Posts tagged ‘competition’


When it comes to convention centres, it pays to think ahead

13.05.2013

The New Zealand International Convention Centre has been announced in Auckland. In 2010, my campaign team proposed a convention centre for Miramar Wharf, which would include a technology complex, in a format that could have been licensed to other countries, earning royalties for the Wellington business that came up with the idea. The location was to address concerns from the hospitality sector about taking business away from the centre city, and the proximity to the airport could have helped some of our visitors. (This is a matter of record and was briefly covered by The Dominion Post.)
   I felt that the project fitted in with our city’s image. I was drawn to the idea of royalty incomes for a New Zealand business, which would have showed that Kiwi ingenuity and intellectual property could be exported in a frictionless fashion. There was also a concern that we could not attract international conventions here, even in the late 2000s, and this complex could have solved it. I had been to enough conventions and conferences overseas to have seen first-hand the sort of numbers involved—and how we needed something ourselves. It was to preempt similar moves by other cities, long before the Sky City deal was announced.
   I know there are issues with this—including whether residents would want a complex there, and there would be a great need to consult with the public first. Nonetheless, it was worth raising it, and I’m grateful that it received a tiny bit of coverage, so you know I’m not engaging in revisionism today.
   With hindsight, it would have respected the memorandum issued by WCC in the 1990s that a casino was not desirable for our city. I note that at the mayoral debate for the hospitality sector in 2010, opinions on a casino were divided roughly 50–50.
   The Dominion Post is covering this topic today, and it highlights to me that this city has been caught on the back foot again.
   Wellington still strikes me as a more desirable location, with Auckland and Queenstown, for instance, a stone’s throw via an air link. It’s the same with our airport. We have an opportunity to put ourselves on the map in the next few years, while Christchurch is still rebuilding, because they will come to threaten Wellington’s position as an innovative hub within the next decade. More importantly, we need to be positioning ourselves to a global audience, something that 20th-century political thinking still prevents us from doing.

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Posted in branding, business, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Apple’s brand evangelism can have a negative effect, providing an opportunity for rivals

01.04.2011

What a great post today from Eric Karjaluoto on his blog about Macs v. PCs.
   He outlines his gripes on a number of fields and doesn’t believe Apple holds a great advantage any more.
   I have to say I agree with him.
   On his Facebook, I wrote the following.

Well said, Eric.
   What has annoyed me for years is that whenever one of our PCs throws a wobbly, all the Mac evangelists swarm over my Tweet and say, ‘Buy a Mac,’ more quickly than you’d get a Sarah Palin endorsement at an American tea party rally.
   Yet whenever I complain about a Mac bug, the Mac evangelists are silent. Nowhere to be seen.
   I probably complain equally about the platforms relative to the amount of time I use on each, and the pattern above always holds true.
   The Mac brigade really has got to an extreme, hoodwinked by the marketing.
   Like you, in 1995 or thereabouts, I would swear black and blue about the superiority of the Mac. Not any more.
   Even as early as 2000 I began noticing the memory limits on Macs, on some programs where Windows could handle them better at the limit.
   In 2011 these two are as different as Buick and Chevrolet. I no longer care which is which, but the whole Mac evangelism is as annoying as catching a cab with a religious taxi driver who tries to convert you during the ride. If anything, the extreme Mac fans (not the everyday ones) are hurting their brand by coming across as tossers.
   All I can say is that the virus attacks on the Mac have been rare, but with the larger Windows’ user base, I’m not on hold to Apple Australia for two bloody hours because I haven’t been able to solve the problem myself. Do I save time using Macs? On the whole, probably not.

   I’m not saying Windows is superior. Like Eric, I have no real preference. They are tools, and as long as they get the job done, that’s OK by me. If they mess up, I feel I should complain—or at least record it so others who face the same issue can feel reassured they are not alone, and they might even be able to read of a resolution in the comments or a follow-up post.
   In part, that’s why I document my glitches here (the other part is catharsis). Many a time I have been able to go back to my blogs and repeat the instructions.
   But while most brands could do with a bit of evangelism, I have to say that the fairly unfounded evangelism by the extreme fans is annoying. That goes for any product or service, not just Apple.
   Mac users can justifiably claim superiority over the virus issue, but I don’t see a huge gap on other things any more.
   Brand evangelism is like any other type of endorsement: when it gets to an extreme, it has the opposite effect.
   In fact, the Apple name no longer has the halo effect it did for me in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
   While I had my tongue in my cheek for some of what I wrote on Eric’s Facebook, the analogies aren’t too far off.
   Yes, Mr Auckland Taxi Driver, it was annoying when you told me about the descriptions of heaven in the Koran for five minutes after my cab ride. I respect your religion, and I respect your holy book, but there’s a time to take a hint and let your passenger out of the car because, well, you’ve arrived at the destination. (It’s not restricted to Islam—a friend recently told me of her experience with a Christian taxi driver. I’m sure there are examples from every religion in the world.)
   Equally, the blanket ‘Buy a Mac’ is an unhelpful response to a complaint when I know full well the Mac has trouble with a similar issue.
   From a brand point-of-view, there’s not much Apple can do.
   It needs those big profits and premium pricing for the sake of its shareholders, and to maximize its return on investment. They are more stylish machines on the whole. And we are almost conditioned to pay a little more for something smart-looking, and to heck with whatever’s on the inside.
   For years, it’s relied on snobbery—which was, as I said, once justified. And the failure of growing the Mac line under John Sculley is still fresh in the leadership’s mind. Apple is convinced that the current path is the right path for its brand.
   And while it’s relied on snobbery, none of its communications are really that snobby, at least down here. In fact, they are quite down-to-earth and cleverly done. Apple just manages to elicit that emotion.
   The key to letting folks know the truth is simply consumer awareness and education—and, on that note, some of the Windows-based manufacturers are doing a less convincing job. They only have themselves to blame.
   The landscape has changed so that we peasants now can buy things that look reasonably cool and perform as well.
   Yet so few have managed to be consistent enough in their branding and marketing to say, ‘We chart our own path, and our machines are excellent.’
   It sounds like a huge opportunity to me, especially if the evangelists’ din annoys.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing, technology, USA | 6 Comments »


The rise of the city brand

17.03.2010

I don’t have the other writers’ permission to show their side of this Facebook dialogue, but we had been chatting about growing the creative clusters here in Wellington as one of my mayoral policies.
   I wrote:

Mostly by focusing on growing creative clusters and taking a bigger slice of the cake. So it is not from technocratic ideas or the notion that we are liberating more of the economy, but by growing entrepreneurship. The city will take the most socially responsible, entrepreneurial start-ups and act as an agent to grow them (with an agreement that they remain in Wellington, of course) and create the capital flows to get them funded. I realize there is Grow Wellington already, but their ambit will be shifted.
   So, it’s economic growth from the bottom–up.

Then (italics added for this post):

The clusters have naturally formed but they can get so much stronger. If the city is being them, then there is no reason Wellington cannot become internationally known for them. I think in this last week I have shown that borders mean very little to me, and anyone who wants to be mayor in the 2010s needs to have a similar mindset. We are not competing just for national resources, but global ones; and by being part of the global community, we might start bridging more communities and getting some greater global understanding. The nation–state as it was understood in the 20th century is dying as a concept, and governments have only themselves to blame. Things are shifting to the individual–community level, and you are right, real things happen when it is people acting at the coal face. Those who distance themselves will not be equipped for this century.

   I wish I could claim I had some vision of the death of the nation–state years ago, but I hadn’t. It was something that dawned on me fairly recently, given the scepticism many people (not just in New Zealand) are having toward their national governments. There are many factors, from governmental misbehaviour to the simple fact of a very divergent population, but very importantly we have the rise of technologies that give rise to people power. We want to know that political leaders are one with the public, prepared to do their bidding.
   People are reclaiming their voices, prepared to tell those in authority what they think. Even without the authority, a few of you have told me what you think—good and bad. That’s the way it should be in a democracy—and if we truly believe people are equal. Finally, we are organizing ourselves into active groups more rapidly than before.
   Nation brands are harder to pull off because some marketers are failing to grasp the overall philosophy underlying their people. In New Zealand, we might accept the “100 per cent pure” ideal of our destination-branding campaign, but surely being a New Zealander is something far less clear—is the Kiwi spirit not in independence, innovation, team spirit and, once that team is formed, taking a punt? Very seldom do we see such unified efforts as the successful ‘Incredible India’, which must have changed perceptions of that Asian country more effectively than any nation branding campaign from the continent. It is, however, easier to understand the concept behind a city, and to gain agreement on its meaning.
   The other thing that is emerging in the 2010s is the rise of one-to-one communications across the planet. We might argue we have had this since the internet first dawned, and we can even trace this back to the first satellite TV links, but this is the decade that these ideas are mainstreaming and available to more people than ever before. Twitter is a wonderful example of the awareness of individuals and the death of national borders (which is why it is feared by certain dictatorial rĂ©gimes): suddenly we are in a community together, fighting everything from copyright law to commemorating the death of a woman during the Iranian election’s bloody aftermath.
   I am reminded of a seminal moment on the Phil Donahue show, where he linked his 1980s, Cold War-era audience via satellite with a similar group in the USSR, hosted by Vladimir Posner. There was a tense, icy moment till one of the Russians stated that if he could reach out across the airwaves and give his American counterpart a hug, he would. Humanity came through.
   Anti-Americanism is a very interesting concept, because the American national image has leaned regularly toward the negative. No more so than during the Cold War, in the USSR. Certain American corporations and lobby groups have a lot to answer for, so you don’t even need to travel back in time to find that hatred. How many times have we heard during the 2000–8 period, outside the United States, ‘I don’t mind the Americans, but I hate Bush’?
   I get plenty of strange looks for my preferring the -ize ending, being told that it was ‘American’ and, therefore, inferior and unsuitable for consumption in New Zealand. I simply point them to the authority I trained with in my work: the Concise Oxford Dictionary. For as long as I can remember, -ize is English and the first variant in that publication. My father’s 1950s’ edition and my 1989 one agree on this point. The use of -ise is French, and it only began coming in to English as a knee-jerk reaction against ‘American English’. But the “wisdom” prevails: if the Yanks (a term that some of my American friends find humorous, since in the US it only applies to a certain part of the population) use it, it must be bad. Look at the Ford Taurus.
   It is a trivial thing to argue about, but it is an example of how silly things get. I get dissed while half the population believe their Microsoft Word default spellcheck and write jewelry. By all means, oppose the technocratic abuse of workers wherever it comes from; oppose those lobby groups trying to wreak havoc on our private lives. If they happen to be in the US, direct your wrath at those groups via email or whatever means you have. On those areas the nation–state is not dead yet—not when we need central governments to safeguard our rights. Or when we need someone to root for in a football match. But for everyday matters, being against any one nation—and I have been accused of Japan-bashing (which, incidentally, I deny)—is futile, because we are now so much more aware of how much individuals in other countries are like us, thanks to all these social media.
   Once we start reducing the arguments down to individuals and groups, we begin taking the nation brand out of it. We begin liaising as a global community. For all the hard times I give Facebook, it has probably done more to give us a glimpse in to foreign countries as “just another place my friend lives in” than any travel show on TV. We begin understanding theirs are lives just like our own. We realize that not all Japanese eat whale meat or even care about it. We realize that many Iranians do not believe that their government has a mandate to govern. We realize some Sri Lankans believe their recent election was unfair. (It is, for instance, hard to imagine things getting more personal than when an arrested opposition leader’s daughter starts blogging.) When we reach out, we reach out to people, not to countries.
   Where is, then, our pride about where we live? I argue—as this whole ‘Wellywood’ sign dĂ©bĂącle has shown—that it resides at the city level. We have a far more homogeneous idea of what our cities stand for, and as we come together and choose to live in any one place, we take into our regard what we believe that city’s assets and image to be. Over time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. New Wellingtonians choose to make this their home because they see it either as the most creative city in the nation or they are fed up with the excesses of a more northern location. It is, as two of my friends who have left their Auckland home this year put it, ‘more cerebral’. While there have been city campaigns that have been botched—‘I Am Dunedin’ was met by plenty of criticism by Dunedinites—there is at least some understanding among citizens, who feel they need no slogan to unite them. (In Wellington, who has uttered ‘Absolutely positively’ in recent years?)
   So the 2010s are the time of city brands. At Medinge, my friend and colleague Philippe Mihailovich stressed that while ‘Made in China’ was naff, ‘Made in Shanghai’ had cachet. Over the weekend, I joked with one friend over poor French workmanship on the CitroĂ«n SM—though ‘Made in Paris’ would probably do quite well for fashion and fragrance (Philippe has more on this, too). Wellington deserves to be alongside the great cities of this world if we can show technological and creative leadership—and we get willing leadership prepared to understand just how we compare and compete at a global level. We already have the unity as we all understand who we are; we now need the voice.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, India, internet, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | 5 Comments »