June 2014

Forget about the football, what about the shoes?

Published on: 26 Jun 2014

The football World Cup is well under way and as well as being the world’s leading football fiesta it’s also one of the top events for sportswear sponsors to showcase their goods.

As an England supporter I haven’t been overly impressed with England’s attempt to save hotel costs by minimizing their stay in Brazil and Luis Suarez showing his favourite food is Italian wasn’t the most sporting action I’ve witnessed.

329839One area of the event which has been interesting though is the competition between the big sportswear brands.

Perhaps the most eye catching footwear has been Puma’s new evoPOWER Tricks 2014 boots which feature two different colours – pink for the right foot and blue for the left foot.

Ignoring the question as to whether the 2015 version will feature blue for the right foot and pink for the left foot, it certainly has raised awareness of Puma boots during the event.

The Puma company has an interesting history.

In the 1920s in Germany, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler set up a shoe making business but soon fell out with each other and went their separate ways.

Adolf (Adi) Dassler kept the original company but renamed it Adidas (named after his first name and part of his surname) whilst Rudolf left and set up Puma.

Whilst Adidas and Puma were set up by brothers, the other big player at the finals, Nike has an altogether different background.

Nike, was established in 1962 by Phil Knight, who incidentally was an accounting major, and is one of the best companies in the world in terms of getting its marketing just right.

They have a long history of having a certain flair for marketing. After the 1972 Olympic marathon trials for example they proudly announced that 4 of the top 7 finishers had worn Nike shoes. They neatly ignored the fact that the top 3 were wearing Adidas shoes!

Students of strategy papers will be aware of Michael Porter’s generic strategies whereby organisations compete either by way of cost leadership or differentiation (see our ExPress notes for a refresher if you’re unsure about these terms).

It can be argued however that Nike take the best of both of these approaches.

They focus on the differentiation side of things by investing heavily in R&D, design and marketing. As a result they can charge a premium for being “different”.

On the cost leadership side of things then Nike use external manufacturers rather than internal production. This means that they can source their manufacturing via approved suppliers which they will select for each product on the basis of the best price offered by these suppliers. It enables them to shop around for the best price whilst still guaranteeing the quality.

All in all a very smart business model but I’m sure that fans of the World Cup are more interested in the goals that are scored with the football boots rather than the business models behind them.

An easy mistake to make?

Published on: 21 Jun 2014

You may laugh but would you really be able to spot the difference between a fully grown 180 kg gorilla and a middle aged man dressed in a gorilla suit?

gorillaNow, whilst most of you are probably thinking to yourself that yes, you would be able to tell the difference, unfortunately for an employee of Loro Parque Zoo on the Spanish Island of Tenerife, the Zoo vet didn’t spot the difference.

Any business should ensure that procedures are in place to minimise danger to members of the public. In the case of zoos this includes having practice drills to ensure that if an animal escapes the staff know what to do and have practiced it beforehand.

The zoo started a practice drill where a 35 year old zoo employee was dressed as a gorilla. He then “escaped” from an area of the zoo and the alarms were raised. Unfortunately for the “man dressed in a gorilla costume” the zoo had told all the people involved in the emergency drill that it was a practice except the zoo vet who as soon as he heard the alarm sounds grabbed his tranquiliser gun and proceeded to shoot the zoo employee with a tranquiliser which had been designed to knock out a 180 kg gorilla.

The zoo employee was rushed to hospital where he was treated and fortunately made a full recovery.

Somehow I doubt whether he will volunteer to dress as a gorilla at the next practice.

Getting the wrong measurements can be expensive.

Published on: 18 Jun 2014

In any project it’s important to take a step back and check that important things haven’t been missed.

platformThe French train operator SNCF has just discovered that 2,000 new trains it had ordered are too wide for some of their platforms. The trains cost €15 billion.

The error arose because the national rail operator RFF gave the wrong platform dimensions to the train company SNCF. The national rail operators measured a number of platforms but all the platforms they measured were built within the last 30 years.

Unfortunately, they didn’t measure any platforms which were built more than 30 years ago as these were designed for slimmer trains and are too wide for the new trains to pass through.

It must have been a stressful day in the office when the mistake was identified and the solution to the error will be far from simple. Over 1,000 platforms will need to be adjusted before the new trains can become fully operational.

The total cost of amending the platforms will be more than €50 million.

Would you perform an operation on yourself and remove your own appendix?

Published on: 15 Jun 2014

Delegating work has lots of benefits.

For example, if you delegate work you can focus your attention on more important areas and for the person receiving the delegated work it can be an opportunity to learn new skills and to prove themselves. Ultimately it can result in increased productivity for the organisation as a whole.

surgeon_operatingI would argue that some things though should always be delegated to others and this includes performing a medical operation on yourself.

Unfortunately for Dr Rogozov, delegating an operation was not possible and he was faced with the somewhat awkward prospect of having to operate on himself and remove his appendix.

The amazing story of a Soviet surgeon who was on an Antarctic research trip in the 1960s has been released by the British Medical Journal.

The task of the research team was to build a new Antarctic Polar base and after 9 weeks the new base was open. As expected, their ship was frozen in so they had to spend the winter at the base.

Dr Rogozov was the doctor that was with the team to deal with any medical problems that they had.

Unfortunately he was the one that was taken ill and developed Appendicitis. He had no choice but to operate on himself and an extract from his diary is as follows:

8 May 1961

“I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders—after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time—I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them . . . I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin.

Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and . . .

“At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix . . .

“And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.”

Wow! That’s what I call a tough day’s work.

If you ever feel a bit stressed that you have to do your own photocopying because there’s nobody to delegate it to then think yourself lucky that you’re not having to sharpen your scalpel and prepare yourself for an operation.

The full story can be found here at the British Medical Journal although be aware that some of the photos are not for the squeamish.

Listen – your pets can make their own purchase decisions…

Published on: 08 Jun 2014

Who makes the purchase decisions in your household? Is it you, your husband or wife, or perhaps your dog?

Nestle, one of the world’s largest producers of pet food recently undertook an interesting marketing approach by producing adverts aimed directly at the pet as opposed to the owner.

TV commercials screened on Austrian television used high frequency tones which could be heard by dogs but not humans.

According to Anna Rabanus, Brand Manager of Beneful for Nestle Purina PetCare Germany, they “wanted to create a TV commercial that our four-legged friends can enjoy and listen to, but also allow the owner and dog to experience it together.”

Now, whilst it’s not clear whether that many dogs had read the TV listings to know that the adverts were going to be on or in fact whether the dogs themselves were already engrossed in the latest episode of Animal Cops Houston on another channel and missed the adverts, it certainly was a novel approach to advertising by Nestle.

This wasn’t the first innovative pet food advertising that Nestle had undertaken though.

Last year, Nestle Purina launched an award winning “Stop sniffing” campaign that enabled dogs to sniff the scent of Beneful dog food from special posters on advertising boards in German towns and cities whilst out for a walk with their owners.

Although not related to Nestle, a few years ago there was another advertising campaign which utilised the sniffing habits of dogs.

Small posters scented with… (let’s just say a smell produced by dogs that other dogs find attractive) were put on lampposts at ground level.

Whilst the dogs stopped to sniff these posters there was a bigger poster at human eye level advertising the Animal Planet TV channel which was aimed at the dog owner that was stood there waiting for their dog to finish sniffing.

Luckily for the advertising production team the smell that was put on the small poster to attract the dog was artificially created in a laboratory.

Is it a character from Star Wars? Is it a new form of transport in the latest James Bond movie? No, it’s…

Published on: 05 Jun 2014

… a great example of the marketing mix.

For students of strategy papers within the various exams the concept of the marketing mix and the 4Ps should be well known.

Philips, the global electronics giant with its headquarters in the Netherlands has just released a new clothes iron that well and truly adjusts the “Product” part of the 4Ps so that it is aimed directly at men.

They saw a gap in the market whereby they felt that men wanted a robust, “heavy duty tool like” iron. As a result they have just launched a more masculine looking iron by the code name of the GC4490.

As well as being stealth fighter black in colour, the GC4490 also has the same style of heavy duty protective case that expensive power tools come in. The product is clearly directed at men but what about the remaining three Ps of the 4Ps?

Well, in terms of the “P – Promotion” side of things, some of the promotional pictures make it look like a bit like a Star Wars fighter plane which will no doubt make ironing more exciting!

The “P – Price” is Euro 79.99 which is towards the top end of prices for irons. Some would argue that this must be justified on the basis of the “fighter plane technology” that was possibly included in the technical specs of the GC4490?

As regards, the “P – Place” then should we expect to see the GC4490 being sold at your local builders merchants?

Leaving aside the sexual politics debate, you have to admire the great use of the 4Ps by Philips to exploit a gap in the clothes iron market.

The ExP Group