Lesson from a Dog Treat

Incentives just need to be simple

The classic dog treat… the Milk Bone.

The Backstory

I walk up and down the stairs to and from my basement several times a day… it’s where my home office and puzzle area sit waiting for work.

I typically don’t pay too much attention to what’s at the bottom of the stairs… that is, until I need to move the stuff. That got me thinking… why do we have this stuff in the first place. Why isn’t it put away? I didn’t get much further in my thought process, because I quickly got interrupted with a surprising find.

I came across a box of Milk Bone dog treats. Why do we have SO MANY little bones for two little dogs? Curse you Sam’s Club and your bulk products!… and bless you.

The Object

Turns out, giving the dogs a Milk Bone treat is a great way to get the dogs to come into the garage at night to be safe and warm.

My daughters give them one every day, because the dogs love the treats and are incentivized to come inside to get one.

The treats themselves are pretty simple, but what’s fascinating is how simple things can become so complicated.

Companies have to make money; I get that, but sometimes, the core product that made the company successful should be left alone to continue to do its thing… make money. Too often greed takes over and exponential return isn’t satisfying anymore. Silliness!

Just take a look at the history of the Milk Bone in the video below. Check out how many flavors and types have been developed over the years. Did dogs really need all these?

For over 109 years… https://www.milkbone.com/about-us/our-story

Don’t get me wrong… Milk Bone has a cool story (and it’s awesome they made a video and timeline of it all). And…

Every organization needs to innovate without becoming complacent.

It is interesting that the milestone dates on Milk Bone’s website change from product innovations in the early years to cultural and political topics, like helping the environment, in later years. It’s not a coincidence… they need us to feel good about buying the product… and spend more money.

The Lesson

A few topics have been briefly presented that can help us begin to scratch the surface in learning something from the classic dog treat.

  • The dog treat’s purpose is for incentive or reward… getting dogs to do what we want them to do and be happy about it. I think this works great for teams and team work, which is why team building should be the focus first — before any major process changes.
People drive change; if the team fails, the change fails.
  • The dog treat’s purpose is to make money for the company who made the product… getting people to buy the product, cover expenses, and profit. I’m for driving revenue higher and higher, but I’m also a champion for slow growth… not exponential growth. Exponential growth is not sustainable, is short-sighted, and more often than not, leads to failure.

The Take-aways…

  • Things you forgot you had could still have great value.
  • Incentives don’t need to be complicated.
  • People are greedy to the point of unrealistic expectations.
  • The reasons why people buy haven’t changed, but the message has become more emotional than logical.

If we truly understood all of the work and studies that went into the success of the Milk Bone dog treat, I’m sure we would appreciate the product more and say those little bones should be twice as expensive.

Written by Shaun Holloway.