January 29, 2008

No More Jugs

When it came to supplying our household with quality water for drinking and cooking purposes, it bothered me that we hadn't found an ideal situation. Years ago, we looked at installing a reverse osmosis system in our former house in Connecticut but it was too expensive. Here in Sao Paulo, we found ourselves driving to a local spring, filling up a 20-gallon jug and hauling it back home. A week later, we would repeat the cycle. We are fortunate to live close to a spring but the process didn't feel very practical. With the idea of making life easier (and reducing our carbon footprint in the process), I was happy when my wife suggested we order a water purifying system. She selected a model from Brastemp® - leading Brazilian appliance maker. It arrived two days ago. We pay a monthly fee and they service the equipment replacing filters. My only suggestion to the manufacturer would be to include an ice maker in future developments. It feels like we're taking a little step towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

January 26, 2008

Thinking Global, Acting Local.. with the help of a local artist

At the year-end party we held at home for my colleagues from the office, my wife and I decided we wanted to set up a caipirinha bar. So I went to the supermarket to stock up on cachaça, vodka and sake (the barman we hired explained that there's a trend of sake caipirinhas particularly popular among women who want a softer version of Brazil's favorite cocktail). Selecting the right cachaça was easy for me and someone gave me some sake bottles from a well-known Japanese market. So, when it came to selecting a vodka among dozens of choices, the bottle pictured here caught my attention. The art on the label had an unexpected Brazilian spirit to it (even though Absolut is as Swedish as it gets...). Back home, researching online I found out that Absolut commissioned artwork to 12 local artists and there were two finalists. The bottle I thought was so cool was, in fact, created by Brazilian graphic artist Daniel Senise. I also found an interesting video on YouTube that shows the label being created and the technique used by this artist. http://www.danielsenise.com

Two things came to mind. First, the experience I had shows how brand communication is becoming more and more multi-dimensional and not necessarily dependent on a 30" spot. Extraordinary packaging led me to research the brand's website that led me to explore a video on the artist behind the label. Second, the experience made me reflect on the "think global, act local" movement from a few years ago. What an inspiring example of how an iconic global brand, using the universal language of art, is reaching out and making local connections. http://www.absolutbrasil.com.br

January 25, 2008

Doritos Crash The Super Bowl Campaign

Last year's Super Bowl winner was... Doritos® with its 'Crash The Super Bowl' campaign. It was a fantastic case of collaborative marketing where consumers were invited to post 30" spots for the tortilla brand. The most voted spot was aired in the Super Bowl half time.  The campaign was awarded USA Today Best Ad 2007 and Time Magazine's Top 10 in 2007).

This year, Doritos® has invited consumers to post their amateur music videos at MySpaceTV and thousands are voting for their favorites. The most voted band will win a contract and a 60" video will be aired in the 2008 Super Bowl on Feb. 3.  In the U.S. market, Doritos® has been an early adopter of a consumer-generated model and is making marketing history.  Congratulations to the Frito-Lay Marketing Team for leading the way when it comes to a more inclusive collaboration-style marketing!

Fun Educational Content for Kids

A friend of ours from Florida, Doris Wernick - an inspiring homeschooling role model - introduced our kids to National Geographic® Kids. During our vacations, both our young daughters were completely enchanted by articles on amazing animal facts, tips to help the planet and science news presented in a fun way. In a world where kids seem to be spending more time in front of the TV, it's refreshing to see how a magazine is combining educational content that engages and entertains kids. Their online presence is also worth visiting with a library of videos ideal for parent and kid interaction: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com 

January 22, 2008

This Year's Theme at Davos... The Power of Collaborative Innovation

I was positively surprised to see that the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, which starts tomorrow, is “The Power of Collaborative Innovation”. For five days, leaders in government, academia, media and from the business world, will discuss the most significant world affairs. From a marketing perspective, we have been covering on this blog how collaborative innovation is a powerful concept that converts consumers and key stakeholders into active participants in the process of ideation, concept development and validation of product development. Read what was written in today’s International Herald Tribune by Klaus Schwab founder of the World Economic Forum… “…my intuition is that those leaders joining us in Davos this week understand that, in the current global context, collaboration and innovation are highly undervalued concepts - particularly in a world that is shifting from mono-polar, hierarchical structures to multi-polar, flat networks.” 

The same goes for corporations. Smart companies looking for an environment that fosters greater innovation will also need to re-think internal structures and be more open to external input to leverage the power of collaboration.

January 20, 2008

The Voting Booth and the Cash Register

Last Friday, I read this brilliant article in the New York Times from David Brooks called 'How Voters Think'. The article talks about how the press and political pollsters are having a hard time trying to anticipate each primary in this year's election. Read this...
"The truth is that many of the theories we come up with are bogus. They are based on the assumption that voters make cold, rational decisions about who to vote for and can tell us why they decided as they did. This is false. In reality, we voters - all of us - make emotional, intuitive decisions about who we prefer, and then come up with post-hoc rationalizations to explain the choices that were already made beneath conscious awareness."

I immediately thought that the very same process happens with consumers in relation to brands.  Why would someone purchase a German import when an equivalent Korean vehicle with the same features costs $15,000 less?

The article goes on...
"After seeing a candidate for 100 milliseconds, voters make certain sorts of judgments based on expressiveness, facial structure, carriage and attitude. Then, having formed an impression from these thin-sliced appraisals, voters rack their memory banks. Decades ago, Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued that human judgment is less a matter of calculating probabilities and more a matter of trying to fit new things into familiar patterns."

Doesn't the same happen in consumer behavior?  The perception we have on brands is also a collage of hundreds of different impressions.  From the basic visual stimulus from packaging, an ad, to the memory of who was consuming it the first time we saw that brand.  Maybe a certain product or even the comeback of an old jingle reminds us of good feelings we had in our youth (is that why I bought a Converse All-Star® the other day?) or maybe we unconsciously choose comfort food to help cope with stress from a busy day?  

Like selecting a candidate, there are many emotions that go through a purchasing decision that may have nothing to do with a rational choice. I'm having fun watching the political theater unfold... and it's quite interesting to see that there may be more similarities between the voting booth and the cash register than we think.

The Little Car That Might Change The World...

Every once in while a disruptive innovation comes around and completely changes the status quo. This month, it happened in the auto industry. India's Tata Group unveiled the Nano. The innovation isn't a new hybrid technology, the innovation is all about the value proposition. The Nano will be sold for only US$2,500... a price tag that will certainly revolutionalize the auto business in India, but it may also generate a major disruption beyond the Indian borders. Tata is tapping into the millions of consumers in developing countries starving for the comforts and conveniences that many of us take for granted. What I love about this base-of-the-pyramid story is that this affordable car for the developing world is not being produced by GM, Toyota or Ford... it was designed and is being produced by a company from India. 

The year has just begun... but I believe that we will look back and consider this innovation among the most significant of 2008.  I hope we will see more innovation like this coming from BRIC countries.

Cool Concept for the Eco-Traveller...

More from Telluride... in a community like this one that has an emotional almost spiritual connection to the mountains and a strong appreciation for outdoor sports like hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and skiing, it's not difficult to find environmentally-friendly business practices. Yesterday, walking on the streets of Telluride, we found this cute electric car parked and I noticed it was a rental from a company called Go Green. What a great idea for destinations targeting a more environmentally-concerned traveller...

January 18, 2008

A Warm Experience... at Sub-Zero Temperatures

This week we're on a ski vacation in Telluride, Colorado (reason why I haven't been so active with my blog). We've had amazing ski days with sub-zero temperatures. Although I'm not a tea guy, it caught my attention when my wife ordered tea after a long day on the mountains. The waitress brought a box with these beautiful pyramid-shaped tea bags in a variety of soothing flavors. Everything about the experience was inspiring, from choosing the flavor from the wooden box, unwrapping the unique packaging to reveal the silken tea infuser, a leaf detail at the end of a stem... all very nice. I wasn't at all familiar with the brand: Tea Forté®, but after trying some myself, I became a fan. I recognize coffee gets all the press these days, but if you're in the mood for a tea experience, try this one.

January 10, 2008

Certain Success Stories Are Hard To Explain...

I remember when my wife, who is an early adopter for anything new, organic or that has a good story behind it, brought home a box of Melona® popsicles. It was the Summer of 2005 and we lived in Connecticut. For those who aren't familiar with Melona®, it's a green melon-flavored South Korean ice cream. Although my daughters loved the novelty, I didn't think much of it. Ok, it was very refreshing but there wasn't anything very innovative about it. No competitive advantage. No differentiated packaging idea. Almost two years later, I'm surprised to see Melona® appearing in hot spots all around São Paulo and getting a lot of PR. It's definitely the flip side of the local food movement.

In the land of so many wonderful fruits like cajú, acerola or cupuaçú and so many cool Brazilian ice cream brands like Mil Frutas from Rio or Rochinha from the São Paulo Coast, why would a Korean popsicle gain popularity?
Is it all about certain trendy consumers going against traditional brands in favor of the unusual newcomer?

I guess certain success stories are hard to explain but I have to admit there's something deliciously intriguing about this underground brand. I'm curious to see if the news will melt by the end of the summer?

January 6, 2008

The Local Food Movement

The local food movement is emerging as the one of the hottest trends. It seems like everywhere you look there are books, articles and TV programs on how cool local food has become (not to mention the smaller carbon footprint and positive impact on the environment). I enjoyed the definition of the local food movement on Wikipedia: "Collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies - one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement." On the other hand, searching the Web, I found an interesting comment from Tom Tomich, director of the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, saying that a food item that is local doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better, environmentally speaking. The distance that food travels from farm to plate is certainly important, he says, but so is how food is packaged, how it is grown, how it is processed and how it is transported to market.

In Brazil, the 'feira de rua' (the equivalent to a farmers' market set up on a specific street in every neighborhood once a week) is an institution that embodies the local food movement. The experience is not only about the food. Walking through a feira is a colorful, flavorful and very sociable experience for Brazilian gatekeepers since stall owners are the ultimate salespeople using amazing communication skills to sell their produce (some even resorting to poetry and song).

Here in São Paulo, there's an even larger temple of local food and it's called the Mercado Municipal - a beautiful building built in 1932 with 12,600 m2 of the very best of Brazilian food. If you're looking for a Brazilian local food experience, you can't miss it.

January 5, 2008

Why Hasn't the Drive-thru Model Expanded?

It's been exactly a year now that we call São Paulo home. A big shift from our days in Connecticut.  There are many wonderful things about South America's largest city, the magnificent restaurants, a vibrant cultural scene, the warmth of the people, to mention a few.  One of the downsides of life in São Paulo - with a population of over 11 million people - is traffic. It doesn't help that over 600 vehicles are licensed on a daily basis.

Which leads me to the following question, why hasn't the drive-thru model expanded beyond fast-food chains and a few ATM machines?

When we lived in Florida, I remember driving through Farm Stores Express to pick up last-minute groceries: soda, maybe a carton of milk, a box of cereal or a pint of ice-cream. It was fast, convenient and a relief not having to get out of the car specially when the temperature was close to 100F, which was rather common.

Brazilians are addicted to 'padarias' the wonderful intersection between a bakery and a c-store, loaded with Portuguese tradition.  Couldn't a drive-thru padaria succeed in the many busy corridors that lead to and from residential areas in a massive urban sprawl like São Paulo?

Innovative Service with Mobile Phones Helping Patients who Suffer From Diabetes

I just read an article in today's paper on a fantastic innovation that is being tested called GlicOnline - a software that allows a patient who suffers from diabetes to use a mobile phone to control the level of insulin he or she needs to take. The software was developed by a tech incubator at USP-University of São Paulo and is in being tested at the Hospital das Clinicas. It's a four-step process. Patient checks glycemic level, keys in result on phone, selects foods/quantities being considered, and the software calculates the exact amount of insulin to be taken. Software and service expected to be available in a few months. Great to see innovations from Brazilian universities and how the mobile phone is becoming so pervasive in our everyday lives.

January 1, 2008

Celebrating Brazil's Cachaça... here's to 2008!

Another interesting book I recently read is "Cachaça - O Mais Brasileiro dos Prazeres ('the most Brazilian Pleasure')" written by Jairo Martins da Silva, probably the most-knowledgeable guy there is on the subject.
The theme has always fascinated me because I believe there are few products that incorporate the Brazilian spirit like cachaça and 'caipirinhas' - the wonderful cocktail indelibly associated to cachaça - that tastes like a hot summer evening on Ipanema Beach (just as much as a Pisco Sour transports me to Lima or a Mojito to Miami).

Jairo Silva is a gifted storyteller. His book takes you on a journey from the historic roots of sugar-cane processing during colonial days to the influence of cachaça in Brazilian folclore, music and popular literature.  

The question is... why hasn't cachaça become a global alcoholic staple like vodka, whisky, (or the more Latin) rum or tequila?

Traditional brands like Pitú®, Ypióca®, Velho Barreiro® or Cachaça 51® have been exporting to Europe, North America and Japan for many years. And it has been interesting to see new brands starting off with a global mindset, like Sagatiba®, Leblon® or Cabana®.  I was thrilled to see at the ANUGA showcase in Germany, the presence of a great local brand I admire called Armazem Viera® from hip Florianópolis and newcomer Gabriela® - an organic cachaça from Ribeirão Preto. Lots of excitement in the category but we'll have to wait and see how much these initiatives will help increase cachaça's profile on a global scale. 

Meanwhile, as Brazilians would say... 'Saúde in 2008!'.

Highly recommended: The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly... a perfect book to start 2008

One of the good things about the Holiday Season is that you have time to do the things you really want to do... like reading. I just finished one of the best books on innovation I have ever read. It's called 'The Ten Faces of Innovation' by IDEO co-founder Tom Kelly written with Johnathan Littman. The book describes the unique characteristics of special types of individuals who fuel new ideas and transform them into innovative business concepts. A wonderful read that is a reminder of how powerful organizations can become by putting together a more diverse, intellectually-curious team of talents and give them the permission and corporate culture to challenge conventional wisdom, to experiment, to break down internal paradigms, to create remarkable experiences for customers. A perfect book to start a new year, making me realize that there are so many things I want to do differently in 2008. As a Brazilian, I was happy to see the author (Chapter 6 page 159/160) praising the Brazilian Government's initiative of becoming a leading center of genome research, supporting the efforts of cracking the DNA sequence of important crops like sugarcane and coffee. It was also a fascinating peak into some of the case studies of one of the World's coolest innovation and design firms: IDEO. A must read for anyone who loves innovation.

The book was a gift from my good friend Flavio Maria, president of São Paulo-based brand activation agency Future Group. A book is a such a wonderful gift...