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July 29, 2005

Little extras from yours truly 

Helen Baxter, whom some readers may remember from the EU’s KnowledgeBoard, recently interviewed me for her sites. She hosts a weekly segment these days on Twisted Radio, and teaches and blogs. The link at the New Zealand Business Blog is here. We conducted the interview using Skype, which is a very amazing little piece of software. I was also honoured Helen put me at her personal blog, too, specifically my statements on Lucire and how it can help the third world. Thank you, Helen—and I hope Beyond Branding readers and blog viewers can find a bit of extra inspiration from these links.
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July 25, 2005

Think first, open mouth second 

There are three parties unhappy with being sold to little-known Nanjing Automotive. David James is one—his idea would have seen an uglified MG TF being sold with other low-volume sports cars. To me, it’s an unappealing proposition. Secondly, SAIC is disappointed, as a failed bidder. It believes it owns the rights to two models, the Rover 25 and 75, and paid £67 million for them, and should be the rightful winner in the bidding—despite putting plenty of conditions on their attempt. (It also owns, according to the Design Register, the MG TF.) Thirdly, Tony Woodley, head of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, reckons more jobs could have been saved with SAIC.
   Ladies and gentlemen, you are all quite wrong.
   Mr James is an admirable gentleman but specialist production of MG would have seen the brand fade like so many others. Proposals from the James bid for a facelifted MG TF reminded me of the rubber-bumper MGB, an unappealing new front end for an old car. Without reading the bid, I am unsure how they would have afforded the R&D.
   SAIC are corporate raiders. How did they get approval from the National Development and Reform Committee back in Beijing for the new bid to pick up the rest of MG Rover’s corpse? By telling them that it would mean extra Chinese jobs. It would be one of the few ways to sweeten up the very calculating and cold NDRC. This was just a final attempt to pick the carcass clean, using a Briton (Martin Leach) as a front man so it would look more palatable. SAIC lost face ages ago, and it has no interest in supporting the British worker.
   That brings me directly on to how dumb the Union’s comments sound, by supporting a company that says it would save British jobs, when it was SAIC’s own actions that got MG Rover into this mess in the first place.
   Nanjing might not be the most sophisticated mob on the planet, but at least it put forth a reasonably transparent bid, it’s from a fast-growing area of China, and it has a point to prove—making it the least offensive of the bidders. PricewaterhouseCoopers made the right choice.
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July 24, 2005

We see what we want to see 

It’s possible that the suspect shot by British police on Thursday as a possible terrorist was a Brazilian gentleman with no connection to . On the first day, all we heard were eyewitness accounts about an ‘Asian’ getting shot to death. Britain can’t realistically claim to be multicultural if Londoners have made such an error of judgement about 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes. The fact the misjudgement was made suggests that people see what they want to see. And if it makes them feel better than the dead man was ‘Asian’, then there is something very wrong with how we in the west perceive other cultures. As a people, how far have we really advanced? It makes our inquiry in Beyond Branding all the more pressing.
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July 23, 2005

Nanjing buys MG Rover for £60 million 

The reports are coming out of Price Waterhouse Coopers that MG Rover has been purchased by Nanjing Automotive, with The Times putting the figure at £60 million. The company’s been around since 1947, but it’s not the best known Chinese automaker. (In China, it puts together Fiat Palios and the Mk I Seat Ibiza.) However, it could be from this point.
   To draw a western analogy, Nanjing is sort of where ABC TV was before Charlie’s Angels came along.
   There are still some intellectual property issues to sort out, but the picture appears to be a relocation of volume car manufacturing to Red China (makes sense, given labour costs) with specialist car manufacturing retained in Great Britain (also makes sense, given British expertise and the higher prices that can be attained).
   I had thought the SAIC–Magma deal would be the one approved, given it had the support of one union and former Ford of Europe boss Martin Leach; but SAIC has shown itself to be overly subject to the political games played by the Politburo’s mergers’ committee. It has lost face in PWC’s eyes, and should have done more to preserve it. Nanjing apparently went in with the fewest conditions, at the best price, and kept face by trying to understand the British. Stories came out soon after MG Rover’s April collapse that SAIC was less than honest, with its representatives pretending to be drunk at parties with the Brits as a shrewd move to gain a negotiating advantage. (Yet the British media still continued to paint them as saviours and heroes. I say, old boy, they have not been playing by the Marquess of Queensbury rules. They wanted to screw you then, and the ‘conditions’ mentioned by PWC suggest that not much had changed, Martin Leach or no Martin Leach.)
   Nanjing’s move makes sense from its own brand perspective. Nanjing now has some old brands under its belt, probably including the coveted MG, which places the company in the same position as Lenovo or Haier. Sixty million pounds is not a lot to pay for MG’s 80 years’ history and a fast-track to exports for the loss-making Communist-state-owned manufacturer. They will get it back through the premium their goods will sell at: if they thought Phoenix was doing well out of the CityRover, then they will be quite pleased with their profit per unit.
   It’ll likely be the first Chinese automaker to sell in Europe, well ahead of the big boys who are still building cars under licence, with the exception of Geely and China Brilliance (who have no recognizable brands).
   It’s the sort of example you might expect to find in one of (co-author) Simon Anholt’s insightful books, such as his earlier Brand New Justice, and Nanjing could prove, finally, that brands are more important than financial wizardry.
   Whether or not Nanjing can sustain the manufacture is another matter, but brands have a funny way of propping things up and helping a company weather the worst. And with the faltering of one of its domestic JVs, there may be capacity for some Rovers popping out of a Red Chinese factory. Let’s hope this acquisition not only helps preserve some British jobs, but overall can bring greater equity to global incomes. Through that, we all gain.
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July 20, 2005

MG Rover needn’t stay British 

Despite being the man who dissed SAIC for its part in the collapse of in April, I find it odd that David James is leading a consortium of investors to stop the automaker falling into the hands of Johnny Foreigner. I respect Mr James and his abilities (he has more than proven himself capable), but somehow globalization makes the argument weaker these days.
   It’s not just that: the British apathy toward its own products doesn’t help, either. Who wasn’t watching the London bombings and noting the cops and medical staff were in Volvos, Volkswagens, Audis? Other than some Ford Mondeos (made in Genk, Belgium, anyway), I saw no British , or even British marques (like Vauxhall). You’d never see the gendarmerie rushing down the Champs-Élysées in a Mercedes-Benz, and you’d never see the Polizei in their Citroën, but in Britain, that pride in British goods being the best is long dead.
   It won’t, ultimately, make the slightest difference if future MG Rovers come from India (which some of them had been), Poland (which some of them could have been, had a deal gone ahead), Italy (which the SV had been) or Red China (which is looking most likely of all). The Brits will probably keep slamming them if they did stay British, just as they did when the last mob ran it. Let’s hope Messrs Price, Waterhouse and Coopers (sorry, can't remember where the heck the capitals go, so it’s easier to write the name in English and make a parenthetical remark) choose what is best for the company’s long term, regardless of nationalistic considerations. A analysis might be instructive.
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Holden’s run of good luck may be over 

I’m a big fan of and what he’s done to help , outpost, but I have a feeling the run of good luck—one that began in 1997 with the launch of that year’s Commodore—may be coming to a close.
   In the 1980s, Holden was near death, with some pundits saying it was the end of the all-Australian . Word on the street was that Holden would be just a badge, its products sourced from Isuzu, Suzuki, even Cadillac. It began that way—Holden was selling Nissans and Toyotas at one point—before the 1990s renaissance. Opel products were brought over from Europe and given Holden badges, unifying the range. It gave GM some decent economies of scale, with the Opel Corsa being sold as a Vauxhall, a Chevrolet and a Holden in different nations; ditto the Astra and Vectra.
   But, we hear, the days of the world car at Holden may be numbered, because a source within the company is saying that it could be cheaper bringing in Daewoos from Korea and slapping the badge on them.
   On one hand, there was GM going on about how Chevrolet would be its price-leading marque globally, selling the Daewoos under the all-American bow-tie brand in Europe. But, as in Korea and Thailand, they’re going to make an exception with Holden.
   Seen it all before: didn’t work then, won’t work now.
   While Holden’s may be synonymous with ‘Australia’s Own Car’, its slogan for years, somehow folks will take exception to rebadged motors. Australians have never really cared much for their compacts—to them, the small car is a domestic appliance, and probably have little place on the streets of Sydney or Melbourne or the outback—so it’s unsurprising to hear this idea being touted. In the 1970s, the same murmurs were going around ’s boardrooms when they decided that Australians should have the Laser and Telstar—rebadged Mazdas at a time when plenty of people still remembered WWII and boycotted Japanese cars. These cars sold well, but to this day, they remain largely unloved. They may have been reliable—and the 1985 and 1994 Laser generations were, in fact, very good—but for the most part, they were undistinguished. Ford took a long time to cover from that in this part of the world; it wasn’t really remedied till the Focus began selling Down Under and restoring faith in the blue oval. And if one wanted a Mazda, why not buy a Mazda? In the late 1980s, you could have a Mazda 626 for the same money as a Ford Telstar, but get a doubly long warranty, even though the cars were virtually identical and made by the same people.
   Holden has carefully built up its brand to be a global one, yet appears to wish to dilute it, replacing Barina (Corsa) with Kalos, Astra Classic with Lacetti, and Vectra with Magnus. It reminds me of the line-up it had when the Barina was a Suzuki Swift, the Astra was a Nissan Pulsar and the car selling in the Vectra’s place was the Holden Apollo, née Toyota Camry.
   My suggestion: keep the status quo, make slightly fewer bucks per unit, and reintroduce Chevrolet, plonking the brand in Holden showrooms as the budget leader. Nothing radical there; Holden could remain a top-class mainstream brand, while Korean imports, which barely hold their value, can fight using another brand and challenge Hyundai.
   Sadly, if this source is right, then this brand-based thinking won’t wash in a company so deeply in the red. Holden itself may be profiting, but GM in the States is bleeding—so much so that it canned a lot of the rear-wheel-drive cars Holden was engineering for the parent company. Now Holden has to look to find a way to pay for the development work, now that the big Holden-based American cars aren’t going ahead. Management changes at Holden also aren’t helping: they have competent guys, but GM’s losses have no doubt been impressed on them.
   The result: if Holden does not look after its brand, expect Ford to trounce it in the years to come. The Focus II is an excellent compact car, the Falcon is looking better than it has been for years, with a six-speed automatic gearbox shared with Jaguar coming, and the Territory —a car I was highly sceptical about—breaking Ford’s own sales’ expectations. Ford may not be making the right moves in some other places, but I’m betting the next few years will be golden ones for it Down Under.
PS.: General Motors–Holden’s Ltd. of Fisherman’s Bend was near death in the 1980s to the tune of $700 million in the red.  
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You can in a Nissan, you can’t in a Trabant 

I know we talk about nation here from time to time, but what about a nation that no longer exists? The , or East , is retro-chic these days, with the smell of a 's exhaust a marketable commodity, according to Deutsche Welle today. Yes, you can buy canned Trabant exhaust. Shows that even some former nations have a stronger brand than many that exist today.
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July 19, 2005

The five categories of bloggers 

Since I started regularly two months ago—though some of my entries go back two years here—I've noticed that there are five categories of blogs.
   Personal blogs are a form of diarizing and sharing, but to a limited audience. You have so-called experts who blog but know nothing other than wanting more references on Google, and it’s quite easy to see through their lack of knowledge—that’s the worst bunch. Then you have those smart guys who blog really cutting-edge stuff—those are the ones I appreciate. Then there are pseudo-, many of whom do a better job than professional ones. Good on them. For corporate blogs: other than the blending of the corporate structure with the public, do they exist for any other purpose when it comes to ?
   Somehow these corporate blogs are useful, but after visiting Bob Lutz’s GM one, I didn’t learn a thing. There’s no real inside track. This fifth category is probably irrelevant if all it does is the official line; the pseudo-journalists are the ones which may well bring corporation and audience closer together because they go beyond the scope of the original brand. They really do blur the distinction between corporation and audience.
   Which makes me wonder two things: in a good company, there’s unlikely to be much difference in content between the fourth and fifth categories, except for tone. And if the world reaches a higher level of consciousness, will either the fourth or fifth categories be needed? We’ve a way yet before the second one takes hold, but consider the first question: Google will count the number of times Company X is mentioned. Because it owns Blogger, it will spider those sites. But if there is no cause for alarm, does that mean poorly run companies with anti-blogs will be more highly ranked than well run ones?
   I think we need to look at the rationale for web logs before we get too carried away with them. We may be too late.
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Luxury is dead, kind of 

Well, it seems my instinct was right about the sector being in decline. This week’s Newsweek focuses on the topic, and it relays an interesting fact: ‘Merrill Lynch predicts that U.S. luxury sales will slide from 25 to 17 percent of the global over the next 10 years. Europe will go from 26 to 20 percent over the same period.’ It means that luxury will have to compete with mainstream for its share, even though certain sectors within luxury are rising. The smaller pie means that there will be more exclusivity, but it also points to a shifting consumer pattern: one that is more aware of the rest of the world.
   Luxury will never die: once you have a rich niche, it’ll weather storms more readily; but for people like me, who work in the media as well as consulting, it’ll need to make adjustments.
   At Medinge 2003, Stanley Moss discussed the difference between European luxury and American ones—and highlighted the latter’s willingness toward dilution (e.g. Cadillac). The twenty-first century will be about luxury brands that can straddle the new consumer demands and making a buck, and the answer remains in the realm of social responsibility—or some cause that the consumer believes in, in order to reach self-actualization. A luxury could work globally for that very reason—let’s see if anyone’s conscientious enough to give it a shot. I am.
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Gross National Happiness 

Why do we work? To make ourselves happy. But what if we targeted happiness first? The may have the right idea when they talk of Gross National Happiness. It’s not new research—this page goes back to 1999—but it’s certainly worth sharing. The west has a lot to learn from the east, and this is one of them.
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July 18, 2005

New Zealand entrepreneurship, to a tee 

Daniel McGinn of Inc. magazine has this concept down pat in his ‘The Trouble with Lifestyle Entrepreneurs’. It’s good to see a foreign publication understand the frustrations faced by down here, especially the concept of the “tall poppy syndrome”. But if Swedes and Danes have , why aren’t good exporters?
   I argue it’s a lack of support and not insubstantial hypocrisy on the part of the Labour administration: it may say it’s pro-business but the one realistic idea that New Zealand has had to overturn the risk aversion, the so-called ‘Bright Future’ programme of the last administration, was killed by this very government.
   Hence, the bright future that we could have had by now is not unlike that of the 1990s: hesitant, risk-averse, and one where the visionary is still told that (s)he’s a weirdo.
   There’s still a lot to get right here.
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The map 

I think it’s important for readers to know the book that Chris referred to below, and he's probably too modest to mention it. It’s Mapping Intangible Assets, and I hope it gets a wider airing than business people. The synopsis is:
To survive and flourish, organizations must create win-win relationships with the people they deal with. This, in fact, is every [’s] underlying purpose: to organize and connect different groups of people (customers, employees, investors, distributors, partners etc.) in a collaborative quest for a particular form of mutual value creation. Most thoughtful business leaders are well aware of this, yet rarely make use of their knowledge for one simple reason: no one has yet managed to translate this rather abstract and generalistic insight into concerted, practical action. Until now. Value Multiplication Mapping does just that, providing with the tools they need to discover the value of the people, knowledge, networks, , behaviours, , communities, and learning that form the basis of today's corporate value .
   It was one concern Colin had, too: how does one value these ?
   The idealist in me says that all companies need to be analysed according to their intangibles—God knows how often we have said a company is very dependent its informal networks.
   I’d even suggest some of the bigger business publish an index of the top 25 firms each year to give the Mapping method more acceptance.
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July 16, 2005

Sore loser's column, take three 

I quite liked the organizers of the Region Bludgers’ Awards, I mean, Gold Awards, that I had blogged earlier. I was asked whether I had any press clippings so they could submit a file to the sponsors and the like. This got my goat, because I learned that an article written about me in Wellington Today was included amongst them.
   I don't agree that that article had anything to do with the Gold Awards—they weren't even mentioned—and if you examine our history, my companies and I get anywhere from 10 to 38 items of news coverage monthly and have done for years. I got the piece based on my merit and on the reputation of Lucire (and I have written to the journalist, now in London, to confirm the fact*).
   I had two choices: tell the enquirer of my displeasure, or be gentlemanly and figure there was enough coverage to go around.
   I took the latter course and merely pointed her to Jack Yan & Associates’ press coverage page, but now I’m regretting leaving it at that.
   If I disapproved of the awards as much as I told readers of this blog, I should have not permitted any endorsement, even if it were implied. Now I know how Richard Nixon felt in 1960: could have gone for a recount, but decided not to be an ass (he left that till later).
   But it’s like those “moment has now passed” situations now: the milk has been spilled, and it’s darn well flowing everywhere.
   The lesson: if I believe in , I may as well show it. Otherwise, why co-write this book and why blog?

* Monday update: fact confirmed; Gold Awards’ organizer contacted and has made good on this issue. Which tells me I am right for liking them.
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2005 Year Of Living Most Dangeroulsy - Seen from 1984 

Clinton (2005) : In my life now I am obsessed with 2 things: I dont want to see anyone die before their time and I dont want to see good people spend their nergies without making a difference

Back in 1984: the UK's leading economist, a science fiction writer, and a computer networking mapmaker and matheaticain wrore a futures book to 2025. 2005 figured as Globalisation's Year of Living Most Dangerously. Either the whole human race woke up to man's biggest risk as being discrepancy in incomes and expectations of rich and poor nations, or we went the way of the dodo.

Let's be clear. There exists a maths of system exponentials in seeing how consequences compound through time and flows of trust or mi-trust. It cannot nail a 21 year forecast's date exactly. All our book's nearer forecasts of most importance have already come to pass. Good enough validatuion if you dont want to inspect the open source mathematical theory.

It can predict that globalisation as one all connecting system of every community and humanity on the globe will spin either good (greater productivities and rewards for all) or bad (extinction, unhapiness or drudgery for almost all). It can also predict that once globalisation netyworks gets too far along whichever exponential we make of it, turning the whole globe around will become next to impossible. We have say 5 years and then not only you and I but all our children will be stuck with the sort of globalsiation design we have webbed and spun. Networks are a new order literally multiplying what had been the powers of separate systems for good or bad. We could find you 1000 system experts that would say the same end game (mankind's final examination for many centuries happens now) allbeit in different words than Clinton's, Buckminster Fuller's Deming's or even one unknown Scot (me) or thousands I network with since 1994.

Now looking at any of the world's 1000 largest organisations - including nations, corporations, industry sectors, professions, media, bureaucratic NGO/ charities etc- there is abundant data showing distrust and inability to enable people to make the difference they could. We dont need to survey this again , we need worldwide humanitian action and shared mentoring that interconnects all communities. Now that sounds too big a job to get started on until we suggest a metaphor - what about starting with 100 atlases - each gravitated around deep human need - fresh water, end corruption, end terror, invent clean energy, liberate sustainable trade by getting rid of rigged apartheid compounding agricultural policies, or whatever your open hi-trust passion to make a differnce might start linking across the globe through dep communities and revelling in diversity.

We can do this. We will give away the conflict checking maths that ensures your atlas and action network stays on a sustainable exponential for all the people who truly connect theor time and competemces and passions. We can intorduce you to hundreds of other system frame-mappers - because system approaches are context deep, interfacing modules that do not get far enough on their own. This should not surprsie any reality-making communications expert - communities are not boxes of individuals, nor can relationships that compound growth over time be scored as every quarterly transactions summing up is the only maths in town, nor is any purpose with real human gravity controlled top-down instead of experienced every which way round that people can learn or do.

- most of these whole system experts can be inspired by deep need to give some iof not all their time needed provided your network is transparent and ownerhsip is by all for all.

Or do you have another idea worth trying? I'll try anything open once, and many more replicating times, if I can see how to join in working it in a way that multipoies trust as we go.
I wonder whether we have even five years. The inquiry seems still more pressing for me, and while the forgiveness of debts is a good step forward, the world still insists on the false valuations that we tried to fight in this book. There must be a way to wake the world up from the slumber, without the pain and hangover of another market crash.
   What we really need is a venture that is universally regarded as successful yet does well strictly in human, real-value terms, to get the message across. This will bring commerce closer to the consumer.  
A quiz in two halves

Which of these inconvenient truths of globalization do you buy into?

Truth 1: For centuries now, man has plunged into wars and other catastrophes; then picked himself up albeit at enormous costs to innocent people, and seemingly moved forward again

Truth 2: One way to define globalisation's biggest inconveneient truth is that there will come a plunge off a peak or a perfect storm of multiple tipping points, within a generation or two, that will leave no life to pick up and get started again, unless our species stops "plunging" headlong into crises

Truth 3: Globally, we plunge headlong into crises when we have no governance systems that attend to conflict resolution every quarter led with as much network-wide attention as extracting from the world each quarter

Truth 4 : We never want to hear again of a country, let alone a superpower, being led by a man of "faith" when he is governing a ship that is breaking the golden rule that unites all major religions and sustainable cultures: do unto others what you would want done unto your own children

Truth 5: Make Poverty History 1.0 was bound to be its own dispiriting disaster area because none of the 20th C organisational typlogies were fit to resolve any of the above crises as we race into the global village networking era -in which connectivity means we are ever more in each other's pockets

Truth 6: It would be a good idea to embark on a Make Poverty History 2.0 with everyone who joins in truly knowing that there will not be a chance of MPH 3.0

Why don't we web-log together fragments of a map that integrate to become MPH2.0 Underclaiming as we go. Let's try again with Africa but agreeing before we sail forth that the number 1 lesson is that citizen organisations -people serving people - not .govs and .coms and .fundraising global ngos - are going to be the loving heart and the energetic circulation of MPH's resolution

The good news is that at least 1500 social entrepreneurs have been working on this courageous type of mapmaking since 1978- each with a lifelong mission that patterns around some essential clusters of civil society - they have elected 6 leaders who have made 16 dvds on how to value the meta-systems that only citizen organisations can mix as anitdotes to where top-down bowling alone went so disastrously wrong as the 20th C ended. These new governing structures for and by people include the following zero tolerances:
*addiction and gun-law
*global sectors that have visions that are unsustainable at any global village
*mass media and imagery which steals the open spaces communities need to meet at large open space meetings and fearlessly discuss inconvenient truths celebrating every cross-culture that their place hosts
*professions that put money above hippocratic oaths; or separating their own business case instead of simply ensuring that disciplines truly flow
* the need to benchmark the ,ost humanising types of long-run (compound) investment be these micro (eg microfinance), macro (eg sustainability investment/vision of each global market), "inter" all entrepreneurial projects (starting up with 30000 catalogued here) focusing especially on those service franchises that can replicate interlocally across societies in most desperate context specific needs

Let's rehearse this before Africa becomes the World's Social Forum in Kneya, January 2007. The 16 dvds you need to google to be able to mentor others on true civil society are here

Once you've understood how they connect as the system-governing typology that can cure the conflict excesses of all other 20th C organisational typologies- come and practice locally transparent guidemaking all over Africa at

Africa is the test continent where the most children are crying out for the rest of the world to share a bit of humanity. Do not tell me that economics is performing anywhere around this globe while 25000 children die each day just because they were unlucky enough to be born and reared in a place that the rest of the world had forgot.

I absolutely accept -as we all could from Queen "Is Humanity Turning Itself" Elizabeth to Blair & Brown to governors of the BBC to Oxford as England's leading humanitarian city to shareholders of The Economist to every My Society to and all souls -that Britain owes Africa more debt than any other country (think how our empire first slave made, then extracted from small pockets of land with great mineral wealth leaving the native peopes deserts, then fled without putting hi-trust and cross-cultural governance structures in place first). So if the rest of wealthy Europe (bar transparency international in Berlin) isn't up for africaMPH, then all we ask is you don't spam us with noisy pretences that you are: -or better still forget what nation you identified with in the 20th C and come to map africa like Scottish explorer David Lovingstone did - as if you wish to sustain world citizenship by with and from every person whose trust you interact with.  
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Communities and Morley- gift of forever learning 

One of the communally deepest linking Brits died in the bombings at Edgware Road tube, London
He was a knowledgeboarder
a Be The Changer
a blogger
a waiki-editor
a simpolean
a critic of globally careless marketing and abusive media who helped changed the superficilaity and image-making addictions of the communications profession

and so much more than any one person can ever begin to describe in a poor thread
one of the great reformers of shareholder value and incorporation; one of the most deeply caring communal people that Londoners have ever been blessed with as a facilitator

an open space alumni

a resonating hi-trust centre of anyone's open network

and dear person and family man

we will never forget the value of good spirits and true learning and open relationships. we will never forget your generosity of time and how many of our brains vibrate with action learning you gifted us

Love from all your communities
I still can't describe the loss. I knew no one who was killed in 9-11 despite having been in New York the summer before; yet of 50-odd I knew Colin. He was generous and cared deeply about the way the world is heading; and while we want to continue his work we know deep down that one of the best people to make us live the change in marketing was Colin.
   A year ago Colin wondered how we measured the change, as his next area of inquiry—perhaps we can dedicate our energies to that in the time ahead?  
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Is premium the new mainstream? 

My research says premium are becoming more mainstream, and there are mainstream brands with the traits of premium ones. Hence, the distinction between the two are blurred. My theory is that the brand is paramount, and if strong enough, it need not matter which group it ultimately serves. At the most visible, you have Hollywood types buying Toyota Priuses. And you have BMW 1-series competing with Volkswagen Golfs. But there are some studies to show otherwise: that the rich would prefer to indulge in conspicuous consumption (and screw ). Are these studies merely furthering to preserve the ideas of old (i.e. pre-Beyond Branding), or will the rich always indulge because they can? Any thoughts out there?
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July 15, 2005

In memory of Colin Morley 

As you can read from the title, the outcome of my post a few days ago was not one we hoped for. To respect Colin’s family’s wishes for privacy, I won’t post any details. But I do want to publicly record what a marketing visionary Colin was. I hope that this will be recognized and may his ideals and work live on.
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July 14, 2005

Two minutes' silence at noon 

I will be observing this in memory of the victims of the bombings, even though it will be 11 p.m. in . I had the nicest call from a fashion designer from Bulgaria who noted she will pray for Colin Morley and his family, too. This event has touched everyone.
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Personal branding 

Joyeux 14e to our French friends. It’s been a good week for self-promotion with yours truly getting a cover story in Wellington Today, but it makes me wonder about personal , Mrs G. Ritchie (the pop artist formerly known as ) and reinvention.
   I think I finally understand why some people rebrand themselves: because they realize that they have been portrayed the same way in and newspapers and want to read something else about themselves. So far, no personal profile of mine has mentioned my recitation of Benny Hill sketches, singing with jazz bands, and how I almost had a cover story in Forbes before Dr Evil, like an idiot, wanted to take over the world.
   OK, that last one’s not true.
   Still, I haven’t got anywhere near that “tiredness” level when one realizes that the biggest media have only ever quoted me, not profiled me. However, I have realized that I am due for new photographs: the ones usually used are of me from 2001 and 2003, and I should keep the two-year cycle of PR pics. Never mind that I don’t age: personal brands need rejuvenation and updating like any other.

Note: For more information on personal branding, Beyond Branding co-author Thomas Gad, the man who began the Medinge meetings, co-wrote (with Anette Rosencreutz) an excellent book on the subject, entitled Managing Brand Me.
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July 13, 2005

The fear of today's newspapers 

In May, when I began posting here regularly, I wrote a piece about how modern competition was less adversarial, or at least should be. It’s a pity when one is alone in an industry being the nice guy.
   A friend of mine works for a broadsheet and without revealing the conversation or his or her identity, told me his or her employer was frightened of Lucire. The theory, somehow, was that a monthly fashion magazine is a threat to a daily broadsheet, or at least a tabloid pretending to be a broadsheet. When pushed, it turned out that a with a single office in another city was a threat to the daily. The same fear led to my being removed from the society pages of one of its supplements this month, apparently.
   How petty and small-minded they are: as if I live to be in society pages. Gee, I am scared. I lived without appearing in society pages for most of my 18-year career, and got better known internationally, thank you. And this is nothing new, nor am I being singled out. But it shows how modern newspapers are losing their grip on modern , consumer demands and the “battle” with online media, including blogs. They have lost that hallowed ground, because being that petty is very out of step with twenty-first-century commerce.
   What is strange is that their actions have, just as between nations, alerted me that they feared li’l ol’ me. I never thought of that. Despite never pursuing a single client in this city, I decided that I might just have to, because their fear suggested it must be rather easy. Gosh, I was right. And we have successfully brought some on board.
   To think: if they were accommodating, professional and generous, if they treated someone in the way that I had treated them, with dignity and sufficient respect, that they would have held on to their clients. No longer. The more they fear, the more I might just take advantage of that. David could beat Goliath. Rupert Murdoch could buy The Times. And last year, the took down Dan Rather. Some papers will survive this century, but I have my doubts over others.

Postscript: The newspaper's sister newspapers (and even some competitors) don't have this problem. Guess some behave like newspapers, others behave like little kiddies in a playground.
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July 11, 2005

Don't call it 7-7, please 

We’ve had , and we’ve had 3-11. Please don’t call last week’s ’ attack on .
   Why not? Because it means that we’ve let the bastards who did this provide us with an event that is “branded”, giving them satisfaction and even pride—that’s the idea of .
   While we should never forget the event, elevating it means the terrorists have successfully changed our lives. They may have changed the lives of many of the victims’ families, but I somehow think those that lost a loved one won’t think of the day as “when terrorists hit London”. To them, it is the day that their father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, spouse, partner or friend passed, regardless of the cause. The loss of a civilized, decent, innocent person is far greater than the act or the death of a terrorist.
   We remember the innocent lives, but we do not give the terrorists the satisfaction of branding one of their crimes.

I don't think there is any way to avoid a brand being placed on this event. But I think what you're saying is don't let THEM brand it. My concern with 7/7 is that it becomes a date, a number. It loses some of its humanity. Same with the ribbons. They're generic and formulaic.

Being an American, the numbers 9/11 are safe. They're benign. They do nothing to really remind me of the horror of that day. Remembering watching live footage as each tower fell... that is not safe. Its not easy. Remembering the people jumping to their deaths. That is not benign. Those are the images that galvanized this nation to fight terror. Not the numbers, not the ribbons.

Being an Oklahoman, images from the Oklahoma City Bombing are unsettling. Seeing a huge portion of a building sheered off by a blast is startling. The image that stuck with me the most was the fireman carrying out a baby that died in the building's nursery. My wife's cousin lost her baby girl as well in that blast. 168 people died. They were more than numbers, they were souls.

These victims deserve our honoring them and remembering them with more than numbers and ribbons.  
Dustin: thank you for your thoughtful and very valid comments. My original post was to ask that we all refrain from branding the day 7-7, but I often speak of ideals; when we have ideals in mind and strive for them, at least our intention is there and we go some way toward them. Usually, these ideals are not realized, at least not in a way we anticipated.
   But yes, in the real world, your second sentence is right: don’t let them brand it. It cannot be something which they can ever be proud of, or hold us hostage to.
   I personally would prefer to honour, as you do, the innocent individuals who gave or lost their lives, rather than '7-7' or '9-11', or even '4-19'.  
On this Jack, I hold a different view. I have a need to remember days and the places where our human race lost its souls-particularly those like Colin I held in dearest esteem as a man without an unkind thought in his whole system.

This intuition flows with something the Indian philosopher Ashis Nandy in Delhi December at the annual meet of Global Reconciliation Network. If you missed this, the next opportunity is Sarajevo August

I have forgotten the number Nandy quoted, but it may have been 250 million. His most conservative estimate of the number of people killed by their own governments in the 20th C. The question for this century: would our governments grow up (and kill less of their own people)

I see all terrorism as being at least equally at governments doors (caring less about their own people than pretending to control). And the media they have encouraged to cover terrorism in a certain -and most inhuman- way. A way that never learns from one tragic case to another.

Surely we can do better than ruling millions of people by a cabinet's of ten's bossiness. Suerly, London's people need to take back communal responsibility for safety rather than pretend a government alone can plan it, let alone one that had drafted 11000 security experts' attention up to protecting its 8 person G8 cabinet.

The primary numbers question is: will we do better in sustaining human life and love of communities before the annual calendar is filled with more blackspot commemorisation dates than celebrations of diversity. Can "we the peoples" stand up and unite in the human race - and every sub-communal way of connecting diversity - unshackling ourselves from the economics of externalities and other globally poverty mutiplying systems whose door leads out from big powers hierarchically controlling and failing to control every communications and behaviour. Spiralling the badwill way round instead of valuing goodwill and sustainability as paramount for all living systems and networks mappes as systems squared (globally and locally)

Let the people's move over to 100 new atlases before its too late to stop this mad world maddening!  
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July 10, 2005

One missing 

We’ve just learned that fellow Medinge Group (the group that led to the writing of Beyond Branding) member Colin Morley has not been heard from since the on July 7. He was in the King’s Cross area that morning. If anyone has any information about the three unidentified people in the hospitals in London, please let us know and we’ll forward information on to Colin’s wife Ros and his sons. We’re naturally hoping Colin is one of the unidentified injured. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts.
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July 08, 2005

Adopt a Chinese Blog 

I’m probably one of the very few publishers who uses the term Red , and despite all the claims of freedom and capitalism these days, I remain a sceptic. One good example is the Politburo’s attempts to shut down Chinese bloggers, especially those who dare criticize the Communist Party. A new project, called Adopt a Chinese Blog, aims to curb attempts. Those with a bit of bandwidth may be able to help. Click here for information.

Related link: blog-censorship-and-the-impact-on-doing-business-in-china/
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In addition to the killing, I’m pissed off 

One unified . Bureaux around the world with autonomy, acting on behalf of that . A virtual structure. That dumb sonofabitch stole my idea. It’s a good model and it’s being used by one party for all the wrong, wrong reasons.
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July 07, 2005

The Zimbabwean reaction 

One thing I lamented with coverage so far (at least here in ) is the omission of news of how other countries are reacting to the bombings. Yet I encountered my first silver lining from the London bombings. On Johnnie Moore's blog, a group called Sokwanele from sent its outrage against the bombings.
   I was encouraged to learn that Sokwanele is a collective of bloggers who are defying Robert Mugabe and bravely chronicling events there, while giving suggestions for how things could be improved. This is blogging at its finest, and puts many a journalist to shame. Any bets that some great steps in our world are going to come from next?
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Think global (I wish) 

Both major TV networks have switched to continous coverage of the bombings as soon as they happened. We haven’t had this since . Yet Bali, Casablanca and other bombings never were blessed with this coverage.
   It reminds me of a gag on Alas Smith and Jones many years ago, where a joke news item about an Englishman getting into fight over the cut of his suit got more coverage than a major earthquake in Mexico killing thousands, because ‘they didn’t speak English’.
   Despite limitations on coverage outside the first world, we’re not as global as we think.
Sad day for the world. The terrorists sure are clever. What smart people to hurt and kill men, women, and even CHILDREN in the recent London bomb blasts. Now, world citizens will surely say, “Okay, we give up, come control our lives with your ideologies.” Right? The problem with the leadership at al-Qaeda is that they haven’t figured out that people have no love for killers. Their point of view will only attract the very young and impressionable or the very old and desperate. They miss the largest demographic- law abiding citizens who want peace. If it’s the masses a group wants to affect, do something absolutely worthwhile and positive with the resources. Win hearts. The world may be talking about al-Qaeda , but it’s not in love with it and the goods it’s selling. Without winning hearts, notes the change al-Qaeda hopes for will always be shallow.  
How right you are, Mommycool. I will pop by your web site in a sec. These thugs began in the 1990s targeting military, then diplomatic, and now it’s civilians they’re after. Yet history shows we admire the brave, the just. Al-Qaïda's actions are anything but.  
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In the wake of the London bombings 

I feel for all affected by the bombings today—those near the Russell Square tube station, on buses, around the English capital. We all do at Beyond Branding. It reminds me how lucky I am to be typing on the other side of the world, but more importantly, it reminds me of the inequities in the world that give rise to anarchy, acts of and crimes against the public. One of the reasons we began writing this book was 9-11 and how we could prevent such actions. Since then there have been plenty such bombings, in the west, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Bali. Clearly more change is needed, and what we know here as business consultants and writers are peaceful means.
   To that end, I started a forum, still not officially launched, called the Global Entrepreneurs’ Forum. The idea was to give young entrepreneurs in places where there may be less opportunity and hope access to first-world experts who could help their ideas get marketed. Several Beyond Branding authors have offered their time. The principle: if we stop the motive for hurting, by promoting trade, then we could end wars. If faced with the choice of blowing oneself up or achieving a dream, the Forum is meant to help someone choose the latter. I may, once again, have to find a way to bring the Forum’s launch forward. More brand experts sought, if you have the time and you think I might have a way to help the world.
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I shall call him Mini-Me, if I can find him (somebody put a frickin’ bell on him) 

Telecom New Zealand has a campaign going that features a cat and a dog. Since the 1980s, Telecom has been using animals—firstly wildlife clips, then a character called Spot the Dog in the early 1990s who worked till his death, and now a talking cat and a dog. I’m still looking for the electrodes where they made them open their mouths at the right time. It’s not that imaginative, but it works for such basic mass-market products where you want the audience to go, ‘Awww.’ Nearly everyone loves cats and dogs. They're funny in movies. So that made me wonder: where were the midgets? And clowns?
   The more we think things are changing in branding, we get reminded that we have a long way to go.
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July 06, 2005

Textbook case 

My ventures and I have been in textbooks in the past but it was nice to see Lucire mentioned in a new book to be released in 2006 by a major American publisher. It got me thinking again how that would never happen down here in New Zealand. We just don’t seem comfortable as nation to fête our own, which is getting frustrating. My dear colleague and co-author Simon Anholt, I think it is time for you to visit our shores again to remind folks of the importance of nation branding. They have forgotten what you have said, and they’re rather listen to the British accent than mine …
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July 05, 2005

The latest issue 

I’ve got my copies of the July 2005 Lucire, about an hour or so before our retailers. When I look through it, I enjoy how we’re charting our own course for the magazine. I’ve already talked about what we’ve done with the brand on this blog, and how I’ve practised what I and others preach in Beyond Branding.
   I won’t say it’s been easy-peasy, and consumers do take time to shift to understanding that you’re not conning them with your work.
   And after eight print issues, I look at the great graphics’ job done by Fiona Barnett, our associate art director, and her team—Chérie Parker, Belinda Broughton, and the many who’ve contributed to the magazine’s look and feel.
   Appearance, as one can expect in the fashion magazine sector, is job number one—and there we’ve tried to look different from the establishment. But there are enough trappings so a reader is in no doubt that this is a classy fashion magazine, with enough folks comparing us to Fairchild Publication’s W.
   Despite New Zealanders doing all the design, we still get comments that the magazine looks ‘European’, which highlights something about nation branding. I’m not sure if it’s fair; on one plane this is meant to be a compliment; on the other plane, it suggests there’s no such thing as a classy New Zealand look. Another explanation is that our rivals are badly designed, and are merely deriving what other nations are doing when it comes to editorial design.
   I faced it a bit nine years ago when Publish did a story on my typeface designs: I believe the author wrote how refined wasn’t something one would associate with ‘Down Under’.
   Once again I must draw an analogy with brands. Brands have to look the part, and not be derivative. I don’t mean just graphics, but every aspect of the organization. In this world, Avis’s comparison with Hertz may have worked for a while (‘We try harder’) but it’s also time to do that and chart a new path to beat every other rental car agency. It is my favourite already, but it could leap ahead by getting involved with car sharing, increasing its hybrid range, promoting Fair Trade with selected imports which it can rent at a premium, or doing something that is not just about beating Hertz’s service standards.
   It’s still early days for Lucire—the web site may be well established after eight years but the print magazines in New Zealand and Romania are relatively new—but there’s an indication that being original wins more friends more quickly than churning out a boring same-again product. Now, how about your industry? What more can you do to mark yourself out?
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July 03, 2005

The Google spy? 

Every now and then, according to links I found online, Google tracks its search results on some computers. Instead of giving you the link to the page when you see the first ten results, there’s a link that looks something like this:

It got a bit annoying for me when I was copying and pasting URLs, and I eventually deleted the Google cookie that was causing this. Afterwards, all was well.
   But Google is a company well known for being un-corporate; it hasn’t, apparently, the trappings of all the dot coms that sold their souls, like Yahoo!, which no longer responds to user queries if they don’t fit into a pre-determined “script”.
   However, I could not find anything on Google’s site about this. My first thought was that I was being spied on. Then, I thought: if I were being spied on, then what would Google make of my browsing patterns? For example, I quite often search for my own sites in Google because it is more natural typing the name into a Google Toolbar search box than a URL. Fewer keystrokes are sometimes involved. But would Google think I was trying to cheat it?
   I have, after all, noticed odd things happening: certain pages from one of my sites disappearing after mere days; as though we were being penalized for something. (After all, Yahoo! Groups had deleted one of my groups unilaterally—rather, they left the shell of the group, but got rid of years of messages.) After I enquired at Google, I know at least one page I had queried reappeared.
   Either this is a mere oversight at Google—from everything I have read about the company, it remains a nifty place to work with an open culture (like an old dot com should be)—or it is the beginning of the end, hiding procedures behind secrecy.
   I really don’t mind if Google were spying on me, because I don’t do anything wrong, I don’t (knowingly) visit questionable sites, and I already let Alexa spy on me so it can gather its Related Links data. I trusted Google’s brand enough to let it spy, which is why I have PageRank on my Google Toolbar turned on.
   However, I wish I could find something on its site to tell me, given that modern consumers demand transparency. I wish I didn’t have to search other sites to learn about it.
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I was very encouraged to read about a 225,000-strong protest in Edinburgh calling for an end to poverty. Thirty thousand children die each day from poverty—that’s one every three seconds—and a great deal of poverty is concentrated at one of the birth­places of civilization, Africa.
   One protester called for the forgiveness of African debts, with ‘no strings attached’. It got me thinking.
   While I’ve read more books on globalization and public policy than I ever have before, I agree in principle of no strings attached, that karmically something advanced in that spirit will be returned properly. But returned to whom? The first-world nation offering the forgive­ness? It’s the old argument of handouts not solving poverty problems; education is the key.
   All over Africa are smart, innocent people who do want to work them­selves out of their problems, but they are met by corrupt govern­ments—need I mention Zimbabwe? The one thing stopping “the American Dream” from taking hold in these nations is corrup­tion at the top levels.
   So strings are needed. The debts can only be forgiven if the selected nation can show they have a path to rid itself of the causes that put them into the crap to begin with. And that path needs monitoring, because it’s a cinch that the most corrupt are also the most desper­ate—and those nations won’t partic­ularly be ready to help their people. Once you talk about installing democracy, there are leaders who will resist it—unless they can be convinced that they, too, will benefit.
   The answer must lie again in branding, not just of the G8’s proposal, but for the affected countries: ‘Your President has negotiated this for the benefit of all.’ Show real changes, not artificial propa­ganda. Ask for forgiveness from the people. Tell them this new step is a new leaf for everyone. And we in the first world need to convince those leaders that the G8’s proposal to end poverty can benefit themselves by being lauded by their people. Then, democracy and education need not be such a threat to them, and prosperity for all is a good thing.
   I know, this is a simplis­tic summary of what needs to be done. But right now, I won’t record the contents of a book on this page—there’s enough in the first Beyond Branding to show how some things can be done at a corporate level, and I might just leave the above for another title …
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July 01, 2005

Global problems 

You’d think we’d get it right after a quarter-millennium, but globalization is still producing inequities. The globalists (I reckon I am one) believe that the poor are getting richer, too, but there’s one flaw in this argument: the gap between rich and poor is widening.
   At the Wharton Global Alumni Forum 2005 in London, one speech highlighted some of the things that are going wrong: European cows get $2 a day (subsidies) while some people in Africa are living on less than $1 a day. Globalization has ironically benefited western Europe and North America, while Paul Judge, chairman of the Royal Society of Arts, said the rest of the world wasn’t far different from eighteenth-century London.
   These are fair calls and highlight what we need to do. We need to extend trading to the communities we do not reach, in hope that they will become richer. We need to have a mind-shift so that we see these communities as neighbours, not distant people separated from us by oceans and borders.
   Brands can benefit by adopting a social conscience—we see it often enough—and initiatives to get the internet reaching as many people as possible will aid our perspectives.
   I don’t believe we can do this overnight, but being reminded that some governments value cows more than human beings show how far we still have to go in redressing the balance.
   So who is going to be the next power brand that seeks to help the world? It’s a good kick in the rear end for those of us who came into business to make a real change and see where we can adjust things to make life better for those left behind in globalization.
   The key, then, is to be part of initiatives to get the ’net to those who don’t have it, getting them seeing possibilities and networking with the first world. With it, we must have education on how the tool—the internet—can be used to better their lives.
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