"The New York Times" reported today that in just four years the Flip camcorder has gone from 'hot' to 'not.' Cisco Systems, who bought Flip for $590 million just two years ago has shut down its video camera division. The Flip, which was wondrous and transformational when it burst onto the scene, was buried by smart phones (how smart are they, really, when you can't even have a decent call on one) with video capabilities.
The obsolescence of Flip provides, I think, three lessons.
One, Cisco Systems, which is a b-to-b provider had no real business buying a consumer brand. They succumbed to Apple-envy. Thought they could be cool, hip and on everyone's lips. Cool is not the answer to everything. Cisco's market cap hovers around $100 billion. They've earned their heft by being good, reliable, innovative and boring. Some times that's enough.
Two, Flip was one of those products that was going to change everything. Kodak, Sony and other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and came out with their own "me-too" flip-alikes. Very few products, services, songs, celebrities, words, politicians change everything. Everything doesn't very much like to change.
Three, when Flip went "big time," they did insipid advertising that showed happy people made even happier because they "flipped." Each blandishment ended with the question "do you Flip?" Dumb, gratuitous and without any ownable benefit. I'm not saying advertising would have kept Flip in business, we'll never know if it would have, but I contend good advertising would have helped.