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Let’s not run this up the flag pole…

Most of us have been there. Sat in a meeting when somebody decides to use “management speak” or “corporate jargon” to make something sound more impressive than it is.

You’ve probably heard of the phrase “think outside the box” but what about “let’s not boil the ocean”?

Michael Sugden, chief executive of the advertising agency VCCP, recently put together a list of the most irritating metaphors used in the corporate world.

He wrote in Marketing Magazine that the increased use of corporate jargon in recent years has resulted in meetings degenerating “into a quagmire of nonsensical verbal piffle”.

He put together his top 10 of the most annoying phrases and in reverse order the results are shown below.

Oh and in case you’re “not singing off the same hymn sheet” I’ve translated the “management speak” into English in the italics below the phrase.

10. Think outside the box
– come up with new ideas…

9. I may have a window for you
– I can see you on…

8. Content is king
–  first used by Bill Gates in 1996 to indicate that content would drive the success of the internet. It now appears to be used for random purposes in meetings…

7. Let’s not boil the ocean
– let’s not make this too complicated…

6. Level playing field
– keep things equal…

5. Let’s workshop this
– let’s spend far too long talking about this in a meeting…

4. Shift the dial
– to be honest I’m not 100% sure but possibly means talk about something else. Either way it sounds very dramatic in a meeting…

3. Let’s socialise this
– let’s talk about this…

2. Fail forward
– when something doesn’t work but we try to learn from it (if we still have a job after the error of course…)

1. Growth hacking
– again, I don’t think anyone is 100% sure what it means but it does sound very impressive…

So, there you go. A list of 10 phrases to [impress / annoy – delete according to how you feel about the phrases] your colleagues at meetings.

Using food to pay a fine.

It’s never a good feeling when you receive a parking ticket. You may only be a few minutes late back to your car but if you’ve been issued with a penalty notice then there’s not a lot you can do apart from pay the fine. Similarly if you park in an illegal place and are issued with a penalty notice then again you’ll have to pay the fine.

So is this fair? Well I guess it is as you can argue that public authorities have an obligation to maintain parking order on the streets and police officers and traffic wardens in most countries have the power to issue fines for inappropriate parking.

But it’s December and the festive season is nearly upon us. Surely therefore there should be some festive spirit and there should be some leeway given on parking fines??

“Letting people off of a parking fine because it’s Christmas!” – well, that’s certainly a debatable point and I can’t see that happening in a lot of places.

Over in America though one Authority is offering a middle ground when it comes to parking tickets.

The City of Lexington Parking Authority in Kentucky has launched a “Food for Fines” scheme.

From 16 November to 18 December, anyone who receives a parking ticket issued by the Lexington Police Department or parking authority will be able to pay for it using cans of food instead of cash.

The food donated will be passed to the local food bank where it will then be donated to people in need (there are 4 food banks in Lexington and they provide over 120,000 meals a day to people across Kentucky).

For every 10 cans of food donated, $15 will be taken off of the parking fine.

This is the second year the scheme has been in operation and Gary Means, Executive Director of LexPark said “Last year, citizens brought in over 6,200 cans of food as payment for over 600 meter citations”.

That’s an impressive figure and I wonder whether the local shops will be stocking up on very small cans of food in anticipation of a similar number of parking violations…

An impressive lady but competition is coming.

She’s an interesting lady.

Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. She’s 56 years old and has had over 150 different careers including being a lifeguard, a doctor and a Spanish language teacher. Perhaps most impressively of all she travelled into space in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

She’s managed to do all of this despite being only 29 cm tall.

The Barbie doll is the centrepiece of many a child’s toy cupboard and it’s been estimated that over a billion of them have been sold in more than 150 countries since they were first introduced in 1959.

There have been a number of business issues faced by Barbie recently. Even though there’s an Accountant Barbie, I should in fact clarify that and say that there have been a number of business issues faced by Mattel, the owner of the Barbie brand.

Some of you may have heard of Bratz dolls.

Bratz dolls were a competitor to Barbie dolls back in the early 2000s and they were pretty successful. They were so successful that by 2004 they had taken more than 40% of the UK toy doll market and had in fact also taken the top spot for sales of dolls which had been held by Barbie since records began 10 years earlier.

In 2006 Mattel sued MGA Entertainment, the owners of the Bratz brand as they claimed that the Bratz doll creator Carter Bryant was working for Mattel when he developed the idea behind Bratz.

In essence Mattel argued that as they were paying Mr Bryant to work on Mattel matters and not those of another venture the Bratz doll idea was Mattel’s and not MGAs.

Back in 2008 a Californian judge agreed with Mattel’s claim and told MGA to stop making and selling Bratz dolls and also ordered MGA Entertainment to pay Mattel $100 million in damages.

However, MGA weren’t happy with this decision and the case went back to court in 2011 where a federal jury delivered a verdict supporting MGA.

Now whilst the court cases between Mattel and MGA are all very interesting, if you’re a parent of a young daughter what is probably of more relevance is that the Bratz dolls are being relaunched onto the market this coming weekend.

So, if you’re queuing up with your daughter to buy a Bratz doll this weekend you can impress her with your background knowledge of who owns the brand as well as let her know that the UK doll market is the second largest and second fastest growing segment of the UK toy market and has grown 11% over the last year to reach £288m.

I’m sure she’ll be very impressed with your discussion and won’t at all be interested in the doll she’s about to get….

Don’t worry, he’s ok. In fact he’s more than ok as he…

A few years ago if a company wanted to advertise their products they mainly used the traditional media methods of TV, radio and print.

Nowadays the world is awash with viral marketing and social media promotion.

Although the main delivery methods used in advertising have no doubt faced rapid change I would argue that the basic technique of getting peoples attention and keeping it until the message is delivered in a memorable way is still key.

The “advert” below is in my opinion a great example of how advertising should be done.

It’s suitable for TV but importantly it’s also got the viral marketing angle to it as it’s great for viewing on computers (and of course pausing and replaying it).

What’s nice about it is that in less than one and half minutes it covers a range of human emotions. There are also no words spoken and the only text comes up at the end.

It also highlights the power of music in advertising. Three well known songs were used so there was no need to specially commission some song writing.

If you watch the advert without the music it has a far lower impact.

Have a look (and listen) and see what you think.

Oh and in case you get concerned mid way through don’t worry as it’s got a happy ending.

The interesting thing about this though is that it’s actually a fake advert. It was created by filmmaker John Nolan to showcase his animatronics skills.

John is clearly a creative genius when it comes to animatronics film making and I’m sure the big cheese companies would love to have somebody with his skills working for them.

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…

Listen – your pets can make their own purchase decisions…

Who makes the purchase decisions in your household? Is it you, your husband or wife, or perhaps your dog?

Nestle, one of the world’s largest producers of pet food recently undertook an interesting marketing approach by producing adverts aimed directly at the pet as opposed to the owner.

TV commercials screened on Austrian television used high frequency tones which could be heard by dogs but not humans.

According to Anna Rabanus, Brand Manager of Beneful for Nestle Purina PetCare Germany, they “wanted to create a TV commercial that our four-legged friends can enjoy and listen to, but also allow the owner and dog to experience it together.”

Now, whilst it’s not clear whether that many dogs had read the TV listings to know that the adverts were going to be on or in fact whether the dogs themselves were already engrossed in the latest episode of Animal Cops Houston on another channel and missed the adverts, it certainly was a novel approach to advertising by Nestle.

This wasn’t the first innovative pet food advertising that Nestle had undertaken though.

Last year, Nestle Purina launched an award winning “Stop sniffing” campaign that enabled dogs to sniff the scent of Beneful dog food from special posters on advertising boards in German towns and cities whilst out for a walk with their owners.

Although not related to Nestle, a few years ago there was another advertising campaign which utilised the sniffing habits of dogs.

Small posters scented with… (let’s just say a smell produced by dogs that other dogs find attractive) were put on lampposts at ground level.

Whilst the dogs stopped to sniff these posters there was a bigger poster at human eye level advertising the Animal Planet TV channel which was aimed at the dog owner that was stood there waiting for their dog to finish sniffing.

Luckily for the advertising production team the smell that was put on the small poster to attract the dog was artificially created in a laboratory.

Is now a good time to eat more chocolate?

It’s Easter weekend and in many countries around the world people celebrate by giving each other chocolate Easter eggs.

There could be some worrying news though for people who enjoy eating these chocolate eggs as well as anyone who enjoys eating chocolate in general.

chocolate-pricesThe price of chocolate is rocketing and in the last year alone cocoa prices have risen by 20% and it seems that the price rises will continue.

So, what is causing the increase in chocolate price?

The answer is that it is a simple case of supply and demand.

In December, the International Cocoa Organisation said there could be a 150,000 tonne deficit in the amount of cocoa beans produced in 2014.

There is a significant lead time in cultivating cocoa crops so the supply of cocoa will remain relatively static. In addition, the supply problems are being compounded by prospects of an El Nino weather pattern which can result in crop damaging dry winds in some of the leading cocoa growing countries in West Africa such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Demand on the other hand is surging.

According to Euromonitor the value of chocolate consumption in major emerging markets such as Asia and Latin America will grow at more than double the rate of the world average in the next 5 years.

It’s estimated that consumers in the Asia Pacific region will eat 1.096 million tonnes of chocolate by 2018. This represents a 27% increase from 2013 and compares to a 5% increase in Western Europe (the biggest current buyer of chocolate) over the same period.

So in conclusion, there are supply problems, rocketing demand and higher chocolate prices seem inevitable.

What better excuse therefore is needed to buy that extra chocolate bar now before prices rise?

It looks like Saturday could be a record day…

When I was younger I can remember queuing with friends to get the latest album by my favourite group. At the risk of showing my age though it’s been a long, long time since I last did that.

It’s not because I don’t like music anymore but rather that it’s now so much easier to buy music online.

PrintThings have changed quite dramatically for the music industry when it comes to their distribution methods.

In my youth it was pretty simple. Record companies would distribute the albums via the record shops.

Fast forward several years and over the last decade music has been increasingly distributed online via platforms such as iTunes and Amazon. There’s also the not insignificant impact of illegal downloads of music.

Even if you still want to buy the more traditional CD versions of the albums rather than the digital version, then supermarkets such as Tesco sell the leading CDs at very cheap prices.

The high street music shops have struggled to stay alive. Several high street music shops such as Virgin Megastores, Our Price and Zavvi have all gone out of business.

Students of strategy though would not really be surprised by this as according to Michael Porter’s generic strategies there are two main ways of competing. Namely, cost leadership or differentiation.

In simple terms, cost leadership is where a company can produce something at a lower cost than its rivals whilst differentiation is where an organisation can charge a premium for its product as it’s “different”.

A high street chain of music shops is going to have a significantly higher cost base compared to companies that sell music over the internet. Property costs are going to be significant and will make it impossible for high street record chains to ever win the cost leadership battle.

Whilst it’s not looking good for the big chains of record shops what about the smaller independent record shops? Clearly they could never compete via cost leadership so what about differentiation?

On Saturday the seventh annual UK Independent Record Store Day will be held.

More than 240 stores have signed up to this year’s Record Store Day and tomorrow’s event is aimed at reinvigorating interest in the independent music stores.

At last year’s event people were queuing to get into the shops. Not to buy the cheap music but to savour the atmosphere, talk to people who were interested in similar types of music and to buy some of the more unusual music.

Hopefully this differentiation approach will work as in my opinion it will be a sad day if all the independent music shops disappear and we can only buy the music online or at a supermarket when buying our weekly shop.

Things will now be different for you if you eat chocolate…

Sometimes it’s the simple ideas in business that work.

24 years ago in April 1990, the retailer Poundland was set up. On the face of it their approach was pretty simple – all the items in their shops would retail at £1 (hence the name “Poundland”).

tobleroneThey now have over 500 stores and sell 3,000 different products which all retail at £1.

They have been incredibly successful and the company has just been floated on the London Stock Exchange with a value of £750 million.

Whilst the concept of everything in the shop being on sale for £1 has advantages such as creating a “value image” which has been successful in the recent economic downturn, there are clear challenges when it comes to what £1 can buy today compared to 24 years ago and importantly what £1 will be able to buy in 24 years time.

Looking at the 4Ps model then it’s clear that the Price has to remain at £1, Promotion is minimal with word of mouth being the preferred method and Place needs to be in the right location as people will not travel a long distance to buy something for £1.

That leaves Product.

People are attracted to Poundland because it sells recognised brands at a discount price so they can’t really switch to unknown brands. They have however identified an approach to maintaining their margins on well known products including the chocolate bar, the Toblerone (the chocolate bar with the hidden logo shown here).

Poundland have agreed with Kraft that a smaller Toblerone is produced. It is only slightly smaller than the standard bar – about one triangle shorter.

Importantly though, by reducing the size of the bar it enables the price to be held at £1.

It’s not just at Poundland where chocolate bars have been changing.

The chocolate industry as a whole is currently facing a number of challenges with Cocoa prices being very high.

So what do chocolate manufacturers do? Do they increase the prices to keep their margins or do they amend the product?

Well it seems that both Nestlé and Cadbury have been quietly shrinking the size of some of their chocolate bars on the market whilst at the same time pushing up some of their prices to maintain their profit margins.

A couple of years ago, some chunks of Cadbury’s famous Dairy Milk Bar were removed and the bar was reduced in size from 140g to 120g

Now whilst on the face of it some consumers may feel a bit cheated by this move it could arguably prove beneficial for waistlines.

Interestingly as well, will we see Poundland stocking a one chunk £1 Toblerone in a few years time?

Are things looking up after this advert?

The advertising profession is consistently under pressure to come up with new ways of promoting a product.

British Airways PlcOgilvy, a global creative agency, has recently developed a pretty impressive advert for British Airways.

These adverts utilise interactive digital screens and are located in certain areas in London including Piccadilly Circus. The nice thing about these advertising boards is that they interact with the British Airways planes flying overhead.

The system on the advertising boards tracks British Airways planes as they fly above the boards and interrupts the display to show a child on the screen pointing towards the actual plane flying above. The screen then shows details of where the plane is flying to.

The aim of the promotion is to remind people how magical flying can be by looking at it from a child’s perspective. Richard Tams, a British Airways spokesman was quoted as saying “we’ve all had conversations with friends and family wondering where the planes are going and dream of an amazing holiday or warm destination and this clever technology taps into that and reminds people how accessible the world can be.”

A video of the board in action can be seen below.

This got me thinking though and whilst the technology is certainly very impressive and the creative brains that thought it up deserve a round of applause, I do wonder whether all the rain we’ve had in the UK recently will result in the child on the digital screen merely pointing towards a dark raincloud with a plane nowhere to be seen.