Companies can build reputations and legacies based off of single stories, and it’s easier than ever in the internet age.

For example:

Four years ago The Ritz-Carlton safely returned a little boy’s stuffed giraffe named ‘Joshie,’ but only after Joshie enjoyed all the luxuries of the 5-star hotel. I hear this story told by speakers and at conferences over and over and over again.

The same story, repeated just weeks ago by a hotel in Adere, Ireland. This hotel treated little Kate’s beloved ‘jellycat’ to an incredibly relaxing day at the hotel’s spa before sending her home.

Both hotels documented the stuffed toy’s adventures and shared the photos on social media allowing them to spread like a winter cold. The results included thousands of social media shares and likes, but more importantly, the stories exemplified the type of customer service these locations desire to be known for.

The second example shows us that you can even repeat the stories other companies have used successfully and experience similar results! Can viral be manufactured? It appears so!

So why recreate the wheel?

Here’s why.

This week, New York Times restaurant critic, Pete Wells wrote a scathing review  of famed Chef Thomas Keller’s New Your City restaurant, Per Say. Here was another story that quickly found itself in the viral wave.

He called both the food and the experience dull, flat-footed, rubbery, and flavorless. And those were the “nice” things he said.

Keller had even hired ballerinas to train the servers and staff to move elegantly between the tables. When nobody picked up a fallen napkin, the reviewer started to wonder if this was some sort of practical joke.

The reviewer took additional offense that a chef with a reputation like Keller had decided to fill the menu with the “greatest hits,” instead of using this opportunity to show off his skills and creativity – or to simply offer his fans something new.

As Wells wrote, “My quarrel with these greatest hits, though, is that they make Per Se’s new material look random and purposeless.”

I see two valuable lessons we can all learn from this.

First:  We all have our greatest hits and the thing that got us from there to here.


Are you holding on to products, services, processes, or procedures for old time’s sake? 

The first lesson is that it’s incredibly important to understand when it’s time to reinvent yourself, your company, your products, and your services. You need to know when it’s time to create (fill in the blank) 2.0.

Can your company continue to sell the same tried, tested and true products and services? Is it time for a reinvention of your brand, or the story you’re telling?

The second big lesson is this.

Companies can build reputations and legacies off of single stories but it’s also easier than ever to destroy them.

Everyone loves the greatest hits.

If you go to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, the crowd both wants and expects them to end with Freebird.

But if they flub the lines and only do a 4-minute guitar solo, then the gig is up. The hits still have to be perfect.

Is your company living off the greatest hits?

Do your new offerings look random and purposeless compared to what got you from there to here.

Food for thought, per se.