Me and my Cargobike – How to make people smile in an urban environment

I have a confession to make, I do not own a car and have not done so for about 2 years now… I seldom need one and when I do, I can go rent one or get a cab…  Well I live downtown Malmö smack in the middle so to say and parking is about as valuable as gold.

Earlier I had a company car based on the fact that I drove approx 40.000 km per year for work, so I did not really felt like to be sitting in a car while not working… I got notice 2009 that I would loose my job and decided that I do not really have a need for a car and bought a Cargobike to transport the kids to the beach, playground or just for an excursion and last but not least the weekly shopping for groceries…

It looks like this in general

and like this while fully loaded ;D

or like this with kids in it

Out of an environmental perspective I am a truly good citizen and I never drive to shop or transport things that weighs below 80kg or 120x200cm in size… and if used by many more people here in Malmö I am pretty sure it will make us meet the CO2-emisson demands for the future ;D and we will be way more fit with less cases of obesity, bad legs and backs… 😀

If you look at it I have saved a serious amount of carbon dioxide from our precious environment and gotten some serious exercising along the last 2 years due to the fact that 2 kids and 15 m/s wind in the front of the box is challenging I can tell you…

It is a fabulous way to see your city and great to transport tired kids… or as above a bed that I got from @achaido for free if I transported it out of his apartment… He was a bit taken aback when I came by bike to fetch a 120x200cm bed… and quite a lot of people went staring at me while loading it… Which leads me to a the amusement part of the blog…

This bike and my kids have been in front of a tremendous amount of cameras the last 2 years… tourist tend to see us as a very curious element of the odd swedish traditions and just last week I got stopped by a group of 10 Italians here in Malmö that wanted to know all about the bike, why I choose such an odd bike and then we just heard tschik tschik tschik from both their cameras and 4 couples from Japan that also asked questions about it…

Or when local Evening Tabloid stopped us at the beach and wanted to take pictures of us in it… Very often I get stopped on town by locals also that are curious about it, how it works, why, how expensive etc and I have sent many prospective buyers to the shop I bought it in… and it is getting more common here in Malmö now… but back in 2009 it was rare and everyone was staring at us…

In a marketing perspective it is a great tool since it still draws attention and the last month I have seen a ecological dog food store use one of these bikes as a promotion vehicle for the their natural/ecological food. This do make good sense since a bike is by definition an example of clean air, exercise, healthy living. The bike trend is catching on here in Malmö since our municipality owned parking garage operator lends bikes to people who choose to park their cars instead of driving around in the city. Many hotels lend bikes to their guests and Malmö is a great town to ride a bike in… large enough to host many different stores and restaurants and small enough that you can ride a bike anywhere in 20 minutes.

So if you want to be  a good world citizen that like the outdoor and to keep it nice and clean for coming generations… follow my lead ;D

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Why would you care for your employees – Employer Branding for Real!

There is a lot of buzz around employer branding these days and it is an area that I personally judge to be probably one of the most important topics for a CEO to constantly revise based the fact that there is one no more important issue than to keep the talents and plan on how to attract new. As for the lip service made about how the employees are the biggest asset to our company, it is in fact that. It is far more important than anything else in a company, it is them that make or break a company. This goes for any company to even if the demise of a large international one might take a very long time but bad management of the employees will break it at one time or another.

Employer Branding so far has mostly shown in road shows at universities, employment fairs etc, at least here in Sweden IMHO and a lot of talk in the consulting community but there are being steps taken. I saw a good start of portal yesterday from Malmö Stad shown to me by one of my friends at twitter @iJen_f and there are more and more companies that are moving in the right direction, generally large international ones mostly so far to my knowledge.

What is my take on Employer Branding except from my earlier blog posts on how to think while recruiting and on how to compensate plus how to manage your recruitment agency.

We start with the simple stuff in the list… the things that can be handled with relative ease and that will give goodwill for being fixed:

  • The corporate handbook for employees – make it as short and sweet as possible, make sure that it is read by employees from all over your organization to make sure it is understandable… I have received “welcome kits” that are so over the top that you wonder if you went down the rabbit hole after working for a period of time in the company.
  • Set up a truly good intranet with easy access routes to important stuff like HR, Employer specific info like your salary and vacation info, employment time, your latest yearly review, your and career plan, company-wide info, wikis, process and protocols that are mandatory to have read and signed off, perks and benefits like gyms, vacation homes, car pools etc.  This might seem to be a very non-make or break thing but as an employee it is one of the most annoying things in the world to not find the correct info or get access to your own data.
  • If you need to have a time-tracking system for your employees, make sure they are the ones that are part of the review-board for what system to buy, because they are the ones who will use it… while working for GE I had TWO systems to do my time-sheet in and both were hopeless to use spent hours every week to fill it out…

Now for the a bit harder stuff in my list, it is hard because it put serious demands on both Top Management/Board of Directors and the HR-department and it will put a very specific focus on the corporate culture, do you really want to be a thought-leading, employee centric company?

  • Train and make sure that your managers have an ethical and empathic point-of-view on their teams and keep track of it with a company wide audit of employee satisfaction that encourage honesty and that it would be a part of the management bonus to ensure a constant flow of feedback to make sure that numbers are constantly growing. I.e. make sure that your managers are on their toes. Also be vigilant in ensuring that managers do not go after their teams if rated poorly. People as a group seldom rate some one poorly without a reason. The grade is usually earned. Ericsson was very good at this while I was working for them in the early 2000. GE on the other hand were terrible at this…
  • Make it clear where HR stands in the organisation, many companies have not made this clear for themselves which gives employees a fair distrust of the HR-department when it comes to report mis-management and general problems that you cannot discuss with your manager if he/she is the problem. This I have seen both great and horrific examples on over the years.
  • Employer Branding and Corporate Culture is like all marketing and image building activities, you can wish all that you want about Image, perceived Position, Levels of Satisfaction and Employee Loyalty if you do not truly show that you care about your employees as a valuable member of the company you will never succeed in achieving your objectives. To this slightly disturbing statement comes the fact it will take quite a long time to change the employees perception… The bigger the company the longer the time to change…
  • All activities on the side of marketing like having a true CSR-agenda, not a just a strategy, will definitely boost morale within the company, the possibility to volunteer to help out in programs both with in the community and internationally bring engagement. The list can be made long but this is just a taste of it.

There are many steps to take in efficient employer branding for the future, many not simple because all your actions as a CEO/Board Member will be taken as a rule of thumb for the rest of the organization… No matter what you preach, they will not do what you say but what you do… 

So Employer Branding is not something that is to be just delegated to the HR-department to be run as just another program to boost morale and fix the efficiency problem…

Be honest do good shit!

Since my newest source of inspiration are discussions on twitter paired with horrendous advertising on the TV, I have a new subject that ties in to my earlier posts about how to do good marketing,  research and general customer understanding. This one I dedicate to a discussion with @heidiupdate and a few more sources of inspiration like @motvals and @dreadnallen…

The title of this post comes from Joakim Jardenberg (@jocke), who I link to in the blogroll, and it is his motto… It can be applied to many different areas in life and business but in Marketing it really really should be contemplated every day.

There is a long-standing statement in marketing that you can create a need for a product or service and that is true and it is being done every day in many different forms and shapes.

Rhetoric, Marketing and PR are immensely powerful and you as a professional should always have a moment of contemplation, Am I honest, do I do good shit? Because at times you do bad shit… Hitlers speech writers, Nike/Converse plants in south-east asia as for an example or more on a common arena a lot of  product development the marketing communication and promotion.

I have been part of launching a very large number of products and services in the past 20+ years of my career and it is a precious few that I can look back and say, they are good shit, bringing something good to the market and the persons that we are aiming to get buying it… Änglamark Ecological Tea that gave the tea farmers a possibility to make a decent living, 3G telephony that gave new possibilities for among deaf people to make video calls enabling sign language among some, Junibacken a   center in Stockholm based on Astrid Lindgrens and all other children writers. Those are things that I am proud of being involved in …

Launching a new formula of shampoo or a diet soda extra special is not really something good, it is not being honest and do good shit… Yes you can argue that someone must do it and yes it is making a living and you cannot be too proud, I know, been there, will be there again but I will always dedicate a part of my time to something that is being honest and do good shit, doing it pro bono!

In Sweden we now have a couple of examples that I will call not being honest, doing bad shit for an example a new chewing gum named Vigo that in three different formula claim that you will be more efficient, better endurance and better looking… Preposterous as one would think, they might get away with it out of a technical perspective based on the formulas. While reading into it you need to consume 4 chewing gums within 2 hours to reap the benefit of either the caffeine and ginseng. Beauty is based on vitamins that you either get out of your daily intake of food or food supplements if you are in need of them.

To develop a chewing gum and claim what they claim it brings is to play on people’s worries or lack of knowledge and charge good money… This bad shit, not being honest… this is what sully the advertising and marketing trade in the eyes of the rest of the world!

This is just one little example on when you do stuff that is soulless, detached and based on profit… The big one is Nike/Converse with their trade practice to produce their shoes in countries where there are rampant neglect for worker/human rights like Indonesia… That is seriously bad shit…

Make a ton of money, sell excellent product or just what people want but be honest and do good shit along the way… it is possible!

The Race for the Money and Audience in a Digital World

Traditional Advertising and Media have been declared dead for quite a while and that the web/social/mobile arena will draw all the money and all the users/readers/watchers from all other media groups… and eventually in a distant future that may be the case but so far both 2010 and 2011 the traditional media usage and ad spend has been pretty good in holding its own… If you look both in the US  and Sweden TV and other media groups has received a rather large proportion of the media spend and in Sweden for an example morning dailies is still the largest advertising medium, followed by internet and TV. Outdoor has been surging in virtually every country as far as I can find statistics and my prediction is that it will keep growing.

In my opinion TV and Outdoor will keep holding its own very well and I base that on one specific assumption. They are to be one of the few media groups that will have the possibility to deliver a large audience to large brands. Why is that then important? Well to be a big, generally well-known brand, you need to expose your message to large audiences and deliver it fast and easy-to-get messages. TV and Outdoor are perfect for that! In certain parts of the world like the nordic countries, japan and some more Dailies are strong carriers of advertising due to habits of reading that die very hard. We will see a different type of mediums like Tablets and similar devices but they will still be fed with the news from large publishers with titles like New York Times, The Guardian, Ashai Shimbun, Dagens Nyheter etc… just not necessary on printed paper. We did back in 1999 at Dagens Nyheter (big daily in Sweden) a study on how to deliver on digital paper and found the business model very attractive and highly possible to execute if we had access to just a digital carrier that were sturdy enough… it could easily compete and outperform printed paper and deliver very special qualities like video, targeted content and advertising etc.

Many persons in the advertising trade keep claiming that the old players will not be able to compete with the start-ups, the faster runners… but I think I will disagree to these opinions based on just the fact that you will not necessarily trust John Doe wanna-be Journalist… Trust come with longer term experiences… The big players will of course have to adapt to the fact that there are bloggers, specialists etc that will be faster, that will provide insights that a traditional journalist might not stand a chance to compete with but journalism as a trade will still be very important as being persons that are trained to try to find at least a reasonable truth and critically go through sources and facts… They will however need to cooperate with other people and trades in a different fashion for the future.

We will see many changes but no group will die and disintegrate if they adapt to the form their subscribers and users wishes to consume the content they produce. Content will still be king and most small players cannot compete with the big ones here… Niches will come and niches will disappear but the big content areas and the brands and their readers will hardly do so…

So the game is adaption to user behavior and their wished for ways of consuming the content… That is the one big prediction I think we can all settle for being the big thing for the future! Then advertising money will follow… that is a bet I would put money on…

Preserve your identity and customers – No group buying at my store!

After the first time I heard about Groupon I thought about the Swedish start-up back in 1999 – Letsbuyit.com… And it was not really a good memory since I tried them and was, how to put it kindly, not very satisfied… Group-buying has never really worked out in the past and now it might or might not… the long-run will tell… all is based on the business model, read the excellent piece in TechCrunch about how the different players could set their model and possibly fare…

But my primary concern is not with the business model per se but how you will kill your brand and earnings… Who can benefit from this business model with group buying while being a local business?

How do you preserve margins and build a loyal circle of repeat-buyers if you are a small shop och service business?

Because that is the key to survival both financially and brand wise…

You put an effort in delivering good customer value based on service, shopping /dining/event/learning/idea experience and delivery. To survive you really really need to focus on your closest customers who will in person or on-line from you. Loyalty Programs, Facebook, Websites and Blogs should be your primary arena paired with some local advertising and of course the most important! Word-of-mouth from your loyal customers… Those persons are the most valuable ones in your world and you should really put an effort to give them the extra value for money you can afford…

Group-buying services will not bring you any of this sad to say… you get the coupon-hunters, the deal eager beavers, the ones that do not care for anything but price… they might not even really be very interested in your offerings… And you will have blown the money on their services that you should have invested in your loyal customers…

So my very short and simple take on this is… unless you have stock that you need to get rid of quickly and do not really care about your margin… Do not go with Groupon or similar services…