Friday, 9 November 2012

Indoor mapping. A great idea for Apps that's taking off. And a superb business idea.


Indoor mapping is taking off and it's a great little idea for retailers never mind, App developers or brands.

Using GPS (which really works outdoors only) you can locate the store and get directions which we are all used to. However, when you enter it, using Wifi and through a mobile App, you can then locate what you're looking for.

Macy's, the big New York American retailer, have just launched an App which does this, showing you all the various areas/retailers of the store. In a big retail environment, it helps you to get around but also points out things you may not have known were there. Bathrooms, Coffee shops, bag packing, customer service, retailers with special offers and so on.

Google and Bing offer something similar, but simpler, for Airports and shopping Malls. Airports are ideal candidates to show check-in desks, terminals, flight times, delays and so on especially if you're not familiar with that airport. Malls the same, Hospitals and Sports venues another.

In doing that, it of course, also allows advertisements as you literally pass by one shop based on where you're standing. It's not a tricky techy development area either - reasonably straightforward to produce and with Airports, huge audiences. 55 million people fly through Atlanta for example, 47m through Beijing, 40m through Heathrow and I think even Dublin airport has just under 20 million passengers.

With a "readership" level like that, makes it a lucrative business and high downloads of the App, just on airports alone. Charge a dollar for the Atlanta airport download alone and you've a 55m market. In fact, charge 10 cents.

But indoor mapping is a great possibility for retailers in shopping centres and malls. With a search function, say you search "jeans", it will mean that every visitor will be more likely to become a customer because they can find what they want easier and faster. And the App user, can be messaged.

As they say, there's an App for that.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sony, Sharp, Panasonic. Brands in a shocking downward spiral. Lessons to be learnt here for marketeers.


Anybody with a doubt in their head about how brands can suffer, who aren't prepared for the digital age, should look at the demise of Japanese electronics. Once held up in universities worldwide in the 80's, as the model for enterprise are now in deep trouble. They weren't prepared.

The continuing decline of brands like Panasonic, Sharp and Sony, and the incline of Samsung, show how the world has changed. And it's a lesson.

Sharp, a 100 year old company, has now raised concerns that it might no longer be a "going concern". Posting a loss of over 3 billion usd for the last quarter, Sharp it estimated to reach combined losses of 10 billion usd and now has problems raising finance. As well as, share price declines.

Because Sharp is burning through cash, it had approached private equity to shore up its position but rumours abound that it has failed and instead, has turned to the Japanese government for what is, a 'bailout'. 

Sony has just posted its 7th straight quarter loss (this one was 194 million usd) and is cutting 10,000 jobs. Sony was for so many years, the dominant premium brand. Panasonic is also forecasting dramatic losses.

All three are having nightmares on the Japanese stock market and reaching "junk status" quickly.

These brands have been wiped out by companies like Apple and Samsung in the new world order. Whilst they remained part of the old world order, they did not settle into the Internet world quickly enough. 

Sony, inventor of the Walkman, Bravia TV and so much else, took a back seat because they felt that their position was "too big to fail". Most Japanese producers did the same as you can see as indeed have Nokia.

The Internet has become a great brand leveller.

Who'd ever have thought that a South Korean company (not exactly silicon valley is it?) like Samsung, would outsell Apple by a big margin? Never mind leave the Japanese in its wake.

It's extraordinary stuff but extraordinary lessons.

Brands that ignore the online revolution will pay a heavy price.
The decline of these, once world class brands, only illustrate how quickly it can happen through a lack of innovation but also, a pooh-poohing of the online marketplace. 

So many established brands have such a poor online strategy that they'll be doomed to fail. Most even still, have poor websites. 

Has yours?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Tumblr showing stunning growth. 20 Billion page impressions a month. Start up to billionaire in 6 years.


Tumblr is really growing and is now one of the Top 20 visited websites in the US - about 19th (Google is number 1). In July last year, Tumblr was 92nd!! So this is a real dramatic rise.

The site now collects, wait for it....20 BILLION pageviews a month (Facebook collects a trillion a month, Twitter 5.9 billion a month) but this is dramatically up from Tumblr's 13 billion in September. Huge growth.

These are staggering numbers. Founder David Karp started Tumblr in 2007, really for himself to share his blog but the smartphone has really pushed it, which Karp credits as being the business driver. A lot of the site's traffic comes from mobile apps. Again, it points to the role of mobile in online businesses. Mobiles are basically pocket computers and getting more advanced so everything we do needs to be mobile enabled.

There's 77 million posts a day on Tumblr and shows the power of blogging. As a source of content, blogging is big and provides rich content to publishers globally. Tumblr however used blogging to develop photo sharing, a key online activity and the site,, looks terrific from a design point of view. It's really overseen by people who care about it because that shines through.

It should also be remembered that this traffic is "engaged" - they're taking time to read blogs, exactly as you are. So these are valuable visitors and have in a lot of cases, loyalty to a particular blog. So they return to read time and again as they follow a blog.

The company had an 800 million valuation mid 2011 and I expect it has now well exceeded that, deservedly. After all, Karp started it with his own money from a salary he was paid when working at Urbanbaby

It's a real start-up story driven by a techy with an idea and now it's going from strength to strength. One we should admire and point to. Karp is living the dream and has done it in the nicest, freshest way.
Just goes to show. 
An idea to billionaire in 6 years. 
Only the web can do that. 

(Don't you just hate him....)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Presidential Election. Where to watch it online, when the results will be out. And who wins.....


Interesting video with the results of all Presidential elections. Look at the great Lyndon Johnson in 64, Nixon in 72 and Reagan's walk-overs of 80 and 84. Great stuff.

With more than 100 million Americans casting their votes and especially in a tight election (which this one is, but Obama looks to have a 2% lead in some polls whereas others put them neck-and-neck at 48%), results will take longer to get out.

Normally you'd expect to see results from 3am to 7am Wednesday GMT but this close race could mean it could go on much longer. Alaska is the last state to close at 5am.

Each state is "called" after they close based on exit polls and actual votes - the ones that are clearly democrat or republican are easier to call early. The swing states are not (often called the "battleground" states) and they include Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia - there's about 13 in total. Ohio is the interesting one and closes at 1230am GMT with both candidates in Ohio today, as their last stop. No Republican has ever won the race without winning Ohio.

The President needs 270 votes to win.

BBC are planning big election coverage and live streaming here 

Ustream also seem to have a comprehensive coverage with ABC News here

The last point too is legal challenges. They've already started today, on both sides and I'd expect that if this race is as close as we think, that the courts will be involved - delaying the result further. 

So it looks to me like 9am GMT Wednesday morning for a clearer picture as to who won and if it's close, I'd expect legal challenges to go on until Friday.

And oh yeah, I think Obama has clipped this one.
Just about.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Starbucks Ireland low tax isues, causes protest and boycott. Other brands starting to surface. Brand anger.

I recently blogged about the problems Starbucks UK are having as a brand, following revelations about their low tax payments, particularly in the UK. You can read it here;

Now they're being faced with a boycott and further protests.

I was not terribly surprised to see a demonstration in Dublin on Friday outside their high profile outlet on Dame Street. The 'People before profit' alliance headed up by Richard Boyd Barrett in attendance, staged a peaceful lunchtime picket. In parts of the UK, it has not been so peaceful.

It's clear that Starbucks have minimised their Irish tax position as well.

According to The Irish Times, filed company accounts showed it paid less than 40,000 euro in taxes between 2005 and 2011 - 6 years. At the same time, it paid 5.7m euro to its parent in so called "royalty" payments thereby diminishing the tax it was required to pay in Ireland.

It is exactly these "royalty payments" that have created their UK problems.

Starbucks Ireland accounts show it made a "profit" for the first time last year of 524k euro on which it paid under 35k on tax - less than 10%. Only once in the previous 6 years did it record a tax payment - of 4k in 2008. Interestingly, in claiming "losses" that year of 5.5m euro, it still paid 1.3 million in royalties to its parent.

The Irish tax regime to attract investment at the standard 12.5% rate, has been constantly controversial. In the eyes of some, it is designed to promote widespread global tax evasion and is not based on the PR spin of investing in a young, vibrant Irish economy.

Starbucks will suffer as a brand, in these days of austerity because consumers don't like greed and corporate greed especially. Vodafone is now starting to get a mention. Notably too, a brand like Starbucks always had a bit of a "hippy honesty" and clearly their halo has slipped, or it was all pretend anyway. Image over substance.

Other brands that have the same issues will fall under the spotlight and be punished for it. Brand anger. A lot of people have themselves major difficulty in paying their tax and it will seem grossly unfair that corporates can avoid tax without penalty and largely, with Government consent.

As consumers suffer more and more, these issues are going to generate anger and brands are going to be punished. Starbucks suck will be a mantra.

It's a new issue that finds itself under the marketing umbrella, caused by austerity. And it signifies a change in consumer attitude that's going to grow. 

Brand anger.