Like Edison, Disney, and Kroc, You Will Know Your Best Ideas Only After the Test of Time
Some of the best (and worst) marketing ideas proved critical in the biographies of successful innovators like Thomas Edison, Walt Disney or Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s.
We remember these successful men for their brilliant ideas.
But we tend to forget their bad ideas.
What makes an idea “good” or “bad”?
The test of time.
Good and even great ideas fail.
Example: Edison invented a machine to rapidly tally votes in Congress. The invention was a failure. Why? Members of Congress used delays in voting to negotiate political deals. After this experience, Edison swore he would never again invent something that no one wanted.
Which Ideas Lead to Success?
If you study successful people, you will discover that many of them tried all kinds of different ideas. It took at least one of those ideas to be a very good one to make them successful. Did they know their best ideas then? No. Otherwise they wouldn’t have tried all the others!
Ray Kroc recognized a great idea in a chain of restaurants operated by the McDonald’s brothers
The idea was there: Hamburger stands that served a limited menu with speedy service. The McDonald’s brothers were satisfied with a few restaurants. Ray Kroc was not. He bought the McDonald’s chain in 1961 for $2.7 million.
Was it a good idea pay $2.7 million, a fortune in 1961, for the McDonald’s chain?
Of course. The idea was brilliant. We know that now. McDonald’s golden arches now span the globe, including Las Vegas.
Around that same time Ray Kroc had another great idea
He approached Walt Disney, a friend he had met when they both trained to drive ambulances during World War I. Kroc inquired “I have very recently taken over the national franchise of the McDonald’s system. I would like to inquire if there may be an opportunity for a McDonald’s in your Disney Development.”
Disney agreed. But with one condition. Disney wanted to raise the price of french fries from 10 cents to 15 cents, and keep the profit. Kroc thought the price would gouge his loyal customers. Kroc declined.
Disneyland did not become the home of a McDonald’s
None of us know our best ideas until they have passed the test of time. Which ideas are going to be “game changers” isn’t obvious until the game has been played.
Was Kroc’s Disneyland decision a bad idea?
Was it a bad idea to give up a McDonald’s in Disneyland over a nickel difference in the price of french fries? How much would a bag of french fries cost in Disneyland today? How many new customers, and how much profit did McDonald’s lose over the decades?
Or was Kroc’s idea right on the money?
Is it possible that the 33% increase in french-fry prices would have undermined McDonald’s reputation early in the game? Was Kroc, who showed good judgement in so many other decisions, right about Disney’s proposed high price for french fries and the reaction of his customers, mostly families? Keep in mind that McDonald’s was building a reputation for uniform quality, cleanliness, family fun (like the very expensive ploy of giving kids access to straws and napkins).
Remember we are talking about a hypothetical business deal that never stood the test of time.
What do you think?
Fascinated by McDonald’s business success story? Here are some books. I recommend “Grinding It Out” by Ray Kroc himself.