Six Companies That Should Take The Plunge In 2012

Six game changers that could supercharge struggling companies such as Honda and Quiznos, recommended by fellow industry players.

BARNES & NOBLE

THE PROBLEM Sales have slumped at brick-and-mortar stores, and the brand as a whole is losing cachet.
TAKE THIS RISK Found an MFA degree program and offer grants to established writers. "If Barnes & Noble is going to invest in how people read, they should also invest in what people read," says Stephanie Anderson, manager of Brooklyn's Word bookstore. "I could see them as a modern-day House of Medici."

HONDA

THE PROBLEM Sales are languishing and new models received tepid critical response--and that was before the Japan earthquake affected production.
TAKE THIS RISK Develop a truly audacious vehicle--say, a "space wagon" that's "better-looking than the original Chrysler minivans with the fuel-economy of a subcompact," says Paul Seredynski, senior editor at Edmunds Auto Observer. That way, he adds, "Honda can get back to being cool and stop trying to be Toyota."

BURGER KING

THE PROBLEM It's a distant No. 2 to McDonald's.
TAKE THIS RISK Ditch the cheap-and-fast model and add some luxe, says David Chang, owner of Momofuku restaurants. "Take all the millions out of the marketing budget to improve the infrastructure. If they pay the employees better, contract the menu, focus on quality meats and ingredients, source local farms, and cook it right, word of mouth will bring customers in."

NBA

THE PROBLEM If the lockout leads to a disjointed season, many NBA fans are likely to lose interest.
TAKE THIS RISK Shorten the season--permanently. "Players start to show strain around the All-Star Break, with injuries and apathy setting in," says Bethlehem Shoals, NBA writer for Bleacher Report. With fewer games, the focus could shift to "power matchups designed to give fans a real preview of the playoffs."

QUIZNOS

THE PROBLEM Falling revenue, shuttered stores, and a debt that reportedly tops $850 million.
TAKE THIS RISK Ditch the costly brick-and-mortar shops and "go Mr. Softee-style--turn all the restaurants into food trucks," says Daniel Delaney, host of the web series What's This Food?! "Take orders from the web and have one guy toasting while the other's truckin'. Hot delivery. Curbside."

HARMONIX MUSIC SYSTEMS

THE PROBLEM The firm behind Guitar Hero hasn't done much since, and consumers are losing interest in disc-based video games.
TAKE THIS RISK Spend whatever it takes to create the world's first immersive shoot-'em-up, where gamers move their bodies to take cover. "It's bound to happen," says Marc Nesbitt, a former video-game producer, "and Harmonix has a head start with Kinect technology."

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9 Comments

  • Joy Miller

    Quiznos was always another Subway but not as good.  Get better!!!  Make a fun and inviting atmoshere instead of the stoic corporate look.  Go with healthy..fresh...and really delicious.   Great salads...homemade soups...real whole grain bread...fresh veggies and meats (a little fresh spinach goes a long way!)  and every month a unique sandwich...lot's of healthy drink choices.  A step above what already exists. 

  • Patrick Sauer

    I had a feeling the Harmonix piece might lead to more feedback than say, Quinznos. (Will nobody stand up for the brick and mortar home of the Toasty Torpedos!)

    Harmonix is in better shape than the other companies on this list, but they've had their recent problems, be it the sale price (

    http://dthin.gs/oyi6cF) or layoffs ( http://aol.it/dPSWyn ). Rock Band is still a revenue-generator, but certainly not like it was, and the Beatles version never lived up to expectations. Harmonix needs to lead the way again, which they have done with Dance Central.

    This article though is about big theoretical out-of-the-box ideas, even if they aren't likely to come to fruition (like say B&N getting into the benefactor business.) Advising Harmonix to make a Dance Central sequel is obvious, we were looking for game-changer ideas. And to me, the idea of an immersive shoot 'em-up sounds awesome, a literal changing of the games. Never played the Japanese arcade version, is it cool?

    I'd love to hear if anyone has any other big ideas for Harmonix or any company. If you could make a suggestion to a CEO....

    Thanks for reading a complete moron.

  • Sheena Medina

    I'm with Patrick on this one. A lot of people here are so quick to point out the flaws in the proposal for Harmonix, but this knee jerk reaction only points out your short-sightedness. Hasn't anyone here ever been in a brainstorming session
    where you're asked to come up with the worst ideas to solve a problem
    and then deconstruct what makes them so horrible? You find that the
    ideas aren't really that horrible. And it frees you to think more
    creatively about the solution. And that's the point of this article-- of course the solutions aren't all going to be perfect right away, but the point is to THINK BIG. It baffles me that so many people are so quick to dismiss this entire post simply because they disagreed with one thing, and then not even offer alternate solutions in the comments (only complaints)! Come on people. I think you can do better.

  • kitlerc

    Ahh, but the main difference with the 'suggestion' for Harmonix is that it suggests that they change the very product they sell.

    Barnes & Noble: Sell books -> invest money in writers so books can keep coming
    Honda: Make ars -> make unique cars
    Burger King: Make burgers (and other fast food) -> make better burgers
    NBA: Play basketball -> play LESS basketball
    Quiznos: Subs in buildings -> subs taken to you!
    Harmonix: Make music games -> make a shooting game.

    See the difference? You might as well have said "Hey Quiznos? You know what your problem is? You're selling sandwiches, but you need to be selling tacos instead." Or maybe "Hey NBA, you should start doing indoor football instead, people like football."

    To comment on a different suggestion, just to change the subject a little, the idea for a Quiznos truck actually sounds like a good idea, especially if they can cater to business centers or hotels that aren't particularly close to a lot of food options. However in a smaller town like mine, neither the food or the price is the main problem, it's the people hired to work there. To put it bluntly, the people that work at the local Quiznos are just down right creepy.

  • DinosaurPizza

    "firm behind Guitar Hero"

    Harmonix made two guitar hero games in 2005 and 2006. Neversoft has been making games up until last year where they cancelled the franchise.

    "hasn't done much"

    Harmonix released Dance Central 2 one week ago. That's a brand new game that's a sequel to a very popular game they released one year ago.

    "losing interest in disc-based video games"

    Then the entire video game industry would be in crisis, not hamronix

    "Spend whatever it takes to create the world's first immersive shoot 'em-up where gamers move their bodies to take cover"

    This is a terrible idea. Although its hilarious that they mentioned that Harmonix is aware of Kinect but doesn't mention why they're familiar with it (I.E., the game they released a week ago).

    This is article is not good.

  • Joseph Broseph

    The game where 'gamers move their body to take cover' already exists and has for years. It's a Japanese arcade game, but can be found in various arcades in the US as well.Bad article is bad.

  • Timmy

    What an ignorant column.  You really couldn't bother to spend literally 90 seconds Googling who Harmonix is and what products they have released?  

    The notion that someone who has almost zero knowledge of a particular company's products is going to give them advice on their next product is the worst kind of business writing.

  • zc

    Hasn't done much? Besides Rock Band and Dance Central and VidRhythm? Whoever wrote this is a complete moron. 

  • kyle

    This is rather ignorant regarding Harmonix. Since leaving the Guitar Hero series, they have released Rock Band 1, 2, and 3 as well as Beatles Rock Band, Green Day Rock Band, and Lego Rock Band. They've also released Dance Central, one of the best Kinect titles, with Dance Central 2 coming out soon.