Analytic Geometry and Your Brand

Our family recently saw Hidden Figures. What a great story about the equalizing nature of math and human perseverance. I absolutely love sharing these stories with my 10 year old daughter, who is struggling through mixed fractions right now. 

It got me to thinking about product strategy and timing. Bear with me here. In the movie, we came to understand that the success of the launch mission was basically determined on the chalkboard months before the launch. A minute error in calculations would result in catastrophe-- either sending John Glenn hurtling into outer space, or a fiery premature re-entry. Were they making minute adjustments as the situation changed? Yes. But were they had to have all the precise, fundamental math and trajectories figured out wayyyy before launch. 

Here's where it applies to brand positioning and strategy-- oftentimes potential clients (usually start-ups) come to me with a specific question or problem statement related to execution (say 3 orbits into a 6 orbit mission). Can you take a look at this packaging, or formula, or pull a focus group together to tell us how much they love our product. 

What I usually find is by that time, the launch momentum is already established. The packaging, pricing, formula, suppliers, cost structure, manufacturer decisions, VC/BOD presentations have already been made and there are only marginal adjustments at this point. 
Think of those trajectory arrows on the chalkboard. Once you hit the top curve (AKA the first derivative), not much you can do. When you really want to ask these questions, and validate a "NASA-ready" positioning and consumer proposition, UP FRONT you have the potential to change your entire trajectory curve. 

It's in our nature to not want to go back to positioning level once we have gone down a path and formed our own hypotheses. But that's exactly when you want to get it right. Is it more expensive to go back and re-check the trajectory math, or to try and solve the problem when John Glenn is on his last orbit? The CPG equivalent of final packaging design locked and first production scheduled? I can tell you that the farther along the launch trajectory you go the more time, energy and money it will take to unwind any intrinsic issues. 

Just like the Astronaut said in the movie-- have the girl (the "smart one") check the numbers. If she's good I'm good.

Todd Olsen