Will you be sat next to the love of your life or an obnoxious smelly person?

More and more companies are using social media such as Facebook to engage with their customers and potential customers.

KLM, the Dutch airline, has just introduced a new initiative which could make your next flight with them very interesting.

They are allowing their passengers to link their Facebook profiles to their check-in information.

This in effect means that when you check in you can view the Facebook profiles of other people on your flight who have agreed to show their profile.

If you like the look of them or think that they would be interesting to sit next to for the flight then you can choose a seat next to that person. KLM call it the “meat and seat” service.

A quick discussion in the office this morning showed opposing views on this one. Some thought that it would be a great opportunity to meet new and interesting people whilst others thought it would be a bit creepy for someone to select you to sit next to.

Either way, it’s certainly a novel approach by KLM in terms of integrating social media into a core function of their business.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea and I shall straight away set up a Facebook profile identifying myself as extremely overweight, opinionated and loud mouthed as well as suffering from severe personal hygiene problems.

With any luck that will mean that the seat next to me will be free and I can read the newspaper in peace and quiet…

The team here at ExP are now taking a break over Christmas and we’ll be back blogging in January but we will be posting on our Facebook page though and with no requirement to check into a flight, our Facebook page can be found here.

Thanks to all of you that read our blog and we’ll see you in 2012!

It’s really not me. It’s him…

It’s an exciting time in anyone’s career when they apply for a job. Unfortunately for a lot of people in today’s economic environment the chances of success in getting a job are not always that high.

I’m probably biased in my outlook though but for certain professions I think there will always be a demand and anyone that furthers their knowledge in the financial and business functions will be ahead of the game.

What about politics and agriculture though? And more to the point how important is your name in determining whether you get a good job or not?

There was a rather amusing mix up the other day when following Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation, Italy’s new government got a bit confused in its appointment of a new cabinet.

They contacted Professor Francesco Braga who is an expert in agriculture at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and told him that he had been appointed as the new deputy agriculture secretary in Mario Monti’s new government.

This probably came as a bit of a shock to Professor Braga as although he’s an expert in agriculture he’s lived in Canada for 28 years.

He reportedly told The Toronto Star newspaper: “I thought, ‘Oh, my God.’ I replied to their email. Suddenly, there is a flood of emails from friends, foes and industry associations, all kinds of important players in Italian agribusiness, congratulating me. So I thought, ‘OK, it must be true.’”

Alas for Professor Braga though the appointment was meant for another Professor who is also called Franco Braga.

Now the second Professor Braga does in fact live in Italy but the interesting point here is that he is not an expert on agriculture as he is in fact a professor of construction engineering at Rome’s Sapienza University.

He had been recommended by Altero Matteoli, the previous infrastructure minister and to make matters even more confusing, he was not recommended for the agriculture post but was instead recommended for the position in infrastructure.

So in conclusion, the Italian economy was in turmoil and Silvio Berlusconi’s government were widely blamed for the problems.

A new government led by Mario Monti is being set up to hopefully bring some stability to the economy.

One of the new government’s first appointments was a deputy agricultural minister who they mistakenly thought was a Canadian agricultural professor but then it turned out that it was a professor of construction.

In summary then things appear to be all under control…

Are the BRIC nations building a wall?

10 years ago today the term “BRIC nations” was introduced by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs

It represents an acronym for the 4 largest developing countries that have the potential to become some of the world’s most influential economies and whilst the people of Burundi, Rwanda, Iceland and Costa Rica may well hope that one day their economies will become powerhouses it’s the nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China that are leading the way.

The BRIC nations represent over 40% of the world’s population and it’s estimated that China will have more middle income families than the US by 2013 and India will have more by 2020.

If you think about it that’s a lot of middle income families that will be wanting to buy a lot of middle income products.

There has been an interesting trend though and that is that many companies saw the BRIC nations as the “factories” of the world where products would be produced. Some also saw a huge market opportunity where European and American firms could target sales as these nations became wealthier. Manufacturers of middle income products such as electronics equipment and cars were no doubt licking their lips in anticipation.

There has however been a movement towards intra-BRIC trade. For example, India and China are major importers of energy whilst Brazil and Russia are big exporters of resources.

As a group the BRIC nations are becoming more economically mature but is there a new challenger to the BRIC nations?

Well up step CIVETS, a group of countries that represent 8% of the world’s population and whilst the acronym isn’t as catchy as BRIC, the CIVETS group have combined economies that are growing faster than the BRIC nations and have suddenly caught the attention of a lot of investors.

For those of you that are good at geography see if you can guess what CIVETS stands for…

It’s Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa.

Would you have done this if you were an Ernst & Young partner?

An Ernst & Young (EY) partner has been rather naughty. In fact, I should straight away say that he quickly became a former EY partner as soon as EY found out what he had done.

So, what did he do?

Well, put it this way but it wasn’t the most professional of things to do.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is the main “watchdog” of the US auditing profession. As part of their quality review procedures they look at samples of audit working files of registered audit firms.

EY were selected for a review and in particular the audit of one of the clients of Peter O’Toole, an EY partner who had been with the firm for 20 years.

Now, it appears that Mr O’Toole’s work on this particular client wasn’t exactly complete and he tried to hide the fact that the work was incomplete by going back to the audit files and doing a quick “tidy up“ before the PCAOB visit.

Working together with a senior manager (who unsurprisingly is also now no longer with EY), Mr O’Toole created fake documents about work they said they had completed hoping that these fake documents would go unnoticed and the PCAOB would sign off on the audit files.

Alas for Mr O’Toole the backdated fake documents were identified and his dishonesty was found out.

If there’s one key lesson from this it’s probably that it’s best to be honest and not try to cheat with things.

As a result of faking the documents, Mr O’Toole lost his job of 20 years with EY, was barred from auditing for 3 years by the PCAOB and had to pay a civil penalty of $50,000.

If instead of trying to falsify things he had simply owned up to his mistake the chances are that he would have had a “slap on the wrist” and would still be in his job.

Sorry to break the news to you but Christmas is cancelled…

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3 years ago in the middle of the financial crisis when some of the best known banks in the world were on the verge of collapsing, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was rescued by the British tax payers to the tune of £45 billion.

Since then the bank has been under a lot of scrutiny. Not just from the point of whether it would survive but also when it would turn things around so that the business became profitable and the tax payer would start to get their money back.

Along with lots of other companies that have suffered in the crisis, RBS has undertaken a cost cutting exercise over the last couple of years.

Chris Kyle, the CFO of the Investment Banking division of RBS yesterday announced some additional cut backs to his staff.

An internal memo to his staff told them amongst other things that:

– No-one will be given a new Blackberry phone or other handset.

– There will be no magazine or newspapers subscriptions (I guess this now means that they won’t be able to do the daily FT crossword over morning coffee in the office)

– People working late in the office will not be able to claim a taxi expense to take them home unless they are working past 10pm (it used to be a 9pm cut off)

The bank has also banned all staff entertaining for the rest of the year so there will be no bank funded Christmas party for the RBS investment bankers and instead the bankers will have to pay for their office Christmas party themselves.

Now, whilst some people will think this is good cost control some others may feel that this is just “window dressing” to give the impression that the investment bankers’ excessive remuneration and benefits are being stopped.

Some of the RBS employees may well be a bit upset about having to pay for their Christmas party but last year over 300 key staff within the bank reportedly shared a bonus pot of £375 million which equals an average bonus of over £1.1 million each.

I guess these particular individuals are quite relaxed about buying their own Christmas drinks…

Creativity plus Bernie Maddof’s clothes equals…

Bernie Madoff is in jail for 150 years for his Ponzi scheme but this individual shows that it is possible to make money out of Madoff

A Ponzi scheme is named after 1920s fraudster Charles Ponzi and involves paying investors returns from other people’s investments rather than from genuine profits earned by the investments.

Typically people are attracted to such a scheme by the unusually high rates of returns that have been obtained.

They then will almost certainly end up losing their money though as it becomes apparent that the high rates of return are not from genuine investments but from other people’s money.

Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was the largest ever seen in the world and estimated losses to the investors are thought to be in the region of $18 billion.

The US authorities tried to get as much money as possible from Madoff’s assets to try to cover some of the losses that individual investors suffered.

Designer John Vaccaro is a creative individual who bought most of Madoff’s clothes that had been put up for auction by the US Marshals. He then cleverly had the clothes cut up and made into iPad covers.

His iPad covers which are made out of Madoff’s old clothes sell for between $350 and $500 each and are apparently the latest craze that is hitting Wall Street in the states.

Just how long supply will last though is another thing. After all there was only a finite amount of clothes that were purchased.

Then again, the Designer could always set up his own little Ponzi scheme and start using other people’s clothes to supply the next batch…

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If the pilot and flight attendant take their clothes off is it good marketing?

Sometimes great advertising campaigns are down to timing.

Unfortunately for these two crew members of Cathay Pacific they took their clothes off at the wrong time.

Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong based airline, is reportedly considering delaying a global marketing campaign following the publishing on the internet last week of some photos of two members of their staff who were, how shall we put it, in a compromising position in the cockpit of one of their planes.

According to various reports the 2 members of staff that starred in the photos were a female flight attendant and a male pilot.

They have both lost their jobs with the Airline and Cathay Pacific is adamant that the photos were not taken whilst the plane was airborne.

There was therefore no danger to any passengers and also no risk of the pilot’s intercom inadvertently being left on during the festivities.

Back to Cathay Pacific’s advertising campaign that will be delayed though and the company was planning on launching the second part of a major global marketing campaign in mid September.

So, why the decision to postpone the marketing launch?

Well, with all the publicity on the internet and in newspapers in Asia surrounding the photos of the team in action in the cockpit, the prominent lead tagline of their planned advertising campaign maybe isn’t the most appropriate at this moment.

Their planned tagline was:

“Meet the team who go the extra mile to make you feel special”.

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The Spaceship is about to land and there will be 12,000 people in it.

Steve Jobs is one of the best business presenters in the world. His presentations of the latest Apple products are legendary but he’ s just done rather well in a somewhat different presentation when he explained to the Cupertino City Council in California all about Apple’s plans for their new headquarters.

On land that was previously owned by Hewlett Packard, Apple has applied for planning permission to build a new Apple campus that will fit in an incredible 12,000 Apple employees.

Mr Jobs said that the design looks ‘a little like a spaceship’ and he’s certainly right. The building is glass sided and is in the shape of a large disc.

The campus will include a 1,000 seater auditorium as well as a corporate fitness centre.

Mr Job’s presentation is shown below.

Cupertino’s Mayor Gilbert Wong has perhaps unsurprisingly said that “There is no chance that we’re saying no. Every time that we have a large company that has a large sales tax produced we are very accommodating to that company.”

I’m sure that there are lots of Mayors in the US that would love to have Apple’s Spaceship land in their back yard.

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Would you use chicken flavoured washing up liquid?

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The German FMCG company Henkel has been established for 135 years. It has nearly 50,000 employees worldwide working in 3 business areas: Landry & Home Care, Cosmetics/Toiletries and Adhesive Technologies.

Oh, and in the near future it may well have chicken flavoured washing-up liquid…

Crowdsourcing ideas is a very topical subject at the moment. The concept behind Crowdsourcing can be found in its name where it is literally a “crowd” of people who source an idea.

The well known washing-up liquid brand “Pril” is one of the brands of Henkel. It was due a bit of a facelift and Henkel launched a campaign on the internet whereby people could design their own label for a bottle of washing up liquid.

People could load up their designs onto a website and the two designs with the most votes would go into production.

The website where people could create their designs was created with various predefined graphics to use. These graphics were fairly standard “stamps” of items such as flowers and birds which would typically be found on a label of a washing-up liquid bottle.

However, one particular individual by the name of Peter Breuer noticed that as well as the pre-defined stamps there was also a pen function. He then used this pen function to design a washing-up liquid bottle label with a chicken neatly drawn on it.

Mr Breuer is a copyrighter with a significant Twitter following and he asked his followers to vote for his design.

As a result it soon shot to the top of the voting lists.

Interestingly though it also resulted in a rush of other designs with how can I say it, but limited flowers and birds on them.

The competition is still going but the current most voted for design is shown to the left and clearly doesn’t have too many flowers and birds on it.

I guess that this is a lesson for companies that are thinking of running crowdsourcing competitions. In the future it may be an idea to get a panel of judges to choose say the top 10 entries with the public voting for the winner.

Then again, there is a saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” so if people end up buying chicken flavoured washing-up liquid later this year then Henkel will surely have something to crow about.

 

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The enchanting fairy tale of the little frog and the Big 4 Accountants.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Tanzania. It’s a beautiful country with some amazing sights and fantastic wildlife.

Little did I know though that had I visited Tanzania recently I could have been fortunate and quite possibly have seen a frog named after some accountants.

Now I don’t mean “Fiona the Financial Controller” or “Andrew the Auditor”.

No, I mean a new frog that goes by the rather glorious if tricky to spell name of “nectophyrnoides deloittei”.

The “nectophyrnoides deloittei” species, or “the Deloitte Frog” as I’ll refer to her if we ever meet, was first identified back in 2005 but remained officially nameless until it was recently named after the Big 4 company Deloitte in recognition of their support for rainforest conservation work.

The firm has raised over £200,000 in the last year to help preserve the Rubeho Forest in Tanzania.

Heather Hancock, Managing Partner for Innovation and Brand at Deloitte, said “We wanted to demonstrate our commitment to the rainforest, to biodiversity and to the development needs of local people. And we wanted to learn more about how we could make a difference in remote and important parts of the world.”

All in all a very honourable project by Deloitte and congratulations to all those involved.