Every year, we publish the
Control Readers’ Choice Awards.
Every year, I have to defend the fact that Emerson wins many of the categories, and the calls go on for months.
“Can you help me understand why [insert name of company and product] didn’t win?”
“Did Emerson pay you off?”
“Can you give me all the raw data so I can figure out how you screwed up?”
“If we don’t win next year, we’re not advertising with you again.”
I try not to be upset about this, and I try to politely answer the questions. I point out that the survey is a Readers’ Choice award, not an Editors’ Choice and that there is absolutely no bias in the survey. We don’t even provide a helpful dropdown box so they can pick from a list of names.
So, today I’m going to tell you why Emerson wins.
Let’s just be clear about something. This isn’t a paean to Emerson, nor is it a statement of my overwhelming love for the company. I’m supposed to be completely impartial, but, hey, I’ve been in the automation business since I started repairing rotameters, recorders, gas chlorinators and chemical metering pumps for my allowance at the age of 12, and I know what I see, and I’m not stupid.
Emerson does it by following my favorite business maxim. It was said best by William Hesketh Lever, Lord Leverhulme, the founder of Lever Brothers (now Unilever). “The conduct of successful business,” Lever said, “consists in doing a few simple things, doing them regularly, and never neglecting to do them.”
Emerson is number one today, only partly because it had a ten year period where most of its competitors were committing either stock exchange or personnel or leadership seppuku. Certainly, the fact that Emerson Electric (now Emerson Inc.) was stable, and the Emerson divisions that now make up Emerson Process Management were extremely well run by consistent management during the 1990s had an effect on their standing and the strength of their brand.
Emerson does not make the best product in every product group, hardware or software, and doesn’t provide the best service in many areas, either. But what they do is provide a reasonable product in nearly every product group, including some best of breed units. But the fact that they make one of everything (or in some cases, more than one of some products) by itself wouldn’t make them the powerhouse they are.
What does do it is Lever’s dictum. Emerson knows that decent products, coupled with good sales, good sales management, good marketing and public relations, and good customer service worldwide are the few simple things Lord Leverhulme was talking about.
Emerson is the ONLY company, Nissan included, to have successfully pulled off a Datsun-is-Nissan name change campaign with no hitches and no lost revenue. No other automation company who has tried to impose its corporate brand on acquisitions can say that.
If you look through the “Consumer Guide to…” series of books that David Spitzer and I have written, you will note that often the Emerson product is in the middle rank, and other companies sometimes produce better products.
In 1995, I had left Texas Nuclear (now ThermoElectron) and was no longer involved in product management of ultrasonic and radar level, but was likely the most informed third party in the world on the subject at the time. Who knows, David Spitzer and I might still be. Anyway, I got an email from an engineer at an aluminum plant in South Africa. He explained that he needed to measure the level of molten aluminum in his tundish and could I please tell him if this could be done either with ultrasonic level or radar.
I emailed him the names and contact information for the radar level company product managers who I KNEW had actually done the application. Copied the product managers. A couple of weeks go by and the product managers start calling me to tell me that the South African had never contacted them.
So I emailed him and asked what happened. “Well,” he replied, “my Rosemount rep came by, and saw your email, and told me that Rosemount was going to be coming out with their own radar level gauge in the next few months, and suggested I wait for that, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Remember, this was many years before Emerson bought Saab Tank Control. Flabbergasted, I wrote him back. “Explain this to me,” I wrote. “I gave you multiple vendor sources who already have done the difficult application you need at least once, most twice or more. You are going to wait for a product that isn’t on the market, hasn’t even been beta-tested, and isn’t licensed for sale in any country in the world? Help me understand why.”
“We buy Rosemount preferentially, and if they’re going to make a radar gauge we’ll use it.”
That’s why the shift to Emerson Process Management worked, and that’s a big part of the reason why Emerson wins so many of the categories of the Readers’ Choice Awards.
But that ain’t all.
Emerson had the first “department of pricing analysis” of any company in the automation industry, as early as the early 1990s. Now the discipline of pricing analysis is de rigueur for any high technology company.
Emerson’s marketing strategists did the first vertical segmentation by industry and instituted the concept of industry segment managers. Now that’s commonplace.
And Emerson’s Jerry Moon sends me an average of four press releases a week. Every one of them is newsworthy, and worthy of being brought to the attention of Control’s readers. Some other companies send me four a month, or four a quarter. Often the kind of release I get from other companies is quickly posted to the “PR Wall of Shame.”
Emerson doesn’t do everything well. But they do enough well that they give the impression of doing everything well. And impressions count. Impressions and subjective beliefs make brands strong.
Emerson isn’t the only company with strong brand values. Other companies also do well in the Readers’ Choice Awards. And their success is clearly based on how well they do the same things that Emerson does…that Lord Leverhulme talked about…those simple things that you must never forget to do.
When other companies have a longer track record of doing those simple things, Emerson will not be winning the Readers’ Choice Awards with as much apparent ease. They’ll get real brand competition. That will be a good thing, because it will be good for the end-users.
I can tell you that it has worked. If you look at what Yokogawa has done, since they brought over their recorders and their vortex shedding flow meters to the USA in the early 1970s, much of their success is based on how closely they modeled their sales and product management on the existing Fisher Controls rep organization. In the early days, and probably still to this day, if you were a Yokogawa rep in the United States, you could be assured that there would be a regional sales manager, the national sales manager, or a product manager in your territory, making sales calls with your salespeople almost every week. Other companies tried to move into the US market at the same time Yokogawa did, and their results, or lack of them, speak for themselves.
Emerson is rightly concerned about Yokogawa’s challenge…they have, in Pogo’s immortal phrase, “met the enemy, and he is us.”