Posts tagged ‘Sweden’


Stefan Engeseth’s next book, Sharkonomics: in business, what can we learn from sharks and their survival?

22.02.2012

When I talked about Nicholas Ind’s book, Meaning at Work, a few weeks ago, I said there were two titles that I wanted to mention.
   The second is by my friend Stefan Engeseth, who has followed up some very innovative titles—Detective Marketing, One and The Fall of PR and the Rise of Advertising—with Sharkonomics.
   The premise is simple: how have sharks survived millions of years, and can we learn any lessons from them for business?
   I’ve been involved with Sharkonomics since Stefan pitched the idea, and I’ve had word of him heading down to South Africa to dive with the beasts.
   I’ve dived with them, too, many years ago, except mine weren’t as treacherous as the ones he confronted.
   A few of us, in endorsing his book, couldn’t help but use a bunch of shark puns. Don’t let them put you off.
   He wants to get further word out and the first 100 people to do so will get the book for free (details here). You can read a brief summary about it here. It’s published by Marshall Cavendish, the people who published One. Also head to Sharkonomics’ Facebook page—there’ll be more information on the upcoming launches and some of the great ideas Stefan has planned for them.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, marketing, Sweden | 3 Comments »


Endgame: Saab files for bankruptcy

19.12.2011

If you’re a car nut, then you won’t be mourning, too much, the passing of former Czech president Vaclev Hável. Or, for that matter, Kim Jong Il. It’s Saab that has finally died as it files for bankruptcy after GM, which still licenses key technologies to the Swedish firm, vetoed its sale to Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.
   GM has a JV with SAIC, the Shanghai automaker, and believes that if those technologies were to find their way into the hands of a small upstart Chinese rival, it wouldn’t be to its advantage. Saab, which had been teetering on collapse since March, when it first stopped production, decided to call in the receivers today.
   GM had issued a statement at the weekend, saying, ‘Saab’s various new alternative proposals are not meaningfully different from what was originally proposed to General Motors and rejected … Each proposal results either directly or indirectly in the transfer of control and/or ownership of the company in a manner that would be detrimental to GM and it shareholders. As such, GM cannot support any of these proposed alternatives.’
   Swedish Automobile, the parent company of Saab, responded, ‘After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded.
   ‘The Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors.’
   GM, in the two decades in which it owned Saab, failed to turn a profit with the brand. However, its parting gift, the new 9-5 saloon, was heralded by some fans as a return to form for the company. Hopes were high for it, and the 9-4X crossover, helping Saab back into a position of strength.
   It’s easy to do a post mortem now, but the failure could be levelled at GM’s misunderstanding of the Saab brand. It may have been sensible to shift Saab models on to Opel platforms for economies of scale, but, in doing so, the cars lost some of their character. The lowest point was when GM created a rebodied Subaru Impreza and called it the Saab 9-2X, which fooled few buyers—one has to remember that Saab buyers tended to be well educated. Saab never fitted well in a business which targeted the mainstream: its own cars were always bought by people who enjoyed their quirkiness and the fact they did not follow convention.
   GM only understood this when it was far too late, as the last two models demonstrated.
   When GM itself had to file for bankruptcy protection in the US in the late 2000s, Saab, Pontiac, and Saturn were the victims.
   When Saab was sold to Spyker, its boss Victor Muller invested heavily into the business to try to turn it around—but he, and other investors, would have lost tremendously today. Saab fans will likely remember Muller favourably—after all, he put his own money into the business and shared his supporters’ passion—but in a world where break-even points are at hundreds of thousands of units, Saab’s 30,000 in 2010 were never going to be enough. MG Rover Ltd. collapsed with 2004 sales of 115,000 in 2005.
   As hindsight is 20-20, Saab and Youngman might be accused of wishful thinking, believing it to be unencumbered by GM’s IP rights. However, the American business held the right of revocation over key licences that make up Saab’s 9-3, 9-4X and 9-5 models.
   It’s not the first time intellectual property has got in the way of car businesses. One of the most famous examples was BMW arranging with Rolls-Royce trade mark owner Vickers plc to license the brand for motor cars, as Volkswagen negotiated to buy the Rolls-Royce Motors business. And all Volkswagen really had to do to find this out was visit the Rolls-Royce website home page at the time: right at the bottom, stated clearly, was the message that the Rolls-Royce brand was licensed from Vickers plc.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, cars, China, design, marketing, Sweden, USA | 3 Comments »


Panos Emporio: dare to be human

10.10.2011

Panos Emporio

We weren’t responsible for the layout or photography, but our contribution here is in the tagline, ‘Dare to be human’.
   In my 12-year friendship with Panos Papadopoulos, the designer behind Swedish swimwear (and now clothing) label Panos Emporio, we’ve often worked on marketing tasks. The most recent one: come up with a tagline that encompasses the Panos Emporio brand.
   The term ‘Dare to be human’ has emerged elsewhere (as I discovered after coming up with it), though to my knowledge not in this industry or as a tagline, and since the campaign is largely focused on Scandinavia, it doesn’t appear to have any conflict.
   The story is fairly simple: mixing the vision of the head of the company with the accurate external perceptions, and coming up with something that all audiences can agree on.
   We had done some exploratory work on the philosophy of Panos Emporio earlier in the year and this was an extension of that.
   Our brand research has usually shown that an accurate tagline is more effective, in communicating a brand internally and externally, than any mission statement, and one that can serve a company in the long term is better still.
   Panos’s thoughts were that he liked to push the envelope when it came to his swimwear designs—that much is a given, and accepted by his customers—and his use of PR in Sweden over the years suggested as much. Where we align even more is our shared belief in humanitarianism, and the idea that good people can become anything they wish, and should have the opportunity to do so. Over the years we’ve discussed some great programmes that can help young people, and trying to cement these ideas, and many other ideas of things we’d like to do to advance our planet. If you look back across the 25 years of the label, Panos Emporio was often pioneering in its designs and publicity programmes, often shocking the sector, and earning Panos a celebrity status (including an episode of the Swedish version of Secret Millionaire).
   External audiences will always come back to us to tell us the comfort in Panos’s designs first, followed by their appreciation of the designs themselves, so there was an intersection with the “human” aspect here. It was taking that with humanitarianism and social responsibility, and blending it with the envelope-pushing.
   ‘Dare to be different’ is trite, so it really was down to changing the last word. (I am simplifying the process because there were many others that were rejected.) It tested well, and the first ad with the new tagline will break this quarter.
   I hope it’ll stay with the firm for many years to come. I think it encompasses everything Panos tries to say with his work.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, marketing, New Zealand, social responsibility, Sweden | No Comments »


Saab to get €245 million if Pang Da and Youngman deal approved

04.07.2011

Today, from Saab:

Swedish Automobile N.V. (SWAN) and Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) today announced the signing of final agreements with Pang Da Automobile Trade Co., Ltd. (Pang Da) and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co., Ltd. (Youngman), thereby converting the non-binding memorandum of understanding relating to the equity investment of Pang Da and Youngman …

The amount of the investment is €245 million, which amounts to this, according to Saab (some proofreading changes by me):

The agreements allow for the return of Mr Vladimir Antonov as a shareholder–financier of SWAN and Saab Automobile which the parties expect as soon as the parties at interest have cleared him. The NPJV will be 50 per cent owned by Saab Automobile and 50 per cent by Youngman Passenger Car, and forms the foundation for an expansion of the Saab product portfolio with three models which, until now, did not form part of Saab Automobile’s current and future product portfolio. As such the NPJV will focus on developing three completely new Saab vehicles: the Saab 9-1, Saab 9-6X and Saab 9-7.

   No doubt there will be existing technology in the three cars, and they should go down terrifically in China. And if it all goes well, this means that Saab won’t follow MG Rover down the gurgler, despite having been unable to pay wages a few weeks ago.
   But €245 million isn’t that much in today’s world, especially since Saab can’t be breaking even at its present capacity.
   I don’t want to see Saab disappear. It may have been the choice of TV villains (Leslie Grantham in both The Paradise Club and 99–1 comes to mind) as well as one or two real-life ones I can think of, but it’s a storied brand and it’s made good cars over the years. And a mate of mine has a 900, too.
   Sweden hasn’t spent all these years bagging the brand, either—it was effectively stripped of its Saab-ness while under General Motors.
   Let’s hope the company can get things right with the Chinese equity stake, which hopefully will provide more confidence. It’ll open up distribution in China, providing the government agencies agree, where a foreign brand like Saab would go down immensely well, and just at the right time. Good timing was not something that MG Rover was blessed with, regardless of the actions of the Phoenix Four.
   The discerning Chinese buyer is emerging on the mainland, and they don’t necessarily want the flash of the Mercedes-Benz. A more subtle brand might work there, and Saab actually fits the bill.
   The 9-7, I assume, is a large car, and Youngman’s Pang Qingnian hints that not only will China get this model, but the US as well.
   Good luck to the parties on this one—here’s hoping the worst is over.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, cars, China, culture, design, marketing, Sweden | No Comments »


Why do the major parties insist on holding us back?

04.07.2011

In 2002, I did something really stupid. I bought a brand-new, 750 Mbyte Zip drive.
   After all, I had had three years of use out of my 100 Mbyte one, and since 750s looked like the way of the future, I had one installed.
   I can still count the number of times I used it on one hand, because CD-ROMs became common currency and replaced the Zips.
   So when I see we’re building more roads, it reminds me of the Zip drive. Investing in a 20th-century technology in the 21st century.
   When, in fact, we can grow a city and a country more effectively by ensuring its technology is up to speed with the rest of the world.
   If we’re going to attract the best and brightest minds to our shores—and many of them are in the IT world, and software is a frictionless export that overcomes the tyranny of distance—we need to have an infrastructure that isn’t stuck in the previous century, either.
   A forward-looking technological investment for better internet speeds or a real wifi network is better value—and potentially generates more jobs for this nation.
   Which makes me wonder just how clued up the major parties are in this year’s General Election.
   The disappointment I’ve seen in business-damaging legislation, from the Copyright Act to what potentially exists in the TPPA, suggests that neither major party understands what it takes to grow business sustainably in this nation.
   And now to see a sudden change of heart from certain members of the government and the Opposition when the UN has published a report calling internet disconnection a violation of human rights shows they never understood the law in the first place.
   From Ars Technica (emphasis added):

Michael Geist notes that on Friday, Sweden made remarks at the UN Human Rights Council that endorsed many of the report’s findings, including the criticism of “three strikes” rules. The statement was signed by 40 other nations, including the United States and Canada. The United Kingdom and France, two nations that have enacted “three strikes” regimes, did not sign the statement.
   “All users should have greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services,” the statement said, adding that “cutting off users from access to the Internet is generally not a proportionate sanction.” It also called network neutrality and Internet openness “important objectives.”
   Interestingly, the report is signed by New Zealand, which enacted legislation in April that sets up a special Copyright Tribunal for expediting file-sharing cases. The penalties available to the New Zealand government include Internet disconnections of up to six months.

   That’s pretty worrying, when lawmakers don’t understand law. Would you have a mechanic who didn’t understand the mechanics of your car? A dentist who didn’t understand teeth? Or, for that matter, political party leaders whose opinion of their nation is so low that they might consider locking their nation in to backward industries?
   That doesn’t sound like understanding New Zealand, and its ingenuity and pride, to me.
   At least I learned from my Zip drive moment. You do when you spend your own money, outside the political world.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »


Stefan Engeseth hits 1,000 posts on Detective Marketing blog

21.04.2011

Stefan Engeseth and Jack Yan
Martin Lindeskog

Congratulations to my good friend Stefan Engeseth on reaching 1,000 posts on his blog today!
   It’s even more of a milestone when you realize Stefan is not blogging in his native tongue. Add to that the fact that he suffers from dyslexia.
   But we follow his blog because we admire several qualities about him: his willingness to examine new ideas; his open-mindedness; and his love of learning, and sharing that knowledge with us all.
   You can add one more in my case: because he’s one of my closest friends and one of the most decent and generous human beings I have ever met.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, internet, leadership, marketing, publishing, Sweden | 4 Comments »


Volvo unveils its China strategy

26.02.2011

Volvo press conference

Volvo has announced that it will build a plant in China, and seeks approval for a second, in what it calls its second home market.
   It was inevitable, though for the long-term survival of the brand, it’s not a bad idea.
   Through Geely’s acquisition, it can potentially leapfrog other foreign car brands inside China by having more than a domestic partner: a domestic owner.
   There won’t be much toing and froing as Geely can call the shots with Communist Party authorities.
   The company already has a technology centre in Shanghai to deal with design, purchasing and manufacturing decisions.
   The new Chengdu plant, says Volvo, will only build Volvo cars—there will be no Geelys going through there.
   Volvo also says it will not affect jobs in Europe, which can be believed at this stage: the plant should be sufficient to deal with growth in China and the eastern hemisphere, where Volvo could be a lot stronger.
   While Volvophiles won’t be upset about most of the developments above, there will be one that will concern them.
   The company says that Volvo Car China’s new-product development will be done in Shanghai, not Göteborg. Göteborg will take the lead on hybrid and electric cars globally.
   Given the volumes involved—Volvo is targeting 200,000 cars per annum by 2015 in China—I’m not sure if it means that China will get its own range of cars. The likely scenario is that there will be a single, global range at these numbers.
   So how will the balance of global Volvo NPD be shared between Göteborg and Shanghai?
   Volvo suggests that HQ remains in Sweden on one hand, but, according to Freeman Shen, senior vice-president and chairman of Volvo Cars China Operations, says, ‘The Volvo Car China Technology Centre in Shanghai will develop into a complete product development organization on an international level. It will have the competence and capacity to work together with the HQ in Sweden, participating in Volvo Car Corporation’s work process for developing entirely new models,’ says Freeman Shen.
   I’m not criticizing Geely’s competences because if you look at its latest models, the company has certainly come a long way. Chinese designers, if nothing else, are fast learners, and knock-offs are becoming things of the past if 2010’s new models are anything to go by.
   And as a Swede is heading over to China to help set up the plant, one envisages that similar training in the Volvo design and creative process will be in the offing.
   Otherwise, there won’t be much separating Volvos from other car lines with the exception of a grille with a diagonal bar.
   But the press conference still leaves questions unanswered about how the NPD process will work.
   Nevertheless, allowing Volvo to pursue innovation is good news. Ford permitted it to happen but so much platform development was done elsewhere. Volvo remained in charge of global safety for Ford models, and gave the old S80 platform to a variety of cars, including the current and previous Taurus.
   The difference is, the parent company’s platforms weren’t half bad to begin with. I’m not so sure about Geely’s.
   I do, however, like the idea of an innovative, world-first Volvo that can get its new developments in safety and alternative energies out to the market before the competition. No more will the firsts be moderated by Dearborn.
   Innovation has not deserted the company—it has announced a V60 diesel plug-in hybrid—but we will not know what the new Volvo will look like till a model, with no Ford heritage, surfaces in a few years. That will be an interesting development.
   Geely chairman Li Shufu says, ‘We continue to uphold our principle that Geely is Geely and Volvo is Volvo. A more globalized, more focused luxury brand will turn our vision of a growing and profitable Volvo Car Corporation into reality. The company will continue to contribute to the development of the global automotive industry by introducing world-first innovations that make an outstanding brand win in the market-place.’

That doesn’t really settle it though.
   I have some concerns with Mr Li’s market positioning, because there are Swedes, indeed many Europeans, who don’t see Volvo as a luxury brand.
   Thanks to Ford, Volvo was edged upmarket to avoid competition with its own models—but it means its market share at home has been severely reduced.
   Earlier this century, most Swedish taxicabs were Volvos—today Mercedes-Benz and Toyota serve a proportion of the local market as Volvo could not offer the smaller models it once did.
   And if its home market share continues to decline, never mind how China goes: Volvo will be increasingly inaccessible to first-time car buyers in Sweden. Its need, then, to retain brand values might be weakened.
   Speaking hypothetically, if these world-first innovations are created merely for luxury models, then how long will they take to get to the everyday market?
   I remember an era when Volvo didn’t skimp on safety and innovations for even its lowliest models. And Volvo-as-luxury seems to fly in the face of that.
   The reality is, if Volvo is going to find more volume in the orient, then the luxury positioning will be more dominant.
   It’s going to be easy to foresee Volvos going all over the east from the Chinese plant, to allow for greater profits. Renault and Peugeot are sourcing from plants in Korea and Malaysia to serve the eastern hemisphere, and as far afield as eastern Europe, at more reasonable prices. It would not be a bad idea for Volvo to follow suit: it’s not in the hallowed realms of BMW, and its pricing needs to reflect that.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, cars, China, culture, design, marketing, Sweden, technology | No Comments »


Stutterheim marks the Swedish mood

21.11.2010

Stutterheim Raincoats

Sent to me by Stefan Engeseth, Stutterheim Raincoats‘ website conveys a very Swedish feel, touching on one of the emotions we don’t always associate with Sweden: melancholy during the winter. The copy on the site even says, ‘Let’s embrace Swedish melancholy.’
   With emotive photographs and a very Swedish soundtrack, it helps create an atmosphere as well as differentiation for the brand.
   The website also stresses the made-in-Sweden aspect of the Stutterheim range, as well as its home in the town of Borås, well known for fashion design, textiles, and fashion manufacture.
   The country-of-origin aspect is important not just to the export markets (to whom the site must partly be aimed, given its use of English—although 90 per cent of Swedes speak the language) but to the domestic one. With the reforms of Moderaterna (conservatives) over the last half-decade, there has inevitably been more imports into the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if an increasing number of Swedes will now, specifically, seek out locally manufactured goods today as a reaction to the market-driven theories of Fredrik Reinfeldt and co.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, culture, marketing, politics, Sweden | 1 Comment »


An ideal surfing camera, and why we love the Saab 9-4X more

20.11.2010

My friend Gareth Rowson is now review editor for WideWorldMag.com (alongside his design practice). Here is his test of the waterproof Oregon Scientific ATC9K Action Camera, filmed while surfing at Vazon in Guernsey. I thought this was very nicely shot.

   Less well shot, but significant, is the official video from Saab USA about its new 9-4X crossover SUV, from the LA Auto Show. I spotted this on YouTube when I went to get Gareth’s video. So nice to see Saab confident and launching new models again—showing that it doesn’t always pay to be part of a larger corporation such as GM. Now part of the Netherlands’ Spyker, Saab seems to rediscovered some of its mojo—and despite the 9-4X not being built in Europe, the public seems to accept it more readily than the Subaru Impreza-based 9-2X and the GMT350-based 9-7X.
   Part of that is down to the 9-4X looking like a Saab and not a facelifted Subaru or Oldsmobile, but there’s probably more than that.

   The 9-4X is still based around a GM architecture—as is the large 9-5—so to call these signs of an Saab free from GM is not terribly fair. It’s even built at a GM plant in México—as the 9-7X was built at a GM plant in the US. You might even say that Saab’s products were beginning to come right under GM, even if it took them long enough—and “getting it right” was probably spurred on by crises, too.
   Our more ready acceptance of the 9-4X probably stems from three things: (a) the loyalty shown by Saab owners around the world when the brand was on its last legs under GM—demonstrating that there was far more life in the brand than the general public was prepared to admit; (b) a company with its back to the wall that was more ready to embrace decent marketing operations; and (c) its readiness to speak to its audiences through web videos and other media, something that it did not do well when it was part of GM. Being free of the negativity of GM doesn’t do the brand any harm, either.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, cars, internet, marketing, Sweden, USA | No Comments »


Volvo Cars, a unit of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

31.03.2010

I haven’t missed the sale of Volvo to Geely, but it wasn’t as momentous as the rebirth of Saab. We knew the deal was coming and the rest were formalities.
   The company has said there will be no Geelys badged as Volvos and vice versa. It recognizes the Volvo brand is too valuable to tinker with—something Ford did, too, even if it starved the company of smaller models that could have helped kept its market share strong in Sweden.
   Important for Geely is the innovative technology that Volvo possesses that could make the younger company a world-class player. It’s common knowledge that Volvo provided Ford with some of its better present platforms, and that as a centre of excellence, it worked on safety systems for all Ford units.
   Geely gets access to the lot, which improves its own product—while arguably helping Volvo realize economies of scale in the Red Chinese market. It only sells a seventh of what Audi does in the growing market, and Geely could instantly help improve that.
   The deal makes sense. One only needs to take a look at how quickly Geely has grown in China—without pirating others’ designs—to know that it’s not in the business of asset-stripping or ripping off its Swedish unit. Of the Chinese firms, it’s operated far more ethically than, say, BYD, with its too-close-to-Toyota designs.
   And will we see Geely outside China? You bet we will—but only when the cars are up to snuff. If Ford can build a Taurus on a Volvo S80 platform, then look out for world-class small- to mid-sized Geelys hitting international markets on future Volvo ones.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, cars, China, design, marketing, Sweden, USA | 1 Comment »