Vertical Villains

· blog,marketing

What makes a good Bond villain? Is it the lair? The harem of subordinates? Access to infinite resources? Or is it the villainous speech they always give – somewhere just past the halfway point of the movie – which explains the evil plot and shows us all a glimpse of the mad man trying to destroy the world? The speech, of course, runs just long enough for the good guys to rally to Bond’s location and save the day.


The answer is all of the above.


So, how then do our real-world Bond-level billionaires, baddies, and executives compare? I mean, that's on-trend, isn’t it? Wait for someone to be very successful, then cut them down in every way possible. Nothing sells news like saltiness and raging at the makers of the "machine", even if that same machine is the one that built the device you're able to use to vent your all-important opinions. Isn't it great being a Melbournian...


Passive-aggression aside, let’s get back to this comparison between Musk, Bezos, Cook, Berg’, Igor (that’s Disney), the no-name that runs Google, and whoever is currently running Netflix. Assessing these guys, we can start to see some patterns.


Thanks to a range of factors, they have all built enormous amounts of wealth for themselves and their shareholder's. But since the theme of my little parade is all about “logistics being the centre of everything”, let’s look at how Supply Chain has helped our faction of non-fiction villains-in-waiting.


The central concept at play here is called Vertical Integration. A vertically integrated supply chain is when a single company owns several different (if not all) parts of the supply process.


It’s like a Milk Bar owning the Milk Bar, the Milk Bottling Plant that supplies the Milk Bar, the Dairy Farm that supplies the Bottling Plant, the Wheat Farm that supplies the Dairy Farm, and the Trucking Company that moves stuff between all of them. One business owning and operating multiple sections of the supply chain. This is different from how an actual milk bar works - where they focus on managing their suppliers, their shop and trying not to go out of business because of endless lockdowns.


Now, depending on how much money someone has to complain about, another term for verticle integration can be "monopoly". I know a monopoly is about not having competitors in a given market, and it’s a bit of a stretch to compare one companies’ dominance to an entire market being monopolized by the said company. But I think for the sake of argument, here it works. Plus, my joke at the start of this paragraph worked better.


Let’s look at the evidence to my claim of mainstream monopolies.

  • Apple 

locks you into the iPhone in its own ten ways because Apple owns the design, the software, the hardware, the shop you buy the phone from, the Beats headphones you connect to your iPhone, as well as the App ecosystem - because how dare you to install something they don't want you to. They also control the ability to repair your device, I mean, you could go to somewhere that's not Apple to fix your phone, but you run the risk of triggering the built-in self-destruct sequence.


  • Tesla 

builds the car, the batteries, the software that runs on them, and the battery charging stations, and they too won't allow anyone else to service their devices (notice how I said devices and not cars...). 


That's the equivalent of Ford selling you a Mustang and then telling you that the only way you can own said car is if you buy it from Ford, service it only with Ford, use Only Ford-Premium-98-Octane fuel in the tank, and then only service it with Ford. Plus, take only every chance you get to talk about how "amazing and revolutionary" your Ford is.


  • SpaceX 

has built its entire business model around owning or developing large sections of its rocket building process. Compared to NASA, who use thousands of suppliers for literally everything (which is why their rockets are way more expensive). Blue Origin do the same - do you really think Bezos would have allowed the team to use off-the-shelf components when launching himself into space?


  • Amazon 

owns their online store, the hosting company that runs the website which facilitates your purchase (AWS), and all the logistical elements (like trucks, planes, and warehouses) that deliver your goods. In some cases, they even own the product you just bought (because why not use the data from your platform to undercut your clients to make more money - how else will they pay for new lairs). I hear that they are even looking to own the power plants used to supply their lai-facilities.


  • Google 

runs their website, a suite of apps, and the data centres which host all of the above. As well as all of the engineers that run it - and they too are looking at buying the power plants supplying their facilities.


  • Disney boa

owns every significant media franchise you can think of, from Star Wars to Marvel. They own the content, the Disney+ distribution service, the theme park you go to when you want to fly a Millenium Falcon, and the cruise ship line you can take to get to Disneyland. I wonder how long it'll be before they buy movie theatres and own that part of things too?


  • After making streaming mainstream, 

Netflix realized they could make a lot more money by creating their own content – instead of buying it in complicated and expensive licensing deals. Granted, most of this Netflix exclusive content is a bit like the Home Brand section of a supermarket. It’s everything you need but nothing you want.


I think I've highlighted my point. All of these companies own large sections of their supply chains, which is both good and bad, depending on how your look at things.


Suppose someone told you that your local Milk Bar is working exclusively with local farmers and produce suppliers, partnering with them or straight out buying farms to develop their vertically integrated supply chain. You'd probably praise it for being ethical and admire how much more control the Milk Bar owner now has over product quality. But if Amazon expands its network of warehouses for literally the same reason, it's assaulted as being "anti-competitive"... I don't really have an answer here; I just think the hypocrisy needs to be highlighted.


Let’s go back to the checklist. In every single example above, there is a lair called a head office. A harem call employees desperate to keep their jobs. Access to infinite resources, which you can use to do anything you want (like launch yourself into space). The only thing that’s really missing is the villainous speech.


I think I can help with that. I think that these guys could outsource the delivery of their speech to me because I'm convinced that I could excellently deliver (see what I did there) a terrifying and vibrantly villainous speech. Not just because I have the voice for it but because – as per the shit-canning above – there’s much evidence that I'm erratic, and I will genuinely be able to find a problem with pretty much anything. That’s not the by-product of some horrific childhood trauma. That’s the by-product of being Polish.


You’d think there's no market for this service, but I beg to differ because these real-life wannabe baddies desperately lack the skills to deliver the final piece to their world domination puzzle.


Musk needs help because his normal talking sounds like someone dialling into the internet in 1995.


Zuckerberg can only function in public if his programmers use that dial-up internet to upload a blank-faced speech provided by Facebook's PR department.


Cook is also a perfect customer because he knows he doesn’t have the same impact on people as Jobs. But unfortunately, no villainous speech will work on Apple fans because they are already indoctrinated in the Apple way. So much so that they will believe anything, no matter how ridiculous. Just look at "oh, you don’t need a charger or a headphone jack, but congratulations, you can now buy these extensions that give you a headphone jack or an ability to charge your phone for only $99 - each".


It won’t be Google, Disney, or Netflix because their executive ranks lack character, i.e., their marketing team haven’t promoted a single CEO to be the centre of fame (or blame). Which is pretty sloppy if you ask me, how do they expect to pump up their share price on a Thursday?


Bezos is the only one left, and he would be great because of that laugh. It’s a laugh that insists to you that no, there’s not a single Bond floating around in my underwater lair (that also has an aquarium in it?)… there’s six.


I can see this working; I could do my speech, and then he could do the laugh to corroborate everything that’s just been said.


So, Mr Bezos, should this reach you, let’s have a conversation about your end game because I’m the guy that can help you sell it.