Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ron Paul - U.S. foreign policy

Now I may not be American and I know it will not be my choice who is or is not the next president, but I am very impressed with potential candidate Ron Paul. I love the way he is not afraid to go against the grain and talk honestly about his views without reluctance or fear. Having given the Republican debate on youtube a quick glance it seems to me that the other candidates are effectively clones who base their entire argument (and avoid some questions by hiding behind) around the war on terror.

"Right now we are building an American embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican, we're building 14 permanent bases, what would we say here if China were doing this in our country or the gulf of Mexico? we need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody did it to us"





Quick step guide

Looking through a bookshop the other day I saw they had a "quick step guide" to MS PowerPoint 2007, 300 pages does not a quick guide make...

I think the problem with things like this are that most customers will think that they are getting a raw deal unless they get a huge wad of paper for their money, despite the fact is is unnecessarily long and they wont read/understand it, and I also think that most publishers would refuse to publish a 15 page guide even if it was better for the job. Sillyness I say

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Marketing: Strategic vs Reactionary

One of the core activities of marketing is strategic brand management. The brand is the public interface between the company and the general public, who are potential customers. In terms of strategy it is your brand that will allow you to survive into the future and set long term direction, but all too often companies believe that their brand is simply a name, and changing how that brand is positioned will have little affect on customers loyalty and feelings towards it. Strategic marketing means developing the brand in a planned manner rather that altering the brand as a reactionary measure under duress of adverse conditions.

A perfect example of strategic marketing vs reactionary marketing is the example of Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
Ryanair are in the grand scheme of things a relatively new entrant to the airline industry, yet due to their excellent strategic marketing have managed to transform themselves into Europe’s biggest airline in terms of volume in quite a brief amount of time. Michael O’Leary, CEO of the Irish airline made the decision to adopt low fare airline techniques that had experienced some success in the US and converted them to fit the European market. Ryanair knew exactly what they were offering, who they were offering it too, and how they wanted to convey this message. Ryanairs strategic position and marketing methods were so successful that within a few years many copycat airlines had arisen.
Conversely we can observe Aer Lingus, who under the protection of the state and pre-Ryanair had very little to worry about. The brand enjoyed a world class reputation for both the levels of customer satisfaction and the fact that it was so closely related to Ireland a fact that was easily observed in marketing communications. Aer Lingus however were not very forward thinking and really had no future strategy at all. As more and more of Europe’s airlines went the Ryanair route and changed to low fare models a sense of panic set in at Aer Lingus HQ and they began the transformation of Aer Lingus into a low fare airline.

The Brand that had been developed for some many years was gone, abandoned for a generic low fare model that experienced moderate success, however faced with Ryanair and a more expensive look-a-like customers turned to Ryanair. Furthermore Aer Lingus' long haul and short haul services are two very different services, however under new marketing campaigns the Aer Lingus brand as a whole was tarred with the "cheap" brush.
The start of this year has seen a reversal of this knee jerk reaction with the attempted revival of the “old” Aer lingus yet while they try to cater for both customers seeking price and others quality under one brand, success will undoubtedly be limited. Aer Lingus did not and re not thinking strategically, Ryanair did.

The following videos show and older more romantic Aer Lingus ad (which is actually quite humorous), followed by the message they were trying to send at the start of their change.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Brevity is the soul of...

Two weeks ago I sat through a presentation in class by a student group on the topic of strategic marketing management. The presentation was given a time limit of “in and around 10 minutes” by the lecturer, however it seemed that most groups, and this group in particular were determined to just… ignore that piece of information. The presentation, which was on a potentially interesting topic ended up dragging on for at least thirty very long, very boring minutes.

I think this problem stems from the fact that as children in school we assume that bigger is very much better and surely the longer your essay etc is, the better the teacher will think it is, right?
The problem is we are never told otherwise, and many people just never figure it out. This is displayed by the fact that even after college exams you hear people boasting of how many pages they wrote, yes you may have managed to scribble out a 6 page essay, but could you have fitted it into a more concise, easy to understand and coherent 2 page essay?

"There is no virtue in writing too much, and no value in writing too little"

Were the expertly phrased words used by one of my lecturers this year, however I think that most people decide to ignore the first part of that sentence, and being fearful that there is too little, decide to drone on until the cows come home… and then die of old age.
One of the few lines I remember from my school days of studying Hamlet was “Brevity is the soul of wit” a very true statement and one that is ignored all too often, leading to collective groans when presentation time comes around because everyone knows that they are going to have to sit through an elongated, information sparse, lifeless “presentation” that will inevitably do no more than deprive them of 30 minutes of their life.

The one joy I have from this is watching the lecturers become more and more restless as slowly it dawns on them that the presentation is nowhere near finished AND will be eroding their lunch time, I imagine they are thinking lovely thoughts of giving D-‘s etc to the offending party.

Just remember its not that size that counts…

"Guidance"

I read the following piece in the Irish Times Education section last week and was a little surprised.


“Given that the majority of applicants selecting choices through the CAO process need not concern themselves with a specific career choice, what should be the criteria governing their choices?"

To be honest, a large part of me agrees that college courses should not be chosen solely on the basis of what jobs lead from it, but to say that students "need not concern themselves" with such issues just seems somewhat negligent, especially coming from the President of the Institute of Guidance Councillors, I thought it was the job of guidance councillors to get you thinking about stuff like this?

Getting a job after college is the reality of the situation, and although a student can have an equal or greater college experience studying for the sake of studying, it seems a bit silly to advice students to not even bare this in mind.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Test knowledge, Not penmanship

Today I had an exam, and like all other exams in UCD, and most colleges I have ever heard of, the exam was in a paper booklet.
Now I might be wrong about this but IS THERE ANY REASON why we should be writing these exams out when it would be much easier and efficient to do it by computer (especially seeing as you have to own one to do my business course)?

It serves no purpose to see if people can write 14 pages in 2 hours... like I did, because writing ability is not being tested, or at least should not be. It is the content of what is being written that counts, and as the system currently is, if you cant write fast... TOOOO BAD.

It would also make life considerably easier for those who have to mark the exam papers, I like most people have two writing modes, 1. Slow and legible, 2. Fast and total scrawl.

I think that most of the students I know can type a hell of a lot quicker than they can write, and that given the option they would most certainly choose to type out their answers as opposed to indulging in what is, to a large extent, a speed writing competition.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kettle nation

My Friend Ben Kirwan @ http://www.alrighta.blogspot.com/ 's view of the Irish and our need for a good aul cup of tea

Thursday, December 13, 2007

True Lies

One of the subjects that I did this semester was marketing research, and although my feelings for this subject are not entirely positive there were aspects that I found to be very interesting. A major part of our course was to choose a company or organisation located on campus and then undertake a marketing research project on a managerial problem that we deemed them to have.
We chose the coffee chain “Insomnia” who have an outlet in the business school, it was our opinion that the main reason for their success was not their product quality and certainly not their distinctly sub-par service but primarily their location that was the main driver behind their success in the Business school, and should a more service-centric competitor enter the marker it would adversely effect the customer levels at Insomnia.
Our project ended up being quite inconclusive and almost a giant waste of time, but I suppose we learnt a few lessons on what not to do.

The one piece of information I did find funny was the importance assigned to characteristics of a coffee shop when making a decision. According to the 102 people interviewed location was the number one factor influencing their choice, but interestingly they thought that brand and advertising were the factors that had the least amount of influence on their decision.

This however is obviously not true. If branding had little to no effect on them you could be assured that Starbucks could not charge $5 for a cup of coffee, there are undoubtedly other coffee shops out there with better quality and service, but finding that takes effort, we see the Starbucks (or whoever) sign and bingo bango we know what we are going to get. Admit it or not, brand play a huge part in out life and shape many of our decisions, in a world of endless choice and options we subconsciously look for means to make this decision easier, and once we know we like a given brand of coffee, most of us will stick with that for dear life. (the same reason most people stick with one brand of beer for life)

I know that this does not apply to everyone and that for some brands like Starbucks evoke a very different, more hostile response, however the average man on the street is heavily influenced by brands and advertising.
SOOOOO I think this was a very round about way of saying that, in marketing research, or in casual conversation, you must be cautious of what people say, because although they may believe it, in practice it may be in no way true.

Time to act?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The day the ducks came...

Landed on neighbours roof and gave me menacing looks

Gone Fishin'


Monday, December 10, 2007

"News"

I think it was when I read on the front page of the Sunday Independent that news about Katy French, the recently deceased Irish model, would be taking up page 1,2,3,24,25,26,27,36 AND 40 that I realised this week must have been VERY light on news.

This week has made me lose any respect for Irish newspapers I had left in my grumpy old brain. Earlier in the week news of the 24 year olds death took up the first three pages of the Irish Independent… THREE pages, surely something more important has happened in the world than the death of a semi famous Irish supermodel.
I understand that people are interested in the story, but surely somewhere down the line the newspaper had to decide it has a responsibility to tell stories of importance at the same time.

Today’s Sunday Indo dedicated such a large portion of its pages and contributers to this story it just shocked me, shocked me more than Sky NEWS, winning news channel of the year.
The Indo also gives generous amounts of page space to Brendan O’Connor who talks of the unfair plight of the model, and worst of all columnist Antonia Leslie who gleefully compares herself to the troubled actress informing us of times “Long after I left heroin behind me” instead opting for “weekends totally loved up on ecstasy, hovering cocaine while drinking litres of neat tequila” and how this compared to the model who is rumoured to have taken cocaine. Worst of all is the paper’s attempts to convince us of the martyrdom of Katy French and how she died for some sort of anti-drug cause

I hope to god the newspapers, in particular the Irish Independent, get their act together and start telling the news.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lunch is for wimps?

The lunch hour used to be just that, a full 60 minutes of personal time spent having lunch or relaxing, alone or with colleagues. Rejuvenated workers would then return to their desk full of zeal, enthusiasm and energy. However in an increasingly demanding workplace the lunch hour has been the first casualty of this war against personal time.

The traditional hour long lunch is fast disappearing, in the United States research undertaken by office furniture manufacturer Steelcase showed that this “hour” currently stands at an average of 31 minutes, with 55% of workers taking less than half an hour break every day. On top of this 67% of adults named the lunch hour “the biggest myth of office life” in a recent survey by food chain KFC.

Although heavily associated with American corporate culture the erosion of the lunch hour has spread across the Atlantic with British workers take a daily average of 19 minutes break, with their Irish neighbours boasting a relatively high 35 minute “hour”.
Most would assume that employers are the sole force driving the lunch hour to extinction, and although the “unspoken rules” of a given company may dictate that a 60 minute lunch break is a workplace faux pas, it is interesting to note that as unlikely as it seems the lunch hour is also under attack from employees.

In an increasingly competitive workplace employees often engage in a “race to the bottom” of sorts, holding the belief that staying desk bound and “dining al desko” will give them an advantage over their colleagues and prove their worth to the powers that be. This belief was confirmed by UK based Hays recruitment who found 41% of workers believe that “taking less than their allocated lunch break shows increased commitment to their employer”.

Those who skip lunch tend to claim this leads to greater productivity throughout the day, however skipping lunch can have detrimental effects on both the quality of work and more importantly an individual’s wellbeing. With blood sugar levels dropping a fall in concentration is inevitable, and sitting behind a computer for a 12 hours at a time can lead to stress and burn-out, which in client-centric roles becomes very important seeing as “burned-out workers don’t treat customers the way they need to be treated.” warns workplace psychologist Bev Smallwood.

‘I joke sometimes that smokers are the healthiest people in the workplace these days, because they get outside,’ says Deborah Brown-Volkman, adding that “sunshine is good for the mind body and soul”, moreover it is beneficial for out waistlines, getting outside for a brisk walk could contribute significantly to the advised 30 minutes of daily physical activity that is so often neglected.

The assault on the traditional lunch break is set to continue and while experts might advise you that skipping lunch is detrimental to performance and health it seems some will be determined to perpetuate the mantra of Gordan Gecko in that “Lunch is for Wimps”.

Robot can play violin, is POINTLESS

I saw this robot on tv the other day and it caused me to throw a mini hissy fit. This robot can play the violin, and seemingly quite well but… who cares. Projects like this and the walking robot ASIMO, both developed by Toyota are interesting pieces that have taken decades of development, however are completely pointless.


I can understand that they want to make these robots as human-like as possible, possibly in some attempt to live up to 1930’s dreams of having robot butlers and hover cars, but in a time where running out of fuel sources in the not too distant future is a reality and carbon emissions are getting out of control, should our top scientists and engineers be focusing their efforts on robots capable of reciting the composer Elgar's “Pomp and Circumstance” ?

Rather than trying to create humanesque robots maybe they should start at the basics. I saw Trevor Baylis on tv last night, he is the inventor of the clockwork radio, a device that is powered by a crank wound by the listener, 30 seconds of winding results in about 10 mins of radio. He has also invented the electric shoe, which stores energy created by every step an individual takes and is enough to charge a fairly substantial battery. Both very simple but very effective inventions.

I think its high time for engineers to go back to basics and do things that solve our very real problems rather than waste countless millions on trying to make a robot walk on two feet.

Check out the vid of this POINTLESS creation

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Education" a sob story

I really liked secondary school, it was great, and I think like most people who were in my class I look back now and remember how great it really was. However it still strikes me that the way we are educated during those years is for the most part FIERCLY ineffective and really not very practical in many ways. The main problem with how things are taught is there is no engagement from the class, theory remains theory and that is that.
To a large extent this remains true throughout college, I am supposedly in the best undergraduate business degree that can be obtained in this country, but I can assure you the most important lessons I have learnt about business, the workplace and myself have not been through rigid course curricula.

The other day I walked past my school and remembered something from about 6 years ago, which at the time I found kind of funny, but looking back now I feel kind of angry about. There was a boy in my class that was a trouble child, and prided himself on being so, he didn’t attend all the classes, he didn’t do his homework and wielded the power to make lecturers leave the classroom on the verge of tears (which was actually quite impressive).

One day this guy came into school with a sports bag that was weighed down with stuff inside it, what was it… sweets and coca cola and other things that teenagers like. It was basically a shop out of a bag. He charged slightly above the prices in the shops, but people were willing to pay it because they wanted it more than the overpriced stuff our school tried to pedal to us. This went on for weeks, people were happy, he was certainly happy, but this infiltration of non-school food had been noticed and soon he was hauled up in front of the headmaster, his parents notified and as far as I know his merchandise (and maybe money was also taken). School it seemed was no place for business.

A year later and the boy wasn’t in school anymore, for a number of other reasons the school had decided that he was not the sort of boy welcome in our school… and he was gone.

As I say, at the time this all seemed quite funny that the guy had gone and annoyed the teachers again, but when I thought about it now, it dawned on me that when they chastised him for what had been effectively a very intelligent business idea, they changed his life from then on. The business plan had been near perfect, he had identified a gap in the market and evaluated there was demand, knew what his target market wanted, how much they would be willing to pay, where he could sell it but more than that he took a risk. Undoubtedly the headmaster viewed this pursuit as “cheeky” and against school policy but these are skills that are not present in most people who go out and start their own businesses and skills that certainly don’t come natural to many 13 year olds.

This has really been a long winded way of saying that we need to look at how we “teach” people, and how we reward certain behaviours relative to others. The message we send is “sit, read, repeat” = good, in fact GRRREAT, “get up and go” = OHHH so your one of those are you. I hope that the person in question ends up running his own business because I know he can, but he won’t owe any of this success to his educational institution that for sure.

Recruitin' Season

Well it’s officially “recruitin’ season” in the college around the country and having worked at the career fair in UCD I noticed a fact that I find quite silly indeed.
Most of these self proclaimed “high performance” companies who profess only hiring the best brightest candidates that are a PERFECT fit for their job end up using completely unsuitable people to do the recruiting itself.
One example that shot me in the face (due to personal proximity to the industry) is that of consultancy. Nearly all of the people who do the recruitment for these companies are not consultants themselves and never have been, and this is not an exceptional circumstance. End situation is you have for example “people” people hiring “finance” people without knowing what type of person you need to be to do well in that job… therefore how can you say that you are recruiting people suitable for the job when YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE JOB ACTUALLY REQUIRES?
Madness I tells ya…Madness.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Irish Director magazine

Seems a piece I co-wrote with one of my lecturers earlier this year has found its way onto the pages of Irish Director magazine, a magazine for Irish managing directors... good stuff!

Ford Pinto - The barbeque that seats four


Marketing classes have helped me look at things a little differently this year, and one of the main themes running through all the courses this year are to look at what effect any major decision a company has to make will have on its long term brand image.
A story I heard in one class this week really drove home the importance of having someone make sure that any decision made keeps that long term brand image in mind.

This may not be entirely accurate but I looked this up and for the most part the general story is fairly accurate. In the late 60s the car manufacturer Ford sold a model of car called the Pinto. It was found out after 11million units of production that the Pinto had a problem... a fairly major problem.
It seems that due to a fault in the way the car was designed when it was impacted form the rear...it burst into a ball of fire on wheels, usually killing or chargrilling those inside.

The Ford board of directors faced a costly recall of all 11million units to repair this fault and was like to cost them in the region of $150m to sort out.
HOWEVER... the geniuses on the board came up with a much better decision, it was estimated that although the fault would probably kill a FEW people, the lawsuits were more than likely going to be in the well below the $100m region, so pretty logical, rational and profitable decision eh.

Well this information was leaked (click on the pic) and when the public caught wind of this it did massive amounts of damage to the Ford brand image and caused many people who were loyal to the brand switch to competitors next time they bought a car rather than stay with the company responsible for "the barbecue that seats four"
One good example of what happens when you lets Finance people steer the ship!
A good comparative example to a brand is a person, you build up a relationship with them and have certain ways you view them, and then you find out that your friend/acquaintance was willing to kill you... your opinion of them may change...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dublin Coastal Development

I want to live here.

My fave part is the small text at the bottom of the screen at 2:03

Friday, November 9, 2007

Smelly marketing

Ed is busy busy BUSY at the moment so not much posting. Just wrote this about my consumer and Buyer behaviour class, pretty interesting I thought...

I found the reading on smell to be very thought provoking, and it changed my opinion on the importance of smell in the sale of certain products. I had previously believed that when all other characteristics were held equal smell could indeed be an important factor in shaping a decision, but these readings suggested that in some cases it is actually the primary motivating factor.

The examples of Palmolive soaps and Starbucks were quite interesting to me seeing as I am a user of both of these products on a reasonably regular basis. The soaps produced by Palmolive do have a quite appealing smell, and you can sniff it through the paper packaging that it comes in, however recently there changed the packaging to cardboard boxes that were in turn wrapped with cellophane. This meant that the smell of the soap could not examined while in the shop without opening up the packet, something retailers would most likely not be particularly happy about, soon after this sales of the single bar in the new packaging began to drop off, but interestingly sales of the paper wrapped soap multi-packs increased as customers switched to the product that they could smell before purchasing.

The coffee retailer Starbucks ran into similar problems when attempting to sell coffee beans in packs that would allow for greater storage time and freshness due to their innovative vacuum packed wrapping that again did not allow for inspection of the products aroma, a feature that is especially important in the sale of coffee, and ultimately sales fell. Starbucks thought about this for a while and rather than change the packaging altogether came up with an innovative adaptation to it. They incorporated husks of the coffee into the paper label that went around the pack, enabling people to smell what the product in the pack was like. A feature that I noticed in some of the branches in New York was that they would also include a trough of the relevant beans in front of the packs that you could sniff to get a sense of what you were buying. And as soon as they did that sales rose again.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

Oil - everything ok?

I was up at my usual unusual hour of the night not too long ago and I was watching a program about oil. In this fine piece of BBC programming (only the best for me eh?) and they mentioned that there may only be in and around 30 years worth of oil left in the world, now excuse me for being silly but is that not a bit of an emergency? And if its true why aren't Oil companies/petrol retailers/car manufacturers wetting their pants more? I know that companies engage in short termism, but if your company will be effectively DEAD in 30 years I reckon its time to do some good old fashioned panicking.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not the size...

Observer - Internships


Choosing a career path and which organisation you would like to pursue it in are both extremely tough and at times highly stressful decisions to make.
One way in which students can get a head start on the road to discovering what career is right for them is to sacrifice the sun holiday and spend the summer working with a company you would like to pursue a career with on an internship.
Internships are a period of time, typically 12 weeks, spent working at an entry level with a company, and are becoming an ever more popular way for employers and students to become acquainted in the careers process. The increase in internships being offered and taken is the realisation by both side of the benefits derived from the process.

More and more companies are choosing to offer summer internship programs, a fact displayed by the GradIreland handbook listing no less than 50 employers who have expressed intentions to take on interns this summer. It is also worth taking into account that although internship places may not be officially advertised by an organisation it does not mean that the company in question would not be open to the idea of running one, Joan Gallagher, Employer Liaison for the UCD Careers Office advise that “even though a company may not necessarily have a formal internship program in place I would not be deterred as a student from applying”

At the most basic of levels internships can be beneficial on a purely financial level, providing the student with a financial cushion for the academic year ahead. College life is in no way a cheap affair with expenses ranging from rent and academic materials to social duties, and working in a full time internship which can last up to three months, can help put a few coins in the piggy bank and solve many of your financial problems for the year ahead.

One of the major benefits that students experience while on an internship with an organisation is the unique opportunity to observe the theoretical content that was purely academic in college, being put into practice in the real world, Casey advises that a spell spent with a company can give “enormous insight into how you can apply the knowledge that you learn in college to the vocational setting of the workplace.”
Being exposed to the reality of day to day life within an organisation can also allow you to see if the reality of the job is how you imagined it would be, Casey believes that “An internship will allow a student to evaluate a company from the inside as an employee, to better asses whether he/she would like to pursue a job in this organisation or sector of employment.”
One student who undertook an internship this summer believed “It definitely gave me a good insight into what the job entails, and it was good to be paid well while learning a lot” while another student described his 12 week placement as “one of the most important things I will have done in college” adding “the reality of the job was so far off what I had imagined it was scary, definitely a real eye opener.”

Many students who complete internships with a company find themselves with a job offer at the end of their placement, having a job secured for the following year allows students to avoid the lengthy recruitment process and to direct all their energy towards academic endeavours, a final year commerce student noted that “Application forms for accountancy firms take up to 5 hours to complete. I was guaranteed a job and that meant I did not have to spend all that time as well as going through several interviews for numerous firms.”
Not all students that undertake an internship will have a formal job offer but will have at the very least a foot placed firmly in the door, and will have contacts inside the company who may be able to fast track the individual though the process. Casey advises that being able to refer to an internship will “make your CV stand out from the crowd”, adding “the hands on experience will allow you to build marketable skills which will make you attractive to potential employers down the road.

Students who are considering applying for an internship or would simply like more information on the matter are advised to attend the “Internship and vacation work” careers seminar organised by the UCD Careers office, taking place on 14th November at 5pm in Theatre R of the Newman building. The UCD careers office website, www.ucd.ie/careers, is another valuable source of information and is updated with internship offers and news on a regular basis.

On a more personal note, I did an internship this summer with Accenture consulting and all the benefits mentioned above where definitely true, it has helped me make some important decisions about which direction to take after college, and exposure to working life has made me appreciate my time at UCD even more.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Product decoy

Really interesting class last week in the interesting subject of Consumer and Buyer Behaviour.
The first topic we talked about in class was “decision framing”, this is the way in which you phrase or frame the options in front of a consumer, option one these crisps have only 30% fat, or these crisps are 70% fat free, people will tend to go for something that is X amount fat free rather than thinking how much fat they are eating.

The most interesting part of the class was about decoys.
Some schools of marketing thought would say that when positioning a product/service the optimal practice is to choose a specific and distinct segment to aim for and accompany it with a suitable pricing strategy. An example of this can be observed in the example of the strategy of Ryanair as opposed to that employed by Singapore Airlines, they are opposite ends of the scale and therefore do not engage in the wars seen in the middle ground of most markets.

This week one of our lecturers discussed the idea of a product decoy, a strategy which can be used by manufacturers and retailers to use operating in the middle ground to their advantage. He gave us the example of a bike shop that sold two models of bike one for $99 and one for $199 he asked for a show of hands of which option we would choose assuming we would only need this for a short journey to and from college, and not for any specialist reasons the majority of the class said they would purchase the $99 option.

He had asked a similar question in the exact same class he gives at another time slot during the week, but this time asked the class which they would choose if there were three options, one for $99, one for $199, but this time a more expensive option at $399, now which would people choose?
This time the majority of people said they would choose the option for $199.

An example of this that I have thought about before is restaurants and their wine menu, they always have the cheap option, a middle option, and then the astronomically priced option. Nobody wants to buy the very cheapest wine because it will make them look cheap, nobody can really afford the crazy priced wine, so they have to go for the middle options. Interesting stuff

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I don't know what nothing is - Channing Crowder


"I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries,"

Professional athletes are not always portrayed as the smartest of individuals at the best of times, and this week Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder has done professional athletes around the globe no favours by admitting that he did not know where London was or what language was spoken there, possibly important facts seeing as he will be playing there tomorrow.

"I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I learned that."

"I know (Washington Redskins linebacker) London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That's the closest thing I know to London. He's black, so I'm sure he's not from London. I'm sure that's a coincidental name."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Final exam fright


I remember our final exams in secondary school as being a pretty stressful time, the culmination of six years worth of learning was to be crammed into one weeks worth of exams that would decide where you could go to college, and essentially which careers you were able to pursue. I studied a lot in the run up to the exams, staying back most evenings after class in the study hall revising over material and making copious amounts of notes. (which I promised myself I would burn, haven’t yet)

In my head I had a list of which subjects I would do well in, and which I would probably do mediocre in. Topping the list for me was biology, a subject which I had put a lot of work into, enjoyed greatly and had achieved good results in throughout my school days, in second place would be business studies which again I had liked since 1st year and had always got A’s or high B’s in.

I also knew that more than likely I probably wasn’t going to do all that well in Home Economics, because the course was so huge and diverse, it seemed neat impossible to revise all the information that would be needed to do particularly well. Another subject I thought I would only scrape a C in was English, not being a big fan of poetry and not being too huge into writing I rated my chances of achieving an A as somewhere between slim and none.

Well exam time rolled around fast, and before I knew it the first day of the exams was here, English was first, a 6 hour marathon that I was glad to get out of alive, but I knew that Biology was coming soon and then that’s where I would perform to my BEST.
I remember once the Biology papers were handed out I had an uncontrollable grin on my face for most of the exam I knew allll of this stuff, this was easy, and at the end of the exam I knew there was no way that I got below an a2 in it, I left the exam hall with a smile on my face and a skip in my step.
Conversely when I left the hall after my Home ec exam I was pissed off, REALLY pissed off, I had done terrible, the questions were horrible, and I just couldn’t answer them properly. As I walked down the corridor I kicked a bin to the ground and walked all the way home (eight miles). Ed was not a happy bunny.

Three months later the exam results came out, and I was not looking forward to them, not one bit. I remember getting the envelope and going into the corridor to find somewhere where I could open them on my own without people intruding on what were probably going to be disappointing results. With my heart racing I opened the envelope and looked for the subject that I had obviously done the best in… Biology…B3! I nearly burst into tears, I couldn’t believe it, I KNEW I had done better than that, and whats worse, if that was my best, what did this mean for the rest of my results. The subject under biology was business studies in which I received a B2, again a disastrous result. Then the two results that shocked me beyond belief: Home Economics….A2, English…A2.
Ed WAS a happy bunny. I got the points I needed to do the course I wanted and had learned some important things along the way.

The whole ordeal taught me two very important lessons,
Firstly placing a great deal of trust in your gut feeling about something is not a very accurate/sensible way of making an opinion/decision about something.
Secondly you can go ahead and make detailed plans of how you intend to get something all you like (I had each subject predicted to an exact grade) but you have to be prepared for this perfect plan to fall apart completely

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Corporate Multi-Personality disorder


People’s perception of their body image is a very powerful force used by marketers in order to make people buy products, I recently gave a presentation on this to my Consumer and Buyer Behaviour and I really enjoyed researching into this and seeing the various ways in which they go about doing this.

As far as I could tell from the examples I had looked out for over the past few weeks there are three main tactics used by manufacturers of body image altering products to convince you that they are the products for you.

1. Aspiration
This is a method whereby the advertisements appeal to what is referred to as the “ideal self” or the way that someone would like themselves to be/look in an ideal world. Marketers do this by linking the product or service to an ideal situation or a person perceived as especially beautiful. Think Penelope Cruz in the ads for L’Oreal, customers look at the ad and think to themselves “hmm maybe if I use this product I will be like her too…” however more often that not this is not the case. Hair product manufacturer Sunsilk pose the question “Want hair like Paris Hilton, Nicole Kidman and Posh spice?” letting you know that this great achievement is indeed “easier than you think”, all one need to do to look like these beautiful people is to use THEIR shampoo.
Summary – Perfection/happiness just a purchase away

2. Fear
One of the more commonly used methods to make people purchase a good/service that will affect their body image is that of fear. One category of product uses this more than any other, diet foods/supplements. Marketers realise that people are scared to death of being perceived as fat/obese, these assumptions being confirmed by a recent survey undertaken by The New York Times. The survey conducted on thousands of primary school children across the United States, found the children felt that “Being obese was worse than being disabled". One product that profits of this fear of being seen as overweight is Slimfast, and in the past it has been criticised for advertising campaigns that seek to lower peoples self esteem and scare them into buying their product. 2004 saw the “lets bikini” campaign launched by Slimfast which featured slim, beautiful and bikini clad European women accompanied by phrases such as “British women are so brave to share the beach with us” and “I bet your boyfriend thinks I look good in this”

3. We’re on your side.
You may recognise the picture that I have included at the top of this post, it is one of the advertisements for Dove’s “Campaign for real beauty”, this new campaign is supposedly aiming to challenge what we believe is beautiful and how the media portrays it. As far as I can see they are using the “Hey, c’mon we’re on your side we understand how you feel, therefore you should buy our product” approach.
This campaign has been very effective at getting the Dove name out there, and when I showed the picture in the presentation literally everyone in the class new what it was.

I find the Campaign for real beauty to be somewhat insincere, a little known fact is that Sunsilk – Aspirational, Slimfast – Fear and Dove are all products manufactured by the same company, Unilever.
I suppose its not too hard to have a bit of an identity/strategic direction crisis when you own 400 world known brands, and I know honesty rarely if ever comes into play in situations like this, but I still find it a bit sneaky.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

So tell me a little bit about (what I told you to say about) yourself

Now that the college year is underway many companies are doing what is affectionately referred to as the “milkround” whereby they visit Universities around the country advertise the positions available and try and find the graduates that suit the roles they offer. For the financial services firms the deadlines for applications are quite early, most of them with due dates before the end of October, and usually the interviews take place throughout November.

This year there has been various “interview preparation” sessions held by these companies in the college, the most recent of which was an accountancy firm prepping people for interviews with them later that month.

I can’t say that I am a huge fan of this concept and to be honest it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Correct me if I am wrong but I thought that interviews were a way to decide who was best suited to a job and displayed the characteristics that you are looking for. By giving people tips on how to get past the interview surely you are effectively reducing your chances of choosing the people who naturally display what you are looking for and those that have learnt how to pretend to be the ideal candidate. This sort of procedure does however benefit the prospective employee as it gives him a fighting chance for a position because he has been told exactly what they want to hear.

I think there is some sort of phrase about not bothering to ask questions you already know the answer to, same applies to interviewing, why bother when you have already told them what to say.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The worlds economic giants

Economic output in the form of GDP or Gross Domestic Product is a form of measurement usually reserved for the evaluation of the economic health (or lack there of) of a country.
I recently came across some interesting tables that showed the largest economic entities on the planet, INCLUDING private companies (taking total revenue as a gdp substitute) and I think that it makes for interesting viewing, in 2007 out of the top 150 economic entities in the world more than half are privately owned companies, with the upper half featuring a large number of oil Majors such as BP, Exxon and Shell.
Above I have put together a short table of my own showing the top few countries, companies and Irelands position between 2005 and 2007. The United States has remained at the top spot over the two year period, However China has made leaps and bounds to close the gap between the US GDP and the second spot, and with the Asian Tiger still roaring it is more than likely that countries like China and India will overtake the US in years to come.
In 2005 Wal-Mart weighed in as the 22nd largest economic entity on the planet, the highest position of any privately owned company, but this year was overtaken by Exxon Mobil for this crown.
Ireland has dropped significantly from its 2005 position but still hold a position that is high for a country of its size. My personal favourite figure being that Hitachi (what I thought was a fairly small mediocre electronics company having a greater output than the United Arab Emirates) The Full list can be found here and is certainly educational

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Three Years of Busyness

Today I posted my 1st piece on my new blog "Three years of Busyness - In the Quinn School of Business" the name is suitably cheesy eh? which will be linked to the site of my business school, I was shocked and appauled that they wanted someone like me to do such a cool thing for them... but I' not complaining, writing about my experience and thoughts on UCD and the BComm should be interesting, and hopefully provide someone with useful advice sometime.
The first post I wrote is below, about the benefits of blogging in college.

This January I decided to start a blog called cube found here where I would write informally about my thoughts and opinions on issues surrounding business, technology, marketing and bits and pieces of my life in general, I thought it would be interesting, if for nothing else, novelty value. I, Edward Fidgeon-Kavanagh, would have my own little piece of the Internet!
Nine months later and I have in the region of 200 posts and 11,000 views, and it turns out blogging has helped me in numerous ways that I could have never imagined with my work both in and out of college.
Below is a summary of some of the main benefits I have noticed. (the list is in now way exhaustive and I'm sure there are more)

1. Writing
When you are in primary school you learn how to write, and by the time a student leaves primary education, they are usually versed in the art of “jointy-uppy-writing”, by the time you get to secondary school you are blessed with an abundance of essays, and writing races (exams), but then by the time you reach third level education the amount, and variety of what you write plummets. One of my classmates recently admitted to me that in the last 6 months he had written no more than half a page in actual pen to paper writing, and I sure he is not the only example of this.
I write out all my posts on paper before typing them up (old fashioned isn’t it!), I find it easier to structure my thoughts and how I want to approach an issue, but also it has kept me accustomed to the idea of writing with a pen or pencil, so come exam time it is not as traumatic an experience as it can be for your average Quinn School student, my hand doesn’t ache or blister AND I have the added bonus of my writing being legible.

2. Learning
Soon after I started blogging, I noticed that most of the things I had written about were still lingering about in my head, and I could recall interesting facts from the posts, even about the most obscure facts for example the labour cost of producing a nike t-shirt in the Dominican republic equates to 3/10ths of 1% of the final retail price we pay.
The process of finding the information, structuring it into something readable, and then writing it out serves as a great method for remembering things, this has been extremely useful in exams, essays, presentations and discussions in class. My advice, if you want to remember it, write about it.

3. Jobs and Internet reputation
This was not one of my main reasons for starting up a blog, but rather an aspect which I realise can accompany it. When you start a blog, it tends to be up quite high, usually first if you were so inquisitive as to “Google” your name. The fact is that these days if employers want to find out about the “real” you, they will do just that, they will type “Joe Bloggs” and see what they get. It would be much better for them to come across a reasonably mature blog you write in as opposed to your Bebo photos of you passed out lying on an inflatable crocodile in Santa Ponsa.

Reading blogs has been equally important for me, I have learned so much from reading other peoples views and thoughts on issues relating to marketing and HR to things like sport and graphic design, and there are about 15 blogs which I check faithfully every day. There are millions of blogs out there, each one full valuable information.
The three that influenced my decision to start were
Fortifyservices blog
Seth Godin's blog
Presentationzen blog

So if you think you would like to experiment with a bit of writing, set up an account today, it is almost as easy as signing into you email account, and if you aren’t happy… I’ll give you your money back.

21 today... 7670 days and counting

Well despite the fact I decided to be born 9 weeks early and weigh a rather pathetic 3lbs (Never did like doing it the easy way, for idea of how small I was please see pic above, not actually me but same siz baby hand) I appear to have made it to a ripe old age of 21. According to my mathematical skills, taking into account leap years, I have lived 7670 days, doesn't sound like much have to say.
Being 21 has countless benefits


  • Being able to drink in the US...
  • Being older than 20 year olds

Thats about it to be honest, but still sounds good. All gifts and monetary donations (large only) can be sent directly to my house

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Working nine to five, Frost

Four hour workweek blog, quite nice

I came across a very interesting blog the other day called the fourhourwork week by Tim Ferriss which can be found HERE, it has officially been added to my favourites list, which I can tell you is no mean feat! I liked some of the stats I read form some online polls on his blog, quite thought provoking, which way would you have answered?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Metro Ireland Story

In todays strategic marketing class we had Lee Thompson the CEO of Metro Ireland come in and give us a talk about the challenges faced by establishing the first heavily distributed free newspaper in Ireland, and convincing both shareholders and advertisers that the end product had potential.
The paper makes money solely from advertising revenue and circulation numbers are in and around the 70,000 mark.
My favourite quote from the talk can be found above.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

iPod exhange rate

The new iPod touch 8gb retails in the states for $299, and with tax taken into account costs $320.
Below are the prices of the new Ipod when the local currency is changed to Dollars at the exchange rate as of last night. As you can see we get a rather unfair deal here in Ireland.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I wish I hadn't said that...

Asked 10 years ago what he would do if he was CEO of Apple, Michael Dell commented


“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”


Below is the share price for the last ten years, speaks volumes

Kovacs on TV


Clarkson on Space

Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC presenter wrote an outrageously funny piece for the Sunday Times magazine about space and the 50 year anniversary of mans entry into the cosmos, in the form of the Russian satellite “sputnik.”

He puts the size of space into perspective with:
"If we'd put a 20 year old man on the Voyager, he’d now be 50 and he'd still be in our own solar system. By the time he reached our next door neighbours, he'd be about 6 thousand million billion. Or, to put it another way, dead"

And reminds us of the technological benefits gained by wars:
"The word's first electronic computer was built at Bletchley Park not so some spotty youth could spend his afternoon shooting his mates in the face but to crack German codes. Jet planes were built not so you could go to Tenerife but because Germany needed a faster fighter" "When Russia launched Sputnik 50 years ago, it was nothing more than a small radio, but the beeps it transmitted, when translated, told the listening world "This is Russia and we'd like you all to know that our German scientists are a hell of a lot better than Americas German scientists, or in English "You're going home in a f**king ambulance""

Truly brilliant stuff.

Twain on Speeches

Friday, October 5, 2007

Student life - The pressure of financial commitments


This is my latest piece in the University Observer, for any Americans reading this, I apologise that we complain about fees of €900, when college fees in the US are so astronomical, but for the purposes of the article...shhhhhhh

Each year sees a new batch of bright eyed and bushy tailed students arrive ready to commence an exciting life at college here at UCD, and getting used to the student lifestyle can take some time, but once all the excitement of the first few weeks is over and all the dust has settled, a quick consultation of the bank balance at the local ATM usually causes a sense of financial reality to set in.
Students are subject to a barrage of expenses and fees that range from the academically related to living expenses and costs associated with the ever important socialising duties, quite soon into a semester at UCD students can start to realise that a year in college is more financially trying than they would have imagined.
Perhaps the first indicator of imminent bankruptcy for a new student arises during the registration process, despite the fact third level education has been “free” since 1996 this does not include freedom from registration and examination expenses as determined by the University. This years “free” fees for students without a local authority grant left little change from one thousand Euro, and even those with a grant still found themselves subject to a registration charge in excess of the €100 mark.

For many students attending college means leaving the comforts of home behind, moving out into the big bad world and finding your own accommodation, and apart from the obvious cost of renting an apartment, this brings with it all sorts of other costs that you wouldn’t even think existed while you lived at home. Things like food, laundry and electricity are all things that we take for granted at home, but for those that move out it becomes apparent that these costs need to be factored into the overall budget.

Living in Dublin is not cheap at the best of times, and in March of this year a report on the cost of living by the Economist magazine confirmed this, the report placed Dublin as the twentieth most expensive city to live in out of the 132 included in the report, finishing eight positions above the notoriously expensive New York City. Educationireland.ie advises that students living outside the home should expect to spend in the region of €7,500 and €12,000 over the course of an academic year, with the bulk of this spend going on rent at €3000-5000 and food/household costs in the region of €2000-3500

Financial problems are very common among the student body with the SU Education Office reporting that “only 11% of undergraduates report never having a problem with their cashflow” which leaves 89% of students looking for a way to make ends meet while juggling academic work simultaneously. SU Finance Officer, Natalie Dunne explains that “There are a lot in people in UCD that are struggling financially. The reasons seem to be reoccurring like students not having time to take on part time jobs and their parents not supporting them financially and delayed County Council maintenance grants”

Most students turn to part time work at evenings and weekends in order to maintain a steady source of income, however students who work long hours after college often have to sacrifice time needed to attend to academic commitments such as study and project work, which can have a disastrous impact on grades when exam time comes around. Achieving this balance is often much harder than first thought, as one commerce student admitted “At first I thought it would have been easy, but juggling work and academia is a bit of a nightmare” with another student admitting that “Working as many hours as I did certainly affected my grades quite significantly”

In the Student handbook distributed to all incoming students at the start of term the Students Union Education Office advises that “Working for more than 10 hours a week during term will have a bad effect on your university life and your studies.”, with most part time jobs paying in and around the minimum wage, which today stands at €8.65, working the advised hours over the course of an academic year would leave you with a mere €86.50 a week, a figure which is laughable considering all the costs that need to be taken into account.

So what can students do in order to meet their financial obligations and maintain an adequate balance between work and their college life? Dunne suggests that considering working during the summer may ease financial pressure “I think working full time for the summer is the best option open to students, as you can save for the year ahead and maybe not have to worry about getting a part time job for the academic year”, adding that “In the long run summer jobs will stand to anyone especially when you are applying for jobs after your finished in college.”

Education Officer Ronan Shanahan pleads that students consider applying for an education grant “every year hundreds of students never even consider applying for a grant, even if their circumstances mean that they are entitled to one”. He also advises those who consider this option to consult with the Student Union Education office as “Although the application process can sometimes be lengthy and confusing the education office of your Students Union is here to assist you with your application”

Students are also advised to consider careful planning of their finances at the very start of the academic year with the Finance Officer stating that “I think it is really important that students start the year by making out a budget”., The Education office has much the same advice stating that at the start of term students should “Sit down and write a list of your income on one side of a sheet and your expenditure on the other. Use worst-case scenario figures and allow for unexpected expenses. Once you’ve done this you’ll be able to make a plan and stick to it.”

Being a student is expensive business and financial commitments can become quite overbearing and start affecting your academic performance if they are not addressed and planned for well in advance. If you find yourself struggling with financial problems you shouldn’t hesitate in contacting the Students Union Finance Office as they are there to help you through the inevitable difficulties that will arise at one stage or another in your academic career.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cat + Oven does not = biscuit

This is a quote from the basketball movie "White Men Can't Jump", I think it follows along the same theme of polishing turds and realising that if you are a cat, there is no way you will turn yourself into a biscuit, no matter what you try.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The illusion of the "Headstart"

I was recently forwarded a report on consumer behaviour and loyalty schemes that I thought was quite interesting. The report was entitled “The endowment progress effect: how artificial advancement increases effort” and was conducted by two consumer researchers named Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze. Their research focused in on a carwash outlet in America and a loyalty scheme they were trying to implement in order to increase the volume and frequency of repeat custom.

The outlet in question offered a loyalty card that had 8 spots that was stamped after each purchase of a car wash, once all eight spots were stamped the company gave you a free car wash. As part of the research they also introduced a card which had 10 spots on it, the first two of which were pre-stamped so as to give customers the illusion of a “head start”.
The two schemes were essentially identical and offered customers exactly the same reward for the same amount of repeat custom; once you bought 8 car washes you would receive one for free.

Upon analysing the results Nunes and Dreze found that the card with 8 spots resulted in a 19% completion rate, whereas the card that had 10 spots boasted a superior completion rate of 34%, on top of that those using the 10 spot loyalty card had a shorter length of time between visits, returning with on average 2.9 fewer days between washes than their 8 spot equivalents.

The two researchers concluded that by reframing the offer as being “already started but not yet completed”, in this case 20% completed as opposed to the 0% completed offered by the 8 spot card, this increased motivation for the customer to return.
I think it is interesting to see how few retailers do this especially with products that are easily substituted.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Not so average

People like averages, when people look at a market, collection of figures or a country they often look for the average of everything, what is the average income, average age, average height etc, because it provides an easy to understand figure that tries to express usually quite a complex situation. However there are times where this is not always the best course of action, and often the average can disguise the reality of a situation.
This was illustrated to me recently in a marketing video shown to my class about Mexico (I acknowledge that I may be inaccurate about this, but for the purpose of what I am trying to explain it will do just nicely) and marketing research conducted by Unilever into the clothes cleaning product market there.

From what I gathered Mexico seemed to have two very distinct classes, those that were washing there clothing in rivers and barely had enough water to survive, and at the same time there are those that have their clothing washed by their maids. The divide in wealth was so large that there was not much of a middle ground between the two, and therefore the company had to launch two very different product lines with two very different pricing strategies. Had they looked at the average income of an individual in Mexico and pursued a strategy to target this almost non existent middle ground, they would have been attempting to execute a marketing strategy that didn’t work for any party and ultimately would have failed.

Another example would be to take the average growth rate in Transport energy usage in the UK and Ireland over the last 15 yrs (not exactly thrilling I know) which averages at 75%, however this disguises the fact that the figure for the UK was a mere 18% where as the Irish figure stood at 132%, so a company or individual wishing to enter the region be totally wrong using this figure for either market.
Beware of the averages, they are coming to get us all.

Picking your fights

Perspective

Over the last week or two I have been doing some research into the Irish petrol market for an article I am co-writing with someone from college, and in particular why so many petrol retailers have simply decided that there isn’t enough profit to be made here and are closing up shop and are selling their forecourt sites.
A comment I came upon by Commercial real estate broker Patrick Reardon, really puts the situation faced by the oil majors into perspective

‘‘Looking at it from a business point of view, the sale of petrol and diesel in all of Ireland is equivalent to what is sold in metropolitan Manchester, so it is hardly a priority investment area.”

Things can look a lot different when you see them in relative terms. It also serves to highlight the insignificance of Irish retail on a global scale.