Nationalism, or chauvinism, is a destructive force without peer. This is true in other areas of life, and it is true in the technology sector.
Exhibit numero uno: Aigo (Chinese name AiGuoZhe, means patriot). This Chinese company had always marketed itself as one of China’s own, so somehow it deserves the trust and confidence of the Chinese consumers. The gimmick worked like a charm for a while, until it didn’t. While the company still offers products of shabby quality at low price, its products no longer sell and the company is reportedly losing money hand over fist, according to an ousted executive who blasted the company’s founder Feng Jun on Weibo, China’s own twitter.
We can also disregard the fact that Feng is feuding with his business partners; if that was a fault, Steve Jobs would surely be unable to great the most valuable technology company on earth. But Feng’s attachment to patriotism is another case.
To use one’s national origin as a marketing tool is an old trick. Some of its most prominent proponents are also some of world’s biggest companies, and that’s how Jay-Z has a gig in Budweiser-sponsored “Made in America Fest”. This is often misleading and hilarious in a globalized age (Budweiser itself was involved in a hostile takeover, resulting in the company being bought by a Belgian company……controlled by Brazilians),
This trick persists not because it’s true, but because it works, especially on uncultivated minds, so we cannot single out Feng for exploit our silly attachment to a fictionalized notion called the nation. However, it becomes awfully dangerous if the man himself is drinking the kool-aid.
In a recent interview, Feng gave this startling quote in regard to his strategy: “if Sony has a pistol, you need to have a pistol; if Sony has a rifle, you need to have a rifle; if Sony has a grenade, you need to have a grenade. If you lack any weapon, it could become your weakness lead to defeat”. As a man who puts his money where his mouth is, Feng is willing to sustain losses (for China, if not his shareholders).
Let’s not be distracted by the fact that the so-called Strategy Revolution should’ve already eradicated Feng’s argument. Let’s go with a simpler line of reasoning: Sony is losing money like Alex Rodriguez losing bat speed, and appears direction-less in its resurrection efforts.
In fact, from Sony’s past performance, we could say that while Sony is not incapable of building good products, Sony’s ability to launch ground breaking products is almost entirely erased from its DNA. In fact, one could argue Sony’s claim to producing quality product is eroding, as witnessed by the fact that its Ipad killer had to be withdrawn from the market a month after its launch because of quality issues.And this is the company Feng was to copy and take on.
To quote The Company, a man is driven by self interest, honor, and fear. Of course, a man cannot be driven purely by self interest; otherwise we’d live in Ayn Rand’s mad house. But sometimes it is wiser to keep the motive pure. Feng has been blinded by his hatred of the Japanese, otherwise he would have remembered that the business of business is business.
To quote Rasheed Wallace, what’s important is CTC, “for all you that don’t know what CTC means, that’s ‘Cut the Check’”. After all, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” By focusing on his own business, perhaps Aigo will deviate from its name, but its business will be better off, and that’s all that matters.