Food for thought: my articles

Do you have a life strategy ?

Did you ever set up a life strategy ? Well you should !

Deciding about our life is the single most important decision that we will ever have to make !¬†And generally we don’t treat it seriously. I mean we think about it, we have hopes, sometimes dreams, we have regrets or whatever but‚Ķ we do not consider it as we do for a business decision. So, be professional about yourself ! It’s time to draw your strategic plan !

A strategic process is quite simple as a theory. The most difficult is analyzing and deciding. So, this is how to do:

  1. Have a vision ! Every good strategy starts with a vision i.e. a picture of how you imagine yourself in the long term (5-10 years). It will give you a purpose. Write it as a movie scenario: “In 2025, I will wake up in Paris. I will have enough money to own a small pied-√†-terre on the left bank. I will be a renowned speaker and respected blogger in the field of strategy. My family is important but as i’m very independent, I will have control about my time in family. ,‚Ķ. bla bla bla” Take some time to imagine scenarios, dream, don’t think too much about reality. Reality will come back to you later…
  2. Do your self analysis.images-1.jpegList your life values in order of importance, starting by the most important to you¬†: are they money, intellectual accomplishment, family, couple, your home ? Or free time for yourself, a moving life, power, other ? Then, list your strengths and your short comes¬†as a person and as a professional. Ask for help from friends (real friends) coz it’s difficult to evaluate yourself objectively. Then think of your resources: personal¬†finances, life and professional experience, intellectual ability, emotional intelligence, personal network, mentors, languages, education, ‚Ķ it maybe that, if you’re still young, your main resources will be your degree, your courage and your personality. My experience is that most people are underestimating their strengths. And remember that, in strategy, the purpose of partnerships may¬†be to acquire the resources you don’t have.¬†
  3. Have a critical view on your environment. In strategy, opportunities come out of changes in the environment but barriers are part of the environment too . So, look at your close environment first. Friends and family, your close network of trustful people, your colleagues. Do they leverage your ambitions or do they limit your dreams ? What kind of culture are you born from ? Protective and conservative ? Or adventurous and progressive ? Never take anything for granted. Note the barriers and the opportunities offered by your environment.
  4. Write strategic scenarios. Use the “what if ? ” method. What if I would have no money limitation ? What would I do ? What if I could fly away to America today ? Would I ¬†do it ? Why yes ? Why no ? Explore various paths. always keep your vision in mind. Strategic scenarios are ways to make your dreams come true. Never downgrade a dream coz the road seems bumpy ! Again, do it with other people who appreciate¬†¬†you and are frank with you.
  5. Make a decision. Probably the most difficult ! Especially if it changes some important paradigms in your life balance or your lifestyle or your family equilibrium. It may be that you will need to convince or negotiate. It may be that you will face resistance. it’s the same as in business. That’s why you need to prepare an implementation plan and a contingency plan. it may also be that it will not change much on the short term but will reassure you on your current direction. In that case, you will feel a sense of completion that will make you happy !

Some of you may tell me that they prefer to let life guide them instead of them choosing their life. Everyone is free to choose. But remember that¬†YOUR LIFE is your most¬†important holding.¬†You only have one ! It’s running fast ! Don’t miss it ! And don’t let anyone¬†choose it for you !

Be inspired !

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Five consumer trends to watch if you want to find successful niches

I’ve been reading an interesting article published by Euromonitor International called Emerging Markets during Crisis: Business Strategy in Times of Uncertainty and recently written by senior research analyst Fernando CRUZ (https://www.linkedin.com/in/fdocruzalvarez/en).

Although I was not surprised by his research findings, my own experience leads me to think that these trends are really global. You can observe them both in emerging markets and mature markets and they are so strong that they guide consumers’ behaviors not only in periods of instability but also at any time these days.

The five trends spotted by Cruz are:

1. Convenience

Cruz is observing that “‚Ķurban life is demanding and frequently involves long travel times between home and work‚Ķ.”. This is only one of the reasons why people always ask for more convenience. The need for convenience is not new. Actually, most inventions came from human beings’s willingness to make life easier. This need is to source in the primary times of humanity. But what is interesting today is that while trying to make life simpler and more convenient, we actually made it more complicated ! The more we invent new solutions to problems, the more we seem to create new¬†problems coming out of complexity. Pressure on life organization in big metropolitan areas is just enormous and hard to manage. It’s not only about commuting, it’s about meals, kids, parents, job, personal life,‚Ķ My wife regularly tells me: “We should talk organization today” ! And I tend to say: “yes darling, later please” and I’m dreaming of having a robot taking care of all this for me and the family ūüôā¬† So, all new solutions to these organizational problems will be welcome. There is a never ending source of opportunities here that marketers should grasp. The trick is to be the first one or¬† the most efficient or the cheapest. Choose your formula !

2. Indulgence

Cruz defines an indulgent purchase as “acquiring something to be enjoyed as a special pleasure but that is normally understood as wrong or unhealthy“.¬† Junk food and sugar-sweet products but also alcohol and tobacco or any relaxing drugs are of course unhealthy but we see an emerging trend of “healthy indulgence” definitely coming out these days. More convenience may help you manage life problems but it doesn’t bring happiness. And happiness is a key value in our post-modern times. We need to feel good for ourselves. The “slow food” movement, originated in Italy a few years ago is a nice refuge value for some of us. Food is always re-comforting, it brings the ones we love together, it’s a way to relax. Some will pair this with wine tasting, some others will develop their talents as cooks. There is a huge market there ! But all activities linked to “a better self” like sport, yoga, meditation, nature hiking,‚Ķ are multiplying. Everyday, new ideas are emerging leading to micro markets. Be creative, there are opportunities for years in this area !

3. Transparency

In his research report, Cruz gives the example of how people choose their tourism products: “Driven by the advantages of the online channel, sales of tourism products via the internet have grown rapidly in recent years, as this channel provides information, transparency and comparability”. For sure this is not limited to tourism. We look for transparency when preparing a buying decision but we also want transparency on how brands and suppliers are managing their supply chains. What materials went into the products we buy ? Were they manufactured in ethical social conditions ? Do they respect the environment ? And I could post here an infinite number of information that customers and citizens want to know. A number of companies don’t know how to answer this particular need but some innovative guys in the Silicon valley launched startups¬†who detail their cost and margin calculations to anyone. Wow ! What a change in culture. My fellow marketers, don’t be afraid of transparency: go for it and fit the need !

4. Nostalgia

It was so good in the past ! Life was easier, we didn’t have so many problems, we were so happy, bla bla bla‚Ķ We forget our parents’ hard times and if we would travel back in the past, 30-40 years ago, we would come back as quickly as we went ! Actually, we want to keep the best of these fantasized times. Some products we were already using as kids, some brands our mothers already used, some “feel good” images of the past‚Ķ I supervised my first final thesis about “nostalgia marketing” about 10 years ago. It was very new. Now, it’s very trendy ! Want an internet radio with a design of the 1950’s¬†? A vinyl record that you can digitalize on a smart record player ? Dress like Humphrey Bogaert ? Everything is possible. The trick is to combine heritage with technology or fashion. Look at Burberry or ¬†The Mini Cooper. You get the best of both world. Dare to be old. Team with a baby boomer to know how life was in the 60’s, then imagine new “old products” or relaunch forgotten brands !

5. Status

Being a very old human need, status always evolved as do cultures and societies.¬† Cruz again recalls the evidence that “status triggers a set of emotions, such as pride, satisfaction or superiority. Frequently, consumers buy objects to reflect these emotions and communicate them to other people“. We need to please, to be appreciated, to feel recognized as valuable by people around us and, if we can’t make it to the top, we need to compensate. Brands, fashion and product design, also customer care are some marketing tools helping us to feel important. And what is most interesting today is the link with a strange paradox. We want to be perceived as “different” but we continue to copy others.¬†¬†There is a huge opportunity here for those marketers and entrepreneurs who can reconcile both of these needs of their target markets. Customization, one to one marketing, micro-niches are the answer. For example, in a number of emerging markets, “buying foreign brands” is a status symbol. But consumers who do that don’t feel so unique. So, it you offer a unique creative foreign brand only available in limited volume, you double the status effect ! Think of it !

Finding niche markets is not a problem if you watch smartly how trends evolve. All behaviors we observe tend to show us the way. Be immersed in the society. Look, hear and smell markets !

Be inspired !

And…thanks to Fernando CRUZ for leading me to reflect about all this !

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I’m not a fan of models but this one is great !

I’m not a fan of models ! Models are generally used to better conceptualize managers’ thinking but the fact is most people use models to oversimplify complex phenomenons.

However, there is one that I find most inspiring: the Brand Key Model set up by Unilever. To know more about it , have a look at an excellent website recently done by a group of my MBA students (Solvay Brussels School, Saigon):http://image-branding.wix.com/marketingessence.png

 

The 5 sides of the new marketing pentagon

Classical marketing is like classical music: it can be beautiful but nobody‚Äės listening to it…

Classical marketing, based on demand analysis and customer understanding, has been driving the industry for years but ‚Ķ.most recent market hits come from market creation and radically new ways to imagine supply chains. Look at AirBnB, √úber¬†and, before that, Apple, Google, Facebook and the like. We know that. it’s no surprise to us.

What is more tricky is how we should play with new rules of the games to adapt to this ever changing business environment. Today, we should not only understand customers, we should play the marketing game with them. Consumers and business customers changed dramatically.They don‚Äôt want to be ¬ę¬†just only satisfied¬†¬Ľ, they want to be excited ! Well, let’s excite them !

We don’t need marketing managers anymore ! We need Game Changers who permanently generate ideas, who exercise¬†critical thinking and like to be constantly challenged by¬†others‚Äô viewpoints, especially customers’ viewpoints. ¬†They should care for societal concerns more than anyone in their businesses. Of course, they should be digital masters but be creative enough to stand out of the online crowd. In brief, they should move, try, do…differently

So, my dear readers, if you still believe in the 4p’s model dating from the 1950’s, you better consider the world today is different from the 50’s !

If you want to check the state of your marketing function today is to look at the 5 sides of a pentagon. Five equal sides surrounding the marketing show. Coz marketing is like show business ! It should be perfect, coherent and stunning ! It can’t be mediocre. It should be WOW !

  1. Are you digital enough ? Don’t consider digital as a by product, just a needed activity. Be digital in strategy, be digital in mar com, be digital in distribution, be digital in service, be digital in customer relationship. Being digital does’t mean to be non-human ! Amazon has been rated number 1 in the¬†National¬†Retail¬†Federation¬†Customers‚Äô Choice Awards‚Ķnominated through an unaided, write-in question by consumers.
  2. Are you social ? There are several meanings to this word. The one I mean is the equivalent of “societal”. Does your marketing bring a societal benefit ? Does it make people life better ? I’m not talking about just doing some charity to feel “good citizen”. I mean: do your products, services or ideas bring a social value ? Do you have the ambition to go beyond customers expectations and think about more than money ¬†? The good thing is: societal marketing also brings more money. Today, it’s a competitive advantage that customers value !
  3. Are you sustainable ? Marketing has helped destroyed a number of earth resources. We must be aware of that. Now we should repair. The marketing community should now be a driving force, in each company and in the society, to generate a safe, clean and healthy environment. Being green is an evidence but sustainability is more. It means caring for the long term. Preserving consumers health. Promoting sustainable behaviors. Again, being pro-active in that field will bring you a definite advantage over competition.
  4. Are you creative ? Really creative ? Creativity is not just about finding a good ad agency. it’s about being different at every step of the marketing process. Strategy, segmentation, business modeling , product development, pricing, distribution,‚Ķeverything in marketing cane creative. But unfortunately, most businesses desperately offer ¬†“me too” solutions. Being creative is like sport or music: you should know the techniques and exercise every day !
  5. ¬†Are you “experiential“? People remind what they do, not what they hear and see. Each of us is getting around 5,000 marketing messages each day ! How many do you keep in mind ? Experiential marketing is a new discipline that should now be considered as strategic.¬†Experiential Marketing is about building emotional connections with customers leading them to a desire to repeat the experience they went through¬†and to become ¬ę¬†brand advocates¬†¬Ľ¬†It’s a way to create emotional value and it’s now a must in our emotional world !

It’s time to check your marketing function and see if you’re 100% at the top in these 5 fields. If not, call me !

 

7 steps to lift up your personal image

May is back and with it a need to change some things in your life ! Well, maybe it’s time to lift up¬†your personal image !

“Esse est percipi”¬†‚ÄĒ “to be is to be perceived” said Irish philosopher George Berkeley 200 years ago already (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/berkeley/). This is more than ever true today. In our society¬†perception is more important than reality,¬†each of us¬†is getting about 5,000 info per day and our average span of attention 8-10 seconds (Hugues Rey, HAVAS group). So, how about you ? How do people perceive you ? What is your personal image ? As seen by others and‚Ķas seen by yourself !

The issue is not limited to business situations. It’s also related to your personal life. A number of¬†studies have been done on the way how we think about ourselves affects our performance, in work and life. See for example American psychologist¬†Barbara Fredrickson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Fredrickson). there is a strong connection between how people perceive us and how we perceive ourself (self-image).

Anyway, it’s all about perceptions !

But let’s be practical: how should you go about working on your personal image. Actually, it’s about marketing yourself. YOU are the product. Now YOU need a brand ! So here are 7 phases you should go through.

  1. Start by ¬†a¬†vision.¬†¬†A vision is how you project yourself in the future. Write a scenario.Imagine you’re in a movie. The title is: “Me in 10 years”. Close your eyes and dream. Forget about constraints of day to day life like money, family, your boss or else. Imagine, then write ! You can imagine various scenarios. In strategy, we call that “scenario planning”. It’s important to write it down. Let it sleep for a few days, then come back to it and choose one. You can keep is secret. It’s between you and you. Or You’d like to share it. Whatever, it will be your driving force, it will give you a sense of direction and scope your ambition.
  2. Know who you are.What are your points of excellence ? Don’t spend time on your shortcomings, you’re never selling a defective product ! If you’re not sure, survey the market ūüôā Ask some friends or colleagues to mention 3 of your skills, or 3 words that come to your mind when they think of you. It’s full of interest. it will give you some insights on how you’re actually perceived now.
  3. Define your targets.¬†If you’re in a business setting, it can be your management, peers or the team you’re managing. It can be your customers. It can be your funds providers. In life, it can be a social group you’re part of. People you want to seduce. Avoid it with real close friends: they like the real you ! Define your target(s) based on your long term vision. Set priorities: it’s never effective to communicate to several targets at the same time. So, go step by step.
  4. Have a brand.¬†This is a tricky choice and most of you could be shy about it but it’s actually a great advantage for getting recognized. I have a Vietnamese friend called Huong. There are many people called Huong in Vietnam. But she’s different: she calls herself Bailey. Everyone¬†knows her under that name, actually a brand name of a coffee liquor. It fits her personality. People remember ! So, think about a special name. Or stick an adjective to your name (Smart John, for example) but HAVE A BRAND. And why not a logo ?
  5. Choose your brand positioning.¬†A brand is to be remembered but you will be more remembered if it means¬†something valuable for others. Brand positioning is a classical strategic marketing tool. You can use the Unilever brand key model if you’re a sophisticated marketeer ūüôā Or just think about what you want people to think about you and write YOUR positioning statement. (http://cvg220.wix.com/marketing-basics-jpb#!positexemple/c7uy on how to do that)
  6. Be different.¬†A the end, the most important is to know how different you are and how to promote your difference. It may be a unique competency (I’m the most creative accountant in my city) or a specialty (I’m the most specialized accountant for sports clubs) or something about yourself (I’m the most funny accountant to work with) but something should be unique about you and consistent overtime.
  7. Dress as¬†how you want to¬†be looked at.¬†Dress for success is not a new statement but it’s consistently overlooked. Big companies seem to like employees who all look the same. Like kind of robots ! But we are humans ! Our way to dress, to speak, to appear sends signals ! It can be little things. I have been teaching a lot and for years I didn’t know what to wear so that I could feel relaxed and appear serious at the same time. Then I decided to signal my identity of “marketing prof” by wearing colored watches. Strangely enough, years after my classes, people don’t remember my teaching content but they remember the watches. Recently, I discovered an American couturier living in Saigon. He taught me how to think about my style after he asked me questions about my personal objectives. I became his client. He’s a master in business attire strategy (https://www.facebook.com/paths.to.success/)

Don’t forget this, as written in a Forbes article, developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader (http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/04/08/personal-branding-is-a-leadership-requirement-not-a-self-promotion-campaign).

After all, you’re the most important person on earth, aren’t you ?images-1.jpeg

 

 

 

Why you should fail from time to time

I met a friend of mine yesterday. Salma is a story teller and a content strategist. She told me: “Perfection creates no emotion !” I like that sentence. In my post:¬†5 reasons why you should stop trying to be¬†perfect, I already evoked the fact that trying to reach perfection should not become a stress or an obsession.¬†I’m more radical today. I advise you to fail !

There is no learning without failure. Scientists know that progress comes from analysis of failure. Look at a little kid trying to walk for the first time. Is (s)he running right from the beginning ? No. S(he) will fall a number of time before adapting the technique to reach an acceptable performance. Same when you learn a language or struggle with accounting for the first time.

It’s the same in business. Did you hear about the concept of “learning organization” ? Trial and error ? Lean marketing ? See¬†http://theleanmarketer.com/about-the-lean-marketer/what-is-lean-marketing/ .¬†All is about testing, checking, understanding, relaunching and so one.

I know a US company giving bonuses to their employees who fail ! Better reward those who dare and fail than those who do not dare! ¬†Encourage your team to fail. Encourage your kids to fail. Encourage yourself to fail ! Do something, stop hesitating, move forward ! The train of life is not waiting for you. It’s already gone. Jump on it !5.jpg

 

Customer journey: the most useful recent marketing analysis tool

Some of my Vietnamese MBA students are really good ! Here is a neat report  on Customer Journey Analysis for you to read : https://vb10g1mkt.wordpress.com

Thanks to

  • Vu Nguyen Anh (nguyenanh84@hotmail.com)
  • Nguyen Thi Phi Oanh (oanhyh@yahoo.com)
  • Tran Nguyen Kim Ngan (tnkimngan5688@yahoo.com)

Be inspired !

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7 tips to manage your sleep

A number of years ago I read a book called “Managing your sleep”. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the author and the editor but this book changed my life, well‚Ķmy night life ūüôā

At that time, insomnia was my habit. No two nights with a full sleep. It made me nervous and stress would come out the day after. Then I read that book and I got and kept a number of tips that I can now recommend to you:

  • Read a book before sleep‚Ķin silence

Or meditate ! Whatever time it is, close your screens ! Forget about TV, phone, tablet or computer. Screen must go to sleep too, but not in bed with you ! Music is great¬†but at some point you should be in silence. Silence will appease your senses. Reading will make you dream even before sleep is there. By the way: don’t read anything like business publication or some job report ! Read a novel, something light !

  • Detox from¬†phone¬†!

Talking about screens, it’s time for you to “digital detox” ! A number of recent researches showed that addiction to screens excite the brain and lead to bad sleep. If you leave your smart phone open during night, you will unconsciously want to look at notifications. Same for telephone. My recommendation is clear: don’t answer calls, especially professional calls after 10 pm. If someone calls you with problems, you will absorb her (his) problems. If someone is excited about something, you will absorb the excitation. It may be nice but it will damage your sleep. The hour before sleep is for you to be alone with yourself !

  • When you wake up in night, don’t try to recover the sleep

So now comes the time when you wake up, generally between 2 and 4 am. You say: “oh ! no ! again ! ” and you start to be desperate. You WANT to sleep, you try to calm down but you can’t. You turn things in your head. Good or bad. No way ! Sleep will not come back easily, whatever you do. So, stand up and do something. Go drink or eat something you like. Enjoy the night instead of fearing it. Night is full of good things. Some fresh air maybe. Or some quietness. Learn to love your insomnia. Don’t think that you’re loosing sleep, think that you’re gaining time of life !

  • Don’t open your screens. Read or do something manual

If you reopen your phone or tablet or if you start playing games on your computer, time will spend easily but you will not rest your brain. Remember, the night should be¬†relaxed time. Do things that you don’t have time to do during the day. Maybe listening¬†to easy going¬†music, meditating, exercising some yoga, baking cakes‚ĶAnything but soft ! After about 90 min (more or less), you will start to yawn. Sleep works in cycles of 90-100 min. Yawning means that a new cycle will come. Wait 5 or 10 min and let you fall into¬†the arms of Morpheus‚Ķ Morpheus was the god of dreams in ancient Greece.

  • Make your insomnia a creative experience

Insomnia always sounds negative. We say that we “suffer from insomnia”. Actually, it’s been proven that it’s one of the most creative period of time. A number of artists create during night. You’re waking up because your brain is active. Interrupted sleep is¬†a source for the imaginary. You’re in another world, far away from day life constraints. A good way to do is to write down, before sleep, a number of issues you’d like to be creative about. If you wake up, take one and think. Imagine weird solutions. Like in a dream. Anything can be crazy during night. Daylight will bring you to reality !

  • Have a little notebook with a pencil to record your ideas

This is one of the most easy and practical tips I used. Most of the time when you wake up at night it’s because you think of tomorrow workload. “I should not forget to do this. I forgot to call Bob. I should think of it tomorrow‚Ķbla bla bla”. So, you try to keep it in mind ¬†and it adds to your worries. So, do something simple: have a little notebook and a pencil on your night table.¬†When you think of something, write it down. So, your mind is free to forget it. Remember: no screen, no smart phone reminder ! Just paper and pen. After a few days or weeks, the simple fact to have your notebook near you will appease you and you will probably never wake up anymore for “things to do tomorrow”.

  • Forget about sleeping at night only

One of the reasons we fear insomnia is that we fear to loose sleep hours and be tired on the following day. To avoid that feeling, learn to make several mini sleep breaks during day. You can do for 20 min (after lunch for example), 5 min or even 1 min (have a spoon in your hand and let you fall into sleep, when you really sleep the spoon will fall on the ground and wake you up ūüôā ). These sleep breaks will have a out of benefits and make you more productive. It will compensate for the time you were awake during the night. Sleep as animals do, little piece by little piece…

Hope this will help you feel better in life !

Be inspired !n-SLEEP-AT-WORK-large570.jpg

 

Earth month: why being green will help you innovate

April is Earth Month and you can act in your everyday life to make our planet better. See for example 10 Tips to Celebrate Earth Month: http://www.isfoundation.com/news/10-tips-celebrate-earth-month

But the most important for us, market creators, is to be inspired by the planet protection  pioneers to bring innovation at the heart of our management processes.

Look at the solar impulse project of Bertrand Piccard –¬†http://bertrandpiccard.com/news/hawaii-20-years-later-440 . It shows that the impossible is possible. Its inspiring but it may seem far away from our day to day potential.

So, look at the new¬† Paris ePrix taking place this weekend¬†in the heart of the French capital:¬†http://fiaformulae.com . It’s a revolution in racing sports but also a fantastic reputation factor for the city. Suddenly, the city of Paris, one of the world most acclaimed leaders in tourism, add a green component to her image.

Most importantly, going for green will give you a strategic competitive advantage. This is especially true in emerging markets where green standards are not yet developed. In an excellent article of Harvard Business Review Gregory Unruh and Richard Ettenson gives three smart ways to developing sustainable products https://hbr.org/2010/06/growing-green

Innovation led by societal concern is the key trend now. Don’t wait a minute if you want to take the green path ! Very soon it will not be a competitive differentiation ¬†anymore !

Be inspired !

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Believe in the value of ‚Äúmoments‚ÄĚ !

Life is demanding, business is tough, time is scarce. But in this busy stuff, we need “moments” !

I believe in the value of ‚Äúmoments‚ÄĚ ! We need good moments, exciting moments, lazy moments and self care moments. We can go for meditation, expect peace at a yoga course or listen to our favorite music. But we need for sure to escape. Not only to relax, but also to think. just think. I heard an interview of a great scientist today. He said he walks everyday, alone, in order to structure his thinking. His “moments” are fostering his intelligence.

So, this week, look at your timetable and save moments for you !

And if you can’t do it on a regular basis, book a meeting with a mentor. ¬†If you don’t have one, ask me ! You should definitely try one of my inspiring moment ūüôāUnknown.jpeg