June 28, 2008

Experimenting with an online collaboration panel

Marketers all over the world are debating, re-thinking and identifying more effective ways of gathering consumer insights on an on-going basis, instead of using traditional research methods that gather input at specific moments of the marketing process.  About a year ago, inspired by a conversation with some people at IBM Brazil on the boom of web 2.0, I came back to the office and asked my team how we could adopt a more collaborative approach to brand management using the learnings from social networks.  Millenials already use social networks to interact on an infinite number of themes from the indie rock scene, to what's hot in tech gadgets, to discussion boards on video-gaming.  

Could we create a social network-type environment with college kids that have an interest for marketing to help us craft the future of our brands that target Brazilian millenials?

After talking to one of the country's hottest consumer research company, we found out the answer was yes.  Last month we launched an exciting initiative that has the potential of transforming the way we engage with one of our toughest demographics.  We put together an online consumer panel with 40 college students from around the country, carefully selected.  It has been an amazing lab into better understanding how these kids react to the weekly brand stimulus we post for their evaluation.  A much deeper and engaging experience versus focus groups or qual studies.

June 27, 2008

Where are the electric cars?

It's interesting to see how what seems like 'new' is many times a recycled version of an old idea that may have been ahead of its time. So much has been written about how the electric car has tremendous potential to become a viable alternative to replace our current cars. But how new is new?

If you look back to 1997,GM introduced the revolutionary EV-1, had a few passionate fans but never became a commercial success . Click here to see the trailer of the legendary documentary entitled "Who Killed The Electric Car" that covers the rise and fall of the GM EV-1.

Surprisingly enough, even Brazil had an electric vehicle back in 1974. The Gurgel Itaipu van was introduced by a visionary entreprenuer called Amaral Gurgel who dreamed of creating an automobile powerhouse in Brazil.  A dream that later disappeared. I find it fascinating to see how some people are working on their own personal projects to fill in the void by the auto industry.  I found an interesting article online by an auto enthusiast who has recreated an electric version of the Gurgel Supermini and posted how he did it.  Click here to read more...

The other day I was surprised to read on CNN.com that in the 1890's electric cars out sold gasoline powered versions:  
"In 1834 Thomas Davenport invented the battery electric car, but it wasn't until the late 1890's that electric vehicles were commercially available, with the first car dealerships in the U.S. exclusively for EVs. At that point electric vehicles out sold gasoline powered cars by ten to one. Some automobile companies, like Oldsmobile and Studebaker began as successful EV companies, only later changing to gasoline-powered vehicles.

I'm hoping that the Tesla Roadster, launched last March in California, which happens to be the most beautiful and sexiest electric sports car ever, will be ale to lower its cost over time and become the car of the future. My ultimate dream car.

Which takes me back to... a great idea for tomorrow may just be a recycled idea from the past.

June 24, 2008

The challenges of reaching the lower-income consumer

Every marketing professional I've spoken to this year has told me about the challenges of reaching lower-income consumers. Brazil is witnessing the phenomenal rise of the C/D socio-economic demographic, clearly one of the main drivers of GDP growth.  There are a few companies that are doing an outstanding job in making a real connection to a segment of the population that is finally coming of age from an economic standpoint.  Casas Bahia - Brazil's largest furniture and appliance superstore (and the country's #1 advertiser) - is one of the best examples of a company that knows how to reach out to the lower-economic consumer.  This week's Veja magazine brings a fantastic interview with Michael Klein, the genius behind the successful model.  One of the most famous campaigns from Casas Bahia asked consumers to 'name the price'.  That is, store sellers would ask how much a person was willing to pay per month for a stereo equipment, for example, and then they would calculate how many installments would be needed.  This is a company that understood before others that monthly disposable income for many consumers is more important than the total price. A long installment plan is the only way many consumers can afford to buy. The interview brings some amazing insights.  Mr. Klein explains how C/D consumers have evolved over time and how they are demanding products with strong brands instead of shopping only for low prices. Or how many of the store's customers prefer wardrobes with mirrors on the outside because they create a larger feel for bedrooms that are typically very small.  He also said that their best-selling category is mobile phones.  Because many of his customers live in communities with no public phone service, the mobile phone is the only phone.  Therefore, these customers are not willing to settle for the basic phone.  They want a cell phone with extra features.

I became a fan when we came back to Brazil last year. After shopping around for a washer, dryer and refrigerator, we ended up buying at Casas Bahia.  Prices were great, the salespeople were incredibly knowledgeable and the items were delivered exactly when we agreed.  Last week, my wife had a stove delivered to her assistant as a surprise birthday gift.  The next day, the assistant said how excited she was to see the Casas Bahia delivery truck at her door.

For those targeting lower-income consumers, this is a case study to learn from.

June 22, 2008


At an airport the other day waiting to catch a flight, I couldn't help but watching the TV monitor at the gate which was on ManagemenTV (a perfect location to reach their target audience). Back at the office, I gave them a call to get additional information. They sent me a brochure and a DVD with highlights of their programming. Great content combining interviews with business stars and entrepreneurs from around the globe, case studies, with in-depth coverage on specific business themes. For those who haven't seen it yet, ManagemenTV is a Latin-American cable and satellite channel targeting the business community. ManagemenTV was created by HSM, one of the world's most respected companies specialized in executive education.

I'm sure business schools throughout the region will certainly benefit from this new media option. With so many channels targeting very specific demographics from college sports to gourmet fans, it was about time someone focused on management.   

June 21, 2008

New Sensacoes TV spot... hot from the oven!

This coming Sunday we will be airing the new TV spot for Sensações® Ao Forno! - Brazil’s first baked potato chip. 

This launch is critically important in our snacks strategy moving forward. Because it's baked, Sensações Ao Forno addresses the main barrier of snack consumption among adults, who are increasingly looking for healthier snacking options but are not willing to sacrifice on taste. And that's exactly what this product is all about.  Our R&D team did an outstanding job creating a great-tasting baked chip with a superior oven-roasted crunchiness in two gourmet-style flavors - cheese & spices and roast beef.  The overall result received high approval ratings during the research phase and during the Rio test market.

The TV campaign was created by agency AlmapBBDO and directed by Rodolfo Vanni (Cia. de Cinema Production House). It was produced in a reality gourmet-style setting where a very demanding chef rejects several baked dishes. He complains that some of the dishes are not well cooked, some have no taste and some just taste awful. Upset with everything that is going around in the kitchen, he sees someone in the production crew eating a bag of Sensações. The chef takes a chip, loves it and askes "Is it baked?"

I hope you like it....

June 15, 2008

Ideas need time to ferment and ripen

I read a quote this week that I think is brilliant...

"Ideas, like young wine, should be put in storage and taken up again only after they have been allowed to ferment and to ripen"  
--- Richard Strauss

This year, at work, we had to delay the launch of a new product due to capacity constraints.  A situation all of us marketers have been through one way or another.  The interesting thing is that the extra time has allowed my team and I to re-think, question and validate some of the initial assumptions (branding, package graphics, communication strategy...) which we're doing in a more collaborative way through a panel of college kids from different universities across the country.  Like in this particular case, from now on I'll be taking a more cautious approach and allowing time to ferment and ripen other marketing initiatives before we take them to the market.  

Don't you just love it when you come across something someone said somewhere in time... and it relates so well with something you're working on today?  That's what happened this week.  

Reading your favorite magazine online

I love magazines and I love the internet. So, when I read that Editora Abril - Brazil's largest publishing and printing company - had launched an online free trial service for their magazines, I went to check in out. Great service. You can easily flip through the pages and zoom in on a particular article.  A great way for Abril to increase its database of prospect readers (since you need to opt-in providing your e-mail account) and also an interactive way to increase their subscriptions since you can subscribe online after reading.  

It also made me think that the Brazilian public school system could benefit from this service for publications with educational content such as National Geographic Brasil or Revista Escola.

Click here to check it out.

June 14, 2008

Innovating at the Dentist Office

Being sensitive to the emotional state of mind of a patient at a dentist office and finding an innovative way to create a better experience. That's today's story. My wife told me that while she was going through a procedure at her new dentist, there was someone massaging her feet and how that helped relieve the unpleasant feeling of being in the dentist's chair with the dreadful sound of the drill. I called the dentist this week to understand how this innovative practice started. Dr. Mauro Teixeira explained that the idea came from his assistant Ivonne Amaral who noticed how a particular patient felt tense and stressed out during the course of a session and offered to massage the patient's feet. The experience was a success. Dr. Teixeira ended up investing in specialized courses for his assistant and what started out as an initiative based on pure observation and experimentation, is now an everyday practice in his office. He told me how patient feedback has been extremely positive (which my wife can testify).

A beautiful example of how innovation isn't necessarily the end result of massive amount of resources, extensive research and technology... sometimes it comes from the rare talent of observation, the sensitivity of someone who tries to understand the emotional state of mind of a consumer or the barriers of a non-consumer. In this case, innovation came from someone who put herself in the dentist's chair and asked what she could do to make the experience a better one.  Great story.

June 10, 2008

Brazil's largest product design awards

Like in other countries around the World, Brazil finally has a large-scale product design awards: the IDEA/Brasil - Brazil's edition of the prestigious International Design Excellence Award, developed in partnership with IDSA-Industrial Designers Society of America.  In this first edition, 343 designs were submitted in 18 categories and 53 products were awarded.  

You can find the main awards in this month's edition of Epóca Negócios - one of Brazil's most influential business magazines. Click here to read more (article in Portuguese).

I was happy to see that one of the awards went to one of my favorite lamps, the 'Super Bossa' created and produced by Lumini®.  The pendant lamp can be easily adjusted up or down to adjust the light's intensity to help set the mood.  A simple design with a clear functionality.

June 8, 2008


During our Catalunya vacation, I wanted to bring back a little bit of the flavor of our trip, so I found this cool looking bottle of Mini Black by Freixenet®. Freixenet is one of the most renowned cavas - the Spanish sparkling wine. The 200ml bottle felt like the right size for a quick spontaneous celebration. The cap imitates the traditional cork although it's a screw-on cap as you can see in the photo. The Mini Black, with very contemporary graphics not common to the category, was being sold in coolers in liquor stores throughout Barcelona.  A very cool packaging innovation that stimulates a new consumption occasion for a category that is more associated to special on-premise or in-home occasions.  Why wait for a special occasion if you can celebrate something right here right now?  

Great concept.

June 7, 2008

What are people saying about your Brand on YouTube?

I loved the story that was published in USA Today the other day about a tourist who uploaded his vacation videos to YouTube and then got a call from the resort where he stayed.  Apparently, the hotel manager liked the video so much he offered the man a free return stay. It's just another wonderful example of the power of user-generated content. For us marketers, it's just another reminder that we, not only should be monitoring what people have to say online about our products and services, but it's also an interesting opportunity to open a dialogue with someone that clearly has a strong opinion (strong enough to go through the trouble of posting a comment, a complaint or a video).  

The other day I sent an e-mail to a person who posted a 30" TV spot with one of the products I had launched, congratulating her on the creative. I later found out that the video was produced by a college student as part of a university project.  She was surprised when she found out I was one of the marketing guys behind the launch so she took the opportunity to ask questions about the innovation process and marketing strategy. The student was thrilled that she ended up with information direct from the source that no one in her class had. Fascinating times for consumers who enjoy taking a more active role in influencing business behavior... fascinating times for brand managers who want to establish a closer connection.  I believe this connection should be made not only with those who have a positive opinion about our brand but mainly with those who may have had a bad experience and are feeling frustrated.  

Have you been checking what people are saying about your business?

June 4, 2008


This morning I attended an event here in São Paulo sponsored by Telefonica with Chris Anderson, celebrated author of best-seller "The Long Tail" and editor of Wired Magazine. During his speech he talked about his new book scheduled to be released in 2009 called "Free".  One of the examples of a successful zero-type business model he mentioned is Google, where virtually all services are offered for free.   During the panel, Unibanco talked about an interesting experience with the concept of free: Hypercard - Brazil's first and only credit card with zero fees. The card is positioned towards low-income consumers and is a major hit in the Northeast of the country.  Click here to see a YouTube video with Chris Andersen called "Free! Why $0.00 is the future of business" talking about the concept of free.

TrendWatching.com also posted an interesting report with several examples of how companies are using 'free' in their strategic thinking. Click here to read about it.

It seems like zero will become the world's new lucky number.

June 2, 2008

Photos that show how people relate to product categories

For marketers who like to see how everyday people see, relate and (in a certain way) feel about different product categories, an interesting desk research is flickr Groups.  Browsing though some of the groups was a great opportunity to observe what's on people's radar.  I'm assuming that for someone to go through the trouble of taking a picture and posting it, there has to be something interesting about it. One of the groups I found was called 'Japanese Snacks' with 508 members and over 2,000 photos posted.  I've always loved Japanese graphics and packaging.  It was fun looking at 'The Coffee Cup' a group with 1,162 members and about 2,300 photos.  'Brand, Marks & Logos' with over 9,300 photos is also worth browsing.

For those with a keen eye in search of insights, I'm sure there's always something to learn.