It’s not a Lamborghini it’s a Volkswagen…

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When it comes to cars, things used to be simple. Most brands were known for a certain type of car.

For example, Mercedes produced luxury limousine cars, Porsche produced sports cars, Toyota produced mid range cars and Land Rover made 4×4 off road cars.

But that was a while ago and things have changed dramatically within the car industry.

The famous Maserati sports car brand for example is working on the Maserati Kubang and as the photo shows it’s clearly not a low slung sports car.

It’s a 4×4 off-roader and whilst there’s a good chance that the only time it will actually go off road is when the owner parks on the pavement it’s definitely more 4×4 than sportscar.

So why the introduction of the new product? (For those of you studying the various strategy papers then why the product development in Ansoff’s Matrix?)

Well it seems that they are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Porsche whose off road Cayenne model has proved to be a best seller.

As well as introducing new types of cars the car industry has also seen a number of major conglomerates appear with some serious car brands within them.

When people used to talk about Volkswagen for example they were generally referring to the ubiquitous VW golf but the Volkswagen Group is now home to far more cars than VW cars.

The VW Group with its headquarters in Germany is the largest carmaker in Europe and nearly one in four new cars bought in Europe are VW Group cars.

So does this mean that 25% of the new cars have VW badges on them?

Far from it in fact as the following car brands are all part of the Volkswagen Group:

Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Scania, SEAT, Skoda and of course Volkswagen.

So all of the above car makes are in fact part of the VW group.

Now if you’re an executive working for the VW Group and were offered a company car which one would you choose.

Now let me think.

Bugatti or Lamborghini. Which one would I go for…

These boots are made for walking, or should that be, these boots are made for getting off quickly?

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Students of the “people papers” within the various professional exams should be aware of the joint responsibility for “health & safety” within an organization.

In other words, a number of legal systems around the world place the responsibility for health and safety on both the employer AND the employee.

Employers have various obligations such as providing safe equipment to use. For example, they should undertake regular electrical checking of any IT equipment that is used.

Employees’ duties include being responsible for their own health and safety and not acting in a manner that may endanger a colleague.

A product from Levi Strauss, the famous jeans and clothing company has a nice link to health & safety.

One of the styles of boots sold by Levis are based on the shoes that were worn by Californian railway workers in the 1800s. Their design is such that they are easy to get off. This enabled any railway worker that got his foot stuck in the tracks as a train was speeding towards him to get his boot off quickly so as to avoid being hit by the fast approaching train.

An early example of health & safety at work!

I wonder though how many people that buy these boots at the Levi’s stores work on the railways? Either way, it’s always nice to be able to easily kick off your boots after a hard day of chatting to friends!

Have a break. Have a fish and chip flavoured chocolate bar…

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Nestlé’s Kit Kat is one of the world’s best selling chocolate bars.

It is estimated that over 400 Kit Kat fingers are consumed every second worldwide and every 5 minutes enough Kit Kat fingers are produced to out stack the Eiffel Tower.

Whilst most people associate Kit Kat with its red wrapper alongside the classic wafer and chocolate taste, Nestlé actually segment the market rather nicely in a number of countries. They produce a range of flavours which are only available in certain countries according to local tastes. In simple terms they are dividing the market (segmenting) and then adjusting the marketing mix accordingly.

In Japan for example, Nestlé recently launched 19 new flavours. These flavours reflect the food specialities of certain districts and are only sold in these specific districts.

For example, you can buy a yubari melon flavour Kit Kat in the Hokkaido district, a strawberry cheesecake flavour in the Yokohama district and a cherry flavour one in the Yamagata district.

Different flavours are available in other countries (segments). For example, peanut butter flavour can be bought in Canada.

Now, originating from Scotland where my favourite dish was crispy cod and chips my obvious question to Nestlé is:

“When will a fish and chip flavoured Kit Kat be released in Scotland?”

I feel it’s only a matter of time so if any marketing executives from Nestlé are reading this then over to you…

You get a safe hotel and a great bed. The towels and TV will cost you extra but what about the toilet paper?

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The Tune Hotel chain has just opened up its first hotel in the UK. The chain already has 7 hotels in Malaysia and 2 in Indonesia and they claim they offer 5 star beds at 1 star prices.

Their policy is to offer the essentials that people look for in a hotel such as safety, cleanliness and comfortable beds whilst at the same time removing a number of “extras” that some customers don’t necessarily want.

With rooms starting at £35 it certainly offers great value for London hotels. It wouldn’t suit everyone’s taste though as some of the things that people take for granted at a hotel are not included in the standard price.

There are a number of optional extras that guests can purchase. A towel for example can be provided for £1.50 per stay whilst the use of a hairdryer will set you back £2. If you want to watch TV you’ll need to pay £3 a day.

If you’re the type of person that likes to take your own towel to a hotel or is relaxed about whether or not you wash then you could end up with a very cheap room.

Whilst this hotel wouldn’t be everyone’s “cup of tea” (incidentally there are no coffee or tea making facilities in the rooms) there will certainly be a market for people that only want a clean and safe hotel room to sleep in and are not bothered about the extras.

In the past we’ve blogged about the BMI Weymouth hospital that was adopting a differentiation approach to business. With Tunes Hotels adopting a hospitality industry equivalent to the low cost airline models of Easy Jet and Ryan Air, this is a great example of either a cost leadership approach or Bowman’s no-frills strategy.

Guests can rest assured though that toilet paper is included in the price and is not an optional extra.

So what made me think of the marketing mix in the shower this morning?

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I’m lucky enough to be teaching in Asia at the moment. The students are great and I’m convinced they will pass their exams (if any of them are reading this then good luck in the exam!)

shower-headI’m staying at a lovely hotel and this morning in the shower I was reminded of marketing and the 4 Ps. The shower gel that is provided by the hotel is a well known international brand and I’ve bought it myself before.

What was different about it though when comparing the product (one of the 4 Ps) as purchased by the hotel and the product when purchased by me as an individual? The aroma and texture was exactly the same whereas the packaging was different. The key difference being how the packaging was designed in terms of the ease with which the gel could be poured.

Whether it was me but the version I personally bought appeared to dispense the gel a lot quicker than the hotel version. The hotel version took a lot more effort to get the gel out.

It’s maybe my imagination but if the design of the packaging that is on the public product is in fact different then it would encourage me to use it up quickly and buy a replacement. The packaging on the version that the hotel was using however would “discourage” guests from using a lot of gel and hence save the hotel the cost of replacing the gel as quickly as with the “standard public packaging”.

I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate policy of the shower gel manufacturer but if it wasn’t then maybe they should be considering it…

It may seem obvious that auditors sell audit opinions. But that’s like saying top restaurants only sell calories.

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I was having an interesting discussion with a group of students on Friday about a previous blog entry concerning “truth and fairness”.

It’s important to remember that an auditor does not make an absolute promise of accuracy.

The existence of audit risk means that a competent auditor will occasionally issue an audit opinion that proves to be inappropriate; most frequently because an unqualified opinion has been given when a qualified opinion would have been more appropriate.

We stake our reputation as a profession on perceived failures being very rare.  This means that we need to make sure we’re using tools that are up to the task.

In order to state whether financial statements give a true and fair view, it is necessary to have a system of GAAP that adequately defines truth and fairness.  It appears that the spectacular failure of Lehman Brothers in the USA happened as a result of window dressing financial statements, but which complied with US GAAP.

In a highly globalised market for audit services, perhaps we need to more explicitly state true and fair as true and fair (EU) and true and fair (USA)?  This is attempted already within ISA 700 by stating “..true and fair view in accordance with…[insert system of GAAP]”.

However, reputational damage happens to the profession globally as a result of perceived weaknesses in one nation’s system of GAAP.

Maybe we need to amend the wording of the audit opinion to make this clearer?

Do you ever feel tired at work? If so, then maybe you should…

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…wear a tie.

Japan is famous for the long hours that some of their office workers undertake but there is now an invention that will maybe ease things a little bit for hardworking office staff.

A new tie called “Nemuri Tie” is now on sale in Japan.

Nemuri Tie means pillow tie in Japanese and if the advertising is anything to go by it will enable hard pressed office workers to grab a quick sleep at their desk.

It’s a relatively simple design in that it’s a normal looking tie but it’s got an inflatable pillow in it which can be blown up to provide a handy place to rest your head when you fancy a nap.

It can be inflated when the user is wearing it so there’s no need to keep on taking your tie off and putting it back on every time you fancy a sleep.

The Sleep Tie is currently on sale for just under £20.

It’s not clear whether the tie is stain proof for anyone that dribbles in their sleep.

Surely everybody should get this benefit at work?

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Having a motivated team in the office is key to any business. As well as a salary component, a person’s remuneration package could include other benefits such as flexible working days, health insurance and access to an executive jet.

I mentioned access to an executive jet because surely all of you have got regular access to the company jet to whisk you off to exotic places??

Bloomberg has reported on a Philadelphia lawsuit by a former pilot of the fashion giant Abercrombie & Fitch’s corporate jet.

To cut a long story short, the 55 year old former employee is claiming that he was discriminated against when he was replaced by a younger man.

As will soon become apparent, my guess is that he may well have been replaced by not only a younger man but by a better looking younger man.

It’s been reported that according to papers submitted to the court, Michael Jeffries, the chief executive of Abercrombie & Fitch insisted that models were hired to work as stewards on the plane.

These models stewards had to be clean shaven and wear a uniform of Abercrombie & Fitch polo shirts, boxer briefs, jeans and flip flops.

As well as insisting on male models being stewards it also claimed that if Jeffries, his partner Matthew or any other guest made a request they should respond by saying “no problem”.

The other thing which I personally think should be a benefit provided to all employees is that Jeffries was also able to take his 3 dogs with him on the jet and there were even detailed instructions on the seating arrangements for his dogs when they travelled with him.

So there you go. The next time you’re discussing your annual review in the office feel free to say that as well as salary, healthcare, and flexible working arrangements you want access to the company jet with male or female models of your choice employed as stewards or stewardesses on the plane.

Oh, and don’t forget to insist on jet travel for your 3 dogs…

To be on the safe side, let’s play football without a ball…

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A school in the UK where a number of top footballers went to when they were children has banned leather footballs for health and safety reasons.

Malvern Primary school in Liverpool where England and Liverpool player Steven Gerrard studied has just announced that in order to reduce the risk of injury to children whilst playing football at break-times leather footballs will be replaced by foam sponge balls.

Whilst health and safety is vitally important for both private companies and public institutions such as schools there will be a lot of people who will feel that maybe this is a step too far.

When I was a child I played football at school with a leather ball and I must admit that I never really felt overly threatened by the ball or exposed to personal danger as a result of (sometimes) being in the close vicinity of it.

Also, if I’m honest I was so bad that I would stumble over the ball whether it was leather or foam.

The argument by the school is that as there are children from the age of 4 to 11 present then there could be a risk of injury if one of the younger ones was hit by a leather ball.

There is also the other view that playing football with a foam ball will discourage children from playing and hence undertaking some form of exercise which as a result could increase the health and safety issues from obesity in children.

Looking on the bright side though, when the 2030 World Cup Finals take place with a foam ball at least England will have a chance of getting past the first round. That is of course as long as it isn’t raining during the finals in case by then they are not allowed to play in the rain.

24% of you may have to do things differently…

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According to our IT guys, over the last 3 months 24% of you that visited our website used the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

The other main browsers used were Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Apple Safari.

Personally I use the Firefox browser and am very happy with it (well, to be honest as happy with an internet browser as any normal person should be…)

However, things may be changing and there probably are some very worried people at Firefox.

Whilst nothing public has been said I’m sure the senior guys at Firefox are scratching their heads trying to find a solution to a potentially massive problem.

The problem isn’t because their browser is weak. In fact, far from it as apparently a lot of IT specialists love the Firefox browser due to its various add-ons.

No, the problem lies in the fact that it’s a single product company and there’s currently a move away from computers to Smartphones. In terms of the product lifecycle the Firefox product is arguably at the maturity stage and heading towards the decline.

In the UK the number of Smartphones now being sold is greater than the number of computers. Today’s average Smartphone is now more powerful than the typical computer found on your desk only a few years ago.

So, why is this switch to using Smartphones to access the internet a problem for Firefox?

Well, last week’s announcement by Nokia of their new Lumia 800 and the Lumia 710 Smartphones showed that they have dropped their own operating systems and will be using Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7.5 system.

This system will use the mobile version of Internet Explorer to access web pages on the move.

The other browser big boys already have their Smartphone relationships. Google’s Android system is on HTC and Samsung phones whilst Apple iPhones use the safari browser.

So, in terms of Smartphone romances there are:

HTC/Samsung + Android (Google Chrome)

Apple iPhone + Safari

Nokia + Microsoft (internet explorer)

Unfortunately for Firefox that leaves them desperately looking for the Smartphone love of their life and there aren’t too many potential partners out there looking for a date…