Sunday, September 30, 2012

Swans grand final win: inspiring

I often get tears in my eyes at scenes of incredible courage. While they occur every day - a mum keeping the family's shit together, a dad earning the money to put food on the table - they are rarely as theatrical as an AFL game.

And yesterday's was great. A great game of football. The image below is an old one, but plenty of Hawks looked like Buddy, below, yesterday.

A better game than 2010, but Malthouse still gets my vote for best acceptance speech, which inspired my "love the ones you lead" post.

Two years of roller coaster action and I still believe that compassion for your charges is the most important ingredient.

Note: The mum/dad home duties / breadwinner deal has dozens of variants. Small but important point.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Another character: Bad Mike

Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad. Ex cop with a dark heart and an expert at crime with meticulous attention to detail.

A great spoiler for Walt, who has allowed his ego to make him sloppy and stupid.

And towards the end of e05s06, Mike delivers the perfect line. "Shut the fuck up, Walt..." you have to be there.

I'm not sure I'd like to be Mike, but I respect his professionalism.

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Behind every great man...

As I watch "Homeland", for real this time, I have come to admire the "Jessica Brody" character.

I see many of her great qualities - intelligence, stoicism, dedication to the family effort, beauty and compassion - in the person I'm lucky enough to call my wife. I may not be a great man, but I certainly have the primary prerequisite. Although it's not a great woman behind me, but on the same team. A team of about seven.

And my wife is a success in her own right.

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Couples who share housework have a higher rate of divorce

Oh, and was watching "homeland" at the same time as reading it.

This headline is a little misleading. There is a correlation between couples sharing the housework and their divorce rate. But the body of the article indicates that it's a third variable - modern attitudes - that seems to be the underlying driver.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sports metaphor: "Fumble the ball"

I love sports metaphors. To be honest I love just about all metaphors.

But a favourite is when we talk about "dropping the ball" or "fumbling the ball" in business. On the eve of the AFL grand final it's great for me to talk about.

One of the best managers I have ever had, Rod Davis of Cryovac, was an AFL fanatic. Five days a week, plus some SANFL with his West Adelaide. And off season all the draft action. And the football style (done well) is one I still love. I hear that a past head of school at Adelaide Commerce had that approach.

Anyhoo, AFL is a fast moving game and (surprising because it's called "football") you need clean hands. You simply cannot afford for any uncertainty when it comes to ball handling.

So I remember hearing Rod in his office fending off a witch hunt that was out for me -not undeserved in that particular case. "Bob, I don't think anybody fumbled the ball. I think there was just crap everywhere and it happened to look like it was one person's fault". (my interpretation - but I did hear the first eight words)

Rod idolised Mick Malthouse and from what I've seen about Rod - and Malthouse, so do I.

And the "fumble the ball, drop the ball" metaphor remains as powerful as ever. As is my respect for a boss who will wear some heat from above, so the people he manages can get on with their shit. I've had it since, as well, but not as often as you'd hope.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A chance to bring my students together

I've often stated that the students are the best part of the academic gig for me. Alex Thomson is on exchange here in Singapore, at SMU.

I got Alex to agree that on my next teaching trip, she'd come out and talk to my Singapore students.

Which is good. Alex did my Market Research course a couple of years ago and she can help my students here to relax.

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Apple: Maps acting as a speed hump

When the release of your new operating system brings in a whole heap of articles suggesting a "workaround" you have a problem.

In its ongoing battle with Google, Apple have tossed Google Maps and replaced it with their Apple maps.

Apple maps might be good, one day, but for now I don't like the idea of being directed to the middle of the wrong place. Google have had years to iron that out.

So the press has now been printing how to get Google Maps on an iPhone 5.

Perhaps it's just a speed hump, but I have seen companies accumulate these minor things and then just fade away.

Like RIM with the Blackberry. I'd be happy enough to see the iPhone fade away. This next 5 might be my last.

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Taken: Supreme Toughness

At this point, his enemies held all the cards. Liam simply picks the phone up, that has his daughter's kidnapper on the line.

The unshakeable belief in his own skills, his ability to get the job done, shows real toughness.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Skippy peanut butter: not an Australian thing

My Singapore expat friend Marziah asked me to pick up some of her daughter's favourite brand of peanut paste, which isn't available in Australia.

How strange. I've never heard of it. Maybe we could have some "Appelation Controlee" legislation for kangaroo images, as the French have for - say - Burgundy.

No, that would be silly.

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The change of the entertainment landscape

I've been here in Singapore for four days now and haven't switched the hotel television on. I've listened to the radio, watched five hours of my (currently) favourite TV series and quite a few movies.

It's a change in consumer media consumption behaviour and I wonder what that means for advertisers?

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Contempt for your customer: the most expensive luxury in business

Too many customers? We can fix that. This blog - the twelve quickest ways to get thrown off a pitch list - has been circulating recently:

And it's brilliant. Although the irony in the writing style confused me a little.
But it reminded me of my firmly held belief. That thinking of the customer with contempt is the most expensive luxury you can have in business. Sounds simple I know, and it's amazing I need to make the point.

Now "the customer is always right" is crap. But the customer does pay the bills. So when they aren't right, you need to find a way to deal with that, a way that treats them with respect and makes them feel like they plan to stay with you. Or you can get used to the idea of losing the client.

It's tempting to think of the client as a nuisance. They often expect things that are inconvenient to us. Their agenda gets in the way of our "todo" list.

But I've seen many businesses indulge in the luxury of treating the customer with contempt, and lose the customer. Often the businesses don't care when they lose the customer, and many of them don't know that they should care.

And every now and then, when you lose an impossible client, you are emancipated. Your people are freed up, the culture of your business improves and you get to chase new clients in the same product category. It just shouldn't happen by mistake.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sheep Stations: The Ratio Data Rant

This is what I told my Singapore students was like playing for sheep stations. Getting your data right. The different types of data can allow you to breathe life into your observations or stay mediocre.

I was amazed when, once, an experienced commercial data person refused to acknowledge that there might be some value in restructuring a nominal variable (Internet use frequency eg daily, few times a week, weekly) into an order of less frequent to most frequent. Essentially all they wanted to do was build pie charts, but were deliberately depriving themselves of a chance to be really clever.

God forbid they would have actually asked "how many times a week do you typically use the Internet" and get even better quality data.

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Ants bumping into each other

I still don't know if it's about weight of people traffic or something to do with the personality of the culture. But I found that when I was in Hong Kong from ten years ago people would be forever bumping into each other - and me - like ants in a nest. They seemed to not look further than a half metre in front of them. It had led me to this uncharitable thought:

"I swear if you put two Hong Kongers in different parts of a football oval they'd find a way to bump into each other"

So for about ten years I've wondered whether it is any better anywhere else. In equal concentrations, would Aussies, Americans, Englishmen bump into each other as much?

There's lots of bumping here in Singapore and - yes - whenever it gets busy in Adelaide I see the same thing. So I don't think the people in any particular country are better or worse, as far as looking where they're going.

It just seems that way, depending upon which country I'm in. It probably says more about me, to be honest.

And I was wrong about HK. I miss the place, haven't been there for six years now.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

And then some beauty

A particularly unsuccessful shopping trip in Singapore and a little crankiness here and then:

Take it where you find it.

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Jim Larkin, an $18 beer has been a privilege

I was in the thick of som yuk around this time last year. Strangely enough I was in Singapore while it was all going on as I also am now. But it was gonna hurt, and much of it was crap I brought to myself.

I found myself in an unlikely duo with Jim Larkin; quant guy, teaches stats and is often accused of being in his own world a little. (ok Jim?)

We went for a walk on the quay. Bought a couple of beers quayside. The bill came and it was THIRTY SIX BUCKS.

We both did the haka, where we slap our bodies for money and apparently I had more, and paid. Cool.

But there was always the WTF?! $18 a beer? A few people have told me I got skinned. I withheld judgement.

But I returned to Clarke Quay tonight. Undeterred. Well, a little deterred but willing to learn. I soaked up the atmosphere. I looked at the lights over the water. I watched the rugby at the bar until they pitched me because I hadn't bought a beer. I dawdled past the Crazy Elephant which served as a Mecca for an ex boss.

I returned to the quayside bar where they were lovely. And I asked about the price of a beer.

"yes sir that would be $22 a pint"

Hahahahahahahahahaahahhhha the !

Jim. The $18 for a beer was a bargain. Not just because it's less than the price I just got told, but because I got to share it with you.

And so I wandered through the quay in the fairyland they've created. I sit at a new bar and order a beer. Trepidacious.

Whew. Only $12.80. Anyone speak of an "anchoring effect" in pricing studies? Servicescape in marketing?

Anyhoo Jim. What a beer. Thanks, a friend when I really, really needed one.

I'm possibly in a little clear air for now. I hope you travel well, too.

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"Find us on Facebook" because?

This reminds me of many products and posters you'd see in the 60s and 70s that would announce "AS SEEN ON TV"

Yeh right. "Find us on Facebook" is like saying "hey we've got an ad on tv in the middle of Modern Family tonight - why don't you tune into it?"

I think many marketers presume that because social media can make the consumption of advertising fun, that consumers will actively seek out the advertising. A little naive.

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Servicescape fail in Singapore: How unfortunate

What an interesting application of a service problem with cultural overtones. Here in Singapore at **** a foot massage is a fair price, with a good quality core service.

The whole package, is suppose is supposed to include soft lighting, relaxing music. General peacefulness. They probably don't advertise having other people's kids being a little ratty in the place.

Nope, can't see it written there. So this - I suppose poses somewhat of a problem for them.

That's mum getting a back massage behind the ruckus.

There are at least six people in that room who didn't expect to be sitting in a crèche. And the fact that the Singaporean culture is so loving and tolerant of young children means that I don't think anyone in the shop even imagines that they delivered a substandard package, this time (an in this one customer's perception) And to be the one who mentions it would just make me a grumblebum.

Servicescape is made up of ambient factors, design factors and social factors (including other customers). In this case two of three were compromised, but it's not enough to stop me returning. I just need to hope. Hope for an absence of OPKs, other people's kids.

And hence another issue of providing a service product: variability. And as the kids have left and I begin to relax I reflect: yes I am a grumblebum.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Best men's hairdresser in the world

As a male I won't complain too much about haircut prices but after spending $30 to have a disinterested women's hair cutter make a mess of my haircut a few weeks ago in Cairns, this was refreshing.

No fuss, clippers in the right place scissors in the other right place, shaved a clean line. No pretense, no alluding to gentility, Indian soap opera on the tv in the background. Fine. I was out for $10.

Many of the men in Little India have immaculate hair.

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Market Research III in Singapore

A cool group of 45 students. Ten projects all sorts of companies.

This will be great.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Welcome again to Singapore

After the Adelaide September spring chills, the warmth is welcome.

And my new boss, Jan, is being really cool in allowing me to discharge a few lingering teaching responsibilities of this year - hence the trip to Singapore. We'll talk about next year at some later time, but we should be able to make something work.

She doesn't mind me teaching.

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Jewel: You were meant for me

I was in a car with three other guys driving out to a meatworks in rural Victoria. It was loud, as four men can be. We were off for a meat convention. But then this song came on and the car was silent.

Not a word spoken about the song. During or after.

It's just a beautiful song. A show stopper.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Instrumental conditioning: a modern example of the Skinner box

From all our old days of university study; classical and instrumental (operant) conditioning.

Bless my chickens.

I let them free range most nights. That means I must put chicke wire over most of my vegetables that I grow, because chickens love them.

Well in the two weeks I have been away, the chooks have come to learn that if they stand on the wire to push it down (see the rocket and lettuce at the rear) they get to eat beautiful fresh green salad every night.

They were not so interested in the leeks at the front.

Trial and error. Operant conditioning. A living Skinner experiment.

Still, I do get paid in fresh eggs.

Today's prize:

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Supermarket queues: guessing the best to pick

It's less important than it once was, and I'm sure I've spoken about this before. But when choosing which queue to get into, consider:

The alertness of the cashier
The alertness of the customer
The size of the customer's order

That is all, for now.

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The fine line between pity and contempt

I was talking with a friend the other day. A friend who's quite focused in their career, but with a huge amount of compassion. A class act, the full package.

And he dazzled with a piece of valuable insight. Insight that squares with what I believe.

"There's a fine line between pity and contempt"

And this guy pointed out that the line is crossed when the person you're talking with continues to suffer, without doing anything to help themselves. External forces will often offer us the position of victim. It's our choice as to whether we choose to assume that role.

So this guy recounts sitting with a coworker who seems to have been treated poorly by their employer. This person was on a countdown to being asked to leave - very methodical. But there were things his coworker could be doing that might change their future. They weren't doing any of those things. No plan As, no plan Bs.

I think my friend might have it mostly right. I'd probably see it as a continuum that goes from empathy, through pity to contempt. I think once you're an object of pity it's pretty much all over.

And the best place to play to when someone else holds all the cards is a place where what they do doesn't matter any more. You might not achieve that overnight, but it is worth pursuing.

That's not to say that one doesn't get stuck, sometimes. Bad employers, bad relationships, bad business deals where pursuing a plan B involves a major self image change, a step out of the comfort zone. But choosing danger over victimhood (because of the appearance of security) doesn't seem a choice, to me.

Zapata was said to say "better to die on your feet than live on your knees."

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Engage with the discomfort: a seasickness metaphor

Very bumpy boat trip. The place to be is right at the edge of the boat, looking out at the horizon.

At least then you're engaged with the situation, rather than being inside trying to pretend its not bumpy. Perhaps less seasickness.

That makes sense, I suppose. Much as in many other things I do. Make the call to the angry customer, tell your boss about that mistake, do the press interview if you represent a company they're pursuing.

Engage with the discomfort. The overall damage will be less. It doesn't mean you won't still get so sick as to throw up.

UPDATE: that's right, the symptoms. Sweatiness, watery mouth, nausea, vomit. Very familiar.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Truth seeking business blog: Stay in touch with reality

One of the great parts of "Inception" was the importance of know that you're in reality, not embedded in another's dream.

The plot device for that was this spinning top:

And I always thought it a great theme for a truth seeking business blog. I've been gazumped. One of my favourites Martin Weigel has just put the image as his blog header.

Martin's is certainly worth a look.

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Bad three years ago means no customer today

I am in tourism spend mode. I'm in a tourism Mecca and have peeled off $100 notes at a time, easily, for doing stuff. It's how things go.

And my dad lives as a local in this tourism Mecca. As we were on a jaunt today (approx $500 spend) I mentioned in my time left that I'd try to fit in a bungy jump.

Dad: "I'd never support that business" and told me a story of how after waiting in line as a local for an hour or so, a tour guide ushered their 30 or so international tourists ahead.

For me it's not such a big deal where I spend my time or money. Dad's story was enough for me to pick something else. I'm running out of days as it goes.

This is complex. But it's a problem for A J Hackett, more than it is for me. So Hackett has now lost my $169, but then on that day he pushed through thirty bodies, and kept an agent happy.

But in my Dad, he's built antipathy with a local, and they rely o n locals when international trade goes quiet.

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Going on a boat: Jimmy Buffet Style

"Wrote a note said 'be back in a minute', bought a boat and I sailed off in it. Don't think anybody's gonna miss me anyway"

The beach holiday last January, that I had hoped would be a lost week ended up being "not that" for a range of reasons, and I've been around here during the last week in North Queensland still banging on a keyboard, but you take the chances where you can find them.

Sailing off in a boat for a half day tomorrow morning.

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You be the boss today, I'll be the boss tomorrow

I misunderstood my father in law's point when I misquoted him in a recent post about bosses and how we're all in the mix.

No, Luigi's point is way more sinister but just as relevant.

No, Luigi is not sinister but the quote "you be the boss today I'll be the boss tomorrow" comes from a lifetime of being a highly competent tradesman (some have called him a tilelaying artisan)

When a client tells Luigi that a job must be done certain way, no matter that 50 years of experience means Luigi knows what he's talking about when he says "the tiles will crack" or "that will leak". If the client will not be convinced then Luigi has no choice but to accede.

But Luigi has a way of pointing out that when it goes wrong, to remember the discussion.

So you be the boss today, I'll be the boss tomorrow is Luigi's way of saying "when I'm proven right, can we agree to do the job my way?"

You'd hope he wouldn't have to do the new work for free, but somehow I don't think it goes that way.

Winnebago Man: So much anger

On of my favorite tweeps, Blake (@falconpiss911) referred to this guy as "the funniest man in the history of our deluded species".


There's so much anger there. Perhaps that's what has made the guy successful - if he is - but it probably wouldn't be much fun being around him. Or being him.

Still, it often goes that way. Large amounts of resources are controlled by the most obnoxious people and so those people get a false sense of their own likeability.

But this montage is probably unfair to Jack Rebney. I can assure you that a 4 minute tape of my worst moments wouldn't look too different.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Don't make it a rainy day"

Sage advice from my dad recently, who has waged as many battles and wears as many scars as I have. More, I'm sure.

As I was speaking about some tense business negotiations I'm in (where I stand to lose a reasonable amount of forward cash flow) I mentioned that having the deal fall over wouldn't be crippling. I have structured an easy 6-9 month buffer into my arrangements. I could be unemployed for up to six months and things wouldn't change much. Given that my longest time out of work is about ten days, I'm not too nervous. But there's this:

that's rainy day money, but you don't need to make it a rainy day

Correct. Sometimes it pays not to poke the bear. And I think I have my mind right around a lot of this stuff too. The bear can remain unprovoked - or at least I can choose to stop poking it, maybe.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

The perils of being an apex predator

It's easy to get dead. Every chase really needs to end in a meal.

Female crocs lay about 40 eggs in a year, and everyone likes to eat croc eggs; pigs, rats, whatever. Of the crocs that hatch 1% make it through to adulthood. Everyone likes to eat baby crocs; birds, fish, other crocs.

When it comes to mating time, as soon as a male begins to show interest in the females he's either killed by the dominant male or chased off.

But unlike in the natural kingdom, we can choose how we wish to play, in our lives. Unfortunately for the crocs, however, they can't say "I don't need this shit".

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Acceptable damage: the metaphor of the butterfly

Watching Rob on the Curiosity Show thirty years ago. He told me that the spots on butterflies' and moths' wings were a defence mechanism.

An animal's eyes are the most vulnerable spots. So butterflies give something to aim for that, when hit, does not create a fatal wound. Acceptable damage.

So every time I see a butterfly that looks like this I think "how clever". Certainly better than being taken out of the game.

And it seems to be how my game has gone, at least for the past 11 or so years. I've lost plenty of battles, but none that have really mattered. I still have the respect of almost every student I've had, my marriage is surviving some challenging life phases and family (immediate and extended) is strong. Even picked up some education and ticked the odd box in the odd academics' world.

So, given that life will certainly offer a few more shocks, if they're all like the ones so far, we'll be fine.

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Uncompromising on ethics: The "me I want to be"

I started this a couple of years ago, and just capped it now.

I realised a few years ago that not everybody looks for the good in others. An acrimonious negotiation once showed me that some people will take every piece of my casualness and - at times - easygoingness and choose to see it in the worst possible light.

So at the time I recognised I needed to tighten up. I think where ethics are concerned there must be no room for interpretation because not everyone views things through the lens of "good natured muddler".

And in another sense, uncompromising on ethics is "the me I want to be".

And whilst the only person I need to satisfy is myself, it does reduce noise.

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Steal the moments

Lennon's "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" rings true to me every year.

If you don't carve out some priority for things on your own list, your time gets filled up with things that should be on somebody else's list.

And so it happens that I am often simply not around. But still working. So last night I crunched some work amongst barking geckos, singing Cicadas and ambling kangaroos. It has always been thus.

I have pinged off bits of work from Bordeaux, Paris, Atlanta, Malaysia, of course Singapore and Hong Kong, New Zealand, many others and a dozen locations in Australia.

And my current arrangement means I don't have to bother with the to-ings and fro-ings of leave forms, running the mental self check of what's fair and what's not.

In this case - being on leave from one employer and independent contractor to another - the only challenge is in deciding whose work you do. It was ever thus.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Nearer God's heart in a garden

A nice thought:

From the original:

God's Garden

THE Lord God planted a garden
In the first white days of the world,
And He set there an angel warden
In a garment of light enfurled.

So near to the peace of Heaven,
That the hawk might nest with the wren,
For there in the cool of the even
God walked with the first of men.

And I dream that these garden-closes
With their shade and their sun-flecked sod
And their lilies and bowers of roses,
Were laid by the hand of God.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,--
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

For He broke it for us in a garden
Under the olive-trees
Where the angel of strength was the warden
And the soul of the world found ease.

Dorothy Frances Gurney

God's Garden

THE Lord God planted a garden
In the first white days of the world,
And He set there an angel warden
In a garment of light enfurled.

So near to the peace of Heaven,
That the hawk might nest with the wren,
For there in the cool of the even
God walked with the first of men.

And I dream that these garden-closes
With their shade and their sun-flecked sod
And their lilies and bowers of roses,
Were laid by the hand of God.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,--
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

For He broke it for us in a garden
Under the olive-trees
Where the angel of strength was the warden
And the soul of the world found ease.

Dorothy Frances Gurney

Thanks to Frary's Fresh Flowers

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pizza Hut: The earliest days

We were doing some tidying up at mum's place the other day. We a little sadness I cut up a 40 year old green toybox from my childhood to throw it out. But not before my brother took a photo of the inside of the lid:

And it made me think what an innovation it was. Pizza Hut, a licensed restaurant. A real family night out. They had the first ever salad bar I could tell, thousand island dressing was all the rage, garlic bread was exotic, we'd sprinkle Parmesan on the pizza. Because pizza was made to order, kids would have a puzzle sheet placemat and free red pencils for while they were waiting. Deliveries were unheard of.

At that time (mid 1970s) the Pizza Hut an Pizza Palace were jostling for the "king of the branded pizza joint" - both spend good money on tv ads.

Somebody won.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

A cool ad, and less sexist than you might think

What an inflammatory screen shot! Morbid curiosity - I promise - cased me the see how BMW could make this relevant to their product. But this clicks through to an interesting ad.

And in a way the ad makes the woman the winner. I know this is a minefield but this is as close as it gets to good, clean, fun, maybe. And maybe the whole "buy the car get the girl" is still a little sexist. Treating both women and men disrespectfully.

Perhaps just view the ad for yourself, and make up your own mind.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Murf, a bird and a cool TV character

Named after Lachy Hulme's character in "Hollowmen".

Here's the character, and he's one of the best non action heroes ever on TV.

The ultimate cool.

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A flower of service

You never learn more than when you have to teach it, and services marketing this semester has helped me reacquaint with (I think) Lovelock's "flower of service" model.

What a neat way to think of the service component of any product!

Information is my most recent example. I own a bird, and the experts tell me that a diet of pellets rather that entirely seed is the best. (because birds in the wild eat a variety of grasses, fruits etc and yes maybe 10% seed). Seed junkies are obese.

At my favourite pet shop I was told by a shop assistant that "birds in the wild eat seeds, they don't eat pellets, do they?"

That willingness to offer advice that they didn't really know about constituted bad service, according to the flower of service model. Fair enough.

Anyhoo, I'm off to the specialist bird shop today.

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