Author Archives: Franco London

About Franco London

I'm a London based marketing consultant

Would you buy an IKEA bicycle?

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I’m a big fan of IKEA. I love their philosophy. I love their communication. I love their products. However, I’ve only just discovered that IKEA also sell bicycles. So..would I ever consider buying one? I know I’ve got lots already, but as stipulated in ‘the rules‘ you always need one more. (n+1)

I’ve not actually seen one, but here’s the video that explains what it’s about.

As ever with IKEA, the design is well thought-free, with a ‘system’ that integrates all the accessories. I like the idea of the rust free belt drive, but am not convinced by the automatic gear changing – not sure how this would work. If you were a regular cyclist in a flattish city that I imagine it would be work fine.

However, I think it fails on 2 fronts. If IKEA were really serious about solving urban transport problems and getting the world to cycle more, then it would make it much more affordable. £349 is decent value, but very much on a par with other bikes in the category. Secondly, would you really want to be seen cycling an IKEA bike? Generally cyclists are pretty brand conscious and I suspect they would feel a bit a bit weird. I’m ok with an IKEA duvet – but a bike? Not convinced.

I reckon these would be perfect bikes for city bike hire schemes.A real step up from the current London bikes which are a bit cumbersome. However, am not convinced the IKEA bike will change the world.

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Learning to Love Constraints, the BrewDog Way

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In my ongoing quest to learn from best, I’ve just read ‘Business For Punks’ by James Watt, the co-founder of BrewDog, the poster child for the craft beer revolution that is sweeping the Globe.

It’s an incredible story and it’s a great read. Insightful, clear and written with the same punk attitude as the brand. I heartily recommend it – even if you don’t like beer.

Although they see themselves as true rebels, in many ways they’re deeply conventional. They do the fundamentals really well. They have a forensic attention to detail on cost and finances, – the punk accountants! – an unerring obsession with the quality of their product and a deep sensitivity towards the culture of the business and the role of every individual. All great stuff.

However, what really caught my attention was the fact that as a small business, up against wealthy megabrands, they truly embraced the constraints they operated under and saw them as a springboard for success.

‘When it comes twenty first century marketing, not having a budget is definitely not a problem. In fact, it is a massive advantage masquerading as a thinly veiled constraint’

This ultimately drove them to embark on such ground breaking initiatives as their ‘Equity For Punks’ crowdfunding scheme, which is now extending to the USA. They understood that their constraints were opportunities for innovation.

This is the philosophy that we preach at ‘A Beautiful Constraint’ where we see limitations as advantages and sources of inspiration. Our point of view is that it is by truly embracing your constraint you will be forced to challenge your underlying assumptions, break out of existing modes of thinking and develop new alternative solutions.

We live in constrained times. More limitations are likely to be imposed upon us. In the future, the winners will be those who are able to turn their constraints to their advantage

Why it’s good to be messy

 

Last year one of my favourite books was Maria Kondo’s ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying‘ It really did change my life. I threw out all the clothes that didn’t give me joy, cleared out all my old work files and visited Wandsworth tip on a regular basis. I recommended it to everyone I know.

However, this year the book I keep banging on about is Tim Harford’s ‘Messy. How to be Creative and Messy in a Tidy Minded World’. It’s the complete opposite of the Magic of Tidying, but is just as compelling and inspiring. This book argues the case for introducing disorder, chaos and randomness into our lives in order to make us more productive and creative. What I love about it is the variety of source material he draws upon – music collaboration, building design, aircraft safety – and it’s relaxed, anecdotal style. Plus for someone, who find’s it easy to be messy, it made me feel less guilty about the state of my office.

 

WeChat – it’s the future!

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I’ve just come back from a week in China and found the technology difficult to handle. Internet connection was poor. I couldn’t use Google, access my gmail account,  or get onto Facebook and Instagram.

However, what I discovered and started to use was WeChat and from then on it become THE most important way of communicating. It was so easy to use, lots of fun and now I’m a convert.

Today there are 1 billion WeChat users in China and it’s Global user baser continues to expand. Everyone I met in China loved WeChat. Someone said to me “Wechat is the future!” and I think it’s true.

At first glance it appears to be like WhatsApp – a simple instant messaging service, however there’s a lot more to it. You can transfer money and pay for goods electronically. I was also told that you can book airline tickets and order taxis. There’s also a Facebook style facility called Moments, games and opportunities to meet random people! No doubt its services will continue to expand. Here’s a short film that tells you more about it

So if you’re planning to go to China and want to keep in touch – download WeChat. Even if you’re not – give it a go. It’s fun and it’s the future!

Why Jimmy’s Iced Coffee will go from strength to strength

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As a former Nescafe brand manager and coffee lover I’m always on the look out for new and interesting coffees. So, last Saturday afternoon, whilst in Waitrose I sampled some of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, which I really enjoyed. I even bought a few packs.

When I was worked in the Nescafe brand team in Croydon,  back in the late 80s’ ‘the opportunity for ready to drink iced coffee’ always featured in our brand planning sessions. We were inspired by our colleagues in Greece and France who told us how popular ‘Nescafe Frappe’ was in their countries. We even launched a ready to drink product in a tetrapak format…which didn’t do very well.

So, will Jimmy’s Iced Coffee succeed where Nescafe has failed? Well I think it’s got a very decent chance. Here are the reasons why:

We love an entrepreneur

Jimmy is a real person. He started his business with his sister and has dedicated himself – very publicly – to making it a success. It’s one of those real life start-up stories that we find inspiring – at least I do anyway!

It’s got real personality

Jimmy – with his hipster beard and his cool packaging appears very likeable. The brand’s got a really friendly website with an amusing Youtube video. You can’t imagine this being produced by the Unilever or Nestle brand managers. All the other bits and bobs on social media are quirky and friendly.

Coffee culture’s changed

Back in my day, drinking iced coffee was considered a bit weird. Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Starbucks, it’s much more normal. It’s also generally accepted that coffee is quite good for you – which didn’t used to be the case.

They’re nice products

Not too sweet with a decent coffee hit. I could imagine drinking one of these rather than other soft drinks. Plus there’s a few to choose from.

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I’m sure that this Summer I’ll see more and more people walking around the streets of London with their Jimmy’s Iced Coffee!

Drink and snack innovations that blur boundaries – intriguing but a tad confusing

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I blame the ‘cronut’, but in recent times I’ve noticed quite a few new products that bring together separate categories to create something new. Nowhere is this more evident than in the worlds of drinks and snacks.

Within drinks, there’s been quite a few examples of ‘speers’ (spirit and beer) and ‘spiders’ (spirit and cider).

1 Desperados

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This is what their website says

Desperados is the world’s first Tequila Flavoured Beer. A distinctive combination of full bodied lager with a kick of Tequila flavour. A light & refreshing taste profile balanced with spicy and lemony notes for sweetness’

Beer and Tequila – easy to understand, easy to imagine. Popular with youngsters, targeted at the party occasion, it’s been an international success. There’s also a mojito variant called Desperados Verde

2 Cubanisto

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A similar concept from AB Inbev, with rum replacing the tequila. According to their website

‘Cubanisto is a rum flavoured premium beer with a fresh taste of citrus, orange zest, lime and an aroma of caramelised cane sugar and treacle.’

Again targeted at younger drinkers, it comes in bottle with a UV-light sensitive coating designed for night time drinking

3 Magners with Irish Whiskey

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Cider has grown massively in recent years with a lot of the new interest driven by Magners. I was particularly intrigued to see Magners with Irish whiskey. Clearly, the Irishness of the brand makes this a natural combination.

4 Orwell’s Amaretto Cider

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Joining the ‘spider’ party, here’s an interesting concoction. Described as

a refreshing blend of amaretto notes and a fruity hint of cherry paired with a crisp cider apple background’

Not convinced? Neither am I

5 Pimm’s Cider Cup

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However, this sounds much more interesting – English cider, flavoured with Pimms – with a hint of strawberry and cucumber in a ready to drink format. Perfect for the bbq season. Will add this to my shopping list if the weather continues to improve.

6 Walkers Crispy Crackers

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Moving away from drinks, let’s explore snacks. The most interesting hybrid category I’ve come across is crispy crackers or cracker crisps

It’s another attempt to make salty snacks healthier, they’re lighter than crisps and oven baked. Walkers is a mega brand, they know their flavours and they’ve got Gary Lineker, so am sure it will be a big hit

7 Jacobs Cracker Crisps

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Interestingly, Jacobs are addressing the same opportunity as Walkers but from a completely opposite direction, calling them ‘Cracker Crisps’. Who will be the winner? I guess there’s room for both.

Learning to Love Constraints

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I’m loving Adam Morgan’s latest book – ‘A Beautiful Constraint’. I’ve enjoyed all his books and this one’s a cracker. It feels like the right book at the time.

We’re living in times of constraint and austerity. Few businesses or economies are doing particularly well nowadays and we’re all being asked to do more with less.

What this book does is recognize and indeed embrace this reality, arguing that constraint is something we should see as a stimulus for inventiveness rather than something we should complain about.

It’s full of inspirational examples of where people have turned constraint into innovative solutions. There’s also lots of practical advice on both the mindset shift you need to undertake as well as tools and techniques you can use to embrace your constraint and thrive within it.

Highly recommended