Do you have to be anti-change to be pro-business?

A few months ago, I heard an interview with one of the leading metal baseball bat manufacturers. They were lobbying hard against regulations that would require little league players to use wood bats.

Today, Chris point us to this story about emissions. The car makers continue to lobby hard, or even sue, over emission rules. Wendy’s, as previously discussed, is working hard against a rule in New York requiring they post calorie counts. It’s common wisdom that government regulation is bad for business, and especially bad is regulation that requires change.

I don’t get it.

A few years ago, the FTC changed the law about how wide apart the bars in cribs for children had to be. Wide spaces between bars end up strangling kids and breaking arms. The law only applied to home cribs, which meant that hospital cribs weren’t covered. Hard Manufacturing, my favorite hospital crib company, took the regulation to heart and alerted every hospital in the country that the cribs they were using weren’t deemed safe for home use… so why use them in a hospital? What do you think happened to crib sales? It was a huge few years as the cribs were replaced (and the kids ended up safer).

Wendy’s did the best when they were growing with the launch of salads. Not when they were copying McDonald’s over burgers. Change is their friend.

If I were a leading bat company, I’d formulate a ‘slower’ metal bat that would be just as safe as wood… and unbreakable too. What a marketing coup! Then I’d lobby like crazy for change.

If I were Ford Motor, I’d lobby as hard as possible for the strictest emissions regime in the world. If you’re losing the game, change the rules. Start over. Be the only major car company to produce 100% zpev or hybrid cars.

Business as usual is almost always lousy marketing, because there isn’t a lot of room for growth. The opportunities kick in when an external force requires a brand new story, when consumers are choosing to pay attention because they’ve got no other choice.

It’s easy to argue against change. It disheartens shareholders and even employees. But external change is the most likely lever of growth, because it puts you back on the agenda of attention.