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08/18/2010 Can We Stop Growing?

This month's news about Magic Hat Brewery's sale to North American Breweries was a shock to us Vermonters. Magic Hat is one of my favorite brands, favorite beers and employs some of my favorite people. Now this original and quirky company risks losing its local control and connection, through its sale to an (to me) unknown entity. I don't really know any of the details of the how and why of the sale, but from what I've read online and off, it seems that Magic Hat's purchase of Pyramid Breweries on the West Coast had something to do with this.

If that's so, then the need for growth may have resulted in loss of control.

This isn't unique: Ben & Jerry's faced a similar issue almost a decade ago which led to their sale to Unilever. I hope that Magic Hat retains some of the same cultural control and freedom that Ben & Jerry's was able to keep.

But this episode and the relentless pursuit of corporate growth witnessed in quarterly earnings reports has me wondering:

When is enough enough? Does business size and growth matter more than quality and innovation? On the consumer side, do we have to keep on spending more and more so that our whole capitalist economy doesn't collapse?

I'm not sure this is really a marketing question, unless it pertains to a strategy of customer satisfaction vs. customer acquisition. It does tie into sustainability and business issues, though.

In today's economy, we should focus on quick, smart and connected rather than large, unwieldy, and generic. Just as major league baseball is trying to end its shameful steroids era, businesses should look to wean themselves from their adulation of unrestricted business growth hormones.

Smaller and even medium is sometimes better than big.



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