Thursday, June 30, 2011

A course in agent based modeling next week

I'll be sending myself to a little course at the University of Sydney on "agent based modeling". Sometimes people call it "complexity modeling" and I think people have sometimes thought of it as "Monte Carlo" simulation. But I think this is a little different. It uses a program called "netlogo" and the method is to specify different players in a system - allow the system to run and generate a macro result.

I built such a model a few years ago, using the probability of purchasing 0,1,2,3 units of product in a fixed time based on the negative binomial distribution. I ran it in Matlab and it worked ok, but this is a little more involved.

With netlogo we could build - say - a set of tweeters who tweet one way, and another set who tweet another way. We could vary the population based on how many followers each has etc. Allow a simulation to run with all of them in and then come up with a final picture.

And we could use this type of modeling to arrive at recommendations for the types of tweeters one might work with to get the message moving.

At the moment I'm just learning the method but it has application.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Entertainment or education? Which shall we go for?

Richard Hamilton Wines is presenting "a day on the green" with Steely Dan and Stevie Wineood. A nice entertainment event.

How well does that work for their brand, compared to a wine education event? It's worth considering, I suppose.

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Obviously prime retail location might not be as important as it once was

Two signs that tell a valuable story. The Borders shutdown - condolences to the families affected by it and retail landlords. So perhaps prime retail location is not as important for certain types of product. For highly standardised easily shippable products one might expect higher levels of competition from online suppliers.

I know there are other factors at play with Borders, but this is certainly one of them.

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My Para Hills High School class

A university initiative "Aim for Adelaide" had me yesterday in a tute room with about 15 students, year 9 and 10 from Para Hills High School to get a feel for a marketing tute.

I can assure you I felt more romantic about the fact that I did yr12 at that school 27 years ago - but they indulged me as I told stories about the 20 minute walk from Roycroft Ave Salisbury East, to school. The namedropping of teachers - as one would expect - drew a few blank looks.

We showed some ads, developed a few brand concepts, spoke about the tricomponent model of attitudes and assessed som ad objectives and the effectiveness of the ads.

It was pretty fun.

There is a solid marketing reason for a university doing this. It's not about making the sale right now, but about making sure that THIS university is thought of as a potential destination for students after high school. Awareness is the first step. Some argue it's the most important step in gaining a preference for what you offer. That debate will rage.

Anybody reading this blog who saw me yesterday - I found it great fun and thanks for "getting amongst it" in the class.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Service Recovery: Can't split Coles and Woolies

Now it's clear I'm not afraid of complaining. And you might know how I believe many brand choices look almost random for a consumer. But supermarkets are a little more sticky. Once you are accustomed to their range and where the aisles are located, habit draws you back.

So I have had the chance to test the majors on something else over te last few weeks. Call it age related, but I've left a bag of shopping at both Woolies and at Coles. And come back the last day asking for it.

At Woolies a few weeks ago the bag was just sitting there. Whew. That's $30 of shopping I don't need to rebuy. A shopper next to me had left perishables and they got it from the fridge.

So today I'd made the same mistake with Coles. When I went to them it had been reshelved. Oh no. But then the young guy had said "go through, pick it up (from the display) and we'll check it though. So in both cases, brilliant service recovery.

In a world where products and services are hard to split, it's when things go wrong that you might set yourself apart. And in this case, apparently the competition remains tough.

Special mention to Jason at Coles Avenues and Nick at Woolworths Marden who are fighting well from the trenches.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Para Hills students at Uni of Adelaide

As a child of the 1970s I was raised on a few sitcoms - Happy Days, Barney Miller and Welcome Back Kotter. The last was about a teacher who went back to teach in his own school in suburban New York. I liked the romance.

Dreamt of becoming a primary school teacher at Salisbury South East Primary School (Phil Greaves was an inspiration). Moved on, did year 12 after a while at Para Hills High School. Teachers were always important to me - Alex Rast (tech), John Hartstone (English), Bill Versteegh (English), Dave Stanbury (Physics), Mrs Carter (maths), even Peter Mansfield (maths).

After a long and winding road I am currently a lecturer in marketing at the University of Adelaide. From time to time we run a guest lecture/tute for students in schools who might be interested in coming to our university. And here is the delightful fact:

On Tuesday I'll be running a tute with students from Para Hills High School! I can't tell you how much that pleases me. I had some funny student relationships there (well it was high school, and it was me) but on revision every single teacher did a great job, and they were good days.

Two months ago I did a similar tutorial and some of the students were from Salisbury East High School as well as many other good schools. And I know that there are quality people working both as students and as teachers in every school in this state.

So it's not Welcome Back Kotter, but I hope I don't get too gushy. 27 years ago I studied matriculation in those buildings at Para Hills. Got enough to get into engineering but decided on a trade. Eventually (after a few twists and turns) wrote a PhD in Marketing Modelling; *love* teaching marketing and working with businesses. I would love if some of the students that do my session come to study a Bachelor of Commerce in some of our buildings. Or any other degree.

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Solar feed in tariffs and the experience curve

So I just heard that the "feed in tariff" legislation has been extended. I truly haven't been paying attention to the whole solar panels / govt subsidy thing, but it's something like "we'll pay you more for the electricity that you put into the grid than you pay to take it out. Actually we'll pay you more for the stuff you create than we can make it for ourselves. It'll be about 44c per kw/h if you get in before October and about half after that." I think they were planning to kill it in October but softened. I think we buy electricity for about 18c - no?

Friends, colleagues I'm GROSSLY under - facted here so I urge you to correct me. I'll fix it right away.

Aha. Update. Some more facts here:

Effectively the government is saying - "here, taxpayers will pay you a higher than market rate for what you produce, because generating renewable energy is a good thing".

I'm on board with that. For many reasons. First, I agree we want to create renewable energy. Second, prices will go up so the gap will never be this big again. Third - many of the developers of this technology are (or should be) Australian and even if not, the technology deserves R&D support wherever it is. Fourth, people who privately invest in this deserve reward.

Fifth, the prices of the systems will come down.

Now I don't profess to be brilliant at finance/accounting but it's about the price of assets, returns, net present value and a range of other things. But bottom line - in five years it won't cost you $17,000 to put panels on your roof. It'll cost you less (in interest or opportunity cost) to have the things. They'll depreciate at a lower $ value per year, another expense saved.

Why cheaper? Some 1980s marketing study I did called it the experience curve. Companies gain experience in making, say, panels and inverters (and their components) and the costs come down.

I simply couldn't get my stuff together to put panels on the roof. Food on the table (and rainy day money) had been adequate success until now. And I hate paperwork. Colleagues and family have got in and that's good.

Close family and business associates are in the trade and I hope it goes well for them too. They're smart businesspeople and are know where the price structures are headed. And no, they haven't been taking advantage of consumers - the technology is still expensive. So the government has managed the introduction of this important technology well. IM(H)O.

UPDATE: My good friend in the industry tells me it's more like a death blow. He watched it go over in parliament and got depressed because nobody was chasing good policy, just political positioning. This 16c gig only runs for five years. The machinations of numbers gives this a 13 year payback period for panels, for an individual. That means the backside will drop our of demand - instantly. My bud tells me that parl was given 3 options - any of which were better than what they did. So the way it looks - the business and the technology will right itself, but after the October work is dealt with, many businesses will simply shut.

I'm not sure I have a position on that yet, but I do know it's crap for the families of the people in the industry.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Twitter hashtag integration with TV

We've seen #qanda doing it, and I was interested to learn a little more. I had a look at twitter's website where they're (of course) recommending that tv shows somehow build twitter into their delivery.

I saw this:

That's right, the royal wedding. #CNNTV was the hashtag where they showed it online in an attempt to own the event on Twitter. They sort of did, with over 15,000 tweets total.

The spike (252 tweets per minute) was upon the arrival of the boys - but the minispikes were interesting to me.I guess they were ad breaks, where people tended to turn to their phones. Perhaps.I think I'll be watching hashtags a little more.- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Les deux agneux

Dateline Thurs June 16: A great night in Paris last night with mon frere Jean-Eric Pelet.

Sort of celebrating a publication of his with a night at the theatre.
He likes Twitter, loves wine, but most of all he is a warm, passionate guy who will do the right thing by the people who do right by him.

And he's entrepreneurial which sometimes makes him a black sheep in academia - but his gentle side makes him more like a lamb. Hence "l'agneau noir".

I feel a bit more "mouton" and some would assert "cochon" but for romance I'll stick with les deux agneux.

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Partial product failure on Malaysian Airlines

Part of what we teach in marketing is the idea of a total product concept. That is core benefit, actual product and augmented product. Take air travel. Core benefit - time efficient travel. Actual product - meals, inflight entertainment, ticketing systems, seating etc. Augmentations - "delight" factors - frequent flyer programs, lounges, delightful service.

There's an argument that things like inflight entertainment and even meals were once augmentations but are now considered actual or basic product. And cut price competitors will often strip those things out (and their costs) and charge less for a lesser product.

Hence Virgin, or Tiger Airways. So the $2700 flight to France might have been $2000 with either of those but I would expect less.

So when one sits down for a 12 hour flight and gets all nested, the "video on demand" not working is an initial product failure.

Service staff getting all confused when I raise the issue is a little irksome, but understandable, one always needs to help people understand one's problem before they can do something about it.

A strange thing, though, is their not understanding that moving me to a seat that works is only half a solution. The big picture is the "Singapore Airlines" prices for a "Tiger Airways" product - at least in the first instance.

So then there was the "service recovery". I was not happy and was clear about it -still, after my persistent displeasure I did move - and the lead stewardess managed it brilliantly. So, service recovery saved the day, more or less.

Well done cabin crew on Malaysian Airlines. Brushing it off as an unavoidable error was a little weak though. Fair, it was not the cabin crew's fault but management always needs to make a decision about how much to spend on preventative maintenance. In this case, allowing too great an opportunity for product failure probably lost them a future customer - at least a couple of my tickets.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Education and Entertainment: Two possible routes to brand strength?

In the little village of St Emilion in Bordeaux I saw this sign say it all.

It appears to have two products on offer. Lessons in the wine school or "Journee detente autour du vin" roughly "a relaxing day touring around wine" I think.

Perhaps they're the same thing. I'll tell you though, as a sample of one, as I sit in this bistrot and consider buying a $7 glass, I'm drifting towards a St Emilion Grand Cru.

So is it the education or the entertainment or the relaxation that builds the bonds to the brand - or in the French case the region?

I don't have the answer but Aussie brands/regions have a similar issue. A rambling bus tour/wine festival or a wine education event. What leads to stronger links to the brand and future purchase intention - perhaps even loyalty? Is it different for different types of consumers, regions or countries?

Let's see what we find.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Le Dimanche is different

The first word I really (re)learnt was "ferme" which means "closed" and there is a fair amount of "closed" here in (at least) Bordeaux.

Some of it comes from the work structures - I was told that a small business hiring an employee is an enormous risk, so many family businesses simply shut in the summer, and everyone goes on holiday.

And then there's Sunday. I always thought when learning French in a classroom that Sunday was different - Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi etc then Dimanche.

Well it's different in reality too. Many places are shut. Except - I see - the Virgin megastore.

But I'm not sure that's wrong. If the shops are closed, many people are at home with their family. There's a lot that's good about that.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nice quick targeting by Google

As soon as I started working from France and mentioned Bordeax in a couple of tweets, my next ad stream was all for courses in how to lend French etc.

Reiterated: "No education is wasted" and "Have a good heart"

 I've become increasingly certain of two principles, especially on this trip:
  • No education is ever wasted
  • A transaction entered into with humility tends to go well
In France. Lovely Bordeaux. Similar to when I've been in the south Island of New Zealand, where one can simply randomly lift up their camera and take a postcard photo.

And they all speak French. And really only French as the language on the street. No surprise there - it is France and they have many hundreds of years of culture, that they rightfully vigourously protect.

In my four years of learning French at school I'd heard stories about how one would be treated poorly if they tried to speak English - first - in any transaction they try to do in France. I can't speak to that, I haven't tried, but it's possible. I know it happens when people try to speak another language first in Australia.

But my point. It has been 30 years since I did that study: vocab, grammar, verb conjugation, culture. I had dismissed it as an interesting sideline that enriched my life - and helped me learn my little Italian I use within my family. And then I come here. Day 1 I feel like an imposter, day 2 I tentatively put out a few words strung together. Day 6 - now - I'm using full sentences with adequate grammar.

At the hotel just then:
"Bonjour, J'ai ma carte, Merci"
"Oh, Oui"
"Je voudrai prendre le Dimanche a votre hotel aussi, S'il vous plait?"
"Oui, Aujourd'hui?"
"Oui, merci. Tre Bien, Merci Beaucuop, au revoir"

Yes, I'm sure I'm mangling it, but that brings me to my second point. I'm trying. I am coming to the transaction with humility and an honest heart. Perhaps I might have taken my eye off that ball over the past 18 months. But for all the stories I'd heard of rudeness, I have not had a single bad experience with a French person that I have had dealings with.

And I feel like a valued guest. Perhaps tiredness and sensory overload has given me rose coloured glasses or perhaps that's the way it is.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Academy of Wine Business Conference

We walked out to Bordeaux Ecole Management from the tram

Did a presentation

Caught a taxi to a chateau

Had the conference dinner and caught up with buddy Herve Remaud

With a little wine

And sat on a bus to come home. A big day but a great thing to do.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bordeaux: Nice to revisit a few old friendships and maybe some new ones.

I'm at the Academy of Wine Business Research in Bordeaux this week. It's an interesting time.
Some extremely high quality papers are on the list. Simone Mueller and Armando Maria Corsi are two of the great strong performers of the last few years but any of the 20 or so universities represented have their own success stories.

I had always had an interest in wine (for me it made sense living in Adelaide) but when a PhD supervisor helped me when I was at a loose end around 2002 the fact that he was a wine marketing professor drew me in just a little deeper.

What it has done has caused me to share much of my academic formative years with some great people like Damien Wilson, Justin Cohen, Wade Jarvis, Herve Remaud, Klaus Kilov, Steve Goodman and Eli Cohen. Plus of course the wine marketing professor. Had dinner with a couple of them last night.

It'll be nice to see those old buddies again plus many others. And pleased to be introducing PhD students Teagan Altschwager and Melanie Reddaway to them. Many people of AWBR are ones I'm proud to know.

There's quite a bit on the boil this year and next with wine research and freshening up this network of collaborators is an important thing.

Lobbed at Bordeaux St Jean

So PhD student Teagan and Myself are here. Lovely place and I've had many friends asking how soon we'll be here. So we are.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Teamwork in the middle at the bounce

Back to footy and teamwork. Note the standard caveats about bad behaviour of footy players off field. But watching these kids under a great coach - Craig Fosdike - reminds me of how a good team works.

I played for two seasons at the age of 29 - had to beat the age gate slamming shut on me. I wasn't that good, but I did get the chance to play ruck rover a few times. And one game we played against Mt Barker the other team said I did a little damage.

At the bounce it's really a duel between the two rucks. Two guys jump for the ball, and it tends to hurt. Often you'll feel the sprigs of the other guy in the side of your leg, somehow. Whilst it's an individual battle, the team relies on you winning it to get the best fall of the ball. And you n

Shit, my boy just won the ball, passed it to his teammate who just ran it over and booted a goal. Nice.

Back to the rant..

And you need, in ruck, to know where your teammates are, to put the tap out to them.

So my point. What goes on in the centre square at the bounce is an incredible blend of aggression, support, and territorialism. As a bunch of guys you might have your personal differences but for that hundred minutes it's all for the team.

Having that sort of support from tough, ego driven guys that I hardly knew. It was interesting, and surprising.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Live exports: and economic as well as an ethical argument

The meatworks around the country employ thousands of Australians. The day we started exporting beef and lamb "on the hoof" those guys' lives started getting tougher. I see the oz govt says that reductions in live trade don't increase chilled/frozen boxed meat but we also have the chance to be listened to here.

Australia is a bit of a power player in beef and lamb. About 30 ago we said "yes" to the live export customers simply because they asked. I don't wish to see the video, it wont be pleasant. But my argument is also about a simple economic reality. We said "yes" to live exports when WE were in the power position. And yes, if they don't treat our stock the way we would then let's say "NO" for that reason too.

I've been through kill floors in Naracoorte, Mt Gambier, Bordertown, Murray Bridge, Nairne, Lobethal and Gepps Cross. I've worked in 30 boning rooms. The Australian meat industry does the job well. And just btw Halal kills here in Australia are clean, quick and as humane as taking the life of another sentient being can be.

Because let's not kid ourselves - when we eat meat, you are eating the flesh of another mammal. It's bloody and brutal, but that's how we get to our nice neat steak.

So I don't like live exports. Yes because they don't treat our stock as well as we do but also because we might never needed to cop to it.

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Dolan is going to Bordeaux

More later but next week I'm going to the Academy of Wine Business Research in Bordeaux. I wrote a paper with Teagan and Steve, and another with Chris Matthews, Steve Goodman and Simon Somogyi. I'll post stuff about those papers soon. Another nice little paper on consumer wine knowledge and the Dunning-Kruger Effect is currently embargoed but we've still got plenty to talk about for this conference. Steve probably won't get to France - health issues - so I'll probably also present his on choice drivers in wine distribution.

But part of the fun is to bring a bottle of wine that means something to you. Rebecca Dolan - an honours student of Steve's - is part of a family winery that makes nice wine, I hear. I'll be trying this one over the weekend and then taking one to Bordeaux.

One of the great things about this job is to work with some high quality people so Dolan goes to Bordeaux. I also humbly appreciate the way the school has assisted me with getting to this conference to present some interesting research.

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Father in Law: A Superman of Sorts

He came to Australia in his twenties with hardly any money. His father had been a prisoner of war, working on a farm in Mundulla and told him "get over there, you can do well there" - in Italian of course.

He said the title for this photo could be "my father in law playing around in his shed"

Luigi Masciantonio goes into hospital next week for a double knee replacement; the price of 50+ years on his knees creating artisan tile work.

No grandiose gestures, never putting other people down to put himself up, convinced of the inherent honour of hard work and always committed to the permanence of his partnerships.

Luigi's latest activity is putting six semi detached offices on some spare land at the back of one of his properties in Maylands. He won't be able to walk - for a while - from Tuesday but it will get done, because Luigi is a superman of sorts.

So, about a year from now. $150 per week ten minutes from CBD across the road from Officeworks Trinity gardens. Luigi's vision WILL eventuate and it could be your work office.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pat Conroy you were right

What's more likely to give you food poisoning?

War stories. I sold expensive plastic bags (Cryovac) into all sorts of food industries - cheese, fresh red meat AND processed meat. A tough game, but Cryovac were a great company. And the customers were great too. One of the best was Conroy's Smallgoods.

Pat and Andrew, joint directors.

But back a bit, in feb 1994? I had another customer called Garibaldi Smallgoods. Good guys too, many schoolchildren got sick from eating Garibaldi Salami. The bug was ecoli and part of the tragedy was the death of a young girl.

A few years later Conroy's had a food scare too and I distinctly remember Pat on the radio. When he was hit with "you have ecoli in your product" Pat responded with "it's everywhere, even on lettuce"

Well, maybe not lettuce this time, but the recent event in Germany show Pat to be a little right.

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Six Research Degrees in a Nice Set of Presentations

I had the pleasure of sitting in on (the majority) of today's honours/master of business research proposal presentations today. What I really liked was the very constructive and positive way the marketing discipline approached the review task.

And some great research projects from the students. Very collegiate.

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