What Business Are You Really in?

As many of you know, this is a question that we like to ask all of our clients from the outset – what is the business that you’re really in?

A few years ago, when we did extensive work with concert promotions giant, Live Nation with our friends at Level5 Strategy Group, we asked clients this question in 8 different parts of the world, including Los Angeles, their global headquarters. The answer was consistent:  “Selling concert tickets.” They were convinced, on a conscious, rational level, that selling concert tickets was the reason why they existed and why customers came to them. It had been drilled into their minds repeatedly: sell tickets or die. Understandable, but not the answer that would bring them true success moving forward.

After doing a series of mappings, a very different conclusion was reached, unanimously:  They are in the business of delivering “collective euphoria.” 

There is no euphoria like that of being with hundreds or thousands of your fellow fans, and being part of a powerful live performance from your favorite artist. That collective euphoria, the wave of good vibrations that surges through the crowd, is the reason why people will sometimes travel thousands of miles and pay hundreds of dollars to see their favorite artists perform. That is the business that Live Nation is truly in, when it’s at its best. And even if only a fraction of the time do audiences truly experience this collective euphoria, it doesn’t take perfection. But it does take hard work to create the conditions that allow for the elusive euphoria to sweep the crowd.

Is Starbucks in the business of coffee? Not under the surface. They sell coffee, of course, but they’re actually in the business of “oasis,” or being “the third place.”

Is Apple in the business of electronics? They would find that answer unthinkable. Instead, they are in the business of empowering cool creative class people to be, well, cooler and more creative.

Is Mac in the business of cosmetics? Or are they in the business of being the tool of the artist whose canvas is the human face?

We think there is always a deeper answer to the question of what business you’re in. Knowing what business you’re in can be the difference between small success and big success, flash in the pan – and icon.