Saturday, February 28, 2009

Walkin' and a-Talkin'. ATT&T true colors?

This is what I received together with my AT&T monthly bill. A total of 8 pieces of paper of different shapes and colors. In one of them, the green one, I was encouraged to save resources and "go paperless"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wohoooo! I love this quote

“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected”
William Plomer

There was an invisible line connecting this quote with the name of my blog... Magic

Honda case: more fun than a barrel of monkeys

The story of Honda's entry in the US motorcycle market in the 60s is one of the most popular case studies at business schools. Case studies, apart from a cookie-cut narrative structure, tend to include a fair amount of exhibits with graphs and tables. Very rarely they indulge in including light notes or fun facts. The Honda case is extremely appealing by itself but the following document adds some extra color to it:

The Beach Boys composed the song "Little Honda". Since they already had two hits aligned for radio release they put together the Hondels to launch the song. I guess that the song was commissioned as part of the communications campaign of the Honda Super Cub but I have not found any information about it.

Here you have the Beach Boys' tribute to the "groovy little motorbike" that is "more fun that a barrel of monkeys". No product placement in this clip though.

Hang on tight while you listen and enjoy!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Words and Revolutions

"Revolutions begin with an assault on language. When we change our words, we change the way we think"

Richard T. Pascale
from the article "Reflections on Honda"
California Management Review. Vol. 38, NO.4. Summer 1996

This quote is from my weekly Managing Innovation and Change reading. I have a light but juicy bit on Honda that I will share shortly...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dear facebook user: do it for me. Once again

After complaints over their new Terms of Use, Facebook wants its users to write the new ones. This is how it goes: OK dear users, we got it wrong [ or you didn't let us get away with it ], now tell us how you would like it to be.

Two comments about it:
  • Facebook is built on the premise of profuse user generated content on top of the platform the company provides. But, hey, how cool it is when users actually help you develop your product infrastructure!. It is not the first time facebook relies on its users for developing core components of its product. They did an awesome job outsourcing to users the site translation to other languages.
  • Facebook can make a mistake and still have the brand power to tell its users to work for them. It looks like it can get away with anything: the product is so relevant to its users, they are so locked-in - due to a massive network effect-, that people would provide feedback and try to change things for lack of any other better alternative.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Share of stomach / tank

A couple of days ago driving along highway 80 I noticed something, I guess, quite familiar all over the US. Chevron's and McDonald's logos shared a sign at a rest area. I couldn't take a picture of the actual site but it was something quite like this.


What grabbed my attention was that both brands were sharing the same status up above in that sign. Equivalence of stomachs and gas tanks!. For me, gas is a completely undifferentiated product which unique function is to "feed" the car. In a sense, it looked like McDonald's hamburgers were performing for human-beings the same function that gas provides for a car.

The golden arches' brand doesn't come out nicely from the matching. Both brands belong to very different experiences. As a consumer I felt a subconscious disconnect. Well, some may say that at the end of the day it is all about chemistry - organic and inorganic-, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Put your money where your mouth is

Prediction markets are not new. A simple way to describe them could be the following:

yes, I love's Venn diagrams ads too

... or put together an independent crowd of participants, lay out a bunch of hypothesis and tell your participants to invest real or virtual money on whatever hypothesis they deem more likely to happen. Do not forget to incentivize them with some sort of -monetary- prize if they win.

Apparently, results from this collective forecasting tend to be more reliable than individual forecasts and other methods. Applications of this technique range from the mundane "who will win the Oscar this year?" to presidential elections, sophisticated pricing, sales or project completion forecasts.'s article "Workers, Place Your Bets" provides more information on corporate uses (HP, Microsoft, Google, etc.) of this fascinating tool.

Prediction markets do not always work perfectly. Haas professor Tack-Hua Ho has identified four principles for better functioning - I4C or incentive, indicator, improvement, independence, and crowd-. In his paper, co-authored with Kay-Yut Chen , "New Product Blockbusters: The Magic and Science of Prediction Markets" he also points at the most common prediction market pitfalls - lack of participants, little trading, and participants who lack information -, but I am not going to tell you all about it. You can read more here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lululemon and customer nakedness

Last week I was shocked to see real customers' pictures in the shop windows of the Lululemon shop close to where I live. When I say real customers I mean people that I know. Apart from a fair and bare amount of their skin, they revealed their dreams too. Over the black and white pictures of their semi-naked bodies all those people had written a concrete personal goal: "I want to become a lawyer by 2016". "I want to be more compasionate"...

Lululemon is a retailer of yoga-inspired athletic apparel. I had the chance to study their business model as part of one of my classes project. They have a powerful mission statement: "Creating components for people to live a longer, healthier, more fun life". Something that sets them apart from other retailers is their strong focus on grass-roots relationships. Their shops try to become rooted in the community they cater to by holding community events and offering free yoga demonstrations and classes. They appoint ambassadors and offer product discounts to athletic instructors.

There is a couple of things that struck me from the "customer nakedness" campaign in the shop windows:
  • Lululemon's brand power and connection with their customers. It takes a whole deal of familiarity and credibility as a brand to convince your customers not only to take off their clothes but also to expose, yes, to publicize, their most personal challenges. This would not happen without an authentic personal, one-on-one relationship between the brand representatives (shop owner, sales associates) and the customers. What a credible and consistent-with-brand-values testimonial campaign.
  • The participants behavior is the reflection of an interesting sociological trend. Obviously there can be a myriad of personal motivations when volunteering for the pictures. My personal take on it: we need to have our own voice and we need everybody to know. We need to feel beautiful and worthy of praise, admiration - or desire -. Part of the popularity of blogging may have to do with this too. Not many brands are able to provide this unique benefit, and this is an open question for my readers: what brands do you think are giving their customers the possibility of feeling different, name it?