Michael Jackson's Leaning Shoes – A Business Lesson.

Michael Jackson is known for a lot of things. His music, his humanitarian efforts, his plastic surgery and mysterious skin disease…but few people know that he was also an inventor.

Seriously. And there’s a vital business lesson in it.

Peter Drucker said it best…“since the purpose of business is to generate customers, only two functions do this: marketing and innovation. All other business functions are expenses.”

Marketing and Innovation are the most important skills and focus of any business. They are the only functions that truly allow a business to perform it’s purpose. And there’s a strong relationship between the two.

See, if you’ve got nothing new or different to say to the market… you’re simply adding to the noise. People ignore you. No one talks about you, so no one buys from you. Innovation gives you something to say besides “Product X For Sale… Hurry While Stocks Last!”.

Mike Jackson invented a shoe that allowed him to lean at a 45 degree angle, at will. It’s what he used in the making of his Smooth Criminal Video (you remember it right?) Imagine what an invention like this, did for Michael Jackson’s brand? It re-enforced to us that he was the best. He could do moves no one else could do. He was the king!


Innovation creates differentiation – and that’s a lot of what marketing is all about – giving people a reason to both buy and then sell you to their friends, business partners and relatives.

Actually Jackson did a lot of that sort of thing throughout his career -Remember the monsters in thriller? No one had ever seen a music video like that!

So what’s the alternative to innovating?

Copying. Duplicating your competitors. It feels safe, it makes sense, but it will kill  weaken your brand, even kill your business.

What happens when your business looks like the leader in the industry? People simply go to the leader. They’ve no reason to risk dealing with a smaller, less known and trusted entity.

What happens when your business is easy to copy? They copy you. And over time, they get good at it and they start to look just like you. Next thing you know, no one remembers or cares that you’re the original brand.

Innovation is the cure for this. You don’t have to invent a new pair of shoes. Small innovations everyday will often do the trick. A better way to serve here, a faster way to deliver your products, a better working widget and nicer looking image.

And every time you do that, you’ve got something new or better to say to the market. And they’ve got another reason to spread the word of mouth.

Yours for smarter business

Max Soutter

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