the grass is greener on the internet

3 more random things I have learnt recently
May 27, 2011, 10:41 am
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1. To drive change, you need to be simultaneously riding the wave and standing on the beach explaining what the surfers are doing.
2. “The best person for the job doesn’t get the job. The person that’s there gets the job.” – Kate Marie, entrepreneur
3. When it rains, it pours. (Especially in Singapore.)


If I were Facebook
August 30, 2010, 10:18 pm
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A random thought came to me today about the future revenue potential for Facebook.

Facebook’s main value is the huge volume of users that now habitually use it. It has the power to change daily schedules and the way we interact.

1. Networks that aren’t Facebook have made the mistake of trying to replicate Facebook in the belief that they can then get a similar number of users. They can’t. Once there was Facebook, and it had become the place to store your information and you didn’t want to move.

2. Facebook tried to make money from this value in several ways, each time misunderstanding their value.

  • they wanted to sell the fountain of information – but people came to Facebook to share with people they know, not companies. Privacy alarm bells rang.
  • they wanted to sell ad space because of all the eyeballs they have – but people are only interested in the content their network has generated, and very few companies are finding the ads effective.

Facebook was trying to sell what they’d already managed to capture, but their users didn’t want to be sold.

3. Facebook’s REAL value is in the huge realm of possibility that is created when lots of people are in the same space. It’s not about trying to pick parts of them individually but putting them together in new ways.

Let’s take the business community, for example. A general group of people that would pay to be connected in smarter ways, because for them it pays off.

Do you use LinkedIn AND Facebook? It’s inconvenient monitoring both. What if you could easily create professional profiles, picking which content you want to be drawn from your existing profile and which would be different? What if you could be recommended pe0ple to do business with based on your interests as well as industry and location?

Would you pay a nominal fee for that?

Or what about a service where you could send post to Facebook addressed to a username and have it forwarded to the user – so that postal addresses can remain anonymous? (Hard to pull off, but do-able.) It’s another way to make Facebook indispensible for connecting people.

I feel like there’s got to be another way to approach the problem. Thoughts?

Copycat Coles
October 18, 2009, 5:49 pm
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It’s becoming a game of ‘spot the difference’.

There’s some mentality that the moment your main competitor does something, you’ve got to do what they did.

When that something is ‘make lots of money and use it to completely change the layout of their stores’, it’s a bit more difficult.

One, it’s expensive. Two, they’re going to have a massive headstart on you.

So sometime when Woolworths was having their consultation with Hans Hulsbosch and started rolling out their new corporate identity, Coles was having a chat (with McKinsey, if the rumours are true) about its own identity crisis.

Lo and behold, a new store layout!

This humble observer would like to present to you what’s new, what looks suspiciously similar and where Coles might be breaking from the mould.

Continue reading

CSR: it’s a culture, not a role
July 7, 2009, 11:39 am
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Too often, when I ask representatives of corporations (in the wide-eyed innocent manner only a prospective graduate can achieve) what their CSR program is the answer is a resounding “Errr…”

This is most disappointing when one of the key parts of their marketing pitch to ‘Gen Y’ is that they are socially responsible.

I’d like to look at this from a branding and strategy perspective.

If one of your reps didn’t know about one of the other ‘five basic tenets’ of your business, say, client service, you’d fire them on the spot.

The best way to communicate the values that your company wants to represent are through the actions of the people that make it up. Increasingly, due to societal pressure, companies are throwing ‘the community’ on a list of things they value. But how can staff embody company values if they don’t even understand them?

As more and more companies get on the bandwagon, CSR will shift to being a hygeine factor and the motivation will have to come from interesting concepts and authentic execution.

If you are going to go for CSR programs, it’s NOT just a ‘role’ that you can palm off to one person in corporate communications. It’s not a profession, it’s not a function. It’s part of company culture.

Otherwise, you end up with the situation I described earlier. For the students you’re trying to attract who care about CSR and want to know you’re doing it, that would be an ‘epic fail’ (to use ‘Gen Y’ speak).

All it takes (imho) is training and dialogue. This is why I’d like to see companies like Carbon Planet not just offering carbon credits and consultation but also training for entire organisations.

Make sure that your employees have an idea of what your company is doing. (Especially if you’re in an ‘evil’ industry like oil.) Better yet, an understanding. The feeling that through little extra personal effort they’re part of an organisation which is helping the community gives employees something to feel good about.

At the very least, please, brief them before sending them out to represent your company.

I’d like to add something for evangelists of CSR: it’s important to remember that when you’re talking to people outside of the CSR community the things that are obvious to you may not to be obvious to them.

It’s a constant sales pitch. You need to convince them in a way that doesn’t make them hate you.

Sweeping ‘obviously we must do this’ statements, absolute refusal to discuss other points of view, spam; they’re annoying and they give others who don’t want to listen the perfect excuse to brush you off.

If you’re going to call for action, how you’re communicating is just important as what you’re communicating.

McDonalds: How badly do you want fries with that?
February 26, 2009, 8:34 pm
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McDonald’s has caused a furore – not because they’re killing us this time, although they’re still doing that – for their new pricing strategy.

When deciding their prices for the new year, the company will be suggesting to its franchisees a demand-based increase.

It’s simple: if your store has higher demand, your prices will increase more.

From the ‘leaked document’ this will mean that generally prices will rise in low-income areas and

They seem to be calling this a ‘price optimisation strategy’. (See their recent 10-K form.)

Fine, if you feel you can charge more then general business rules suggest you’d be creating waste if you didn’t have a price increase.


  1. Any first-year econs student can point to a P-Q graph (holding a precious burger in their other hand) and tell you that a price increase will most likely lead to a decrease in demand. Are they trying to level demand out across their stores?
  2. Low-income areas will definitely take a hit in demand from a big price increase – they go to McDonald’s because it’s quick and cheap. It’d be a mistake to take one of these factors away from their key clientele.
  3. Funny phenomenon – I know at least a few people who just won’t bother buying something they know will be cheaper elsewhere. They’ll travel to the other store or just find something else. If there is no way of doing either of those, they build a general resentment towards that brand. We know when we’re being exploited. (Most of those people are asian, I grant you.)
  4. The brand backlash will be pretty huge.
    Especially now that the tabloids have picked up the story and are running with the ‘discrimination against the lower classes’ line.
    The initial leak was ‘exclusive’ to the Herald Sun which explained the demand basis, but subsequent articles have jumped on the tail with their take.
    Aussies love nothing better than a story of the battler up against the big man, and unless a union dispute blows up soon the reporters will be dining out on Micky D’s for the next week. Not in a good way.

So yes – you might be able to charge more, but is that really a great long-term strategy? Sure, bad PR will largely be short-lived, but so will the extra benefits.

Some locations – hospitals, remote areas, airports – could get away with this. But should they?

Will be waiting to see how this is executed, and what the company’s next action will be.