Friday, February 29, 2008

When Ed met Guy: Guy Kawasaki comes to Ireland

I have to say that this week has been pretty interesting for me, firstly I had my first proper interview of the year, and secondly through somewhat covert operations I got to meet one of my all time business/blogging heroes in person.

There were a few blogs that I read prior to setting up cube that certainly influenced my desire to start up my own little piece of web real-estate just over a year ago. One of them was Rowan Manahan’s Fortify your oasis, another was Seth Godins blog and the last but not least was Guy Kawasaki’s "How to change the world" blog. Seeing as I have had the fortune of regular contact with Mr Manahan, the latter two influences were still on my “list” to see in the near future, however the likelihood of such meetings were low seeing as they are incredibly busy men and based across the Atlantic ocean.

I read somewhere on the web about a month ago that Guy Kawasaki would be attending the Irish Software Association conference at the end of February, which would be taking place in my college! For about 30 seconds things were looking up, however a quick consultation of the ISA website told me that tickets to the event would set me back in the region of €300… and furthermore I was then later scheduled for an interview about 10 miles away at the same time as he would be talking… things were not looking good.

Shortly after my interview I received a text message from Rowan, who was at the conference, informing me of a Q&A session that would be starting an hour later involving Mr. Kawasaki and other notable speakers, so I thought I would take my chances, hopped on a bus and headed out to the venue.

Guy Kawasaki was one of the key people behind the at times unlikely success of Apple Computer (which along with Starbucks hold somewhat of an obsessive position in my heart) which he maintains should have gone bust on at least ten occasions during his time there. The so called “Apple evangelist” is currently CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital company, author of many best selling business books such as “The Art of the Start” and "Rules for Revolutionaries" AND writer to the whole blogospheres 53rd most popular blog. Understandably I REALLY wanted to meet him.

I have always maintained that the back door is the only door, and once again this rang true… A few minute and a fire exit later I was soon sat in the very front row of the Q&A watching Mr. “Art of the Start” himself.
The session was great and Guy provided us with many witty nuggets of information. After the Q&A, thanks to Rowan’s previous contact with Guy, I was able to meet the main man himself and pause for a few words, handshake and photo! Brilliant day all around, and once again many thanks to Sir Rowan of Manahan for letting me know of the event.

Ed The Album revisited

In 2004/5 when I used to have more than enough spare time on my hands me and my friends decided, like all kids do, that prank calling people would be a real hoot. So we looked through our phonebooks for the most gullible people we knew (you might know who you are) and set about calling them. We came up with the idea of a fake radio station called “86.2 rock and roll” and I was the DJ “Mark Malloy” with Luke from being the sound man. Eventually my calls developed a bit of a reputation and people were asking me for them on cd.

So at the age of 17 my first “business venture” was selling my music to the masses (St. Andrews College). I printed up CD covers, bought some cds and boxes and went around the school between classes selling them for €5 each (see comical advert above). To my surprise I ended up selling about 40 copies, and I think some people might have pirated my tracks and sent them on to friends… I am still seeking legal advice on this…

That was a long time ago, however in the last 2 months I have had about 8 people come up to me at different times and tell me how they were listening to my tracks again and how great they were etc, seems there is some sort of odd time lag with people’s appreciation levels. SOOOO long story short I told Luke to put them up on his ever so wonderful site, well worth a visit if you want to have a listen to the calls that have made me very slightly famous!
Listen to them here - For some reason you need to click the "refresh" button once you click through!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Well another services marketing class, another class argument started by Ed. Today we were talking about how an organisation can achieve optimum performance by setting adequate measurable standards, and unfortunately for the teacher she decided to bring up the example of setting “hard standards” for lecturers… Ed POUNCED…

Firstly I argued that ensuring that someone “has at least a masters degree” and “can operate computers proficiently” does not really mean that they will be any good at teaching students and communicating information, that what is important in a lecturer can’t really be defined in such closed terms. This of course led to a giant debate in the class about what does and doesn’t constitute a good lecturer. This was followed by the bombshell from my friend Joe who brought up the very valid point that whether you like it or not… lecturers are not there to lecture, in fact I find that the title of “lecturer” is quite misleading altogether.

The people who stand before you (for the most part) are primarily interested in research in their relevant fields, teaching is a nuisance that gets in the way for a couple of hours a week, and the sooner over the better. Universities don’t even pretend that teaching is an aside to their primary goal, research, all you have to do is snoop around a bit to find that out. Above is the UCD “mission statement” which clearly states that what they are really after is research.

So I guess my view on this is similar to the old situation with the weathermen on Irish TV, I might have this story slightly wrong, but way back when they had meteorologists present the weather, turns out that most meteorologists made pretty poor presenters, sooooo they just got people who were good at communicating to read the weather. I am on the staff/student forum and I have hear multiple complaints from students that the academics teaching them are poor communicators, often not having a high enough standard in English to teach them to any sort of adequate level. I have no doubts that the individuals in question are probably very qualified with many letters after their name and furthermore brilliant researchers… but they can’t teach.

In the Edward Fidgeon-Kavanagh school of business (at EFKU) I would recruit some people to specialise in doing research and nothing else, and others to specialise in how to best communicate this information to students. Then we could have researchers and actual “lecturers”

Although I feel I will rant on this again quite soon

Monday, February 25, 2008

Only in Japan - Pepsi cucumber

After reading this on wikipedia I thought it was a joke, but after a little bit of snooping around on Google I have come to the conclusion that this drink is indeed real, and also somewhat disturbing.

Yet another reason why I dont like Pepsi...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Can vs. Should

In the last week I have been exposed to many great examples of the concept of "what you can do vs what you should do", and believe it or not there is a significant difference between the two. An example most people can probably identify with would be the example of drinking beer, or eating food. For example I can drink 20 pints of beer, or eat 20 big macs, however the chances are that quite soon after this I would have to spend a short spell in the hospital or perhaps the mortuary.

John Moore at brandautopsy is a previous Starbucks exec, and he gave his opinion on how this "can vs should" theory applies to Starbucks. Starbucks was made famous for its coffee and its service, however in recent years the company has diversified its offerings to hot sandwiches, toys and has even established a record label. Just because Starbucks can use their brand and accrued goodwill to sell these items and make money off them, it doesn’t mean they should. As a result Starbucks has begun to lose focus on what made it the success it is today... THE COFFEE.

Dr. Robert Frank, economist and author of "The Economic Naturalist" discusses the idea of "can vs should" in the academic arena. Passionate about the teaching of the basic of economics, Dr. Frank's research as uncovered that "most students who take introductory economics leave the course without really having learned even the most important economic principles.", adding that "Their ability to answer simple economic questions several months after leaving the course is not measurabley different from that of people who never too the course. (Having taken economics courses I can identify with this. I have learnt more long lasting economic theory from the book “the undercover economist that I did from looking at graphs and mathematical equations)
Again this is down to the "can vs should" decision, in this case being represented by a "How much can I cover today vs How much can my students absorb today".

I find the Can vs Should argument to be one that is often totally ignored in business, marketing and life in general, and although quite basic is something that should always be taken into consideration.

Do what you're told?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Excuses, excuses

This Monday was the due date for my (and other final year students) class's first assignment to be presented and handed up in written form. Well Monday came, and so did the excuses thick and heavy. Students struck down by the bubonic plague, broken arms, exploding computers/printers or both, any excuse will do it seems.

The coordinator of the module is a veteran of third level teaching and intends on failing most of these people if their reason doesn’t seem valid, but it was fun seeing the look on his face as we listed off our students’ excuses, the same ones he has heard every year, without fail.

My personal favourite was the excuse (or genuinely hilarious story) of a student in my friend Stephanie's class.
The person in question works at a late night petrol station.
Due to the fact there were no customers he was doing laps of the forecourt in his car to "practice driving".
Upon arrival of a customer he got out of the car, left it running, and went to take care of the customer.
When he returned to his car, he noticed that it was GONE, and of course, his laptop was also in the car...


Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Kazakhstan Business School = Crazy

Browsing through the website of the Kazakhstan based "KIMEP" business school (who I will be competing against in April) I realised that my business school is quite a mundane place.
In a letter to all students and faculty the Dean of business explains some recent "mishaps" at their university, it would be waaaaaay more fun to go there!
Accorsing to the Dean:

  • The faculty who departed did so for various reasons: One was asked to leave after becoming involved in a physical fight with the Dean of his College in front of students. Both parties were asked to leave
  • Another was asked to leave after repeated acts of gross incompetence and unprofessionalism
  • Another was asked to leave after becoming involved in feuds, including death threats, with various other faculty which were undermining the integrity of the university.
  • One resigned after being accused of sexual harassment by a student. The faculty member was disciplined following an investigation. The person resigned because he was unhappy with the outcome.
  • The last left after seven months to a much higher paid job in the USA. In doing their contract with KIMEP was broken.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Second life relationships (weird stuff...) and the advertising connection

Below is a "learning journal that I had to do for one of my Marketing subjects this semester. i was inspired by a rather disturbing/enlightening documentary I had seen about Second life.

Expectation management in Advertising and why it is important.
In this my second learning journal entry I will be looking at advertising, why marketers use them and the pitfalls of bad advertising.

1. The “second-life”/expectation management connection
Last night I watched a documentary about the online world “second life” a site where users can create online characters and immerse themselves in vast virtual worlds and meet other users from across the world. More specifically the documentary dealt with the issue of men and women who had formed relationships in the virtual world and were looking to meet up in person, with a view to transferring this successful relationship into the real world. “Second life” allows users to create a totally customisable character which expresses who they are and exactly how they would like to be perceived and viewed, needless to say there are few fat, balding or indeed aged characters created in this virtual world. The characters that exist in this world are really graphical expressions of the “ideal self” a concept that we covered in buyer and consumer behaviour during the last year. Unsurprisingly most of these ideal selves take the form of Pamela Anderson-esque women and Arnold Schwartzeneggar-esque male characters, which tend to be somewhat wide of the mark in terms of accuracy.

Advertising gives marketers the opportunity to engage in a similar activity, to present their brand/product to the masses and target audience in the exact way that they want it to be seen, as with “Second life” it gives them the opportunity to express the “ideal self” but this time for a product/service rather than a person. For many consumers the first awareness they will have of your brand will be created by advertising, and it is this advertising that will set their expectation levels.

In the latter half of the “Second life” documentary we saw the couples meeting up in the real world for the first time, and for the most part the sense of disappointment on both sides was quite noticeable. People who had been muscular heroes in the online world turned out to be overweight balding scruffs, and others who had been supermodels online turned out to be nothing more than your average middle-aged woman. In my opinion the disappointment was caused by two main factors. Firstly expectations had been set too high, and secondly the gap between the traits of the individual’s online and real personalities was too great too ignore.
This problem is certainly not one confined to the realm of “Second life” and is a pitfall that advertisers must avoid at all costs. One of the students in class last week said that he thought that advertising gave companies a chance to “differentiate from competitors”, I believe that this view is somewhat short sighted and advertising should not be used in a way that uses differentiation gimmicks to entice customers unless your offering is actually superior or different in a real sense. People, although easily led, are not stupid, and will be quick to notice the differences between the ideal view of the product/service conjured up by advertisers, and the reality of the offering’s characteristics.

Some companies may aim to only ever sell you one product and therefore deception through advertising is an effective way of making the sale, however you would be hard pressed to find any successful brands that rely on this tactic. The gap between the ideal view of the product put forward by the advertiser, and the customer’s actual perception is of huge importance for brands that require repeat custom in order to survive. For these companies failure to effectively manage a customer’s expectations may result in a permanent loss of business, so it is therefore in the brand’s interest that their advertising should represent their product in a more conservative light.

2. The social “Post-Purchase” evaluation effect.
Marketers must also consider that once a customer has consumed the offering in question they will engage in what is referred to as the “post purchase evaluation”. It is now that a customer will determine whether they are satisfied with the product/service based on their consumption experience and expectations they brought to the table prior to purchase. Although some of the text books seem to imply that this post purchase evaluation is a personal activity, it is often one that is carried out in, or communicated to, peer groups. If customer is dissatisfied with his/her experience of your product you can rest assured that the individual will tell their friends, family and anyone who is willing to listen.

3. Conclusion
My opinion on the matter in this moment and time is that advertising is a powerful vehicle by which to communicate your message to your target audience, however this communication also sets expectation levels in your audiences mind about what your offering will be like. Advertising is a way to communicate your difference and is not in and of itself a way to “differentiate from competitors”. It is up to the marketer to ensure that any message sent about the brand is sufficiently honest and realistic, and that expectations be met if a customer consumes your offering, if not reputation damage and loss of revenue will follow.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Prof. Ed's lessons so far

Well the new year has seen me take to the classroom again but this time as a student AND as a teacher, albeit for only 2 hours a week. I have had two weeks worth of classes so far and I'm teaching first year students i.e. they are only 2 years younger than me = weird.

Although I have only had two classes so far I have learnt a thing or two already.
  • It's funny to see the way the different "cliques" sit together... just funny

  • It is annoying when you ask a question such as "everyone ok with that" and you just get blank faces (a crime I have committed many times)

  • You need to PREPARE what you are going to do and when... time flies

  • I guess the most important thing about teaching is you learn how to be a better student!

More revelations to come when I have taught more kids a lesson!

Happy Birthday Cube: 1 year on

Well it has been a whole year (plus a day or two) since I started my little blog and my how it has grown. 365 days on and it has grown to 249 posts tall! Writing this blog has been a great experience in a multitude of ways and has really helped me learn about college stuff, interesting stuff and life stuff. To anyone out there reading this thanks for dropping by and hopefully I can write about some even more interesting stuff over the next year! And to all bloggers out there KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

People these days...