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Some spicy people to follow…

There are over 300 million twitter accounts and more than 500 million tweets are sent per day. That’s an impressive figure that works out at over 5,000 tweets per second.

It can be a useful tool for companies. They can use it to engage with their customers and potential customers by way of branding and promotional activities. They can also use it as a form of a helpdesk or customer support. The Dutch airline KLM for example uses Twitter and Facebook to enable customers to contact them and get a reply within an hour.

Most companies will use Twitter to promote items or get their message out but Twitter user @edgette22 has identified a secret the fast food giant KFC has been keeping within their Twitter account.

KFC is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain (as measured by sales) after McDonald’s, with nearly 20,000 locations globally in over 100 countries.

They also have over 1.2 million Twitter followers.

But they only follow 11 people.

And the 11 people they follow are a strange mix.

KFC follows:

Geri Halliwell, Mel B, Emma Bunton, Mel C and Victoria Beckham (in other words the 5 ladies who made up the Spice Girls).

They also follow Herb Scribner, Herb J. Wesson Jr, Herb Waters, Herb Dean, Herb Sendek and Herb Alpert.

Or to put it another way, KFC follow five Spice Girls and 6 Herbs.

Five spices and six herbs?

That sounds familiar as the secret recipe for KFC chicken is 11 herbs and spices.

Either the social media department of KFC were having a quiet day and decided to play a few games or it was a deliberate move to get people talking about KFC when their followers were noticed.

Either way, congratulations are due to whoever was behind the idea.

Did you break your fast this morning?

Did you have anything for breakfast this morning before you headed to work?

If I’d asked that question a few years ago the chances are that the reply would have been positive and brought back nice memories of what had been eaten earlier at home.

Things are changing though and according to a recent study for the Grocer magazine, nearly half of those surveyed who were between 16 and 34 skipped breakfast altogether. Even those who had breakfast were only likely to grab a croissant from a coffee shop on the way to the office or eat a breakfast biscuit.

The report said that “Millennials may be more clued up to food and health trends than older generations, but in terms of traditional breakfast there are empty seats at the table”.

Whilst skipping breakfast isn’t necessarily that good for your health, there are also financial health consequences for companies who produce breakfast cereals. In the UK, sales of cereal over the last 12 months are down by £40 million.

A number of companies are trying to regain some of these lost sales though.

Weetabix Limited, the company that produces yes, you guessed it… Weetabix, are now producing biscuits, bars and breakfast drinks that can be consumed on the go or taken to work to be eaten.

Weetabix has been made in the UK since 1932 but in 2012 was sold to Shanghai-based Bright Food.

Bright Food had hoped that as part of the general trend to more western eating habits in China, eating cereals would become more popular. Whilst sales of Weetabix have increased in China, the market share was disappointing as the traditional rice and steamed bread maintained their popularity for the first meal of the day.

Weetabix has now changed hands and was purchased by the US company Post Holdings for $1.7bn (£1.3bn).

Post Holdings already own the Shredded Wheat and Bran Flakes brands so the acquisition of Weetabix seems a good fit.

Back to breakfast on the go though and if you’re one of those people who struggle to get out of bed in the morning and miss breakfast then look on the bright side, if you’re getting into the office late then at least you’re closer to lunchtime.

George Clooney and $1 billion

How do you make $1 billion in 4 years?

Well, the answer is fairly straight forward if you come up with a good idea and have some good friends.

I guess it also helps if you are the famous actor George Clooney…

Mr Clooney and two of his friends – Rande Gerber (the husband of super model Cindy Crawford) and Mike Meldman the property tycoon – reportedly used to play golf together and had properties on a golf development called Casamigos (meaning House of Friends in English).

Playing golf wasn’t the only thing that they did together as friends as they also used to drink tequila. The problem was that they found that the tequila they drank was of mixed quality. Some was good but at the other extreme some was pretty bad.

It was reported that Mr Clooney suggested that they create their own tequila which “didn’t burn going down, that was super smooth and … that we could drink all day long and not be hungover in the morning”.

As a result of that idea, back in 2013 they set up a business producing Casamigos tequila and it’s done pretty well. So well in fact that the drinks giant Diageo has purchased the business for $1 billion split between a $700 million initial payment and $300 million over the next 10 years depending on performance.

Given that only 120,000 cases of the Casamigos tequila were sold last year, that’s a big figure but Diageo are obviously looking to scale up sales it up to a global audience (so far Casamigos has been targeted at the North American market).

Either way, it’s a good return for Mr Clooney and his friends and I’m sure they toasted the sale with a shot or two of tequila.

Then again, maybe they decided to celebrate with champagne and we’ll see a George Clooney champagne in a few years’ time…

What was Roger Federer wearing?

Roger Federer became arguably the greatest ever male tennis player when he won a record 8th Wimbledon title by beating Marin Cilic but did you see what he was wearing?

Now, I’m not talking about his shoes, shorts or top but rather something less associated with the sport of tennis.

Sponsorship is big business for the top sports stars and as far as Mr Federer goes he’s doing pretty well when it comes to sponsorship. Forbes named him as the world’s highest paid tennis player last year when his prize winnings and sponsorship deals earned him over £50 million.

Winning Wimbledon was a good opportunity for Federer to add to his earnings (the prize money for winning Wimbledon was £2.2 million this year) but it was also a good opportunity for the sponsors to be associated with such a successful person (and of course hope that people will buy more of their products!)

Federer has a number of sponsors ranging from Nike to Credit Suisse but back to what he was wearing though and did you notice the watch that he wasn’t wearing during the match but was wearing when he was presented with the trophy?

Another of his sponsors is the Swiss Watch Manufacturer Rolex and after Federer won the match he quickly put his £6,000 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II onto his wrist before the presentation.

The end result was no doubt a very happy Rolex company whose watch was on the front pages of all the newspapers.

Some great publicity for the company.

Will we see this trend for tennis players putting designer watches on before they are presented with a trophy expand to other sports?

Will we see the captain of the winning team at next year’s football World Cup wearing a watch when he lifts the trophy??

The battery is going on my phone…

Do you have a phone?

My guess is that most of you own a mobile phone.

Now, if you look at your phone is it a Vertu branded phone?

Probably not.

Most of you will own a Samsung, Apple or Nokia. Some of these phones aren’t cheap – the latest top of the range Apple iPhone for example retails at over £900.

But if you’re holding a Vertu branded phone then the chances are that it cost a lot more than the top of the range iPhone.

Some of the Vertu range of phones were on sale for £40,000 a few years ago. That’s a lot of money for a phone. It was a luxury brand aimed at ultra-high net worth individuals who would be willing to spend more than the cost of a new Porsche Cayman sports car on a phone.

Perhaps surprisingly it did rather well a few years ago. In 2007, it generated £150 million of sales.

Perhaps unsurprisingly though, there weren’t that many individuals with “more money than sense” who were willing to pay that amount of money for a phone. The company has had a rough ride over recent years as it’s hard to justify paying £40,000 for a phone that has been criticised in a number of areas. The Financial Times were quoted for example as saying the Vertu phones were “technologically modest”.

After originally being set up by Nokia in the 1990s with the strategic aim of building a niche market of hand made luxury phones it was sold to a Hong Kong hedge fund manager for €45 million in 2015.

In March of this year it was then sold to a Turkish businessman for €1 (he agreed to take on the company’s debt of €13 million as part of the deal).

Unfortunately though things have got worse and the company has recently gone into receivership after running out of money to pay staff and suppliers.

An interesting case study which appears to prove that being expensive by itself isn’t sufficient to make a differentiation strategy successful.

I’ve got too much on my plate to start dieting…

According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and more than 10% of the world’s population are now classified as obese.

In the UK, NHS obesity statistics suggest that nearly 60% of women and 70% of men are overweight.

The number of hospital admissions in the UK linked to obesity has increased 10 fold from 52,000 in 2006 to 520,000 in 2016.

Now whilst this obviously isn’t good news for the health of the individuals concerned it also raises challenges for businesses which are affected by this increase in weight.

Airlines for example will soon need to be looking at different sized seats or charging people over a certain weight for 2 seats.

Theatres and cinemas will also no doubt be reviewing seat sizes when the venues next come to be refurbished.

Clothing manufacturers will face higher average material costs and in the public sector, hospitals and ambulances will soon need to invest in stronger beds and stretchers to transport the larger patients.

According to recent reports for example, ambulance services in the UK are now having to purchase specialised ambulances costing significant amounts of money to transport the most obese patients. The London ambulance service has purchased 3 specialist bariatric ambulances and strechers which can take patients weighing up to 70 stone (444.5kg).

These ambulances aren’t cheap and can cost in excess of £100,000 each. Specialised heavy duty stretchers alone cost between £7,000 and £10,000 each.

These are some pretty significant costs and some people may argue that people should simply lose weight rather than rely on the National Health Service to fund these expenses.

Whether these people will get themselves down to the gym though is a different matter. Whilst there could clearly be an opportunity for businesses such as health clubs to try and target these individuals are they simply too busy to head to the gym and do they literally have too much on their plates to find the time?

Not the brightest fraudster

There are clever frauds and there are not so clever frauds.

Both are morally wrong but this gentleman’s attempt at fraud clearly showed that he wasn’t the brightest individual. It’s also resulted in him receiving an 8 year jail sentence.

Mohammed Shareef from Harrow in the UK ran a number of ice-cream shops and thought that an easy way to fraudulently obtain money was via his VAT affairs.

If somebody is registered for VAT they have to charge VAT on their sales but they can offset any VAT on eligible expenses. If the VAT on their sales is greater than the VAT on their purchases, they pay the balance to the tax authorities. If VAT on their sales is less than the VAT on their purchases, they can reclaim the excess VAT suffered from the tax authorities.

This is where Mr Shareef’s grand plan originated.

His plan was to submit false VAT repayment claims and to do so he needed some false VAT expenses.

Mr Shareef’s plan went to his head though as instead of small amounts, he submitted false VAT repayment claims amounting to £1,669,463 over a number of years.

These claims came to the attention of the authorities and they investigated the expenses. They found that Mr Shareef clearly didn’t have the greatest criminal mind in history.

Ignoring the shops he actually owned, he instead submitted invoices for shops that didn’t even exist.

He also claimed he had no knowledge of certain documents but they were all found on his computer and investigators proved he was the author of the documents.

He also created fake bank statements but these statements were obviously fake as they had spelling errors in them. He also had fake 2012 statements where he had mistakenly put transactions in with a date of 2011.

He was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to 8 years in jail.

A bit of a tpyo

We’ve all done it. Pressed the wrong key on the keyboard and before you know it you’ve sent an email or report with a typo in it.

Most of the time these are fairly harmless. This, together with spellcheck facilities means that normally it’s not a major problem if there’s the odd typo.

Unfortunately though, if you’re a software coder then a typo can have a major impact.

Cloud services are where companies store their data on remote servers held by companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Last week, numerous websites which use Amazon’s cloud servers went down. These were major websites such as quora.com and soundcloud.com. Amazon subsequently revealed the problems were down to an employee who was trying to fix a software bug in a billing system but typed in the wrong string of characters.

Amazon said that “the command was intended to remove a small number of servers. Unfortunately, one of the inputs was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.”

Amazon quickly resolved the issue though and stated that they had “added safeguards to prevent capacity from being removed when it will take any subsystem below its minimum required capacity level. This will prevent an incorrect input from triggering a similar event in the future.”

There are lots of advantages of using cloud servers but as this illustration highlights there are also disadvantages.

Your new (waggy tailed) baby

It’s a busy time for new parents when a baby comes along. Lots of employers give maternity and paternity leave for the new mums and dads but what about when your “baby” has 4 legs and a waggy tail?

Artisan Brewers BrewDog are a Scottish beer company who are very successful and sell their craft beers around the world.

They are also pretty unusual. They have grown from having two staff and two investors in 2007 to a current global team of in excess of 500. It has broken crowdfunding records with more than 32,000 shareholders.

More recently though, they became the first major company to offer their employees a week off if they get a new puppy. This will enable the humans to bond with their new pets without worrying that their work will suffer.

Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who themselves founded the company with their dog Bracken, said in a company statement that ‘Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for human and hound both.

‘So we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff help to settle a new furry family member into their home,’

If any employees are thinking of getting a new puppy, then they won’t be the first in the company with a dog.

As well as providing time off for new dog owners, BrewDog also allow their employees to take their pet dogs into the office and there are currently over 50 employees at their head office alone who take their dogs to the office every day.

Unexpected delivery…

Traditional retailers are facing a lot of challenges nowadays.

If you’re selling items from a shop for example you’re facing the challenge of the ever-increasing number of people buying things online. Small retailers can find it hard to compete with the big players like Amazon who have the advantages of economy of scale and brand awareness.

In addition, some products are tricky to deliver.

Take wine for example. If you order a bottle or box of wine online and it’s delivered to you at home, what’s going to happen if you’re not in?

What’s going to happen to that box of wine if it’s left by your doorstep or with your thirsty alcoholic neighbour?

Garcon Wines, a London based vintner has come up with a novel approach to overcome this problem. They have introduced a wine subscription service which delivers wine in specially designed bottles which can be posted through the letter box.

The plastic bottles are long and slim, and come in post-box friendly sizes so after a hard day at the office you can return home and find that bottle of wine you’ve been looking for.

Admittedly, finding the wine in a plastic bottle in a cardboard box which has been posted through the letter box and is on the floor isn’t quite the same as being poured a nice glass of wine whilst relaxing in the sunshine on holiday but changing the packaging design to help with distribution is a nice idea by Garcon Wines.

I’m sure a lot of people will drink to that.