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Was this an Innocent transaction by Coke?

“Smoothie drinks” have become very fashionable over recent years.

Smoothies are drinks made out of crushed fruit and are seen as a healthy alternative to carbonated drinks such as Coke or Pepsi.

Perhaps the most famous smoothie manufacturer in the UK is Innocent Smoothies. The business was set up in 1999 by three friends who famously gave up their jobs to start the business after they invested £500 on fruit and turned it into smoothies and sold them at a music festival. The business has grown since then and been a true success story.

The brand has a “quirky, playful” image as well as promoting itself to be ethically aware (it donates 10% of its profits to charity).

So, what has Coca-Cola got to do with all of this?

Porter’s 5 Forces strategy model is well known to students of professional exams.

If a 5 forces analysis is done on for example the traditional Coca-Cola carbonated drink then a substitute product would be a smoothie. There is a general trend in a lot of countries towards healthier living and the threat of a substitute product such as a smoothie could be seen as a threat.

In 2009 Coca-Cola bought an 18% stake in Innocent for £30 million and then in the following year increased its shareholding to 58% for a reported £65 million. They then increased their shareholding to over 90% for an undisclosed sum. From a Porter’s 5 forces point of view this is a good move as it means that one of the substitute products is now within the Coke family.

There has been a fair amount of discussion since the aquisition about whether Innocent is still the ethical likeable  “under dog” that it was given that it is now part of one of the biggest companies in the world.

One thing is for sure though and whilst it was certainly an Innocent transaction it was also definitely a well thought out strategic acquisition.

Rolling in it…

Here’s a question for you – what do you think the average age is of somebody who buys a new Rolls-Royce?

Perhaps surprisingly the average age has dropped significantly over the last decade.

The company has just reported their sales for 2019. Despite the majority of the global car market facing falling sales, Rolls-Royce have bucked the trend.

They have reported their best ever sales with a 25% increase in cars sold compared to the previous year.

In terms of Michael Porter’s generic strategy model, their strategy is a clear differentiation approach. In the words of chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos, the brand is “rare and exclusive”.

They have also made a concerted effort to appeal to younger drivers (it’s fair to say that these are younger extremely wealthy drivers with their bestselling model the Cullinan starting at £264,000).

The Cullinan was launched in 2018 and it was a radical change for the company. Rolls-Royce had a history of luxury saloon models and the Cullinan was their first SUV 4×4 off-road car.

Mr Muller-Otvos said the increase in sales was in part down to the introduction of “black badge” versions of its cars, where the car was black inside and out.

He was quoted as saying

“This is a cooler, darker, more menacing, edgy proposition, [aimed] especially towards younger clients.”

“Many smart kids around the world building platforms or whatever making a fortune early in their life are coming to us to start investing in a Rolls-Royce”

In total Rolls-Royce sold 5,125 new cars in 2019 of which the Cullinan amounted to 40% (nearly 2,000 cars).

Oh, and in case you are interested the average age of a Rolls-Royce buyer is now 43.

What’s the link between almonds, PESTEL and water?

It wasn’t long ago that you only saw almonds in health food shops but things are changing quickly.

The health benefits of almonds are extensive. They are a rich source of vitamin E, calcium, iron and zinc to name just a few items. They can be eaten raw, made into almond oil or almond milk. They are one of nature’s super foods.

If almonds have been around for a long time, why is there suddenly such an interest in them?

If you link it to the environmental analysis model PESTEL you could argue that one of the areas within the “Social” element of PESTEL that has changed recently is that people are more health aware (if you are tucking into your burger and chips whilst reading this I should stress that health awareness doesn’t necessarily mean everyone undertakes healthy eating!)

However, it does seem that people around the world are eating significantly more almonds. So much so that there is a rush to plant almond trees.

The world’s almond crop is estimated to be worth nearly $5 billion per year and the centre of almond production is California where 80% of the world’s almond crop is produced. During the last three years alone 150,000 acres of almond trees have been planted in California.

Whilst the ever increasing number of almond eaters around the world are no doubt happy about this, there are a number of people who are far from happy.

California farmers have been removing tomato, melons and other crops to replace them with almond crops. There is a problem though as the almond tree require significantly more water than the other crops.

To produce a single almond requires about 4.5 litres of water. Multiply that by the millions of almonds that will be produced on the land and you can see what an impact it will have on the local water supply.

California has been suffering droughts for a number of years and in the past there have been certain water restrictions in place for individuals. So far, the almond growers have escaped these water restrictions but a number of activist groups have been set up and this situation could soon change.

Will we see a lot of thirsty almond trees in California in the near future….

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.

Maintaining eye contact…

It’s always nice to grab a social bite to eat with colleagues or clients but if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’d recommend the Bunyadi restaurant for such events.

The reason I wouldn’t recommend the restaurant for such events is not because of the food, location or service (which I’m sure are all very good).

No, the reason I think it would be an awkward location for colleague or client dinners is due to the fact that, how can I put it but using business terminology, they have taken an extremely differentiated approach to competing.

The Bunyadi restaurant has announced that it is opening in central London in June and the different thing about it is that it will be a naked restaurant.

Whilst an increasing number of people are choosing to eat their food in a more “natural” state without additives or preservatives, the company behind Bunyadi are taking things a step further by having a naked section in the restaurant.

Seb Lyall, the founder of the company behind the restaurant said “we believe people should get the chance to enjoy and experience a night out without any impurities: no chemicals, no artificial colours, no electricity, no gas, no phone and even no clothes if they wish to. The idea is to experience true liberation.”

When you arrive at the restaurant, you’ll enter the bar area (where everyone is fully clothed) and then head to the changing rooms where you will be given a gown. You then go to the naked area, take off your gown, fold it and put it on your seat and then sit down to enjoy your meal (and no doubt concentrate very carefully when eating your hot soup so that you avoid spilling any of it in your lap).

If you are interested in going to the restaurant you can sign up on their website but you’d better hurry. At the time of writing, there were over 15,000 people on the waiting list.

Should this have been predicted?

Picture the scene. You set up a company with two of your university friends. Things are going well but as is often the case with start-ups the work is hard, the hours are long and there is no initial salary.

Chris Hill-Scott was one such entrepreneur who founded a tech start-up business back in 2008 together with fellow Cambridge University graduates Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock.

After setting up the company and getting it off of the ground, Mr Hill-Scott decided that being an entrepreneur was not for him. He resigned as a director, left the business and transferred his shares in the company to Mr Reynolds and Mr Medlock in exchange for a bicycle.

We’ve all done things that we have regretted but in hindsight Mr Hill-Scott should have stayed in the company. He now works for the Government Digital Service creating websites and it has been reported that the average salary for that type of job is in the region of £55,000.

The two gentlemen he left behind in the company though have faced a different journey. The name of the company the guys set up is SwiftKey and although you may not have heard of the company, you have almost certainly used their technology.

SwiftKey developed the predictive text technology which suggests the next word a user is about to type on their smartphone or tablet. It has been incredibly successful and their software is used on more than 300 million smartphones and tablets around the world.

The company estimates that the software it developed has saved over 10 trillion keystrokes for its users. Let’s just think about that figure for a moment. 10 trillion keystrokes – that amounts to more than 100,000 years of typing time and represents an awful lot of thumb pain which has been avoided.

SwiftKey is an incredibly successful company and yesterday Microsoft purchased the business for £174 million (or in dollar terms, just over one quarter of a billion dollars).

Mr Reynolds and Mr Medlock will both make more than £25 million each whilst Mr Hill Scott will receive nothing from the sale as he transferred his shares in the business in exchange for a bicycle.

It’s not clear how much the bicycle is worth but I don’t think you have to be a technology expert to predict what words that Mr Hill-Scott was probably thinking when he heard the news the business he helped set up had been sold for £174 million and he had received nothing….

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…

IKEA and Porter’s value chain analyis (and the hot-dog at the end…)

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At the weekend I bought some furniture at the local IKEA. For those of you not familiar with IKEA it’s a very successful home furnishings group with over 650 million people visiting 300 stores in over 35 countries last year and producing sales of Euro 23 billion. They specialise in “flat pack”, self assembly furniture.

I’m a great fan of IKEA. You know exactly what you are getting with them. A great design, good quality and a reasonable price. IKEA make a great strategy case study and I’ll no doubt be referring to them as this blog progresses. I’ll highlight a couple of things I liked about the whole experience of shopping with them and them briefly link it into a strategic model.

As any of you that have been to an IKEA store before will verify, a trip there can turn into a day long event if you’re not careful. You are guided through a labyrinth of nice displays which will get your design thought processes working nicely. You are then funneled towards the checkouts tils where straight afterwards if the fancy takes you you can enjoy one of the classic IKEA hot-dogs!

Using Porter’s Value Chain when analyzing IKEA and linking it to my purchase shows what worked for me. (See our free P3 ExPress notes for more detail on the value chain)

I didn’t want to spend too much time at the store so what was useful for me was in that their website was very user friendly and easy to find what I wanted. They had up to date stock levels and estimates for the next few days. I could simply go to the website, highlight the item I wanted along, identify my local store and it would tell me the actual stock levels.

Each box within the Value Chain has numerous items in it but for me this element of “sales and marketing” was exactly what I wanted.

Another part of the Value Chain which is important for IKEA but I’m relieved to say I didn’t need it was the “after sales service”. As well as the normal guarantees and warranties that are provided, IKEA have a helpline for people to call if they get stuck when building the self assembly furniture. This could prove to be a key component of the value chain!

This is only a brief post about IKEA and the Value Chain but I always tell my students to look out for real life situations that link to the syllabus. Ok, so my purchase of furniture at IKEA is not the most exciting thing in the world but for anyone who has struggled to put together flat packed furniture “after sales service” component of IKEA’s value chain could save a frustrated hour or so!

You get a safe hotel and a great bed. The towels and TV will cost you extra but what about the toilet paper?

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The Tune Hotel chain has just opened up its first hotel in the UK. The chain already has 7 hotels in Malaysia and 2 in Indonesia and they claim they offer 5 star beds at 1 star prices.

Their policy is to offer the essentials that people look for in a hotel such as safety, cleanliness and comfortable beds whilst at the same time removing a number of “extras” that some customers don’t necessarily want.

With rooms starting at £35 it certainly offers great value for London hotels. It wouldn’t suit everyone’s taste though as some of the things that people take for granted at a hotel are not included in the standard price.

There are a number of optional extras that guests can purchase. A towel for example can be provided for £1.50 per stay whilst the use of a hairdryer will set you back £2. If you want to watch TV you’ll need to pay £3 a day.

If you’re the type of person that likes to take your own towel to a hotel or is relaxed about whether or not you wash then you could end up with a very cheap room.

Whilst this hotel wouldn’t be everyone’s “cup of tea” (incidentally there are no coffee or tea making facilities in the rooms) there will certainly be a market for people that only want a clean and safe hotel room to sleep in and are not bothered about the extras.

In the past we’ve blogged about the BMI Weymouth hospital that was adopting a differentiation approach to business. With Tunes Hotels adopting a hospitality industry equivalent to the low cost airline models of Easy Jet and Ryan Air, this is a great example of either a cost leadership approach or Bowman’s no-frills strategy.

Guests can rest assured though that toilet paper is included in the price and is not an optional extra.

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.

Fig salad for starters and I’ll have 2 doctors and 4 nurses for dessert.

A top boutique hotel has just opened in London that performs surgery.

Actually, that should really read a top hospital has just opened in London that has all the features of a luxury boutique hotel with the added advantage that it can perform surgical operations.

BMI Weymouth Hospital, just off the world famous Harley Street in central London, has opened with a target market of wealthy (and ill) people. It’s an exclusive private hospital with only 17 beds but 4 state of the art operating suites.

As well as having all the latest medical equipment and medical experts that would be expected at a top hospital it also boasts top chefs and en-suite custom designed rooms with all the latest entertainment systems and original artwork.

Fans of Michael Porter’s generic strategy will recognize this as a clear example of differentiation strategy whereby a “different” service is being provided and hence a premium price can be charged (as opposed to the opposite end of the spectrum where cost leadership exists).

It must be said though that although the hospital certainly looks very luxurious I’m sure that most of its guests would rather they didn’t have to check in.

The Starbucks experience

I’m currently sat in a Starbucks coffee shop enjoying a nice coffee and making use of their wifi. It’s got me thinking about the Starbucks phenomena and what strategy they have adopted in terms of growing their business.

CoffeeIt’s an interesting approach and whilst it undoubtedly has been very successful there are commentators that would argue that Starbucks is caught between various approaches.

There are numerous areas of the syllabus which we can link with Starbucks.

To the man on the street, when Starbucks first opened it was different and arguably felt like a very “differentiated approach” (Porter’s generic strategies) to drinking coffee. It served great coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Good music was played and it felt like a special treat to drink coffee in a select coffee shop.

Their growth plans largely involved a classic market expansion whereby they expanded an existing product into new markets. There are now over 15,000 stores in nearly 50 countries.

They have however had some problems. Last year, they announced that they would close 300 underperforming stores in addition to the 600 closures they announced the year before.

Some people have argued that the expansion of Starbucks resulted in it feeling less “special” and as a result consumers were less willing to pay a premium price for what many felt was a standard product. Was it a case of over-expansion? One memorable headline in the US magazine “The Onion” joked that “New Starbucks Opens in Rest Room of Existing Starbucks”!

Whatever the outcome of their strategy, one thing for sure is that their coffee is nice but not quite as nice as their muffins!

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…

Would Michael Porter sleep in this bed?

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Michael Porter is arguably the world’s most famous management theorist. His theories such as the 5 forces model and Value Chain Analysis are key parts of the syllabus for several ACCA and CIMA papers.

His generic strategy approach of “differentiation” and “cost leadership” has been around for a number of years and whilst there is a clear argument that a significant proportion of companies are nowadays trying to combine both approaches by aiming to differentiate the product or service whilst at the same time focusing on cost reduction, there is one particular segment of the hotel market that almost certainly has to differentiate to survive.

The boutique hotel segment inherently struggles to compete with the big national and international chains of hotels on the cost leadership approach (these bigger hotel chains will have significant economies of scale for example).

Instead, they will need to be “different” in terms of for example location or “friendliness”.

When it comes to differentiation, the aptly named Jumbo Stay Hotel will be hard to beat for people that are keen on airlines.

Located on a disused runway at Stockholm Arlanda airport, the Hotel is in fact an old Jumbo jet that that has been converted into a luxury hotel. The Jumbo Jet hotel has 27 bedrooms with 76 beds but the best room has to be cockpit which has now been made into a luxury suite with panoramic views of the airport.

The upper deck of the plane which used to house business class passengers is now a cafe serving fresh food and drinks.

We’ve blogged before about Ryan Air’s cost leadership approach to their flights and it’s nice to see a differentiation approach to another part of the airline industry.

Does $300m mean bigger is better?

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Here’s an interesting development. MP3 players such as the iPod Nano are getting smaller and smaller but due to advances in technology the sounds that they emit are getting better and better.

Whilst music fans are appreciating the portability of the smaller MP3 players together with the flexibility of having quality music players on their phones there’s a trend at the moment of the headphones getting bigger and bigger.

It used to be bigger players and smaller headphones but now it’s the other way around.

As is often the case it’s the fashion conscious younger generation that are driving the change.

HMV, the UK chain of music shops where people used to flock to to buy the latest CDs has unsurprisingly seem a dramatic drop in sales of CDs as more and more people are now buying their music online via Apple iTunes for example.

There is some short term hope for HMV though at least in terms of their sales of headphones and it’s been reported that their sales from headphones and other technology will shortly exceed their sales of CDs and DVDs.

Now these headphones aren’t cheap. Some of the better known high end headphone brands such as Dr Dre go for in excess of £350. That’s quite a lot when you consider the iPod Nano that the headphones could be plugged into retails for less than £100.

Manufacturers have started to segment the market nicely for headphones with for example the Bob Marley Reggae inspired “House of Marley” headphone range recently being launched by Bob Marley’s son Julian.

So, what’s next on the horizon in the business world when it comes to headphones?

I mentioned one of the best known brands of headphones Dr Dre earlier and you’ve no doubt heard of HTC which offer very good Smartphones and are in competition to Apple and their iPhone.

Well, earlier this summer HTC paid $300 million for 51% of a US company called Beats Electronics. What’s the main brand that Beats Electronics has? Yep, none other than Dr Dre.

This could be quite a smart move by HTC.

They are building up their technology and design on the Smartphone side of things and by buying Dr Dre they are getting a sudden jump up in headphone technology.

Will this be the sweet sound of success for HTC?

Goodbye to a visionary and creative genius.

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Born to an unmarried interracial couple, adopted at a young age, dropped out of college and fired from him first major job. Steve Jobs went on to build two billion dollar businesses.

Unfortunately, the iconic face behind Apple lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Wednesday and the world lost one of the true business greats.

In terms of his impact on business as well as people’s everyday lives, his legacy will be right up there with the likes of other great visionaries who introduced “life changing technology” such as Henry Ford and the mass motor car.

Steve Jobs taught the world many things and whilst there have been, and no doubt will be, lots written on his business methodologies one particular approach of his stands out as far as I’m concerned.

His creations really encase the concept of providing great products but importantly offering real “value” for these great products.

By “value” I don’t mean that they are the cheapest. In fact, they are far from the cheapest but what Apple do provide are excellent products which customers will pay a premium for as they perceive that this additional value the products offer is worth paying for. In classic Michael Porter terminology this could be referred to as “differentiation”.

Steve Jobs had an uncanny ability to spot the next great thing that customers would want and then to develop a product which although relatively expensive would create such “value” that customers would purchase it instead of cheaper options.

If Apple had competed purely on price then there would always be another company which would come along and offer a similar product for a lower price.

As well as the innovative Apple products that have hit our shelves, Steve Jobs will also be associated with the black St. Croix Collection turtleneck sweater that he would wear at product launches.

Since his death there has been a run on people wanting to buy these sweaters and the company that manufactures them, US based Knitcraft Corp has reported a surge in orders in the last 24 hours. Despite a total order run of between 4,000 to 5,000 sweaters many St Croix stores have now run out of stock.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs.

She’s good looking but she won’t speak to you.

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If you are a singer or a member of a band there was a time when your ability to sing was the most important thing.

Now there’s a bit of a debate out there as to whether the music industry is too busy creating “artificial talent” rather than identifying the people that can really sing.

The rise of reality TV shows such as “the X Factor” where pop stars of the future are identified has driven this accusation of creating “artificial stars”.

Using Michael Porter’s well known strategic business model, the Value Chain and you could argue that a few years ago the key primary component was “Inbound Logistics” where the naturally talented performers were identified. Nowadays it’s arguably more the case that it’s the “Marketing & Sales” component of the chain where the real value is created.

There’s an interesting current development on this debate over in Japan.

Japan’s biggest girl band at the moment is a group by the name of AKB48. They are big for two reasons – firstly, in terms of their success (they have had 8 number one singles in Japan) and secondly, in terms of the number of girls in the band (currently a total of 61!).

The interesting thing though is that the latest addition to the band is a lady by the name of Aimi Eguchi.

Aimi was originally introduced on the group’s site as normal 16-year-old from a town north of Tokyo.

Sharp eyed fans though spotted the fact that she looked very similar to some of the other group members and AKB48’s management subsequently announced that she didn’t really exist and was a fake.

She was in fact a computer generated creation that was made up of the features of 6 of the other band members.

Now whilst some people would say that you’re likely to get more sense from a conversation with the fake Aimi than some of today’s pop stars, it’s worth asking whether this is a sign of the way forward in the music industry?

Will the “inbound logistics” of scouring the music clubs to identify the next big group be replaced by the design services of computer programmers?

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Get rid of the Michelin star and you’ll be a better restaurant…

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Running a successful restaurant is tough.

Whilst a good restaurant can me it look easy, there are a lot of things you need to get exactly right to be successful. Everything from the ingredients, the menu, the chef, the ambiance and the waiting staff have to be just right.

Plus don’t forget that it’s a very competitive industry with new restaurants popping up all the time.

Perhaps one of the best differentiators a restaurant can hope for is to earn the renowned Michelin star. This award it only given to the most elite of restaurants.

As with a lot of businesses that adopt Porter’s generic strategy of differentiation, creating differentiators comes at a cost.

La Lisita restaurant in the French city of Nimes is run by top chef Olivier Douert and received its first Michelin star in 2006. It has however just done something that many people would consider unthinkable.

Namely, they have voluntarily given back their Michelin star and reverted to a “standard” restaurant.

Surely this is commercial suicide?

Giving up the most prestigious award a restaurant can achieve can’t help the restaurant, can it?

In fact though they may well be better off as a result.

The restaurant has given up the star so that they can reduce their costs to a more reasonable level. There are several requirements for having a Michelin star. These include having a minimum ratio of one waiter for every five to six customers compared to a standard restaurant where the ratio is closer to one waiter for every twenty customers.

It was proving difficult for La Lisita to recover these additional costs as higher spending customers weren’t visiting as often as they were before the financial crisis so they decided to drop the star.

They are still planning on serving great food but under a slightly different model.

Could this be the first of many restaurants that obtain the Michelin star to prove that they can but then revert to a different model to make more money?

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Will you drive your customers towards you or away from you?

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How easy is it for you to get your product or service to your customers?

Tesco, one of the world’s most successful retailers, have just released a new service which makes it easier for their customers to buy from them.

They were one of the first supermarkets to shake up the “outbound logistics” of their value chain when they launched tesco.com a few years ago. Their website has now gone on to be the most successful grocery retailer website in Europe and they currently deliver shopping to more homes than any other grocery retailer in Europe.

But they have now gone a step further and introduced another clever option for making it easier for customers to buy their products.

They have identified that some people want the convenience of buying their groceries on the internet but don’t want to have to wait at home for the delivery during the 2 hour “delivery window” that Tesco offer.

Busy executives for example, may not want to have to walk around the shop or wait at home for the delivery. A good alternative for them would be to order their shopping at any time of the day and then pick up their groceries on their way home from work whether this is at 6 pm or 10 pm.

As a result Tesco are piloting “drive through shopping” at some of their stores.

This works by the customer making their order online and then driving to their chosen Tesco store to show their order reference number and then pick up their shopping. In fact, they don’t even have to physically pick up their shopping as their groceries will be delivered to the car by a Tesco employee.

Tesco are charging a “pick and pack” fee of £2 per order for the service.

A nice idea by Tesco to make it easier for people to buy from them and raises the thought as to what other companies could benefit from providing “drive through shopping”?

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Does your mum know about Procter & Gamble and does she trust them?

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Procter & Gamble is one of the world’s biggest advertisers but it was only last month that they started promoting their own corporate brand in the UK.

P&G is the company behind numerous household brands including well known names such as Ariel, Duracell, Gillette, Pampers and Olay. Last year it reportedly spent nearly £190 million in the UK alone on advertising these brands.

Interestingly however, they didn’t advertise their corporate brand of P&G in the UK.

This changed last month though when they started their “proud sponsor of mums” advertising campaign on Mother’s Day Weekend.

The TV and print campaign saw P&G communicating for the first time that it is the company behind all those famous brands.

P&G is a truly global company with worldwide sales in 2010 of $79 billion. Over 4 billion people in more than 180 countries around the world use their products.

So why the change to highlight the corporate brand of P&G rather than stick to advertising the household product brands?

It’s a clever move and is tied in with P&G’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics as well as subsequent Olympics up to 2020.

The aim is to create awareness of the brands owned by P&G in the hope of spreading consumer trust across all their brands. The idea is that if a consumer trusts and values one particular brand, once they realise that another product is a “sister P&G brand” they will hopefully be more likely to buy that other product.

In simple terms, the hope for P&G is that this increased trust of the brands under the corporate umbrella brand of P&G will result in increased sales of all their products.

P&G’s first advert in the UK for their corporate brand is shown below and is really rather nice. It seems to go for the emotional angle and in fact may be so emotional that some people will be reaching for their Kleenex tissues to wipe the tears away.

In fact, it’s probably best not to reach for the Kleenex tissues though as I think they are a brand of Kimberly-Clarke as opposed to P&G.

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Will your shopping basket include a new husband or wife…

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Dating sites are big business.

The NASDAQ quoted match.com for example, one of the largest dating websites, recently paid $50 million in cash to purchase the US online dating company OkCupid.

Years ago you would more than likely have met your future partner face to face at some social event whereas nowadays there is a high chance that you’ll meet your future husband or wife on the internet.

The online dating industry is also great at segmenting the market. In addition to the more mainstream sites such as match.com and friendfinder.com there are more niche dating sites out there including for example:

tallfriends.com – where as the name suggests, you can meet tall people;

farmersonly.com – to meet people that work in the farming industry;

scientificmatch.com – which uses your DNA to match you with suitable partners;

stdmatch.net – an online dating site for people with STDs;

meetingmillionaires.com – where yes, they do check your wealth when you join up, and

womenbehindbars.com – where you can meet women that are currently in jail (this has the added advantage of not having to pay for an expensive meal on your first date).

Last month the UK supermarket chain Asda announced that it was moving into the dating business. In a rather unusual extension of their product range they launched asdadating.co.uk which matched single people according to their shopping characteristics.

Users completed a questionnaire about their favourite foods and shopping habits and were then shown individuals that had similar shopping habits. They could literally compare their shopping baskets and find love.

Alas however for those people that completed the survey, the site has since been closed down as it was a marketing project for Valentine ’s Day and turned out not to be a genuine new product launch.

Those people that had completed the questionnaire with a shopping basket showing 7 “meals for one” are no doubt disappointed but the supermarket dating concept isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Could we see one of the other big supermarket chains starting up a real supermarket dating agency in the near future?

Are we about to see Nokiasoft or Microkia phones?

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I used to have a Nokia phone. It had a good battery and made great calls.

Then smartphones came along and I progressed onto an Apple iPhone. It looked super slick and did a lot of things.

Alas, problems with the battery and a slow processor meant that I fell out of love with it and recently decided to replace it.

I briefly looked at the Nokia phones and in particular their flagship phone the N8. The reviews were pretty bad and instead I decided on the Desire HD phone from  HTC.

Now my phone history isn’t the most scintillating of reads but what I found interesting was that Nokia appear to have gone from having arguably the top phones to really having not a lot to offer in today’s Smartphone market.

The challenges faced by Stephen Elop, the new CEO of Nokia have been blogged elsewhere but it seems that the anticipated success of their great hope, the N8 hasn’t materialised.

Nokia’s first quarterly results since Mr Elop joined have just been released.

Whilst their figures are growing with Smartphone sales of 28.3 million units (compared to 20.8 million units for the corresponding quarter in the previous year), their share of the Smartphone market has fallen to 31% (vs. 40% in the 2009 equivalent quarter).

On 11 February there is an investor meeting where Nokia will outline their new strategy but Mr Elop offered a few hints this week.

He stated that the company should have a better strategy around operating systems.

At the moment the 2 big operating systems in the Smartphone market are Apple and Android (the Google open source platform used by Samsung and HTC amongst others).

Nokia currently use their own Symbian operating system with a planned shift to the mobile Linux-based MeeGo operating system. Neither of these systems appear to be particularly impressive.

Mr Elop also mentioned the need for the company to “build or join a competitive ecosystem”.

Now, let’s just take a step back here and look at some of the facts:

Nokia make great handsets but they haven’t got a particularly good operating system. Apple are their arch competitors and switching to an open source Android operating system would make it challenging for them to rise above the other companies using Android.

Now here’s an interesting thought. A couple of months ago Microsoft launched their Windows 7 mobile platform. It’s reportedly technically very good but arguably needs a major handset manufacturer to take it on board.

Mr Elop’s previous employer before joining Nokia was none other than Microsoft.

Will we see Nokiasoft or Microkia phones in the near future?

The flight is cheaper than a single piece of paper…

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Ryanair is Europe’s largest low cost airline.

Their strategy is very much based on cost leadership and is a classic “no frills” approach on the strategy clock model.

In simple terms you don’t pay a lot for the service but at the same time you don’t get a lot. This approach can be very successful when comparing for example to another extreme where you pay a lot but don’t get a lot!

It released its results for the final quarter of 2010 today.

Air traffic control strikes and the bad weather in December were blamed for the Euro 10 million loss that was reported although the company is still confident of achieving full year profits of between Euro 380 million and Euro 400 million for their year ended 31 March 2011.

The average fare during the last quarter was reported as being Euro 34 and this will get you the flight and that’s about it. Extras which require additional payment include taking hold luggage, payment by credit card and seat allocation.

Their whole ethos is to minimise their costs. For example, they have a pretty aggressive policy when it comes to boarding passes.

Their terms and conditions state that passengers must print out their boarding pass at home. If they fail to do so and need one printed out at the airport then Ryanair will charge the passenger £40 to print the one piece of paper.

£40 to print a single piece of paper is pretty high but Ryanair argue that if passengers print out the boarding pass at home then it saves the cost of employing check in staff at the airport.

They have reported that people who forget to print out the boarding pass and are subsequently charged £40 remember to print it the next time.

Of course, it could be that if they’ve been charged £40 for printing one piece of paper then “next time” may well be with another airline as opposed to Ryanair.

At least it will make it easier for James Bond to park…

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The supercar manufacturer Aston Martin is associated with top end cars such as the Aston Martin DBS (shown left) which retails at £179,000. James Bond is also regularly seen saving the world in one of their cars.

So it’s come as a bit of a surprise to some people that in May of this year they are launching a small city car or “bespoke luxury commuter car” as they refer to it.

The launch version of the new Aston Cygnet (shown below) will cost £39,995 and whilst this is significantly less than the £179,000 for the DBS it is £27,750 more than the Toyota IQ that the model is based on.

So, is this a clever move by Aston Martin to identify a niche segment of the market that will pay extra for the luxury add-ons that are on the car such as a bespoke five-piece luggage set comprising a glovebox bag, removable door pocket bag, holdall, garment bag and a collapsible tote bag?

Or are their other possible reasons?

Some would argue that it’s a nice use of segmentation whereby the brand is being extended to high net worth individuals that need a luxury city runabout that is easier to park than a traditional Aston Martin.

It could also be targeted at the traditional male executive purchasers of new full size Aston Martins who could be encouraged to buy an Aston Cygnet for their wife or girlfriend (or both).

There is also the EU Commission proposal that car manufacturers’ car fleets should average below a certain CO2 emission rate to avoid penalties.

Manufacturers such as Honda and Renault which typically produce smaller more fuel efficient cars can achieve these limits. Aston Martin however with their high performance, and as a result less fuel efficient cars, will not meet the limits.

Is this a sign of things to come?

Will we see the Rolls Royce Mini or the Ferrari Cinquecento on our streets soon…

The sound of the tills ringing was music to their ears even though there was no music in the shop…

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Christmas shopping for me is normally a last minute rush before the shops close on 24 December.

This year though I was determined to be organised and last weekend headed off to hit the shops in London’s West End.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that arguably the two most famous shopping streets in London (Oxford Street and Regent Street) were car free as they had been shut to traffic to encourage early Christmas shopping.

Although the streets were closed to traffic the number of shoppers made up for it. It also seemed as though every other shopper walking along Oxford Street was carrying a Primark shopping bag.

For those of you that haven’t heard of Primark, they are a very successful budget clothing brand with 145 shops in the UK together with an additional 62 shops in 6 other countries.

They compete via a classic cost leadership strategy whereby they keep their costs low by way of a variety of business techniques including for example:

•    Purchasing  stock in huge quantities so as to benefit from economies of scale;

•    Only stocking items in popular sizes so as to avoid “using up” valuable shop space with items that don’t sell so well;

•    Minimising advertising spend (why pay models and magazines when they can let their prices do the advertising for them?);

•    Not playing any music in its stores (why pay licence or royalty fees to artists?).

As well as focusing on cost leadership they are masters at “fast fashion”. In other words, they manage the supply chain to get the fashionable styles into the shops as quickly as possible so that they match the very latest designs that are seen on the catwalks and in the fashion magazines.

Gone are the days of fashion having 4 distinct seasons as far as Primark is concerned.

With so many people carrying Primark bags last week then my suspicion was that they were doing very well with their sales.

Press reports yesterday did indeed indicate that Primark did very well at the weekend.

It was reported that they had their most successful one day single shop performance in their 41 year history on Saturday.

The tills at their Oxford Street branch rang up to the tune of £820,000 in the one day.

Whichever way you look at it that’s a pretty good figure for one day’s worth of sales at a single shop.

Their cost leadership approach to strategy seems to be working. As well as their success on Saturday, their reported profits for the 53 weeks to 18 September 2010 showed profits increasing by 35% to £341 million on sales up 18% to £2,730 million.

Marks & Spencer – the figures weren’t padded out but what about…

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Marks & Spencer (M&S) are one of the best known retailers in the UK. First established back in 1884 they have been a mainstay of British fashion for as long as anyone can remember.

They have however had a turbulent journey over the last few years but yesterday they announced their results for the quarter ended 2 October and a number of things were quite impressive.

First of all, the ability to release their figures within 3 working days of the end of the quarter was in itself no mean feat.

The figures themselves were also very good with group sales up by 6.5% and all the major divisions showing impressive growth. So, how have they managed this? After all, although we’re coming to the end of the recession people are still being careful about money.

According to Marc Bolland, the Chief Executive of M&S, “Customers are returning to quality. In Food they are responding well to our better value and innovation, and in Clothing are increasingly choosing M&S’s great fashions and quality that lasts.”

They were also successful in introducing “innovative new products” (classic Ansoff’s Product Development). For example, they have just announced that they will be the first to launch men’s “enhancing underpants” on the UK high street.

On the ladies side of things the success of the “Wonderbra phenomenon” has been well documented since they were introduced in the 1990s but in the words of M&S the Bodymax enhancement pants for men have a number of advantages.

The “frontal enhancement pants” are “specifically designed to visibly enhance your shape” and the “bum lift pants” are said to “lift and shape your buttocks for a visibly sculpted look”.

Mr Bolland also said that there had been “a positive response to increased investment in marketing”. It will be interesting to see how they market the enhancement pants.

Now, you’re possibly thinking what sort of person would buy these enhancement pants? You may also be wondering how comfortable they are to wear.

In answer to this final point I’ll let you know as soon as my pair are delivered.

£2.5 billion but can you have your cake and eat it?

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On Monday it was reported that China’s Bright Food Group was investigating the potential purchase of Britain’s United Biscuits for up to £2.5 billion.

Whilst on the face of it one food company buying another food company isn’t that exciting it does raise some interesting points.

Importantly, it also makes you think of whether Jaffa Cakes are in fact biscuits rather than cakes…

First of all though in classic Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage of Nations terms then particular countries are considered to be strong in certain industries.

Germany for example is renowned for the production of high powered cars such as Audi, BMW and Porsche. Japan is a world leader in high tech cameras such as Canon, Nikon and Pentax.

Britain on the other hand is a powerhouse in the production of biscuits. After all, who needs luxury cars and high tech cameras when you can have a lovely cup of tea with a nice biscuit or two?

Secondly, the fact that another company from a so called emerging market is now potentially making a significant acquisition of a company in a more developed market sends an interesting signal about the current trend of globalisation.

Both these points are all very well and good but what’s this all about a biscuit or cake discussion?

United Biscuits produce some household name products including McVitie’s biscuits, Hula Hoops and Twiglets. They also produce Jaffa Cakes.

Jaffa Cakes were the subject of an infamous tax case a few years ago. To cut a long story short the debate was whether a Jaffa Cake was a cake (considered to be a basic foodstuff and hence not liable to VAT) or a chocolate covered biscuit (considered to be a luxury food product and hence liable for lots of VAT).

So, how on earth can you decide whether a food product is a cake or a biscuit?

The deciding factor was that when a cake is left to go stale it gets hard whereas when a biscuit is left to go stale it goes soft.

The argument went to a VAT tribunal (which is in effect a type of Court) and as part of the evidence put forward a 30cm Jaffa Cake was baked and left to go stale (and hard) so as to convince the tribunal that it was in fact a cake.

The final result was that Jaffa Cakes are indeed cakes so you can now have your cake and eat it (VAT free).

Forget the great Polish and Russian vodkas, the best vodka in the world is officially English. Now, go and open a packet of crisps to celebrate.

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At this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition the best Vodka in the world award was won by a small distillery based in rural England in Herefordshire. Chase Vodka beat off 115 other entries to win.

This is a superb achievement by them.

I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the vodka. It’s certainly very nice and I have to say I think their award was thoroughly deserved. I hasten to add though that I haven’t tasted the other 115 vodkas so can’t really give an unbiased view!

Chase vodka has got a rather unusual background. It was founded by local potato farmer William Chase. Now William certainly knows a thing or two about potatos. He was the person that founded the upmarket potato crisp company Tyrrells.

Tyrrell’s crisps were only launched 8 years ago in 2002. In classic strategy terminology they were very much promoted on the differentiated manner as being of a better class of crisp, being hand crafted and a top quality product. His passion for potatos paid off and in 2008 he sold 75% of the crisp brand for a rather tasty £40 million.

Not content with sailing the world on his personal yacht or buying a private island to retire to he built on his core competencies and developed his love of potatos into another upmarket brand but this time to be enjoyed by adults only.

Again, using strategy speak the chase vodka business is nicely vertically integrated with the potatos being grown on the farm as well as the distillery and the bottling process being in the same location.

It’s not cheap – retailing at £32.95 it is over 3 times as expensive as the supermarket own brands but it’s hand crafted by a small team of workers and each bottle is reportedly made out of 250 top quality potatos. Comparing this with the mass market vodkas made out of left over grain then you can see why the pricing is different.

Using Ansoff’s matrix terminology they have also undertaken rather nice product development and launched a limited edition Marmalade Vodka.

Now, for me a lovely breakfast is a fresh pot of tea with some nice toast and marmalade. Should I be rethinking things though so that I opt for Marmalade Vodka instead?

The ACCA exam results are out today. If you’ve been successful then maybe head to the vending machine.

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It’s ACCA exam results day today and congratulations to those of you that have passed. All your hard work has paid off and it’s now time to celebrate.

I’ve often wondered whether the results day should be a Friday so you can celebrate on Friday night and Saturday night or whether it’s a good excuse to annoy everyone else in the office on the Monday with your shouts of happiness all day.

If by any chance you’re in Pennsylvania in America and want to have a little drink to celebrate your success then there is now a novel way of doing so.

We blogged last year about the use of vending machines in Germany for selling local fruit and vegetables but in Pennsylvania they are now piloting a new type of “outbound logistics” (using Porter’s Value Chain Analysis terminology).

You can now buy bottles of wine from vending machines. In order to buy the wine customers have to firstly prove they are old enough by swiping their ID and a credit card. They then have to prove they are sober enough to buy the wine by using a breathalyzer.

Wine aficionados may well be aghast at the thought of buying wine from a vending machine but if you’re the type of person that just doesn’t want to stand in a queue and talk to the shop assistant when you’re buying the wine then this could be for you.

Then again, if you’re buying it to celebrate passing your exams I would recommend that you buy it from the shop assistant so that you can tell them and the rest of the people in the queue the reason you’re buying it.

I’d like the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a whole lamb delivered tomorrow please.

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So my plan for tomorrow night is to have a relaxing evening and settle down with a nice box of chocolates, a glass of Pinot Grigio wine and start reading the 50th anniversary edition of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” which has just been released.

The only problem is that I don’t have chocolates, wine or the book…

Not to worry though as I can order these over the internet for delivery tomorrow. Two websites I’ve ordered from before are those of the supermarket Tesco and the online bookstore Amazon. Tesco have sold books as part of their offerings for a while now so I might as well order all of them from their website.

Hold your horses though as Amazon today announced that as well as books, DVDs and suchlike they would now be selling a range of grocery items online.  Over 22,000 grocery items in fact.

Items ranging from a packet of cinnamon sugar for 29p through to a Highland Fayre Royal Banquet for £1,203.97 are now available for home delivery on www.amazon.co.uk.

Is this a smart move by Amazon or simply an online bookstore trying to get some extra revenue? After all, shouldn’t they stick to what they do best and sell books?

Well, if you think about it, what do they do well? (what are their “core competencies” in strategy exam talk?)

I’d argue that they are pretty good at getting stock into their warehouses (using Porter’s value Chain: inbound logistics), processing orders (operations), delivering goods to customers (outbound logistics), running a website (sales and marketing) and dealing swiftly with any returns (after sales service).

Whether the item of stock being processed is the classic book by Harper Lee or a whole lamb for £119.99 then does it really make any difference?

Only time will tell whether this venture will be successful. Amazon has a trusted brand and is a world leader in processing orders over the internet so maybe they will be successful. The established supermarkets already have a successful internet presence though so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Anyway, after writing this I’ve now made my decision and I’ll buy the chocolates, wine and books from the Sainsbury Express store next to the office and have the relaxing evening tonight.

Nike and Michael Porter – generically speaking I think it’s somewhere in between…

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The French football team revolted yesterday and refused to train, football powerhouse Germany lost to Serbia, defending champions Italy failed to beat football minnows New Zealand and England were embarrassing in their game against Algeria on Friday.

At least Nike seem to be getting it right though.

Last week we blogged about the Bavaria girls and their ambush marketing at the World Cup in South Africa.

Nike, which was established in 1962 by Phil Knight who incidentally was an accounting major,  is one of the best companies in the world in terms of getting its marketing just right.

They have a long history of having a certain flair for marketing. After the 1972 Olympic marathon trials for example they proudly announced that 4 of the top 7 finishers had worn Nike shoes. They neatly ignored the fact that the top 3 were wearing Adidas shoes!

Although Adidas are the official sportswear sponsors of the World Cup, Nike are doing rather well in terms of their profile.

Anyone that has seen a World Cup match will no doubt have been drawn to the orange Nike boots that a lot of top players such as England’s Wayne Rooney and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo are wearing.

These boots, or Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II Elite boots (retailing at GBP 275) as they are officially known, are arguably catching people’s attention more so than any promotion that Adidas have done at the tournament.

Students of strategy papers will be aware of Michael Porter’s generic strategies whereby organisations compete either by way of cost leadership or differentiation (see our ExPress notes for a refresher if you’re unsure about these terms).

It can be argued however that Nike take the best of both of these approaches.

They focus on the differentiation side of things by investing heavily in R&D, design and marketing. As a result they can charge a premium for being “different”.

On the cost leadership side of things then Nike use external manufacturers rather than internal production. This means that they can source their manufacturing via approved suppliers which they will select for each product on the basis of the best price offered by these suppliers. It enables them to shop around for the best price whilst still guaranteeing the quality.

All in all a very smart business model but I’m sure that fans of the World Cup are more interested in the goals that are scored with these boots rather than the business model behind them.

So, how will Tom be impacted by the scanning of the outbound logistics?

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Tom, the postman that delivers letters to our street always seems to be happy and full of the joys of life. Whether it’s the middle of a cold and wet winter or during a hot summer (admittedly in the UK we don’t get a lot of hot summers but that’s another story!) he’s always smiling and ready for a quick chat.

I wonder whether he knows though that he is in fact part of the “Outbound logistics” of the Royal Mail’s Value Chain.  Value Chain Analysis is a model by Michael Porter and provides a “bird’s eye view” of a business.

The postal service in Finland has recently announced that they will be running a trial where individuals can sign up for a pilot programme which would allow the postal service themselves will open the individual’s letters, scan them and then store them electronically on a password protected  electronic mailbox.

Individuals who use this service will then be sent a text message or email telling them that they have received mail and they can then log on and decide whether the mail item should be shredded or sent to them via the postal system.

This is a novel way of changing the outbound logistics of the value chain. As well as potential costs savings for the postal service in terms of transport costs it would certainly enable people to reduce the amount of junk mail that they received.

There will be obvious issues to address such as confidentiality when the letters are opened and scanned but this is certainly a pilot programme which will be worth watching to see how it develops.

I mentioned to Tom about the pilot programme in Finland and he didn’t seem at all bothered by it – his view was that he’s getting older so the less junk mail he carries the better it would be for him!

Is it really an auction for 3G licenses or is it an auction for the ultimate barrier?

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Mobile phone companies have recently started placing bids in the auction for India’s 3G phone licenses with the government likely to receive over $8 billion in the process.

3G technology provides users with the ability to download content such as music and internet pages at higher speeds.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of mobile phones in India over recent years with the number of phones sold increasing from 35 million five years ago to 130 million last year.

This is going to be an interesting auction but what exactly will they be bidding on?

Most people will say that they are trying to buy a 3G mobile license but students of Porter’s 5 forces will argue that they are in fact buying a barrier to entry. One of Porter’s 5 forces is “Potential Entrants”. A key element in connection with this force is the concept of barriers to entry. As the name suggests these are barriers that can either prevent or make it difficult for new entrants to enter a particular market.

The 3G licenses are great examples of barriers to entry as without the license it is simply not possible to enter the 3G mobile market. The license is the ultimate barrier.

In summary therefore, surely the headline should be “Companies in bids for barrier to entry”?

Christmas parking and Michael Porter.

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You’re all no doubt undertaking some “last minute” revision in the run up to the P3 exam next Wednesday.

Christmas is fast approaching and I always tend to leave my shopping to the “last minute”. Christmas Eve for me is normally a mad rush around the shops trying to buy presents before the shops close. This year I’m determined that it’s going to be different.

I drove into town nice and early yesterday to try to beat the rush of Christmas shoppers but alas it seemed that everyone else had the same idea. Parking is always a problem near Christmas but there were two temporary car parks that had opened up for Christmas.

One was a large open area about 20 minutes walk from the main shopping area. You paid your money to park and simply parked wherever you could. The other one was closer to the shopping area and they actually washed your car whilst you were shopping.

Whether it’s me still being in the P3 mode but the first thing I thought about when I saw the car parks was Porter’s Generic Strategy. Out of the two car parks which one do you think was a cost leadership approach and which one was a differentiation approach? Put it this way, the car park close to the shopping area where they washed your car was 3 times the price of the other one so one of them was charging a premium price for a “different” product.

Best of luck in your exams on Wednesday!