Money in Metaphors

by | Mar 8, 2004 | Archives

This important investing rule to help cash in on business and investing is that the best investments of the past are not likely to be the best ones in the future. The biggest business and investments winners will be ideas that are new. The greatest profits come from businesses and investments no one has previously thought of.

Sort of…In a way because this reality is tempered by the French, “plus ce change plus ce la mem chose”… the more things change, the more the remain the same.

So in the Victorian era, one goofed if they invested in the best most ultra modern, profitable horse and buggy manufacturing company. There must have been one.

Buying shares in Ford or starting an automobile dealership was the way to go at that time.

In one way nothing changed. The investment, the business was in transportation. Yet the investment was in a new unknown evolution.

With this in mind may I direct you to the book, “The Republic of Tea”. This is a must read if you are an investor or want a business.

The read is essential because it is written by a person who successfully transformed an old idea into a new and very successful business. Mel Ziegler was co-founder (with his wife) of Banana Republic. They took an old idea (selling clothes) into a new dimension and made a fortune. Then they did this again (along with the third partner) Bill Rosenweig with tea. The company of the same name (The Republic of Tea) is a success.

Clothing and tea. Nothing new there. So why did the create such success competing with hundreds of old well-established competitors in these fields?

Their success can be described in one word, metaphor. You can see why this word rings success to bold businesses and investors on page 16 of their book. Line 13 on that page says it all when it explains how metaphor is based on the Greek word Metraphero which means “to carry along from one place to another”.

The Rosenweigs have just two fundamental ideas (clothing and tea) from one generation to another.

Rosenweig gives us this clue when he writes:

“We're done with the greed, growth, and hollow glamour of the 80s. Life and business are different now. They've got to be. Our customers are looking for balance in their lives. They're trying to discover how to have fun without acquiring more material possessions.

“The life of tea is the life of the moment. We have only tea now and we each sip it in our own cups. If a cup of tea brings me, no matter how briefly, to enter things as they are I have been transported outside myself into perfection itself.

“We have an opportunity here to sell a suggestion for a healthy lifestyle through tea. That's where tea is magnificent. It is in the natural makeup, history, charm of tea where the spirit is alive. It's not something that either you or I have to fabricate as marketers. It's all there for real-penned in history. We just have to make it accessible, enjoyable and meaningfully timely.”

They did not really make clothing or tea any different than before. They just allowed a perspective so consumers could get something different through what they already had.

Here is how Ziegler explains this. “The game we played through BR (Banana Republic) with the customers was to invent an imaginary place where together we transcended our everyday lives by fantasizing adventure in faraway places. We all got there through the metaphor of clothing.

“As I look back at it now, the difference between BR and TRoT (the Republic of Tea) is that the former uses fantasy to lighten up the customers' idea of reality, and the latter prods the customer to see that nothing is more gratifying or more purifying than surrendering to reality.”

So TRoT is using tea as a metaphor to help carry its customers from one place (their everyday stressful world) to the next (the calm peaceful here and now) one sip at a time.

Henry Ford's metaphor was the automobile. He provided faster, safer, warmer easier transportation. Yet if you look at all the different types of cars, (SUVS-sports cars-hummer types-minivans etc.) you see that each takes its owner to a different place, even though they drive to the same location.

So if you are looking for an investment or business that can grow beyond the norm, look for its metaphors. See where the merchandising, not just the product, will take its customers. If that place is new exciting or balancing, then this is a clue that this idea may really succeed.

Remember this rule. Too often we take life like coffee in gulps. try sipping each moment and your business and investing are more likely to succeed.