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Archive for July, 2010


Jargon Watch: Gruen Transfer

July 27, 2010 | Written by

Put simply the Gruen Transfer is when the confusion of a shopping experience sets in wearing down our determination, changing the consumer from a destination shopper on a mission to purchase a particular item and instead turn into an impulse shopper who wanders through the stores.

Gruen Tranfer is named after Victor Gruen who invented the modern shopping complex: the Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota. The delicious irony of it all is that the Austrian was a committed socialist in his younger days. This is cross-posted from my personal blog.

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What is a brand manager any more?

July 15, 2010 | Written by

This post sprang out of a Twitter conversation that was started by Graham Brown. Graham felt that the term brand manager no longer had meaning in the modern marketing world. But what to replace it with?

This threw up a number of related questions that I decided to attempt and start to answer here.

brand manager?

So what is a brand? Even answering this simple question incorporated a number of different facets. It is not only about physical items and customer experience, but also about the perceived origins of the brand from Häagen-Dazs faux European name, to the precision engineering of German car-makers, Swiss watch manufacturers and the fine tailoring of Italian men’s suits.

The brand is also affected by context. Audi is a luxury car brand, but for many years in China it has been associated instead as the vehicle of choice for government officials rather than dynamic entrepreneurs or the rich and famous.

I remember going to a mobile phone exhibition a number of years ago and was shocked to see a Japanese lady decked out in a well-tailored suit of Burberry check. In Japan, Burberry was seen as a sophisticated luxury brand, however my perception from experience in the UK was the Burberry is passé through its association with football casuals and copycat ‘townies’.

It could even be the absence of something. A good example of this is the absence of modern farming chemicals in organic food has created an artificial perception of improved health benefits for these products.

So what parts of a brand does a brand manager manage? The design and delivery of their product or service and elements of the marketing mix, such as promotion, distribution and reputation management. But many of those items are in some ways out of the brand manager’s control. You can distribute a product but the way it is presented and sold is often outside your control, you can create advertising but the way stakeholders interact and interpret it is out of your control.

The are things that a brand can do:

  • Coach – providing help and advice to get the most out of a service and celebrate success
  • Pathfinder: a great example of pathfinding is Innocent Drinks and the way that they handled their involvement with McDonalds
  • Curator – highlighting community knowledge and ensuring that it is organised and accessible to all. I was involved in working with colleagues in a former role doing this for HTC through a wiki for their smartphones
  • Community leader – creating partner alliances (for instance Apple’s app store for the iPhone), investor in products to meet the community’s need, facilitate co-creation with consumers (MyStarbucksIdea) and crowdsourcing tasks with the community (TfL flickr pool)

This has an effect on strategy moving it from a traditional western command and control style business strategy to an emergent strategy based on company thinking, consumer dialogue and behaviour combined with the dynamics of the market.

So a brand manager no longer manages but influences ‘a brand wrangler’ who tries to steer the direction of the consumers, but can’t necessarily stop stampedes in different directions. It is often easier to steer the company than steer the brand. This was originally posted over at my personal blog.

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Jargon Watch: nearsourcing

July 5, 2010 | Written by

Due to increased shpping costs: the cost of containers, fuel, insurance, improved worker’s conditions in China and increasing costs for lines of credit some are wondering whether manufacturing jobs will be located closer to the market for a number of products. This move back to local manufacturing has a name: nearsourcing according the New York Times.

Some companies have been very smart in product design and process engineering so have managed to nearsource rather than outsource, a great example of this is the shoe company New Balance and hi-fi company Schiit.

Whether this will become a real trend though is a bigger question, many post-industrial countries like the UK have their manufacturing eco-system so hollowed out that they couldn’t take advantage of nearsourcing if they wanted to as they no longer have the knowhow, staff, plant, electrical grid, railways and base industries to take advantage of it.

If one thinks about the UK, the government had to give 50m GBP to INEOS in 2003 in order to keep chlorine manufacturing going in the UK. Chlorine is one of the basic chemical building blocks required for modern industry and very hard to transport due to its aggressive chemical nature. Could the UK become a shadow of what it used to be from an industrial point-of-view? I don’t think so.

This was cross-posted from my personal blog.

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Is the paywall worth it?

July 2, 2010 | Written by

Today sees the disappearance of The Times and The Sunday Times behind the dreaded paywall. An introductory offer of £1 per week for the first 30 days, and £2 per week after that is the only way you’ll get to see what both news sites have to offer. But how likely are we to fork out for content, and will we really miss anything if we don’t?

The staff at The Times seem very confident – at a recent PR Newswire Meet the Media event Tom Whitwell, Assistant Editor of The Times with responsibility for online, saw no reason why the paywall would turn people away from the site. Tom suggested that peoples’ attitudes towards paying for content have changed drastically in recent years; people no longer have qualms about paying £9.99 for The Times iPad app or spending a cheeky 59p on the latest version of Angry Birds for their iPhone. What will attract paying readers to the site, according to Tom, is its wealth of specialised content and the feeling of being part of a closer relationship between the reader and writer. I particularly liked his comparison of paying for content to watching live music – would you rather see your favourite band for free at Wembley, or pay a small price to see them in a smaller, intimate venue?

But not everyone agrees with Tom. The Guardian recently published the result of two surveys into reader attitudes towards print and digital media, The first, from Ipsos, saw a meagre 11% of online adults stating they would choose to access their news digitally and only 3% saying they would opt for a monthly online subscription. An overwhelming 77% said they had no interest whatsoever in paying for news content online. The second survey, compiled by YouGov, had similar results with 83% of respondents saying they would refuse to pay for online content.

Quite contrasting views I’m sure you’ll agree, and as The Times is the first non-specialist UK newspaper to head behind the paywall, we have no real comparison to show who is right. I feel that there will need to be something pretty spectacular on the site to encourage me to pay – what about you?

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Good Values = Good Business

July 1, 2010 | Written by

Earlier this week, I was at a lecture at the RSA where Sky’s Adam Boulton was in conversation with Stephen Green, chairman of international banking group HSBC. They had both just returned from the G20/G8, which provided a backdrop to discussions on financial turbulence, money and morality. The presentation was especially interesting as it took a long-term historical view: King Edward III was noted as the first British sovereign to default on his debts; Franciscan thinking from the middle ages on poverty versus wealth was quoted; the ebb and flow of world trade was examined. You can watch the RSA’s video of the talk here. Well worth a look.


Mr Green was questioned on his book, Good Value: Building a Better Life in Business. He gave his perspective on the current macroeconomic climate, talking about a clear rebalancing to the East. He says ‘emerging markets’ is a misnomer, preferring the re-emergence of markets. China was the world’s largest economy until 1820 – before the growth of super powers – and was the dominant economic power in 18 of the last 20 centuries. Over a generation, he says, we will see the rise of the ‘new G20’ states, and the relative marginalisation of the G7/G8.

However, he is positive about the opportunities for business offered by this rebalancing. Companies that plan responsible, sustainable business strategies, in tune with the cultural needs of growing markets will thrive. Real CSR will have real impact.

As a spokesperson for the global banking community, Stephen Green is impressive. Highly engaging and authoritative, without a hint of arrogance. He expertly batted away questions inviting comment on BP’s current problems and focused on broad issues of strategy and morality. As an ordained Anglican priest, his views on ethics in business are especially interesting. From a reputation manager’s perspective, he is a valuable asset. A thought leader with original, coherent thoughts and a distinctive view of the world. Good value.

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