April 27, 2008

A contemporary spin on the farmer's market

My friend Alexandre Van Beeck, mentioned in his blog a cool retail concept in London called Unpackaged Stores. Since I was in town, I decided to check it out. They sell all things organic, from produce to muesli, in an eco-friendly way. Because the concept is around sustainability, customers must bring their own bags for their purchases. A contemporary spin on the traditional farmer's market. It's fascinating to see how sometimes you need to look at the past to find ideas for a better future.

Fussball while you wait for your flight

Waiting at the gate to board a plane can be pretty boring. Flying out of Dusseldorf this week-end I saw a simple idea at the Lufthansa counter. The German airline which sponsors a number of football events, added a rather low-cost idea that brings a little entertainment while you wait. I ended up playing with two British guys who were waiting for the same flight. 3 x 3.

Packaging that delivers a sense of authenticity

At the Interpack, I fell in love with a chocolate bar packaging I saw from a company called Askinosie. Every detail of the packaging comes together to deliver a beautiful sense of authenticity. From the wax paper finish, to a map inside that shows where the cocoa was harvested to the graphic approach that resembles shipping bags from old traders. In a world of big brands, it's wonderful to see the small guy finding a differentiated graphic approach that translates so well the authentic positioning this company wants to establish. 

Like me, I'm sure you're dying to try the chocolate... meanwhile, check out their cool website.

April 23, 2008

A Few Days to Breathe New Ideas

This week I'm in Dusseldorf attending the Interpack Trade Show. Three days immersing myself in all sorts of food & beverage product and packaging innovation and the wonderful technology found behind the scenes. Every once in a while, it pays off to remove yourself from the day-to-day at the office to see, feel and taste products from around the world. One of this year's highlights was Hall #7 dedicated to bioplastics. A wonderful opportunity to see some of the technologies that are shaping the future of packaging. 

Below is a cool visual I found on one of the booths that represents well the idea of compostable packaging.

April 22, 2008

Little Things That Make a Mac... a Mac

It's amazing how sometimes children have the ability to recognize simple things that make a world of difference.  At home, like thousands of other homes, we have a PC (as a back up for work-related stuff) and a MacBook (which I use as my primary computer).  That means that my daughters end up using the PC  when they want to read the latest on Hanna Montana.  Last night, my 6-year old, feeling frustrated with having to reboot after something went wrong, turns to me and asks: 

"Why is your computer easy to start and this one takes so long?"  

At the end of the day... the devil is always in the details.

April 20, 2008

Riding on a Bamboo Innovation

Since the age of 6 when my parents bought me my first bike - a Schwinn® Stingray - I've been crazy about bikes. Flying back from Caracas a few days ago I read an interesting article in Newsweek about the Calfee® bamboo bikes.... yes, bamboo. The same company that pioneered the use of carbon fiber in the early '90s is now promoting bamboo as the new thing. This is not an ordinary bike, the Calfees made of bamboo are high-performance bikes and have received a number of awards, including the Best Road Bike and People's Choice Award at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

As the world become more green, it's absolutely wonderful to see there is a bamboo revolution coming of age. The article explains how bamboo has been used as a building material especially in Asia and how companies all over the world are using it in green homes, in flooring, furniture and now bikes. The reason is that bamboo may just be one of the strongest materials around. It has greater tensile strength than steel and it withstands compression better than concrete.

On the Calfee Design website they say that... "If there were an award for "Bicycle with lowest carbon footprint" (least amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the production of the frame), this frame would win, hands down."

I wonder how bamboo can be used in other applications as companies search for green solutions ?

From simplicity...

To high-performance...

Creating a New Consumption Occasion with the help of Pizza Hut

Despite record growth we have been having with our Doritos® business here in Brazil, one of the challenges we face is that Brazilians don't have the habit of dipping tortilla tips in salsas like in the U.S. or Mexico. How do you start developing a new consumption occasion that simply isn't part of the local food culture? One of the ways of doing it is to partner with someone who can give you a hand. In our case here in Brazil, Pizza Hut®. Our Doritos Brand Mgr. Alexandre Chiavegatti worked with Pizza Hut to put the Doritos Nacho experience on the menu. We're extremely happy with the partnership since Pizza Hut is a cool venue for the urban teen and young adult demographic which now can be exposed to the Doritos® brand in a completely new way. It was launched last December and so far it has been working very well.

Argentine Steak House or Brazilian Churrascaria?

Anyone who has been to charming Buenos Aires knows that the Argentines prepare the best beef you can find anywhere on the planet. The most tender cuts, loads of gaucho tradition, and a wonderful meal with fabulous Malbec wines. Is this the ultimate meat you can find? Well, fly north to Brazil and there's another meat experience that deserves attention... the 'Brazilian Churrascaria' or also called 'Rodizios'. What I love about the churrascaria is the ritual behind it. First, you go to the salad bar, which are usually loaded with options. Then, at the table, you have a chip green on one side and red on the other, used to indicate to the waiters if you're ready to be served. The waiters, normally dressed in full Brazilian gaucho attire, come to your table with a skewer on which are speared various kinds of meat. You just have to confirm if you want a slice or you'd rather wait for the next round. No menus... no anxiety having to make the right menu choice.

A few weeks ago, we had the visit of an Irish marketing VP who lives in NY. In the evening, I gave him a few dining choices, specially since São Paulo has such a vibrant restaurant scene. Fogo de Chão® - Brazil's most successful churrascaria chain and operating in many cities across the U.S. - was his choice. The guy simply loved the experience.

Ok, Argentine beef may be the best... but when it comes to delivering an innovative steak house experience, nothing beats the churrascaria. And again, I just love rituals.

April 13, 2008

A Pretentious Name that is Causing a Lot of Buzz

I have been intrigued by a small storefront that goes by the rather pretentious name of "O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do mundo" - The World's Best Chocolate Cake. A few friends recommended the place and it's getting pretty good press. From a pure buzz factor, I have to admit the strategy of making such a compelling claim is working. So, we decided to go there this afternoon to check if the cake lives up to its name.  Once there, I found out that it's actually a franchise of the original that started in Lisbon in 1987 created by Carlos Braz Lopes. He used to own a restaurant that became famous for the chocolate cake that was on the menu. The cake became so famous, that he decided to open a shop entirely dedicated to his secret recipe. I particularly love when a business model is focused in positioning itself as the very best in a particular category. The model couldn't be simpler. It's all about the chocolate cake that comes in only two options:  traditional with 53% cocoa and a bitter version with 70% cocoa, both made with Valrhona® premium French chocolate (which my wife knew from Nigella's cookbooks). The coffee and a special mint/citrus tea blend were developed to harmonize with the cake. The São Paulo shop is very small, so it was inevitable to hear people from the other tables discussing whether they thought the chocolate cake was or not the very best.  I'm definitely not a chocolate cake expert, so I can't tell you if it is or not the world's best.... but I have to say... it's the best I ever had. 

April 12, 2008

Spreading the word on the benefits of Oats

This past week our Quaker marketing team felt the power of TV.  Last Friday, Brazil's highest-rating news program called Globo Reporter - a weekly investigative report format equivalent to CBS 60 Minutes - aired a special report on the health & wellness.  At the office, we were thrilled that the show highlighted the heart-health benefits of oats as a functional food that helps reduce cholesterol levels, one of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.  The TV show generated tremendous buzz.  Sales of our Quaker line picked up this week. Erika Salgado, our Quaker® Marketing Mgr. and Adriana Ribeiro, our Foods Marketing Dir, both were particularly happy since the content was generated from clinical studies and PR efforts they have been leading. This morning, I went for my periodic cholesterol check-up and ended up doing my own little personal survey. I asked the nurse about oats and she spontaneously and enthusiastically talked about the TV show and how everyone was asking her about the benefits of oats.  

The message is always stronger when it comes from editorial content.

April 10, 2008

Nokia and Spike Lee Collaboration

Another collboration project was announced this past week... this time it's Nokia and film director Spike Lee teaming up to produce a short film using YouTube-type videos captured by everyday people using their mobile phones. One more example of the power of user-generated content.

April 6, 2008

Circus Reconceptualized

We just got back from a Cirque Du Soleil performance. I had already seen them a few years back in NY but this show was different on many levels. Our 'tapis rouge' tickets entitled us to valet parking, a pre-show cocktail in a cool lounge, dramatic lighting, electronic music and great food. You realize that every single detail was carefully designed in a way to provide a multi-sensorial experience. Marketing guru W.Chan Kim, in his Blue Ocean Strategy, describes well how this Canadian troupe has totally redefined the circus industry.

During one of the amazing acts, my wife turns to me to say how it's clear that the average person only develops a fraction of his or her physical capabilities. It made me think that the same applies to our intellectual capabilities... to our ability to learn and be open to new ideas.  

Cirque do Soleil is a wonderful reminder that any category, no matter how well established, can be reconceptualized. In this case, morphing the traditional circus experience with elements of contemporary opera, broadway musical and rock concert. A few examples come to mind of other companies that have also borrowed lessons from other experiences to reconceptualize the businesses they operate in. Take W Hotels, that combine elements of the urban bar scene and the aesthetics of the fashion world to create a differentiated hotel experience. Or Virgin, that did the same to airport lounges. I'm sure there are valuable lessons for any marketer who works in service-related categories.

Do we really need a landline?

I realize that we really don't need a home phone anymore. When I'm at home, I find myself reaching for my BlackBerry to make a call. All my contacts are there, both personal and professional, everything is synchronized to my desktop, to my calendar... to my life. I read last night that according to research conducted by CDC, in 2007, 13.6% of U.S. households were already cellphone-only. A number I would only expect to grow considerably in the following years. 

There's an additional advantage... we'll get rid of those annoying telemarketing calls.

April 5, 2008

My Latest Addiction

For the past week, I have been totally addicted to TED... probably the most thought-provoking address on the web. I can't believe I just found this out now. If you already knew, forgive me for being a late comer. If it is not in you bookmarks, time to add it now. TED - which stands for technology, entertainment, design - positions itself as a destination for 'ideas worth spreading'. Click here to access the site. Every night I've been enjoying amazing lectures from people like Chris Bangle (BMW), Paul Bennett (Ideo) or Jan Chipchase (Nokia). TED is definitely my latest addiction.  Spread the word.

Making it Easy to Set Up a Web Store

There has never been a more fascinating time for entrepreneurs. My friend, James Maul, told me about Amazon's service called WebStore that allows small businesses to create their very own e-commerce website using Amazon's technology infrastructure. I went to check it out. Great news for someone interested in selling designer shoes from Milan or bourbon coffee from Bahia. You pay a 7% commission, which includes credit card processing fees and fraud protection, and a subscription fee of $59.95/month, no matter how many WebStores you set up. Time to brush off that old business plan you discussed with a friend over a few beers.