they be retailing executives or writers – face when they do something new? At that moment right before the product is seen by the public for the very fist time (think about how Tesco’s executives felt earlier this week), if they have any degree of perspective, they have to ask themselves, in essence, the following questions:

Is this going to be my “3:10 To Yuma”?

Or is it going to be my “High Noon Part II”?

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Tuesday.


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