Saturday, May 30, 2009

The German Government has chosen Magna

General Motor's Euripean Arm has been saved from Insolvency procedures that is expected to hit the US group after an agreement has been announced at about 2am this morning. The Canadian Group, Magna International will be taking over the business with the backing of the German Government.

FIAT, the other group which was in the race to takeover the struggling group and acquiring an good brand at a discounted price, had withdrew from talks with the German Government, GM and US Treasury as it failed to provide guarantee on the number of Jobs that would have been saved and provide clear finance plans.

Under the signed agreement between GM and Magna, shares in the European arm of GM (GME) will be transferred away from GM so as to protect Opel from an imminent GM insolvency (which is expected to be announced on Monday). The German Government will also give GME €1.5bn in credit guarantees while final negotiation take place between GM and Magna. For the deal, Magna, together with Russian bank Sberbank, is offering €700m for 55 per cent of Opel and has agreed to come up with €300m of emergency funding that GM USA says it needs immediately.

The decision by the German Government to grant guarantees to the Magna was a happy ending for all German ministers. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, German economics minister said that he was not all that happy with the agreement. He would have been happier to see GME become insolvent rather than grant so much money as guarantee to the future owner of the brand. However due to the upcoming elections the German government had to find a solution to this problem as soon as possible and this could have led it to take a less favourable option after all.

So we might consider this deal as another recession bargain...will there be any others as more companies seek to streamline their activities and divest businesses which are not coherent with their main area of business?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Common sense wins and Youtube enable music streaming again

Last March YouTube had decided to block all premium music supplied by record lables as PRS (the society which collects Royaliets on behalf of composers and Musicians) was demanding high royalty payments without giving signs that it wanted to review its royalty prices.

Google, owner of YouTube, thus decided to take a hard decision...stop all premium music from being streamed, thus blocking any royalties to PRS. This eventually lead PRS to the discussion table and this month a decision has been finally made...

Under the PRS's new pricing structure any digital sites will have to pay 0.0085p per track streamed online. This is a sharp decrease from the 0.22p that digital sites were asked to pay before this agreement came into force. According to PRS, this new pricing policy was necessary as the prices were previously set in 2007 and were never reviewed. Now given the expansion of the digital music market this review became necessary and potentially could lead to higher returns for PRS as more tracks will be played and more digital companies will be attracted to the market thus adding the return for artists and composers alike.

The PRS is moving ahead and changing as market needs change...will other industries follow suit?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 it really dead?

Who said that Woolworths is actually could have gone dormant but there still seems to be activity going around the name and the number of outlets it used to have. When browsing for the name Woolworths you come across a blog for Woolworths announcing it's imminent online revival...basically the brand has been acquired by Littlewoods-owner Shop Direct, who has planned it's online relaunch.

However this is not over, Tony Page ex executive director all Woolworths has teamed up with former UBS banker Gareth Thomas in an attempt to raise sufficient capital (it is estimated that they need between £5m and £10m) to acquire the lease of about 200 ex Woolwoths outlets in the next five years. However they would have to rethink the name. Apparently they have come up with an idea of making a poll and people will be asked to vote for their favourite name. This attempt is probably being done to create more customer involvement around the reopening and create a name that is acceptable to everyone.

However is such a branding strategy successful? And what about opening with the same store concept and in the same locations of Woolworths...would history repeat itself? What are your opinions?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ebay proclaimed this the beginning of a new customer driven era?

L'Oreal has sued eBay in the courts of various European countries including Britain, Germany, France, Belgium and Spain over the sale of bogus cosmetics and fragrances carrying the logo of the said brand on it's site. This move was said to be a necessary step to take as the sale of fake items was on the increase on eBay. Negotiations were underway between the two companies to come to a solution on this issue however, the online auctioneer said all talks were suspended as L'Oreal was being unreasonable in it's requests.

The first decision has been pronounced by the British court...Justice Richard David Arnold ruled out the claims of L'Oreal and said that that eBay Europe was not liable for trademark infringements committed by its users. Ebay said that this decision is a one which promotes free competition and will enable users to buy products a very competitive prices on its virtual marketplace.

A similar case in France was left in the hands of both companies to come up with an amicable resolution and gave then until the May 25 to come up with a mediated settlement. Other cases elsewhere in Europe are still pending.

While eBay claimed victory, L'Oreal said the court agreed that eBay could do more to stop trademark infringement. However of the 15 products hand-selected by L'Oreal as evidence against eBay UK, none was proven to be counterfeit. Could this be a strategy to try to safe guard L'Oreal premium pricing strategy and the protection from grey imports? We can just wait and see however it's very difficult to stop the online avalanche and anybody who does not embrace it risks getting overwhelmed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cashing in on Problems

The recent Swine flu, like its predecessors the Pandemic flu and the SARS has caused quite a havoc amongst the worlds population. It has been a headline news for quite some days and a lot of people are interested in ways to prevent it and, if the undesirable had to happen, how to cure it. You might say this is natural as everybody needs to be informed as to what might happen and what actions need to be taken to prevent such potentially catastrophic diseases.

This natural instinct of people has push them online and billions of searches have been initiated with the words flu, swine flu and Mexican what did innovative marketers do? Just what is natural to them...analyse that the customer trends are and serve your customer needs. Companies such as google saw a huge potential in this and for example google has launched Google Trends. Google Trends uses time series analysis and tries to find a link between the search behaviour of people and the actual spread of the disease. In this way, they were able to launch the Google Flu Trends in association with the US Centre for Diseases Control.

Google is not the only company that has taken advantage of this. Online pharmacies are all flocking up to try to sell all kinds of stuff that "they say" would prevent the spread of the flu. The sell all sorts of stuff from face masks, gloves to the notoriously known Tamiflu (which is supposed to be banned from online sales). Amazon has also recognised the pontnetial and in fact started supplying anti-flu kits to it's customers (image below)...if the big companies do now there the go ahead for all companies to follow.

The use of Web2.0 is also helping companies in this regards. Website owners are linking up with sites and getting mashup content, such as up-to-date news of the spread of the flue, so that their site increase in popularity and they obtain a better natural search result on search engines...PPC campaign and Google Adsense is another option that companies what are you waiting...the sky is your limit today. The most important thing is that you keep your eyes open and as in any other business try to obtain a first mover advantage...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Susan Boyle a highly requested brand personality

A numerous number of companies ranging from different industry are in search of a renowned brand personality and whose the person who's attracting the most PR currently? The answer is no sport personality but Susan Boyle, a person who before her appearance on Britain's Got Talent no person knew about. Companies are seeking to sign her up from industries including haircare, household, FMCG and even mobile however with it's contract with the production of Britain's Got Talent, she cannot sign any agreement before the end of the series later on this month.

Susan Boyle has become the brand personality to have. Anything related to her is attracting a lot of interest. In fact it's YouTube video has been viewed approximately 94 million times and it's memorabilia is selling well on auction sites such as Ebay. Even the product of the reality show is trying to cash on this wave of success as it is still seeking to close a deal with YouTube to start generating revenue from the high traffic flow that the video is attracting.

This is a clear example of how the Internet can transform a person from a complete stranger to a global phenomenon in just a couple of months...can this formula be copied by marketers to transform a complete unknown brand into a global success?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tesla given a vote of confidence as Daimler acquires a 10% stake

The car industry all over the world seems to be facing a very challenging moment as sales continue to fall and governments go ahead with green legislations to limit CO2 emissions. Manufacturers have started investing in research and development of electric cars however with the current credit crunch companies are finding hard to find sources of finance.

This was the case of Tesla, a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of electric-powered sports cars. However, Daimler has given it a fresh breath of air...The German company has invested an undisclosed sum of money and acquired 10% of Tesla's stake. This investment has brought the two companies closer to each other as they already contributed on a number of projects. In fact,Daimler and Tesla already co-operate on Daimler’s electric version of the Smart car as it has been providing lithium-ion battery packs and charging electronics for the first 1,000 units. About 100 of the cars are currently being tested in London, and Daimler plans to begin production of them at a plant in France later this year.

Given that Tesla is a pioneer in the development of electric cars, this strategic alliance represents an important step for Daimler to accelerate the commercialisation of electric cars. Although a number of large car manufacturers plan to launch electric cars over the next few years, Tesla is one of the first to have one available for sale on its website.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Google, is there a new competitor on its way?

Professor Stephen Wolfram a very well renowned British physicist has founded a new company that is set to go head-to-head with Google as from today it has launched it's new search engine This new search engine seeks to be totally different to google as it provides answers to specific questions instead of giving users numerous search results that most of the time end up confusing the user more than helping him up. For example in response to the question "what is the population of London?", gives a single answer (7.421m), whereas Google provides 28,500,500 website links.

Although this is being indicated as a good candidate to challenge Google, the developer of this idea. Prof. Stephen Wolfram, does not want to admin this. He states that his company does not provide a search engine facility but it offers a computational knowledge engine. The website actually checks the question against a number of database entries and right now can answer questions on topics ranging from the population of a country to the distance between two places or the weather in a particular place. However, the site is unable to answer general questions. If the questions haven't been asked before it is unable to provide an answer...

The company which was set up by Wolfram is actually moving ahead as it currently employs 300 member of staff and is working on the improvement of the computer algebra system "Mathematica" which was created by Wolfram research. With the increase of popularity that is expected from this new search engine capability, the company is seeking long-terms plan to expand this project and if possible it will be willing to sell advertising space along its searches.

Will Wolfram beat Google or will Google catch up to this innovation?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eminem uses an innovative campaign to attract people to buy album

I was searching for a good article about the launch of a brand and came across this very interesting article...the famous singer Eminem who can be considered a brand in himslef will be launching his new album today. For this launch his record house has planned various campaigns in London to attract potential buyers to the new album.

The first promotional campaing will involve the deployment of an army of Eminem look-a-likes across London's West End that will try to publicise the release of the album. Eminem revealed that he started writing the album while he was in rehab fighting his addiction to drugs. This event will tap into the current wave of publicity surrounding the album release.

Another campaign will involve the deployment of a a mock rehab centre in London's Covent Garden on Monday. Passers-by will be able to lie on beds and receive "treatment" in the form of listening to Eminem's new album, 'Relapse'. The Relapse Rehab Centre will open at today (Monday) at 9am, and will close at 8pm.

Accompanying these two campaigns will be the deployement of giant letter E's in the centre's whereabouts (North Piazza, Covent Garden), which Eminem's record houses hopes will attract visitors and generate word-of-mouth. Will this campaign be successful? We will be reporting this later on this week when the impact of the campaign's results will be released.

Friday, May 15, 2009

TalkTalk to Aqcuire Tiscali - Is it a credit crunch bargain?

Carphone Warehouse announced that later this year, after gaining EU competition clearnace, , will be take over Tiscali's 1.45m UK broadband and 300,000 dial-up customers and put them under their TalkTalk brand. This deal is expected to be completed by end next month (June)

With this takeover, TalkTalk will become the a powerhouse in broadband business, placing it in the first place when it comes to residential and second place (behind BT) when considering retail and residential allthogethr. TalkTalk will have an approxiamte 25% market share of the broadband business in UK.

This deak is expected to create significant synergies and could result in the reduction of operational costs. These benefits are expected to provide significant shareholder value and expected to boost 2009's earning per share. According to the CEO of Tiscali, Mary Turner, this deal was a very good one especially for Tiscali customers., however it is thought that the same couldn't be said about shareholders. In fact TalkTalk is said to be buying Tiscali for around £236m which is less than half the earlier bid made by TalkTalk itself earlier on last year. Last year's bid was rejected by Tiscali as it valued itself at more than £1bn however the ecomonic climate left it's signs on Tiscali who saw it's customer base and revenue declining.

Vodafone, BT, Swisscom and Italian mobile network Wind also considered buying Tiscali's UK business, however TalkTalk finally had the best deal. What do you think about this you consider deal as a credit crunch bargain for TalkTalk?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Prince Charles Moves to Social Networking

Lately I have been reading more about the potential that social networking offers and the opportunity it provides both companies and brands alike to commuicate their message and interact with their target market. I recently came across an article which continues to highlight the importance that this Social Networking medium plays in today's world.

The news read that Prince Charles had decided to start using Social Networking online and became on of the first (if not the first) Royal to use a social network. This is an absolute breakthrough and a significant milestone for Social Networking as it has managed to attract even the traditionally conservative monarchy. Does this mean that Social Networking is something that has been accepted and a need now a days for those wanting to voice their opinion to a wider community? The answer in my opinion is Yes!

Prince Charles chose to use Myspace to campaign for a worthy cause and raise awareness of his Prince of Wales Rainforest Project. In his page ( he urges the social network's community to electronically sign a petition to fight climate change and unite together to fight the destruction of rain forests and save biodiversity and the world's lungs. The campaign is being endorsed by the Prince himself and many other influential people such as Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, the Dalai Lama and other members of the Royal Family.

My only concern about this move is why was Myspace used...should the campaign have been launched on Facebook which is by far the market leader in Social Networking and use You Tube to Link all the Webcasts that are posted on the Facebook group? Maybe this will be the next phase :) at least we have seen the start...hopefully it will encourage other people to do the same and start voicing their opinions online. This is especially necessary when it involvesgood cause campaigns such as theone mentioned above!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Social Network put pressure on M&S and the retailer responds

Can Social Networking sites influence companies decisions? Some large organisations might say probably not as they surely know it more...however this was not the recent case of Marks & Spencer. Some time ago it had announced that it would have started charging more for larger bras and unlike most retailers, it was going to impose a surcharge of £2 for bras with a cup size above DD .

This did not go unnoticed and with today's spread of social networking Beckie Williams was very fast to set up a lobby group on Facebook called "Busts 4 Justice". This group was set up last summer as she was was fed up paying extra for her 30G bras and saw such policy simply "ridiculous". However the company did not give in immediately and said that it's surcharge was actually fair as it reflected the extra cost of producing a bra for larger bust sizes.

The Facebook group gained momentum as it counted more than 17,000 members and soon other media groups followed in this campaign. Media groups such as the Sun and the Daily Mirror were in the forefront to support the unhappy consumers. After some months and various complaints, last week M&S gave in to customer demands and decided to ditch its surcharge...

The company is also trying to use humor to excuse itself from this failure as it took out full-page adverts in the press to tell consumers that from last Saturday, all bras will cost the same. M&S admitted that "They boobed" as the adverts says: "We were wrong, so as of Saturday 9th May the storm in a D cup is over." The store is also offering a further 25% discount on bras for the coming two weeks to excuse itself and try to recover some of the bad publicity.

Social Media can thus be an effective lobbying medium as this was not the first time a Facebook campaign has played an important role in persuading a company to change its route. Some two years ago HSBC turned down plans start charging graduates for overdrafts after a group set up by the National Union of Students attracted more than 4,000 members. Hence we need to be more aware of the power of this medium and listen more to our customers...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Innovative way how to revitalise a country's brand online

I recently came across the new website of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO), which is increasingly trying to promote Morocco as a relaxation destination.Morocco has seen its visitor number declining over the past few months, and wanted to create a website that helps in reversing this trend.

Its aim is to promote the added value on offer to holidaymakers, such as free spa treatments.The new website,, is certainly worth a visit. Although there is not much Web 2.0 content on the site, I was immediately struck by the unusual use of video content, which enables continuous customer dialogue and interaction by suggesting the perfect treatment for your individual "illness".

I think that the use of video on the site definitely enhances the online customer experience and at a very minimum, generates awareness and interest in this destination, making you want to find out more. Indeed, the last tab, is a call to action that links to the main MNTO site,

Daniela Attard

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bigger companies following inovative ones in the use of Web 2.0 to engage with consumers

Innovative companies already sought ways how to engage with their customers, however today this is apparently becoming a necessity for most companies to do. With the recent economic depression, companies are seeking more ways how to retain their present customer base and only if possible, try to grow it.

Unilever is no exception to this. Last month, the FMCG giant attended the media and content event MIPTV to search for different ways how to engage more with their core customer...mainly woman. One of the ideas that emerged from this event was the creation of a campaign aimed at helping woman to feel better about their aging. Aging is a reality for everyone hence people need to come to terms with it...the more this is included in advertising and made to feel as something that's not the end of the world but actually one can discover beauty in aging the easier it will be come to live through this period.

The project is being developed with long-time agency Ogilvy. It will use interactive technology that lets customers see changes to their skin caused by aging. A similar project is also being launched for Persil in the UK.

Unilever isn't the only FMCG company using online strategies to involve customers. In March, Johnson & Johnson launched its own campaign for its Clean and Clear skincare brand. The company created online soap opera for teens featuring two best friends, Celia and Chloe. The content was distributed though webisodes and could be shared though social networking sites.

The Internet is empowering companies to engage further more with their target customers and adopt new forms of retention and acquisition marketing campaigns...what might be next? What will the new Web 3.0 offer to us marketeers?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tourism New Zealand - Using You Tube to communicate the with potential visitors

Tourism New Zealand, the National Tourism Organisation for New Zealand, set out to become more innovative in a drive to try to obtain a creative edge over competing destinations and attract extensive PR to attract more the eye of potential visitors.

The Campaign called 'Have Your Say" involves the production of short film (interviews) involving actual tourists on their trip in New Zealand. These are asked to speak about their trip and the interview is then edited and posted on social networking sites around the web as well as on the Tourism New Zealand You Tube Channel.

Tourism New Zealand said the campaign is a first in tourism marketing, and enables travellers to share their experiences with other potential visitors to New Zealand through social networking. This Campaign seeks to capitalise on the fact that people tend to believe more the opinion of other people who have tried the advertised experience (in this case the experience of visiting New Zealand) if they hear or read it from past visitors rather than from the Tourism organisations themselves. In fact this is why site such as Trip Advisor have become so popular, as they report first hand experiences from past visitors of different destinations.

The campaign seems to have been a success as the videos were After four months more than 1,500 video diaries were recorded and viewed by almost 140,000 people on the dedicated YouTube site. Gregg Anderson, Tourism New Zealand's regional manager UK and Europe, said: "Social media is used by people from all walks of life to connect with people back home while they are travelling.

Apart from this, this campaign aims on riding on the wave of word-of-mouth as it is one of the most effective marketing tools to promote a destination. The agency report that the mobile movie studio was a real proven success and was worth it. Tourism New Zealand is currently developing working on developing further it's Social Media Strategy since it has proven to be relatively inexpensive and successful. Other Destination Management Organisations should learn from these best practice examples and adopt these online guerrilla marketing strategies to increase the impact of their campaigns.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The power of Creativity in Marketing

An important aspect of marketing and advertising, especially from the point of view of both the marketeer and the commissioning company is to use creativity in a way to attract attention to the brand. Companies are in a contast search for innovative ideas as these can be used to increase exponentially the impact of an advertising campaign. One company which made effective use of this guerrilla marketing tactic was Flygbussarna, a Swedish bus company.

The company concluded that a coach, on average, can carry the equivalent of about 50 cars (taking into consideration that the average car carries about 1.2 persons). At the same time coaches emit as much carbon dioxide as 2 cars. Hence the company armed with such information embarked on a very innovative used 50 scrapped cars painted them in the shape of a bus and placed this live billboard alongside a highway.

Have a look at this video to see the full campaign in the making and it's results

The result was simply fantastic...they got themselves a traffic stopping campaign that got mentioned in all media in Sweden, from TV to newspapers. The total value of free PR was more than worth it in the end, making the campaign an absolute success...if you know of any other such campaign go ahead and leave a comment here. It is nice to learn from such innovative companies

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pepsi Co in a marketing blunder that resembles 1985 New Coke Launch

PepsiCo, the American Beverage Giant, biggest rival of Coca Cola Co has actually fallen in the same trap as it's rival...however the product is a different one; this time it involves it's orange juice brand Tropicana.

Arnell Group had been assigned the job to redesign the package (carton) of the Tropicana Orange Juice. The launch of the new design took place in early January and according to according to AgencySpy. it has cost Pepsi Co about $35 million. The launch of the new redesigned container was far less than successful as Tropicana is set to abandon its trendy new orange juice carton and revert back to its traditional packaging, featuring the iconic orange with a straw in it.

The PepsiCo's Tropicana had to bow to public demand and scrap the changes made to its flagship product as consumers, especially those very loyal to the brand, complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail and calls made to the company's customer service and clamored for a return of the original look. Complaining customers called the new package as ugly and stupid as it resembles the package of a generic brand. In fact articles also report customers calling the company complaining that they couldn't find the product on supermarket's shelves. The new package (as can be seen below) is more simple and it has removed the iconic orange from the package and replaced it with orange juice. This has, according to some complaining customers removed the attachment to the claim that the juice is fresh. Being it's premium product, Pepsi has to intervene to limit the damage to it's brand!

This problem came about at the same time as the company (Tropicana) registered a decline of about 20% in sales in favour of competitors such as Minute Maid and other private labels.

This event has thought management of Tropicana that they have a very loyal customer base, who actually care about the product. Now with the advent of new technologies such as Twitter and mobile emailing it has made it much easier for the latter to voice their opinion and the company has to listen to its customers. One must remember that marketing is not about making products look better but meeting customer needs and demands; marketers must be good listeners. This event is very similar to that of Coca Cola's launch of New Coke in 1985 where Coca Cola had received an avalanche of complaints and they decided to recall New Coke and get back the original Coke version. Consumers were just attached to the brand as although in focus groups they liked the New Coke taste, they were not ready to give up the original Coke.

It's essential to identify all the elements that make customers loyal to the product and do extensive tests before risking damaging the brand...Pepsi Co will think it twice now before doing any further changes to any of their brands.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Big Companies Start Feeling the Pinch - P&G is no exception

While reading articles about the current economic situation around the world I came across a lot of articles listing companies which were said to be recession proof as the products they sold have become part of everybody everyday life and hence it was impossible to live without. One of these "recession proof" companies was said to be Procter & Gamble

However this week the 3rd quarter results were release and to everybody's surprise even this P&G saw a decline in it's profits. This consumer products giant has turned a profit of $2.6 billion during the quarter, but this represented a decline of 4 percent compared to last year's figures. Although this could be seen as quite negative, the power of the brands that P&G owns has made it possible for the company to beat Wall Street's expectations in terms of profitability. Products such as Pampers, Tide, Crest and Gilette have become an essential part of most people's life and although going through a difficult economic people still find it difficult to replace these products with "comparably similar" substitute products.
P&G's products have a global reach as they are available in more than 150 countries. saw its net sales drop across all of its product categories during the quarter. The reason for a drop in profits has been attributed mainly to the strong dollar. Its strength meant that when P&G converts currency from products sold overseas, it gets fewer dollars in exchange. This has cut into P&G's profits. Coupled with this, there's the global slowdown and also another strange fact... P&G raised prices on many of its products, to make up for the impact of the strong dollar.

The increase in prices, although did not significantly effect the sales to consumers due to the relative inelastic nature of demand for P&G's brands, this has affected the orders made by retailers and distributors. These are delay ordering new shipments to cuts the cost of stocking up as they reduce their reorder levels as everyone's trying to operate with less stock.

Although P&G have reduced their full year forecasts, it is still believe that the strong brands it owns will shield this company from the full effect of the recession while at the same time placing it in a good position to return to growth once the economy start growing again.