If you’re a single lady, should you get a red car?

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Despite car companies spending millions on R&D and new product launches one of the first questions people tend to ask if you say you’ve bought a new car is “what colour is it?”

Up until recently the most likely answer to that question would have been “silver”.

However, after 10 years at the top of the popularity car colour charts silver has fallen to the number 2 position.

The most popular car colour according to leading transportation coatings company, PPG Industries, is now white.

According to their figures 21% of this year’s new cars across the globe have been finished in white.

There are however some regional differences. Namely:

Asia/Pacific – silver 25%, white 23% and black 17%

Europe – black 26%, white 19% and silver 16%

North America – white 20%, silver 19% and black 18%

According to a PPG survey, more than 75% of car buyers said exterior colour was a factor in their purchase decision but as the above figures show though there doesn’t appear to be a huge variety in colours with the 3 main colours of white, black and silver dominating.

But what about the colour red though? After all, our ExP logo has a big red dot in the middle so we like the colour red.

Well, an interesting study in the European Journal of Social Psychology has identified that if a lady wants to make herself more attractive to men then she should consider wearing more red colours.

The study concludes that

“In two experiments, we investigate an analogous effect in humans, specifically, whether red on a woman’s shirt increases attraction behavior in men. In Experiment 1, men who viewed an ostensible conversation partner in a red versus a green shirt chose to ask her more intimate questions. In Experiment 2, men who viewed an ostensible interaction partner in a red versus a blue shirt chose to sit closer to her

No doubt the marketeers are already onto this so does this mean that we’ll now see car companies starting to promote red cars for single ladies?

Would it make the news if you lost your laptop and mobile phone? It would certainly be a risk…

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Some people have a lot of free time.  Some of them use it for recreational purposes and others use it to make requests to UK government bodies under the Freedom of Information Act.

An interesting Freedom of Information Act discovery that was recently published on, perhaps surprisingly, the BBC news website is that BBC staff lost laptops, mobile phones and similar devices last year to the value of £241,019.  That is really rather a lot of laptops.

The fact that somebody saw fit to make the request of the BBC shows how diverse the Corporation’s stakeholders can be and how surprisingly interested seemingly external or unconnected stakeholders can be.  Having to admit to losing property that ultimately belongs to the public of such a high value doesn’t do much for reputation.

Using the TARA (transfer, avoid, reduce, accept) framework for risk management much beloved of the ACCA Paper P1 examiner, an appropriate response to this risk might be to try to “reduce” it.  This is because it is something that is likely to happen, but would probably be assumed to have limited impact on the business.

However, if something changes, such as the introduction of legislation that allows the public to obtain answers to questions that the BBC would really probably prefer weren’t asked, the reputational damage risk may become greater.  This would then lift the TARA response to “avoid”, since the impact on the business would now be high and probability high.  This may mean that the policy changes from providing smartphones for staff to requiring them to buy their own and pay part of their bill in expenses.

It’s just a little illustration of how stakeholders can have surprising effects on a business.

So then, do you know where your laptop and smartphone are right now?  Go check.

Is it better to spend a penny or save a pound?

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Love them or hate them but low cost airlines such as Ryan Air and EasyJet are here to stay.

Since low cost airlines entered the airline industry 20 odd years ago they have shaken up the industry.

Easyjet for example now carry more passengers than any other UK airline and the Irish airline Ryanair long ago surpassed the Irish national carrier Aer Lingus in terms of revenue and passenger numbers.

These airline’s business models are classic no-frills low cost models where passengers don’t pay a lot but in return don’t get a lot.

In effect they only get the flight and they have to pay for everything else. Ryanair passengers for example that don’t print out their boarding card at home are charged the princely sum of £40 to have it printed at the airport.

There are reports though that Ryanair are considering taking the no-frills approach to a new level.

To keep the cost of training crew and maintaining spares at a minimum, Ryanair only have one type of plane – a Boeing 737-800. This model of plane has 3 toilets on board but Ryanair want to remove 2 of these toilets so that they can fit an extra 6 seats on the plane. This will then free up space for 6 more fee paying passengers.

Their existing capacity on their standard plane is 189 so removing 2 toilets will raise their passenger capacity by 3%.

Ryanair have reportedly said that the additional revenue generated by this extra passenger capacity could result in the average price of a flight ticket being reduced by £2. There would of course no doubt be extra profit for them as well from these extra passengers.

This extra revenue for them would be pretty good but if you look at it from another viewpoint there could be some uncomfortable logistical issues on board.

With 195 passengers and 6 crew all sharing the one toilet there could be a fairly long queue of people going down the aisle of the plane waiting for the toilet to be freed up.

The risk of a certain type of mid-air accident will no doubt increase although the real worry of course is if you see both pilots at the back of the queue hoping up and down with their legs crossed…

Look on the bright side. At least it smells nice…

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Have you ever dropped a cup of coffee at work? What about spilling a glass of water?

Maybe a more interesting question to ask a forklift truck driver that (currently) works for the Kerry Logistics in Australia is “have you ever dropped a container full of 462 cases of a customer’s wine that were worth £664,000 and all the bottles were smashed?”

Unfortunately for this unlucky forklift truck driver the answer is yes.

The container held 2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz bottles of wine produced by winemaker Sparky Marquis which sell for £122 each.

Mr Marquis told reporters that he was “gut wrenched” that the wine bottles had been smashed. The container held one third of his winery’s annual production and was destined for delivery to the United States.

There are two important business lessons to be learnt from this.

Firstly, always make sure that valuable items are insured. Sensibly the wine was insured so the winemaker won’t be out of pocket.

Secondly, there’s no harm in having a sense of humour.

Mr Marquis was quoted as saying that when the logistics company opened up the container “they said it was like a murder scene.” With a touch of classic Australian humour he added “but it smelled phenomenal”

Author Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote “Wine is bottled poetry”.

I can imagine the words that came out of the forklift driver’s mouth when the container was dropped were anything but poetry.

Can a bottle of Coke save a child’s life?

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Coca-Cola is one of the worlds’s largest companies and is certainly one of the best known global brands.

The company is good at lots of things and one thing they are extremely good at is working with their bottlers and managing the Coke distribution channel.

Coke-CSR-exampleAfter all, the distinctive Coke bottles and cans can be seen in shops in all corners of the world. They certainly can get their products to the distribution outlets.

I came across a report the other day involving an inspirational person called Simon Berry.

Simon spent some time working in Zambia as an aid worker and quickly spotted that one of the major causes of death amongst children in that area was from diarrhoea. It’s a shocking statistic but in some countries, 1 in 9 children die before their 5th birthday from simple preventable causes such as dehydration from diarrhoea.

The sad thing is that there is a relatively cheap and easy cure for this life taking disease. A simple mix of oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements can provide the appropriate immediate nutritional and hydrating fluid that is necessary to save a child’s life.

The big problem though is that this cheap and easy cure isn’t in the remote villages that need them.

Simon and his team started looking into ways of getting the life saving medicine to the remote villages that needed them.

A fantastic solution has been identified. Namely, to produce the medicine in packets that would fit into the spaces between the bottles in the Coke crates. As a result, the medicine can be delivered alongside the Coke bottles without taking up any additional space (and hence without increasing the cost of transporting the Coke).

The photo above shows a father and his lovely daughter together with one of the specially designed anti-diarrhoea kits that fit into a Coke crate.

In my opinion this is an absolutely brilliant idea – life saving medicine being delivered via Coke’s world class distribution channel without taking any additional space up on the delivery trucks. A great partnership between the commercial sector and the Not-for-Profit sector where all parties win.

The idea is currently being piloted in Zambia and more details can be found at colalife.org.

Congratulations to all concerned for such a great project.

Will her next murder mystery novel involve an accountant?

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She is one of the most successful authors in the world and has sold over 100 million books featuring the character Dr Kay Scarpetta. She’s earnt a lot of money from her writing and has estimated earnings from her writing career of £300 million.

Patricia-CornwellIn the 4 years to 2009 alone she earned more than $40 million but when she checked her records from her accountants that were looking after her affairs, the famous author Patricia Cornwell found that her fortune was reduced to just $13 million.

As a result of this discovery the author sued her advisors Anchin, Block and Anchin, a New York accounting company for negligence and breach of contract.

Amongst other things she argued that her accountants had borrowed millions of dollars in her name without telling her, that money from the sale of one of her Ferraris was unaccounted for and she had had to unnecessarily pay taxes of $200,000 on the purchase of a private helicopter.

Perhaps the most important claim by the unhappy author was that the negligence caused by the accountants was so distracting that it caused her to miss a deadline for writing one of her books. This missed deadline cost her $15 million in non-recoverable advances and commissions.

One of the fundamental principles of codes of conducts for accountants around the world is “professional competence and due care” and although I haven’t followed this case in detail it does seem that the accounting company involved hasn’t followed this principle particularly well.

Ms Cornwell’s case against her former advisers reached a conclusion this week in Boston over in America and the judge presiding over the case agreed with the author and she was awarded $51 million for breach of contract and negligence.

After the drama of this court case I wonder whether we’ll see one of Patricia Cornwell’s future murder mystery novels involve the victims being accountants that lost a lot of money for one of their clients…

Forget your Gucci handbag, you’ll just be scratching the surface…

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We all know that the pharmaceuticals industry is big business.

The industry is facing considerable challenges however, with a large proportion of the “blockbuster” drugs due to come off patent in the next few years.

risk-exampleDrug companies are all too aware that they might well need a big breakthrough soon in order to sustain their historical levels of shareholder return.

A lesser known threat to the industry, and more direct threat to us individually, is the rapid growth in fake prescription drugs.  Patents protect a patent holder against a legitimate business from copying their product.  It’s not much use against criminality.

Fake Gucci handbags may be an annoyance to Gucci, but nobody dies when they are purchased.  Fake drugs can be sufficiently dissimilar to the real product to allow diseases to build up resistance to the genuine drug.  An overdose may be fatal in the short-term; an under-dose may be fatal in the longer-term.

So there’s a significant incentive for all concerned to maintain integrity in the production and logistics chain that gets the genuine drugs to those in need.  Countries where prescription drug usage is culturally common and poorer countries are probably most at risk.

A Ghanaian company, mPedigree, has come up with an ingenious and simple solution.  Working in conjunction with bona fide drugs manufacturers, it assigns a code to each packet of pills.  This is then added to the box, in the form of a scratch card.

When customers buy the product, they scratch off the scratchcard style covering on the box and then send a free text message / sms with that code.  If the product’s codes are genuine, a text message is immediately sent back to verify their authenticity.  If not, the customer knows that they have just been sold a potentially dangerous dud.

Of course, there will be risks to this process, such as criminal elements infiltrating the process of allocating codes, but this is a smaller risk to contain than the wider risk of fake drugs, but this is a process that an auditor could even give an assurance opinion on.

Given the worldwide very high penetration of mobile phones and the cheapness of text messages, this is a fascinating solution to a big problem.  Maybe in future it could be refined to also warn if drugs are genuine but beyond their sell by date (time expired drugs can also become dangerously lacking in efficacy).

What a wonderful, simple idea.

What does your car number plate tell us about you?

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The US state of California has a lot going for it.

car-advertisingIt has some of the most scenic coastline to be found anywhere in the world, some great wine and with Hollywood and Silicon Valley it  has a wealth of artistic and creative minds.

What it also has however is a budget deficit of around $20 billion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former actor and now the Governor of California certainly has a challenge on his hands to reduce the deficit.

One idea that is being discussed though is in my opinion really rather clever and introduces us to a potentially new form of advertising medium.

The State is considering introducing digital adverts onto car number plates. The idea is that the digital plates would look like normal plates when the car is moving but after it has been stopped for more than a few seconds at traffic lights or in a traffic jam the device would switch from showing the car registration number on the plate to showing a digital advert.

When stationary the registration number would still be shown but would be smaller and the advert would take the dominant position.

In effect, the car would become a mobile billboard with significant advertising revenue being generated for the state. Advertising Agencies in California are no doubt licking their lips in anticipation at the opportunities that this would offer in terms of creativity.

Whilst on the subject of creative adverts involving vehicles I think that the following advert for Copenhagen Zoo that appeared on a bus in the Danish capital will take some beating.

For those of you with a nervous disposition rest assured that it’s only art work on the outside and not a 100 metre long Boa Constrictor taking on a bus.

What’s in a pair of shoes? Quite a bit if it’s a Jimmy Choo shoe but…

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With celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, Jimmy Choo is one of the most famous shoe brands in the world.

It is a real success story having been started 14 years ago by Tamara Mellon, a former editor at Vogue magazine, with a loan from her father of £150,000. There are now reports that it could be sold for up to £500 million.

Ms. Mellon started the business after meeting a shoe maker called Jimmy Choo during her time with Vogue. Mr Choo used to make a small number of handmade shoes which the magazine used for photo shoots. Ms. Mellon saw the potential in scaling up the business and 14 years later there are now over 100 stores around the world with prices for some shoes being well in excess of £1,000.

So, why has the business been so successful?

Whilst design and quality are obviously key features, the brand arguably took off when famous celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Beyonce started wearing them.

But it’s not just shoes that they sell. They have also expanded into items such as handbags, sunglasses and scarves.  In business speak this is referred to as “brand extension”.

A further example of brand extension is also in the pipeline for Jimmy Choo. Last year they signed a licence agreement with Inter Parfums for producing and distributing perfume under the Jimmy Choo brand.

Another well known footwear manufacturer is Cat®. They are renowned for producing tough, hard wearing “work boot style” footwear.

The brand itself came about as a brand extension of Caterpillar® Inc, the construction and mining equipment manufacturer.

The key thing that needs to be present for brand extension to be successful is the “fit”.

Glamorous Jimmy Choo shoes work well with fashionable sunglasses and high quality perfumes whilst the “toughness” of Caterpillar® Inc equipment works equally well with rugged work boot style footwear.

Will we see Jimmy Choo expanding their brand into mining equipment? Somehow, I don’t think so.

If you wear a fluorescent jacket at work you’re not necessarily an engineer.

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Health and safety procedures can be vital for safeguarding workers.

If you happen to be driving by the town of Els Alamus near Barcelona in Spain though don’t automatically assume that the workers in the road wearing the yellow vests are repairing the highway.

Women wearing very little clothing and standing by the roadside on the outskirts of major towns and cities are a common sight in Spain. There are an estimated 300,000 women working in the country as prostitutes.

Sex workers in the town of Els Alamus though have recently faced a significant number of fines.

Surprisingly, these fines were not for the prostitution itself as this is currently legal in Spain.

Instead, they were fined for breaching a 2004 law which states that workers on major highways must wear high visibility clothing. A classic health and safety policy which helps protect road workers and drivers from harm.

Not to be outdone by the legislation the sex workers have simply decided to wear fluorescent vests when looking for their customers.

Looking on the bright side for these ladies, the wearing of bright yellow vests not only enables them to satisfy health and safety rules but it also makes it easier for the reported one in four Spanish men who have paid for sex to spot them.