Influencers – Who and why are they?

This is an excellent brilliant 13-minute documentary called the INFLUENCERS, How trends and creativity become contagious, produced by R&I Creative and directed by Paul Rojanathara and Davis Johnson. This film is interesting because of the content and interviews that have a good rhythm. It is wonderfully produced with a polaroid look & feel, a great soundtrack, and spliced in quotes.

The people interviewed include a slew of diverse and articulate people, not least of which is the inanimate representation of Anthony Gormley, an English sculptor, whose statue is the leitmotif of the film.

INFLUENCERS TRAILER from R+I creative on Vimeo.

Who is an influencer? (quotes from the speakers)

  • “Someone who has a certain type of confidence…that they know they’re doing is the right thing, because they are comfortable in it.”
  • Someone who has a different way of thinking and expressing themselves…
  • There’s a group of people that are early adopters
  • Those are the people that everyone ends up paying attention to, … because they can recognize what the next thing is and are able to popularize it early.
  • “…is a person who can take an idea, brand, a concept that is not the mainstream consciousness and can bring it into the mainstream consciousness”

And my favorite description of an influencer:

  • “Somebody that other people listen to and react to….they have a certain amount of trust to what they say and they react to it…” In other words, they move people to act.

Another tidbit from the film: The great meetings are where people assemble by passion, such as SWSX, Glastonbury, Bonaroo, TED… Need more of those in our lives, don’t you think!

At the end of the video, the different speakers reveal who inspires them. This is one of my favorite questions for my podcast interviewees: who is your role model? Would that we all took real inspiration from some role models and acted accordingly every day!

Prada creates “temporary” store in Paris 8e (92 rue Faubourg St Honore)

Ariane Dandois rue St Honore 75008 ParisWhile Prada renovates its flagship store on rue Faubourg St Honoré, they have created a temporary storefront at 92 rue Faubourg St Honoré, Paris 75008, (previously it was the chic Ariane Dandois art gallery, pictured right courtesy of Google Maps).  Even if this is merely a temporary move, PRADA has decorated it in a way which I must classify as startlingly attractive.  Mixed in with the existing architecture, the store has a lovely trompe l’oeil overlay all around the outside of the building, replete with a faux bridge structure, street lamps, railing and statues.

Prada temporary store on rue Faubourg St Honoré
View from the front of the store (just 100 metres from the Elysées Palace)
Prada Store Front Faubourg St Honore, Paris 
View of the store from the side, rue Saussaies, 75008

Makes for quite a strong impact, and considering the large number of tourists that come to oogle at the entrance of Elysées, I dare say the store should gain some good foot traffic.  Meanwhile, this is how they have left the scene further down the road at their flagship store, where they explain that if you mozy on down some 500 metres, you can find the Prada goodies.  Not bad planning, I say, even if I am not a fan of their brand.

Perrier and Agnes b cross-marketing cooperation for Summer 2008

Perrier bottle with Agnes bEver thought about dressing up your bottle? Here’s a cross-marketing campaign that caught my eye.

Chateau Sully-sur-LoireWhen pouring out this Perrier bottle (sorry that the shot isn’t in focus) at a bar outside the beautiful Chateau of Sully-sur-Loire (in the Loiret), I found the logo of agnès b. on the outside label. The agnès b. website talks about this program in its neat little “agenda” area (good idea), saying:

“At Perrier’s invitation, agnès b. has customized aPerrier Water with Agnes b -- inside watermark?? bottle and a can of the famous sparkling water. These limited edition creations echo some of the designer’s favourite motifs, the lizard and roses. The bottles will be found on café tables from mid-June onwards. However, we will have to wait until November before we can buy the cans in the stores. A successful collaboration which will feature in agnès b. shop windows throughout June.”

What I like about this idea is the surprise element (example: the signing of the inside of the label as in the photo to the right). What was a little harder to figure out what is the synergy between Perrier and agnès b.?

A little reading up on the c0mpany and you find out that Agnès Troublé (CEO and founder) has a diverse set of interests under the company’s banner, including a film production company and art galleries. Geographically, with 1,000 of its 1,500 employees based in Asia, you can see where resides the company’s strength. Clearly, agnes b. is a versatile brand (and of course, I would be remiss not to mention its collaboration with L’Oréal’s Club de Créateurs de Beauté).

On the Perrier side, they managed to dress up their bottle one more different way : bottle as mannequin. Why not?

Social Shopping as part of the Web 2.0 Revolution

Social Shopping RevolutionIn the wake of the social networking onslaught has come the wave of the more overtly commercial social shopping online concept. A combination of social networking and e-commerce, the concept is a consumer-centric version of Amazon, putting the shopper at the centre and giving the “subscribers” the opportunity to vote, note and share what they like and don’t like. Community oriented shopping that allows the individual potentially to buy smarter is definitely sociologically “in the money.” I have a friend on the west coast (USA) who has launched Stylehive, but, not surprisingly, there are many competitive sites bidding on the same trend in the US (as in the brandogram above) such as Kaboodle Beta and ThisNext (N.B. ThisNext has a nice tagline “real recommendations from real people,” but also has a fairly scattered interface).

And these social shopping sites are popping up in other places around the world, including Osoyou (out of England) and I Like Totally Love it (Beta, out of Germany). While I seem to have trouble getting engaged with these sites, I must say that my favourite functionality goes to Stylehive focusing on “featured people” and its easy to understand “followers” concept, as well as the “popular bookmarks” (my lingo). Kaboodle uses “featured kaboodlers” which just is a little too esoteric. In my opinion, the battle will be won by the one(s) that establishes a true point of view. I would be remiss not to plug shopwiki, a portal attempting to list everything you can buy on line, although I note that it has only limited “social” applications so far.

Social shopping brings a new era of immediate customer feedback and will almost certainly have an impact on the marketing budgets of the future. I can anticipate that certain “opinion leaders” among the consumers may become tomorrow’s true branded spokespeople (as in the speak about your brand for real). Soon enough, we will start talking about word on line as opposed to word of mouth, and how about contaminated goods (contracted virally). kakashi I am sure that, at one point (if they haven’t already), Google and Microsoft will get more seriously in on the action of social shopping. The current MSN Shopping site is rather plain and web 1.0 for now.

As far as the future of shopping on line is concerned, there is a whole 3D world out there to augment the experience (a Second Life goes to Third Life…) Presently, the efforts of 3D on line are essentially focused on the viewing of items, without the community aspect. Beyond the ability to zoom in on articles that already exists, the new concept is to replicate the mortar store shopping experience virtually.

A few examples across a variety of consumer goods: Thanks to MED Blog, I found out about Potoroze (en français) which is still in BETA (& private, therefore non viewable). But, there is a Potoroze video screencast. And here, at La Redoute (VPC or Distance Selling specialist), you can use a virtual mannequin to try out your clothes. And, for the shoe fetishists, there are notions of a ShoeTube…shoes in motion! Finally, (thanks to this site) at one last link to a 3D tool for planning the decoration of your room (UK site).

Meanwhile, Walmart is apparently developing an altogether new experience for its online shopping site, whereby you can walk down (empty aisles) and actually remove items from perfectly stocked shelves, do a 360 inspection of the article, put it in your virtual (but visible) caddy and continue to walk down the aisle… And the good news is that you can mute the “attention walmart shoppers” announcements, get more information on the products than you can normally in a store, much less deal with being seen by the hoards of other Walmart shoppers. When I find the prototype, I’ll be sure to post it.

In the meantime, attention all you community shoppers, let your fingers do the talking and buying, but don’t forget that your credit card must have limits and to live within your limits!

Customer Service is Dead?

Customer Service is Dead?Is customer service dead? asks Tom Asacker at Brand Strategy Insider. I do believe that the nature of customer and service have both changed — but neither is dead. A little different from Mr Asacker’s final point in his incisive post on the demise of customer service, I would posit, dare I say a little pedantically, that it is CONSUMER (as in he/she who consumes) service that is dead. All the while, I would agree with Mr Asacker and say that what counts is customer EXPERIENCE.

Here is the nuance: the customer is a person before he/she is a consumer. And the experience (whether it is a good or service) for the consumer must be converted to an experience that feels more customized.

The experience naturally differs according to the category of good (or service) purchased. To the extent, for example, the good is consumable and non-durable, notions such as zero default,Service right on target? accurate promises (say what you will do) and POS are vital parameters for the successful experience. For a luxury good or service, excellence & innovation in product, emotion and putting the Very in VIP come to mind as absolutely vital. Of course, you might say that every notion cited above is important for every category. I am suggesting, however, that these notions need to be prioritized according to the category.

In an ever changing, fickle world, there is a quirky relationship between great quality, long-lasting products and the ability for a company to create profits. There are surely instances where a company has (perhaps mistakenly?) created the perfect product. Take the tungsten light bulb. Or the concept of everlasting (not to be mixed up with everready) batteries. [While I am on the topic of imperfect products, did you know that for an anti-virus program to be truly effective, it needs to be updated every few minutes? Grounds for insecurity.]

A product without repeat purchase potential is a product with either a very high gross margin or represents a business that could efficiently run itself out of business if it is not careful.

On the other hand, in our massive consumeritis, a company like H&M purposefully providesH&M - In Fashion not in hock fashionable items without concern for customer service, nor for criteria like product durability or whether it remains in-stock. H&M makes accessible the ability to be ‘in fashion’ but not ‘in hock.’ The new consumer service is in full throttle: faster, cheaper, person-less. The consumer experience is soulless. The consumer’s consumerism is bereft of deeper lasting values. A “consumer”, as Mr Asacker’s father found out, values more the few pennies saved over the love of a greater service [in this case, at the gas station, formerly known as service station].

Mr Asacker suggests that a product that needs no customer interface is a product with great customer service. I would argue that a lack of a customer interface is a trouble of another sort = reduced engagement.

Whether automated answering machines, self-service counters or even a flawless product, the human interface remains critical for the long term health of the brand. The key is to have the RIGHT experiences and to make sure those moments occur at the right time. A good example is a proactive (post sale) telephone call or handwritten card.

As I said above, I agree with Mr Asacker that it all does come down to the experience and that, why not, it is preferable to have reliable, if not the best, products. Nonetheless, as he states, it is about knowing what the customer is accustomed to having and what he/she wants. To this end, especially in the luxury end of the market, the human touch and personalized service remains at a premium.

And, more emphatically, like our yin and yang, we all have our moments when we are the basic consumer (coveting price over experience) and others when we seek the personalized, human (customer) experience. It would seem that as the emptiness ofYin and Yang pure consumerism becomes more apparent–exacerbated by the threat of living on borrowed money–the intertwining roles of the customer (as the living, breathing person), the brand (as the object of desire, with a veritable personality) and service (as the full experience) will lead to new market forces. In this context, aided by technology, it is no wonder that we have the brand’s customer as contributor and the arrival of consumer generated content. The best service will be the one that fulfills the self, rather than the self service that fills my cupboards and seeds my garage sale. The way technology plays an impactful role in (i.e. bringing emotion to) the customer experience is still in its infancy. The key word with technology is “surprise.”

In Paris, when one goes down to visit the small, local shops and the shopkeeper recognizes you, offers the children a little extra and helps you out with the laden bags, customer service and the experience is alive and kicking. With the credo “life is short,” I am happy to be one who is, on most occasions, prepared to pay for that little extra.

The challenge for many brands will be ensuring that experience and emotion consistently throughout the distribution chain, including most emphatically after-sales service.

Rugby values multi-cultural – RWC 2007 commentary

rugby's mission valuesmulticultural valuesRugby values are truly multi-cultural if they can cross the Channel. I was enthralled by a couple of articles written in the “Coupe du Monde — Plantète Rugby” magazine by Le Nouvel Observateur (the article is no longer available on line). Even though it was published in early September, it is still worth a read. Unfortunately, the articles are written in French and I’m afraid that Google Translator just does not do them justice. But it’s a great chance to practice your French if you’re up for the task.

The first is by Jacques Julliard, Editorial Writer at Nouvel Obs: La Balle Au Coeur

Mr Julliard starts off by refering to the ceremony after someone scores in football (mad adulation) as compared to rugby (tap on the back). He writes about rugby’s down-to-earth humour (after steamrolling a team with 77 points, the remarkable Ricahrd Astre, the Béziers captain said: “they just didn’t have the same strong points as us.” He writes about the true nature of teamwork whereby, because of the rule no forward passing, every team member knows that he must get behind the man with the ball…in every sense of the word. And that the ball is always carried close to the heart.

I include the comment I deposited on Mr Julliard’s article translated into English:

“As a rugby player brought up in England, I found your article a real pleasure. Indeed, I entirely share your views with two qualifications. The first is that rugby is not in fact the only game to carry the ball close to the heart. One should not forget the cousin games (American Football, Aussie Rules Football …). Secondly, what captivate me in rugby are the lessons for life. Your first paragraph grabbed my attention. The role of the three quarters is to score a try. Thus, he is only fulfilling his role to do so, just as when the hooker heels the ball back. To that end, everyone should know their role and respect the role of others. This is a game where we find a real esprit de corps—however much the body (‘corps’) is thrown around, the spirit remains. A good leader on a rugby field is much like a great leader in times on the battlefield. The truth is transmitted by the eyes, by example and by humility. Insofar as rugby is a ‘sport’ still amateur in terms of pay (unlike football), the players generally are more educated and are able to exercise a profession after (or even during) their careers (I pay tribute for example to the magnificent Dr. JPR Williams from Wales).

Fabien GalthiéThe second article from the Nouvel Obs magazine is by Fabien Galthié, former captain of the French national team: Le jeu des Sept Contraires. In his piece, Galthié refers to the game of rugby as a game of contrasts, between going forward and passing backwards (many not familiar with the game find the way the backs line up so far behind the scrum bizarre), the effort of the team and the specific roles of the individual (different from American football where everyone plays in both offense and defense). But it is the seventh point that I enjoyed the most: the aggressivity on the field, and the passivity of the spectators. At the Argentina versus South Africa RWC semi-final to which I went last Sunday (hearty thanks to Lloyd in Seattle), I heard at numerous occasions the Springbok fans behind me compliment a Puma player or an Argentine action. Attractive spectatorship.

For my last point on Galthié’s article, I will give you the link to the automatic (read dumb) translation of the article which you are offered in the links under it and which merely has comic value… I note that the French national team, commonly referred to in French as “Les Bleus” is reduced to “overalls” in the translation. And essence of the game is translated as gasoline… (yes, it means that too).

As for a third link of interest on the good values of rugby, I would also like to note Denis Charvet’s blog Denis Charvet(and specifically guide those of you francophones to the post Seven Minutes) where Denis valiantly stands up for the game of Rugby after the French defeat and I noted the sad reduction in the comments that follow. In those comments, sometimes you can detect the true rugby players and those that like to sit on the couch. What I liked was Denis’ comments about how both teams (England and France) came together after the emotional battle in a show of classy sportsmanship.

And, one final fun twist of fate : rugby as fashion statement. As I began the article, rugby’s values are able to cross the Channel. They also enter into the value-added Chanel. Yes, it’s hard to conceive, but Chanel has come out with a rugby ball for 130 euros (blogged by Chic Shopping; but you can only order the ball from the parent company). Several other brands (other than Ralph Lauren and Eden Park) have also inspired themselves from rugby collateral and uniforms. I cite: Santoni’s special RWC shoes for 1500 euros with crocodile skin and suede [couldn’t find a photo for you, but you’ll have to imagine it].

Marc Jacobs – Welcome to the late late night show

For the latest fashion week in New York, the standout performance has been the pre- and post- tangle surrounding the Marc Jacobs Collection, shown on September 10th. Among other things, I was very impressed by the use of SMS by Jacobs’ Press team to alert [certain VIP] attendees to the retard.

Jacobs’ show was scheduled for 20h30 (8:30pm). An SMS sent out to attendees said the show would be an hour late and to come around 22h (already quite an exaggerated sense of an hour). A second SMS was issued at 21h45, saying the show wouldn’t begin before 23h (11pm).

Nothing like over promising. Now for the delivery.

Per the press reports, Anna Wintours (Vogue) and Suzy Menkes (IHT) both thought the retard stepped over the bounds of acceptable. Here’s the report from WWD. Menkes reportedly said, “I would like to murder him with my bare hands and never see another Marc Jacobs show as long as I live. Where’s the dinner?” Fashion Shows that start on time are such a rarity, you wonder why the agenda proposes a specific minute for the beginning. Why not write: sometime after x pm or not before y pm. New concepts in time management are needed, such as obligatory SMS messaging and pre-show massaging…

There is a historic need for suspense, generating impatience and a stir crazy audience, with ants-in-the-[hot]pants is a modus operandus. This is typically not helped by chairs at fashion shows which are made temporarily for temporary seating. Some fashion designers seem to behave along the lines, “the longer the wait, the bigger rap; and the more hype my show will create.”

Anyway, Jacobs sparred with the powers that be post show (in the press), defying the likes of Menkes and Wintours, and telling them not to come ‘next time.’ Maybe, though, the time after that will be okay?

With all that said–and while I didn’t attend the show–with my Lit background, I can only say that I was extremely interested in the deconstructionist theme to Jacobs’ show, played back to front. Sounded absolutely fascinating. A finale at the beginning (including Jacob’s enthusiastic bow), 3/4 finished dresses, undersized shoes and again shoes with the heels attached to the front. For music, the show was accompanied by non-linear cuts of Ravel’s Boléro. There was a blow by blow writeup in USA Today Blog. Unfortunately, the show may have been missing in content (per le Figaro); but then what’s new for those who don’t like Derridan deconstructionism. Otherwise, seems like Jacobs’ show did its very own auto-destructionism.

See Figaro article: “Le retard de Marc Jacobs déchaîne les critiques

Other blogging the Jacobs’ show:
Fabsugar: NY Fashion Week
NYTimes Runway Blog
Style Dish, Cry me a river…
Hollywood, That other Blog

Klute style is back – neat and naughty

The New York Observer gave a half page last week to the apparent revival of a close-to-the-brow (“neat and naughty” says the article) haircut made famous by Jane Fonda in the 1971 film Klute, by Alan Pakula. Headlining with Donald Sutherland, Fonda won an Oscar playing the role of a prostitute named Bree Daniels. Now, that’s the first time in a while I’ve heard the name Bree… or actually, I’m being deceitful. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been brea…thing Bree … van der Kamp, as we wade into season #3 of Desperate Housewives. I must allow that I have a slight preference for the “neat and naughty” rather than the “neat and obsessive.”

Turkish Delights – Cappadocia Holidays in Turkey

The Dial ’07 Summer Holidays, C’est L’Aventure — Part 2 of 3.

After our 7-day “yin” stint at Palmiye Club Med, we struck out for the “yang” part of our holidays, and headed for the airport of Antalya to rent a Ford Fusion (I had never heard of this model before…Seems I have no idea anymore about all the different car names, models...). At least all the bags fit neatly in the boot. This was the beginning of “une vraie bonne aventure.” The 7-day trip, which saw us rack up nearly 1,800 km, brought many surprises and stories.

Leaving Antalya airport at past 9pm, we headed north in search of dinner and a hotel. When the roadway became so sparse that high beams were the mainstay, we realized that hotels would not be so frequent. Indeed, at this point, we didn’t even know what the word for ‘hotel‘ was in Turkish. (Thanks to a reasonably strong French influence, many words are very recognizable; a hotel is ‘Otel’ in Turkish, so no big deal). For a while, we discussed the possibility of having to sleep in the car. The kids thought that would be fun…in a kind of Kafkaesque way. We reached Isparta at past 11pm and were fairly desperate to find a hotel, so we asked the first policeman we saw who plainly pointed across the street, where there were two vacant (Turkish 3*) options. A bed.

Having ‘checked in’, we had a late night family dinner (Kebap & salad + water for all 4 of us for the whopping price of 15 Turkish lira (or 8 euros). Hand signals, a few Turkish words, but above all, pictures in the menu helped with the process. Henceforth, we made a habit of eating local Turkish fare at Turkish (aka non-Tourist) prices. We became veritable masters by the end of the week. Among the quirky features I came to appreciate at these local restaurants was the rose-scented alcoholic cleanser they would squirt into your departing hands.

I will recount, henceforth, rather than a blow by blow journal, the most intriguing discoveries and commentaries throughout the week.

Wherever we went, from hamlet to city, the political campaigning was evident. On July 22, Turkey will hold a general election to vote in a new government. Charged with religious overtones, these elections could be critical, if not volatile, for the country’s future. I heard, and was disturbed by one comment, scary for its nonchalance: the Justice & Development Party (AKP) party is only looking fundamentalist because of the over-zealous media. In the ten years that have elapsed since my first visit to Turkey, I clearly saw a difference in the (higher) number of women wearing veils. The construction of new mosques — likely compounded by the wide scale government-subsidized housing developments — marked many landscapes along the drive. Meanwhile, on the beaches, it was astounding to see women bathing in an adapted Hijab. I attach an example (left) of an Egyptian woman I found in a BBC article. Apparently, there is a whole fashion statement around this “bathing attire.” Each woman I saw in such a garb looked rather frumpy. Not exactly complimentary.

Another aspect that was a regular feature in small towns as much as in large cities were the internet cafes. Every time I passed one, the computer stalls were always jammed packed. And the access costs are among the lowest worldwide at USD$0.50/hour on average versus $0.60 in Ghana or $0.66 in Jakarta or, worse yet, $3.00 in Russia… and versus the highest in Sweden at $6.45.(#see below)

Driving over such distances, it would be natural to expand on the nature of Turkish driving. But, aside from the vigorous overtaking on mountainous roads and being held up for 30 minutes by a huge forest fire through which we drove with embers on both side of the road, I would rather point out a few of the oddities. First, it seemed like the number of bugs per kilometer we smushed on the windshield was higher than on any European roadtrip. Secondly, there was a marked lack of speed limit signs. When we asked a guide about what was the right speed, he replied that it depended on the policeman. Thirdly, [unleaded] petrol prices were decidedly high, typically around 2.95 lira/liter (or 1.68 euro), in a range of 2.62 to 3.04. Fourth, on several occasions when we filled up for petrol, we were offered gifts, including a free car wash. If we sometimes had difficulty finding an ‘otel’, there were certainly no lack of petrol stations. Competition is so stiff that the petrol stations are obliged to provide ‘extra goodies and services’ for free (spare kleenex, candy, window cleaning, etc.).

We visited many a mosque, a handful of museums and a few archaeological sites along the way. The most interesting mosque was Ulu Cami in Adana (right). Restored after a 1998 earthquake, this “Syrian style” mosque was very attractive, featuring a duo-colored minaret. Our speech-impeded guide, who only spoke Turkish, gave us a princely tour, including a laborious march up the minaret. We also particularly enjoyed the visit of the Konya Mevlana museum, the epicenter of the Whirling Dervish order.

One of the more memorable visits, meanwhile, was in Nigde at the market where we encountered the live chicken market. A car was literally loaded to gills with chickens (what a ride). Chicks abounded, running around in car
dboard boxes.
Money for nothing, and your chicks for sale…

Speaking of birds, can’t resist coming back to the topic of the pigeon. In Cappadocia, we came across Pigeon Valley (right), reputed for attracting pigeons to use their defecation as fertilizer. A much mightier use than those droppings I referred to in a prior blog. The locals paint around the holes in the rock to attract pigeons to nest. Of course, on a more serious note, if you have kids–under 12 for example–visiting Cappadocia is a magnificent, if not magical, spot. Exploring the tunnels in the underground cities (6-8 stories underground) such as in Kaymakli or Derinkuyu that used to “house” up to 60,000 people is like a walk through Wonderland for the kids (if a little tortuous for anyone over 5’6…). This was the central theme to our holidays and the main reason we chose to come to Turkey. It turns out that Cappadocia was just one small part of a generally eye-opening and adventurous 1-week journey with so many other fun things to do and people to meet. I reserve a couple of juicy hotel critiques in Part 3.

A few more comments:
– Found that my German helped more than any other language when we went into the hinterland.
– Note to men, don’t forget to get a shave at the local barber’s at least once a week. It’s a real treat (and cost just 3 lira) with generally at least 5 different applications (mousse, oils, powder and more) and a massage.

##Report from BBC on 16 July: “The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report says 60% of its member countries net users are now on broadband. The report said countries that had switched to fibre networks had the best speeds at the lowest prices. In Japan net users have 100Mbps lines, 10 times higher than the OECD average. Japan’s price for broadband per megabit per second is the lowest in the OECD at $0.22 (0.11p), said the report. The most expensive is Turkey at $81.13 (£40.56). In the US, the cheapest megabit per second broadband connection is $3.18 (£1.59) while in the UK it is $3.62 (£1.81).”