Published on: 12 Jul 2017
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?
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.
Published on: 22 May 2017
Do you wish you had a better memory? Perhaps you do but you can’t remember whether or not you do.
If this is the case then help may be at hand.
University researchers have recently suggested a simple technique which could improve your memory.
Dr Mark Moss from Northumbria University led a research study which found that students studying in a room with the smell of the herb rosemary (in the form of essential oils) achieved 5% to 7% better memory results than students undertaking similar studying in a room without the smell of rosemary.
Dr Moss reported that the sense of smell in humans is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain which can set off reactions and responses.
In the case of rosemary, the smell could well result in a better memory.
This view isn’t new though as ancient Greek students used to wear garlands of rosemary in their exams and Ophelia, the young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
So, in conclusion, the next time you are studying hard for an exam it may be an idea to buy some rosemary essential oils to help your memory.
That is of course, if you can remember to buy some in the first place…
(Details of some of the work done by Northumbria University can be found here).
Published on: 18 Mar 2017
That’s an interesting question and unless you’re a modelling agency then the answer for most jobs should be that looks aren’t important and it’s the ability to do the job that counts.
Research from Aarhus University in Denmark though has raised some interesting observations which could have an impact on fast food restaurants.
The study found that women were more likely to order healthy options such as salad instead of unhealthy options such as chips when they were in the company of a good-looking man. The research found that a woman was more likely to go for low calorie items when they were with a handsome man.
This healthy eating wasn’t present though when a women was eating with a good-looking woman.
Men on the other hand, tended to spend more on expensive food and drink when they were with an attractive woman.
Whilst we can probably guess that a woman doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who could eat a whole restaurant on a date and a man wants to be seen as wealthy and able to afford expensive food, Tobias Otterbring, the author of the study puts it nicely when he says “this research reveals how, why, and when appearance induced mate attraction leads to sex-specific consumption preferences for various food and beverages.”
He went on to say that “the most valued characteristics men seek in a female mate are beauty and health, whereas status and wealth are the top priorities for women.”
He also said that the study findings suggested that fast food chains should consider whether to employ good-looking men in case it encouraged women to look elsewhere for healthy options.
Somehow though, I can’t see many fast food restaurants saying that “good-looking men should not apply” in their job adverts.
Published on: 01 Dec 2016
“Don’t worry, it’s secured with cheese” isn’t the most common phrase you hear when discussing the bond markets but a €6 million bond issue may well change that.
When a company issues a bond, the investor is lending money to that company in exchange for the bond. When the bond matures the company will repay the money that was lent (together with interest).
If you put yourself in the shoes of the investor, then what type of company would you invest in?
The chances are that you would be looking for large, well established and financially secure companies to invest in. That means that smaller companies generally find it challenging to raise funds via bonds.
An Italian cheese manufacturer has found a novel way around this problem.
4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia is a relatively small Modena based cooperative firm which produces 75,000 wheels of Parmigiano cheese annually (nearly 2% of the world production of the famous cheese). It has issued a €6 million bond offering an annual yield of 5% with the capital being repaid in 5 annual amounts starting in 2018 and ending in 2022. The funds raised will be used to support their commercial expansion plans.
The interesting thing about the bond issue though is that it is secured by Parmigiano cheese worth 120% of the bond value. This means that if the company fails to repay the money the investors can get Parmigiano cheese from the company.
€7.2 million worth of cheese – that’s a lot of cheese! Let’s hope the bond matures nicely without any problems.
Published on: 08 Nov 2016
Are you lazy? Do you know anyone who is lazy?
Whilst a lot of you won’t admit to being lazy (and I’m sure most of you aren’t in fact lazy!), some of you will know somebody who you feel is lazy.
Is it such a bad thing to be lazy though?
Perhaps not, as according to a study by scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University laziness could correlate with high intelligence.
The study found that people with a high IQ rarely got bored. As a result, they spent more time lost in thought. On the other hand, the study suggested that less intelligent people were more likely to be prone to boredom and consequently were more likely to do more physical activity.
The researchers worked with 2 types of students. The first group expressed a strong desire to think a lot whilst the second group were keen to avoid doing things which were mentally taxing.
The participants were then fitted with fitness trackers which monitored how much they exercised over a 7 day period. The study found that people who thought a lot were much less active than those individuals who avoided high-level thinking. Interestingly, this discrepancy in levels of activity only happened during the week and there was no difference during the weekend.
Before any of the lazy people out there start claiming that they are more intelligent, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the test was small and further tests will be needed to prove the correlation.
Published on: 22 Sep 2016
Should you employ good-looking people or not so good-looking people?
Whilst the obvious answer would appear to be that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like as long as they can do their job properly, researchers in Japan have found out that the attractiveness of an employee can have an impact on the sales of a business.
Interestingly though, it’s probably not the correlation most people would think applies.
Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied retail sales in shops and found that the more attractive the shop assistants of the opposite sex were, the lower the sales were. The researchers found that male shoppers were less likely to go into the shop if the more attractive woman in the research study was serving.
Even if they entered the shop with the attractive shop assistant in it, only 40% of them bought something. This compared to 56% who purchased something when a less attractive assistant was serving.
Lisa Wan of the University said “attractive service providers can lead consumers to become self-conscious or embarrassed. This is especially true when the provider is of the opposite sex. Even when the attractive salesperson is the same sex, consumers may feel a sense of inadequacy through self-comparison.
In either case, the shopper may avoid interacting with physically attractive providers, rendering the salespeople ineffective”.
It’s worth mentioning though that the scientists undertaking the research were monitoring a shop selling figures from Japanese comics and the male shoppers were obsessed with computers.
“Male shoppers obsessed with computers” – surely they would only notice the female shop assistant if she was holding a computer?
Published on: 15 Sep 2016
How would you feel if your chair was taken away from you at work? Probably not too happy I would guess.
A recent bit of research though may make your boss think otherwise.
Scientists from the Texas A&M Health Science Centre School of Public Health installed “standing desks” in a call centre employing over 150 people. The standing desks could be adjusted so that the employee could work at them either sitting down or standing up.
Half of the employees were given sit–stand desks to use whilst the other half were given traditional sitting desks. The performance of the employees was recorded over a period of 6 months and the results were surprising.
Despite the employees who had the sit–stand desks only using the desks in the standing position for a third of the time, their productivity increased by 50%. Productivity was measured by the number of successful calls that the employee made to the clients with “successful” being defined as being when the company earned revenue from that call.
Each employee typically made in the region of 400 to 500 calls every month and the company wanted them to achieve on average 2 successful calls per hour. Those with the sit–stand desks achieved the target whilst those with the traditional seated desks averaged 1.5 successful calls per hour.
Dr Gregory Garrett from the centre was quoted as saying that “having the ability to move throughout the day really makes a big difference”.
So, is it time to introduce standing chairs in your office?
Published on: 01 Jul 2016
What’s one way of increasing the chances of getting hold of someone’s password?
Does it involve the use of the very latest supercomputer? Does it involve some clever IT geeks hacking into a computer for you?
Or does it involve chocolate?
A recent bit of research published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour attempted to find out how people are obligated by the kindness of others. Or in other words, if someone does something nice for a person, how likely is it that the person will be nice back to them?
The researchers in Luxembourg conducted a survey of random people in the street asking them about internet security including questions about passwords.
Some of the people interviewed were given chocolate and some weren’t.
30% of those that were not given chocolate revealed their passwords which to me is a surprisingly high percentage and just goes to show that quite often human stupidity is the weakest link in internet security.
For the people who were given chocolate at the beginning of the interview the figure rose to 44% and if the chocolate was given just before the question on passwords was asked an incredible 48% gave their passwords! Yes, nearly half of the people asked their passwords as part of a survey told a complete stranger their password if they had been given chocolate.
Andre Melzer, the author of the study said that “when someone does something nice for us we automatically feel obliged to return the favour”.
So, in conclusion, if someone walks up to you in the office and offers you a piece of chocolate be careful what you say…
Published on: 24 Jun 2016
When do you think it is a good time to leave the office on a Friday night? After all, if the sun is shining and you’ve got a nice weekend planned it would be good to be able to finish at a reasonable time.
In some jobs though there can be pressure to finish projects which legitimately means that you’ll have to stay late to meet the deadline.
In other companies though there can be a culture of staying late as there’s “always something to do” and never enough time to do it all or there can be pressure to stay late to “prove” that you are busy and working hard.
As an aside, when I was younger I used to work with a colleague who would bring in a spare jacket to leave on the back of his chair when he left the office at the end of the day – his boss would see the jacket on the chair together with an open file on the desk and the screensaver active on his computer and think he was still working hard and in a meeting somewhere else in the office.
Back to 2016 though and Credit Suisse, the leading investment bank, has introduced a new policy called “protecting Friday nights”.
In an email leaked to Reuters, Credit Suisse said it would be ordering all employees to stop working at 7pm on Fridays.
Marisa Drew, co-head of banking and capital markets in London reportedly told workers that she “had given a great deal of thought into how we can provide some time off for our bankers”. Ms Drew went on to say that this would allow “employees to make firm plans with family and friends and ensure that this time will be respected”.
So, good news for Credit Suisse employees as (unless they are working on a deal) they have to leave the office by 7pm on Friday.
When do they have to be back in the office though? Well, they have been told that they cannot go back to the office until midday on Saturday.
Yes, a whole 17 hours to relax, see the family and get some sleep…
Published on: 07 May 2016
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