Category Archives: Bits & Bobs

Have Google lost their human touch?

We all love Google don’t we?

They’re all – well…’googly’. They make you feel all nice and warm with their irreverence. They’re nice people too. I mean which other company has a mantra that says ‘don’t be evil’.  They’ve built up this reputation over a number of years. So does ‘Buzz’ make us love them more or less…

 Steve Jobs is a master predictor and back in January – he referred to the ‘don’t be evil’ mantra as bullshit and maybe he had a point?

 The mantra was borne out of a recognition that large corporations often maximize short-term profits with actions that destroy long-term brand image and competitive position. Supposedly, by instilling a Don’t Be Evil culture the corporation established a baseline for honest decision-making that disassociates Google from any and all cheating.

 Google are against short term gain with actions that destroy long term brand image?

 So, why have they inexplicably admitted launching a service with insufficient testing in the form of ‘Buzz’? They have had to make a series of changes to the service after backlashes from users concerned about intrusions of privacy. It’s turned out that Buzz was only tested internally and bypassed more extensive trials with external testers – used for many other Google services. Google said “We know we need to improve things.”

 All this just doesn’t sound like ‘Google’. Rushing out a new product to maximise presence without thinking it all through? Not putting the consumer first?

 “We’re very early in this space. This was one of our first big attempts,” Todd Jackson, Buzz product manager, told us.

 Um… so what was Orkut? Google Friend Connect?, and Google’s other attempts at social media?

 The reality is that their position in the marketplace meant this couldn’t fail (from a numbers perspective)

 Maybe the lack of fear of failure made Google behave in ways that typically they haven’t? Google has only released two numbers so far: there have been over 9 million posts and comments in about 56 hours, amounting to around 160,000 posts and comments per hour. The other number: over 200 mobile check-ins per minute, nearly 300,000 mobile check-ins per day.

 Google Buzz is bigger than Twitter 

But is it at a cost? By Buzz creating your followers for you, it’s been easier to gain traction but I think it comes at a real cost. With Facebook and Twitter, your network has been created by you. I don’t think Google gets that.

Sometimes algorithms work… sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you need humans to make decisions.

 Has Google misplaced it’s human touch?

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Resolutions & Predictions

It wouldn’t be the New Year without both predictions and resolutions.

 So, I’ll get the easy one out the way first – Resolutions…

 After failing to keep resolutions every single year of my life – I’m taking a rather more holistic approach. This is partly because 1) I think it is healthier than ‘giving something up and punishing oneself’ and 2) because if I don’t manage it – no-one will be able to tell!

 So, my resolutions are:

  1. Think not what others can do for you, but what you can do for others
  2. Get better everyday
  3. Accept that mistakes happen and put them behind you as soon as they have happened

 Onto predictions, if my resolutions are generic and personal, my predictions are marketing specific. We could be here for a while if every facet of life was examined after all…

 So, in no particular order:

 Light a lot of fires and see what catches on

I’ll be honest. I don’t get brand planning for 2 years in advance. The reason being that it is impossible to tell what the world will look like then and what lifestage the brand and consumers will be at. Social media in particular has meant that ideas spread in different ways than before. The idea of a big brand idea every year is nonsensical in many ways and more effective will be seeding a range of different ideas and investing further into those that take off. We may be easing out of recession but many lessons of frugality appear to be sticking and this approach minimises risk and ensures relevancy

 Reputation Marketing

In 2009, lots of brands got a big thumbs up for positive customer experiences…and lots bombed for providing negative experiences. It doesn’t take much for a brand to show that it cares (before a problem often arises in many instances). This is a year when brands will be looking to actively improve their relationships with consumers by providing positive experiences regardless of whether financial transactions are taking place.

 Experiential Marketing

2009 was all about digital. And everyone became so obsessed that they began to believe that every other element of the marketing mix was irrelevant. You can do all the online marketing in the world, but face-to-face is vitally important and nothing really replaces it. And if the experience is a good one, it will merge into the digital arena as people talk about the event on social networks, tag photos, post reviews etc. 2010 is going to be the year of fantastic events.

 Mobile (and Android in particular)

Mobile has been ‘the next big thing’ for ages. I remember going to seminars preaching the benefits of ‘bluetooth’ push messaging 5 years ago that promised the world but until the iPhone 3G came along this wasn’t a reality. This year, with a tranche of new phone releases, we can expect some amazing applications that make use of portability, touch screens and improving network coverage. And if the iPhone looks unassailable in January – my prediction is that android handsets will be in pole position by December

 Mobile (retail)

The immediate opportunity for retailers is not so much in transactional mobile websites, but in getting exposure on mobile portals such as review and price comparison websites, which shoppers will increasingly turn to before making purchases in store. Never knowingly undersold will become more relevant than ever before.

 The second coming of ‘Green’

‘Green’ issues took a back seat last year. Survival became more important than the greater good. This year, the pressure will grow to show consumers what is being  done to reduce your carbon footprint than ever before. Governments around the world are now actually serious about it. Climate change is real and it is going to be interesting to watch companies of all sizes follow suit.

One sign-in fits all
Facebook Connect, Open ID and even AOL to an extent allow me to log in to different applications without setting up brand new user names specific to small sites that I may just want to leave a comment on. I predict these universal log ins will continue to grow and that we might even get to a stage where we can pay for something using a Facebook login.


The only thing we can be sure of is uncertainty. New technologies and creative ideas will come to the fore that we didn’t imagine possible. Some will sink as quickly as they arrived and some will sculpt the way we live our lives on a day to day basis. Besides, where is the excitement in knowing everything in advance? That would be really boring…

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Tweet Cloud


Concerned that Chelsea are in my tweet cloud… Must be a blip in the software…



Tiger v Jay Z

Loving this…

Think Tiger might have more than 1 problem relating to women now if the stories are to be believed…

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What we can learn from a wine tasting

Last night, I attended a wine tasting at a wine merchants in Chelsea called ‘Haynes Hanson & Clark’. The tasting was organised by a friend whose father buys wine regularly there. It was an incredibly effective piece of marketing (and a great night) that illustrated how non-traditional marketing techniques that focus on engagement can eclipse the effectiveness of traditional advertising. Here are some of the observations that I made…

Targeting the right people

Enthusiasm is infectious. By targeting the son of someone who regularly buys wine from them – it is likely that the enthusiasm of the father will translate to the son. It also means that the interest will be encouraged and nurtured.

By encouraging the son to invite his friends – you are ensuring that you are opening up the brand to a new but receptive audience. There isn’t any wastage.

Inviting the audience round to yours

Unlike, say sampling at a supermarket or an exhibition centre – you can offer a much more immersive experience by having people come to you. The store was located in a beautiful street in Chelsea and gets you buying into the all round experience.

There is something quite magical about a wine store. Rows of beautiful bottles from different regions, each of which with a story behind them. You see bottles that you don’t know and bottles that you do as well as bottles for hundreds of pounds that you can only dream of.

Knowing your audience:

There were ten people in total. All of us were probably late 20s. We simply aren’t going to be spending big money on wine. The tasting was around the premise of buying clever and buying at the lower end of the wine scale. They won’t make as much money on these bottles – but they are beginning the process of locking us in as wine lovers which can translate into sales further down the line.

Gaining consumer trust

We tried a 2009 Malbec that was available at £5.70 a bottle and perfect for parties.  We also tried a 2008 Chardonnay for £7.30 a bottle. These are the same as, if not cheaper than the late night drunken purchase of Jacob’s Creek from the local off-license. The fact that I could see they were trying to provide value – meant that when we moved on to more expensive wines – I trusted their choices. 

Word of Mouth

I asked how many tastings they performed and it appeared that it depended on demand. Because it is a deep experience with a high level of engagement – I’m more than likely to recommend it to my friends. In fact, with something like wine, everytime I look at a wine list in a restaurant or bar – there is a chance I will talk about the tasting sessions when making a recommendation.

Keep developing the relationship

The fact is I like these wine merchants. I’m going to buy some wine from there. Over time though, I could forget about them. What they are doing though is having regular sessions on different styles of wine every month or so. That keeps them at the front of my mind and increases my propensity to purchase.

Return on Investment.

We tried 7 wines. One sparkling, two white wines and 4 red wines. Based on the cost per bottle – this equated to £71.25 in total. Divide this by ten for each person and this equates to just over £7. Based on a 25% margin (no idea if that is correct for wine), we would individually need to buy just three ‘ten-pound’ bottles of wine for them to recoup their money. If we bought a case each, then you are looking at a 400% ROI. If we told 3 friends who bought a case then the numbers swell. The reality is that we’ll all buy a case or two over the next 12 months and as our knowledge of wine grows and hopefully our earning potential – the ROI looks pretty rosy.

Compare that to taking out a 6-sheet at the nearest tube station – Sloane Square or South Kensington. The numbers just wouldn’t add up. Of course this is a niche store but the likes of Oddbins or Threshers could certainly take tips from this model.

Just in case you are interested, the wines we tasted were as follows:


1. Cremant de Bourgogne Brut, Cave de Lugny, Non Vintage – £11.90


2. Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes, Luc & Jerome Choblet 2008 – £7.30

3. Reuilly La Raie, Domaine Claude Lafond 2008 – £10.20


4. Malbec Alto Pampas del Sur, Mendoza 2009 – £5.70

5. Domaine St Andrieu Rouge, Coteaux Varois en Provence 2007 – £8.35

6. Chateau Grand Maison, Cotes de Bourg 2006 – £11.20

7. Chateau de Gironville, Haut Medoc 2008  – £90 per case in bond (shipment in 2011)

Wine Merchants: Haynes Hanson & Clark. 7 Elystan Street, london, SW3 3NT,

020 7584 7927

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Art After Dark – NYC

Art can be a bit like wine. You know what you like – but some of the subtext can be lost on the uninitiated. Both require a considerable level of commitment to get to grips with. Sometimes, the hardest thing is getting started as once you have a base knowledge – then you have something to build on. Without solid foundations, the sheer depth of subject matter can be daunting. I’ve found from personal experience that art galleries can be quite exclusive rather than inclusive. Descriptors of pieces of art can over-intellectualise what you are viewing – rather than simply allowing you to enjoy your own take on the experience – and there is something unnerving about people staring at a piece for hours, seeking out a message, when your own mind starts wandering in about 15 seconds…

That’s why I loved an initiative from the Guggenheim in NYC that uses contemporary DJ acts and a skinful of alcohol (in my case) to introduce awesome art masters to the masses. I attended ‘Art after Dark’ last Friday (it takes place on the first Friday of the month) and saw the Kandinsky exhibition set to the soundtrack of Brooklyn Dance duo Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, aka Holy Ghost. The Guggenheim itself is an amazing venue and this exhibition is set on a spiralling ramp. You literally meander your way up to the top with a glass of wine in hand with an amazing soundtrack that is apparently to show how Kandinsky took inspiration from music in his pioneering efforts toward abstraction, but is more likely a post rationalisation of an attempt to ensnare a younger audience through a common love of music and boozing…


It’s a great concept because it makes art cool and accessible. The exhibition was clearly signposted and as you totter/stumble back down the ramp – you’ve really grasped an understanding of the artist in an inclusive friendly environment. Learning and finding out new stuff is fun, and it’s important for cultural organisations in this country to develop new way of talking to younger audiences. Alcohol and music normally provide a relevant and engaging reason to enjoy most activities. Some cultural hubs get it – The Tate do late, and the ICA have long known the key to the hearts of minds of younger audiences. It would however be nice to see more traditional establishments engaging in such activities. Modern art shouldn’t simply be a gateway to more traditional art forms – and aforementioned traditional establishments should recognise that steps need to be taken to ensure that tomorrows audiences are engaged today.

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Capitalism and the future

I landed in New York City on Tuesday morning, and a friend of mine had sorted out tickets to a debate at New York City Public Library. The subject of debate was ‘Capitalism and the Future’. The panel included some heavy hitters like Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google, Indra Nooyi – CEO of PepsiCo, Niall Ferguson – the respected historian and Harvard Professor and finally…Nassim Taleb – author of ‘The Black Swan’

So what do they think the future holds in summary? What will the economic system look like in the weeks ahead, what are the innovations  shaping the future and what will the role of business be in the future?

Capitalism, in the current climate, can be seen as a bit of a dirty word. One of the key outputs from this debate was that this shouldn’t be the case and capitalism ultimately creates innovation, jobs and opportunities… There was however a slightly uneasy moment when Indra Nooyi, paraphrasing Gordon Gecko in ‘Wall Street’ perhaps went one step too far by suggesting that ‘greed is good’ (to be fair – she did say that necessary precautions need to be taken), but it didn’t sit that well with me in a period of time when greed has led to taxpayers picking up the tab for excessive risk in the pursuit of financial gain…

Niall Ferguson who was very impressive throughout raised his fears about the danger of state monopolies. he argued (brilliantly) that politics should be kept away from business, that the business world should be about survival of the fittest, not the fattest and that we need to move away from state monopolisation. He made a great point that I loved that said that we live in capitalist times when things are good and there are profits…but we want to revert to socialism when we face losses… RBS being a particularly relevant example of this…

Eric Schmidt was very optimistic and argued that the economic structures put in place since the financial crisis began are working. He suggested that the future was bright and summarised the future rather nicely here…

“Technological innovation and entrepreneurial activation will be the only way to develop mass growth in the future”

It seemed a very succinct way to sum up all the arguments…



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Hierarchy of Success

I’m thinking of doing an executive MBA. It means I can still carry on working but would work every other weekend to gain what increasingly appears to be an important qualification in the world of business. The communications industry is after all the fusion of commerciality and creativity – and anything that can help that seems worthwhile.

 Part of the application process to all the leading business schools is a course called the GMAT. It’s a test of logic – split into verbal and quantative sections. Put simply, to get into the best schools – you need to be in the top 5-10% of all the people taking it. It’s a real challenge – and really separates the men from the boys. Now, the most intelligent people get the best scores it would seem. People who have high flying careers and have always achieved scholastic excellence get the best scores. That would make sense after all.

 The fact is though, this test is not a test of intelligence – it’s a test of dedication. It’s this point that neatly ties into a recent blog post by Seth Godin. In it, he outlines what he perceives to be the hierarchy of success:

  1. Attitude
  2. Approach
  3. Goals
  4. Strategy
  5. Tactics
  6. Execution

Attitude and approach are what leads to the greatest levels of success. Attitude relates to why we lead our lives and approach looks at the things that we do to make our reasons for living happening. Neither of these are easy to master – if they were then everyone would do them! It’s this reason why the GMAT is such a good test for business schools as it focuses specifically on these areas rather than pure intelligence, which is worthless unless applied practically.

Some more questions that Godin then mentions are:

  • How do you deal with failure?
  • When will you quit?
  • How do you treat competitors?
  • What personality are you looking for in the people you hire?
  • What’s it like to work for you? Why? Is that a deliberate choice?
  • What sort of decisions do you make when no one is looking?

It’s really interesting stuff, and I have found recently that sometimes you don’t know what you want until you take some time to evaluate. In the hecticness of modern life – you presume you are what you are. In reality, you are who you want to be…

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Fancy fast food…

I came across via It is called, and it’s awesome. They create recipes for how you can turn fast food into exquisite meals. Would be interesting to see if people still bought it looking the way it does now… I doubt it… Principles of convention would probably mean that it would no longer be classified as junk food by a number of people… Very cool though…