Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Amazon Door Desks

To show of their thrifty roots Amazon still use doors as desks:

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Colour blocking in action from Pringles

Nice pic with some colour blocking in Tesco here:

Pringles have lots of other good pics on Flickr showing colour blocking.

Friday, 4 June 2010


There are lots of ways to categorise possible names. Adapting the work of others, this is the best I've come up with so far.

Types of name:
1) Descriptive/functional names:
1.1 Functional (what the company does), e.g. Microsoft
1.2 Experiential (benefit you get from it), e.g. Vue Cinemas
1.3 Provenance (people or place related), e.g. Oprah Magazine, Evian, John Lewis
1.4 Customer promise: Taste the Difference, Pret a Manger

2) Associative names
2.1 Emotional/personality, e.g. Yahoo!
2.2 Visual, e.g. Red Bull

3) Abstract, e.g. Orange, Blueotooth, Apple

Within these categories you can have:
- Existing words or coined/invented ones
- Full names or abbreviates
- Literal names or metaphorical ones (e.g. Oracle, O2, Internet Explorer)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Stopgap Character Analysis (for interviews etc)

Stopgap recruitment use a personality test, which seems to be a simplified version of Myers-Briggs. It has some questions that might be interesting in interviews too.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tone of Voice

What are the key variables when deciding a brand's (or anyone's) tone of voice?

One has to be:
Formal <-> Informal

What else?

Book: Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel

About how to be a change agent within your big corporation.

Generally too irritating to read, with constant changes in font size and lists. But has some really good stories, inc:
- How an engineer who believed in digital when Sony was an analogue company ended up getting them to do Playstation
- How someone got Shell into renewables, particularly by pointing out that oil too was once a niche product
- How IBM got into the internet (see separate icon actions post)

Iconic Action: IBM takes a big Internet stand

A guy from IBM visited an early Internet conference. IBM had no presence there. So he booked the biggest stand for the next year's conference, even though he didn't have the authority or budget. This gave IBM a year to pull together a coherent web offer for the show.

Source: Leading the Revolution, Gary Hamel

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ads on Demand

When you're watching ad-supported video on demand, surely you should get a choice of which ads you'd like to watch? Would be better for both advertisers and viewers.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Glasgow's School Meals - Fuel Zone

Initiative in Glasgow pre-dates Jamie's School Dinners and involves tempting kids to try healthier food.
  • Canteens refurbished to look more like fast food outlets
  • Cashless sytem increases free school meal uptake, as it hides who is getting free meals and so reduces stigma
  • Points system for healthy eating - get an iPod for eating well!
Best article found after a quick Google:

Monday, 22 March 2010

Experimentation & Testing

Useful post on different types of testing on the web.

- A/B testing
- Multi-variate testing
- 'Experiential' testing (didn't really understand this)

Monday, 15 March 2010

Testing: give away cheapest products and boost sales of premium one

A software company found in testing that giving aware their cheapest product actually increased sales of their premium product.


Just came across this US electronics store. Seems to try to differentiate through good advice, even on the web. They have photos and bios of all their advisors on the site - must be good for both morale and sales.

Seems from this screenshot that their tagline used to be "34 years of helping people choose, use and enjoy electronics", but they now use something blander.

Expedia - testing 'Vacations' and 'Packaging'

At Expedia back in the day, when packages launched, we tried a tab that said "Packages", one that said "Vacations" and one that said "Vacation Packages" - the latter increased BOOKINGs ~30%.

This if from a guy named Steven Brewer who some Googling shows used to be Software Design Engineer at Expedia, not sure when.

From a comment here: (see other post)

Save - an historical oddity

Just found an article supporting my long-held view that the 'Save' button will soon be a thing of the past.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Implicit vs Explicit Communication

All comms have both an explicit and implicit component.

Explicit: your words, diagrams etc

Implicit: overarching visual style, contradiction to previous messages, who the message is from etc. People are much less inclined to consciously analyse implicit messages.

Often there is a contradiction between the implicit and explicit messages.

There is also a parralel in rational and emotional sides to communication.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Carphone Warehouse's Values

The Carphone Warehouse have an eminently sensible list of '5 Five Fundamental Rules':

  • If we don't look after the customer, someone else will.
  • Nothing is gained by winning an argument but losing a customer.
  • Always deliver what we promise. If in doubt, under promise and over deliver.
  • Always treat customers as we ourselves would like to be treated.
  • The reputation of the whole company is in the hands of each individual.

To that they just add passion and fun.

Source: Carphone Warehouse careers site

Friday, 5 March 2010

Behavioural Communication

5 key questions to answer in communications:

• How is this relevant to what I do?
• What, specifically, should I do?
• What does success look like? (What does failure look like?) [Better question: how and when will we know if we've succeeded?]
• What tools and support are available?
• WIIFM — What’s in it for me? And for us?

Since 1994, tested with over 300,000 people in 17 countries

Source: Bill Jensen,

Monday, 1 March 2010

Zappos' Interview Question

On a scale of one to 10, how lucky are you — and why?

The question is based on research by psychologist Richard Wiseman, who explored psychological differences between people who consider themselves exceptionally lucky and those who consider themselves unlucky.

His work revealed that people are not born lucky, but, without realizing it, use four basic principles to create good fortune in their lives:

  • Have an attitude that maximizes chance opportunities;
  • Be in touch with and cultivate their intuition;
  • Expect good fortunes, which become self-fulfilling prophecies; and
  • Thrive on bad fortune by taking control and creating positive outcomes.

According to Wiseman’s Web site, he’s developed techniques that help people increase their good fortune by thinking and behaving more like lucky people.

Source: AttentionMax blog

Friday, 12 February 2010

Relevant, Differentiated, Believable

To be interested in a product or service (or even other activites, like voting etc etc), you need to think and feel that it's:
- Relevant
- Differentiated
- Believable

Perfume ads etc get round the last one of these by showing you some imagery that's relevant to your needs and reasonably different. Then they short-circuit the believability by just making an association. They never say the product will make you beautiful/rich/attractive, they just show the imagery and then flash up the product and create a unconscious association between the two.

So why doesn't everyone do this? Why aren't all ads just full of writhing beauties, beaches and puppies? Because in order to create the sub-conscious link, the viewer has to be in a light trance. That's quite hard to do, and takes a while.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Co-Creation diagram

Nothing new theoretically, but a very nicely done diagram from:

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Augmented Reality Interfaces

At the moment everyone's talking about augmented reality (see as a visual overlay on the real world. But I don't believe we're anywhere near permanently wearing glasses and contact lenses that constantly beam info to us (and yes, I have seen Avatar's revenue figures).

I agree augmented reality will be a big deal, but we'll have to get more information through other senses. We've been training for years to quickly take in tiny visual cues from our electronics. How good can we get with other senses?

How about:
  • Wearing a tiny earpiece all the time. Seen how fast a 13-year old texts? How fast could next gen teens learn to take in audio? What's the optimum mix between voice and other audio alerts?
  • All types of vibration - I can feel the difference between my phone ringing and getting a text. How more things could I differentiate between?
  • Other kinaesthetics - How about a device that warms slightly when I pass a particularly good restaurant??
  • Smells and tastes - maybe one day? Aside from any other limitations, generating smells and tastes from an electronic device can't be that easy technically.
Obviously once we've got an initial audio or kinestetic alert we can pull out a screen to look at.

Stew Leonard and the Perfect Eggnog

Stew Leonard credits his ultimate success to a change in attitude he made shortly after his first store opened.

He was standing at the store’s entrance when a customer came up and said in an angry voice, “This eggnog is sour.” Stew took the half-gallon container, opened it, and took a taste. He then looked the customer in the eye and said, “You’re wrong; it’s perfect.” And to prove that he was right, he added, “We sold over three hundred half-gallons of eggnog this week, and you’re the only one who complained.” The angry customer demanded her money back and said, “I’m never coming back to this store again!”

That evening, Stew reflected on the incident and came to the conclusion that he had made two huge mistakes. First, he had not listened to the customer, and second, he had humiliated her by saying that three hundred other customers had not complained. He decided that the success of his small store would depend on good customer service that would generate repeat business.

He decided to adopt two basic store policies, which have been chiseled into a three-ton rock next to the front door of the store:


Source: Leonard, S. (1988, June 27). Love your customer. Newsweek quoted in L. Ukens, 101 Ways to Improve Customer Service (full PDF of the book currently available here)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Dell has made over $3m from Twitter

Between starting in June 2007 and June 2009, promotions on @DellOutlet have result in sales of $2m. Tracking people who have clicked on a link and then made a purchase elsewhere on the site reveals another $1m sales.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Pizza Hut employee blog

A British Pizza Hut 'team member' keeps a blog here.

Most interesting tit-bit I noticed: this post says about 50% of customers will order a side (e.g. garlic bread with a pizza or muffin with a coffee) if offered one. It's called a 'related sale'. Upselling works remarkably well.

Also an alarming incident here, where children were about to stick their hands under hot water from the coffee machine, thinking it was the Ice Cream Factory.

Argos Employee blog - shut down but still out there

An employee was blogging fairly frankly about Argos at It was even mentioned in The FT. The blog has disappeared, though this doesn't seem to have made the news.

Fortunately on the internet you can't really delete anything, and old posts are still available on the Internet Archive here.

In related news, in 2007 Argos sacked an employee for posting insulting remarks on Facebook.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Doughnuts and BlackBerrys

Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry, takes great pains to distance itself from a focus on shareholder value. Just after the firm's IPO in 1997 the founders made a rule that any manager who talked about the share price at work had to buy a doughnut for every person in the company.

Early infractions were not terribly painful, but that changed as the company grew. In 2001, the COO mentioned RIM's surging stock prince in the wake of a call with analysts and was saddled with the task of delivering more than 800 doughnuts to the next weekly meeting of employees. He even had to make special arrangements with local doughnut shops to get enough.

There hasn't been a recorded infraction of the doughnut rule since.

Source: 'The Age of Customer Capitalism', HBR, Jan-Feb 2010

Monday, 11 January 2010

John Lewis, Bluewater

A few interesting notes from my visit some time ago (2007?):
  • Their biggest issues on the staff survey was people ticking 'neither agree no disagree'. So they removed that box!
  • They voted to stay shut on New Year's Day.
  • They have a 'PCP Chain' - partner, customer, profit
  • Committee of Partners monitor and change agreed uniform options.

Rating teachers

A number of systems exist for rating teacher.

According to an article in The Times a German system call was unsuccessfully sued by a teacher. operates a similar system in English-language countries, even covering my alma mater King Alfred School.

Lululemon - highest sales per square foot

According to retail analyst ThinkEquity, cult 'yoga-inspired athletic apparel' retailer Lululemon have the highest retail sales [presumably in the US] at $1,800 per square foot. J.Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch come in at $600/sq ft.

In the UK, that distinction used to go to Richer Sound, don't know if that's still true.

Osram Sylvania's skunkworks

Lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania has a skunkworks called the New Ventures Group. They have created new products like the popular Dot-It stick-ups.

For more info see Fast Company, Apr 09

Business model innovation from Bon Jovi

In 2007 Bon Jovi released their album Lost Highway. To get a presale ticket to seem them play their classic hits in concert, you had a buy a download copy of the album.

Lost Highway sold 291,000 copies in its first week, the band's best ever one-week total.

No Doubt went one step further - fans buying a full price concert ticket got a digital copy of their entire music back-catalogue.

In summer 2007, Prince gave away three million copies of his latest disc, "Planet Earth," in a U.K. newspaper. Soon after, 15 of his 21 shows at London's O2 Arena sold out within an hour.

- Dan & Chip Heath in Fast Company, Apr 09
- Billboard site
- Fast Company site

Apple's App Store - an accidental innovation

When it first released the iPhone Apple prohibited third-party programs from running on the device. But hackers easily broke through that restriction, and customers began downloading apps in droves. At first Apple tried to block this movement, but in short order, it relented. This proved wise - its App Store became an instant hit.

Source: Fast Company, Sep 09


Despite Apple's best efforts to stop it, some users are creating a 'hackintosh' by tricking Mac OS into running on a PC. Is this a forerunner to Apple finally releasing a cheaper laptop?

Source: Fast Company, Sep 09

Friday, 8 January 2010


Spain's 7th largest company is a co-operative.

- Guardian article, 7/1/09
- Wikipedia article

DuPont's green metric

DuPont have a metric which encourages them to create more business value with fewer materials - shareholder value added per pound (SVA/lb).

In part because of such approaches, DuPont managed to save $3bn in energy costs from 1990 to 2005, using 6% less energy even as it raised production by 40%.

- Fortune magazine, 2 Apr 07
- And for example this book found on a quick Google

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Edison's phonographs for a paperless office

Edison launched his first phonograph company within months of his invention: he never questioned the need. He had invented the paperless office, he announced, and launched his product.

The notion that the phonograph was better suited for playing back pre-recorded music came much later, and from Emile Berliner, a competitor (whose company morphed into RCA Victor and succeeded whereas Edison's several attempts all failed).

-Don Norman's blog
-The Invisible Computer (book)

Mutual Social Responsibility

We are now entering a new era of Mutual Social Responsibility, in which consumers (or 'people') contribute partners with businesses, as well as governments and NGOs, to deliver their sustainability aims.

See for example: this blog

Samsung Mobile Travel centres, US airports

While at Dallas Fort Worth airport I noticed Samsung's Mobile Travel Centres. These very from a complete room to a charging station. They also have some in a few other US airports.

More info:

P&G's Charmin toilets, Times Square, NYC

In Dec 2009 the fourth consecutive year, Procter & Gamble has brought Charmin-branded public bathrooms back to New York's Times Square for the holiday season.

Source: DM News article.

LG Wash Bar, Paris

Do your washing for free while also trying out other LG products!
Source and lots more examples of branded spaces:

IKEA Sleep Hotel (Sovhotell)

An IKEA in a downtown shopping centre in Stockholm was offering tired shoppers a 15 minute snooze at the Sovhotell (Sleep Hotel). Guests were given special pillows to suit their sleeping style along with sleeping masks and headphones, all set against a soothing faux landscape.
The inspiration for the Sovhotell came when IKEA noticed some of the shoppers taking quick naps in the bedroom section of their stores. IKEA is providing single, double and even a bridal suite in its offering.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Starbucks' selling music - an accidental innovation

From a 2004 article in Fortune:

As crazy as it sounds, music has become one of Starbucks' zingiest brand extensions. [But it happened more or less by accident.] Music at Starbucks began when a store manager named Timothy Jones made tapes for his store, which proved so popular that the company licensed compilations for sale. "I had to get talked into this one," says Schultz. "But then I began to understand that our customers looked to Starbucks as a kind of editor. It was like, 'We trust you. Help us choose.'" In 1999, Schultz bought Hear Music of Cambridge, Mass., run by Don MacKinnon, who was putting together albums of cool music, both old and new, that wasn't getting played on the radio. Since then Hear has released about 100 albums and sold about five million CDs, including the Artist Choice series, in which performers like the Rolling Stones and Ray Charles pick their favorite tracks by other artists.


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies

Interesting blog post from Bruce Temkin at Forrester. 5 ways to differentiate your brand through customer experience:

  1. Ultrasimplicity: stripping away features to better meet the needs of customers. [examples: ING Direct and JetBlue]
  2. Online infusion: integrating online features into core offerings. [examples: Netflix and Disney Mobile]
  3. Service infusion: integrating service features into core offerings. [examples: iPod/iTunes and Panasonic Plasma Concierge program]
  4. Service amplification: investing in distinctly high levels of service. [examples: Mandarin Oriental hotels and The Container Store]
  5. Value repositioning: offering a radically different value proposition. [examples: Starbucks and Umpqua Bank]

See full article and comments for more info and examples: