Posts tagged ‘Sweden’


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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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


Metro gives thumbs-up to Stefan Engeseth’s Unplugged Speeches

21.03.2010

This is rather heartening to see, from the Metro freebie in Stockholm (the below is copied from the online edition):

Metro

   What’s in: Stefan Engeseth’s Unplugged Speeches series at the Regina Stockholms Operamathus (where yours truly gave the first edition).
   What’s out: the growing mounds of paper (rather appropriate in an eco-conscious nation).
   I hear his second edition, with Dr Farida Rasulzada, was a huge success as well. My wholehearted congratulations to Stefan for an excellent concept.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, marketing, media, Sweden | 1 Comment »


Trading identities in the personal branding space

05.03.2010

The day the current mayor, Kerry Prendergast, announced her intention to stand for a fourth term, I was asked by a few media colleagues what I thought. The wittiest reply I gave to Salient, as it was an email interview, and I seem to be cheekier in writing than I am in speaking. I won’t spoil it yet, but let’s just say one learns an awful lot from television.
   This morning was a very good start to the day, giving a guest lecture at my Alma Mater, Victoria University, thanks to my friend Helen Baxter, who has begun teaching there. In fact, I taught out of the same building in 2000 when the campus was shared with Massey University, and the A on the front was not mounted backwards (typography students must have taken note by now).
   One thing I hit upon, and I don’t think I have shared with readers, is the concept of personal branding taking on corporate behaviours. We know that corporations and countries have been swapping roles a bit in the 1990s (Wally Olins wrote a book on it, called Trading Identities), but I don’t think it has been properly addressed at the personal sphere (corrections welcome).
   We have corporations trying to look mean and responsive, and speak with a personal voice—the One principles that Stefan Engeseth has talked about, and the idea of one-to-one from Christian Grönroos. They are trying to look like individuals, so the person in charge of the Tweetstream is the “voice” of the organization.
   Meanwhile, people are becoming aware of branding themselves, of differentiating who they are, and finding the right things to align with in order to make themselves employable. Of course, such efforts must still remain authentic, as we can see through the spin, but it would not surprise me if the nascent ideas of personal branding in the 1990s become formalized in to whole courses on personal brand management.
   I refer not just to styling, of course, but making sure embarrassing stuff is taken off Facebook (I believe my words were along the lines of, ‘By all means, party and show you’re human. But photos of you doing a powerchuck: maybe not’), of figuring out what your vision is from a very early stage, of engaging with your audiences, and, if I may be so bold, living your brand as part of living your life.
   The cynic in me recognizes that last phrase sounds dodgy because it cheapens the whole experience of life into a brand event, which is not precisely what I mean. But it is important to have some idea of a personal direction in mind and doing things that are compatible with that. This is, in some respects, no different to some of the self-help claptrap out there, explained in corporate branding language as opposed to spiritual fulfilment.
   However, it’s not altogether a bad way to think. I’m willing to bet some of us have done exactly this, perhaps unconsciously or informally. We all have some purpose, some raison d’être, and whether we like thinking about it in branding terms or some other method is up to us. Brand, at least, provides a framework and some boxes to tick, and if they help people get a personal advantage and get the job of their dreams, then why not?
   Note to self: Keeley Hawes jokes work a lot better with heaps of Brits or Anglophiles in the room.

PS.: I got one post-lecture question, to which the answer is: yes, I am the guy opposing the liquor ban.—JY

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Posted in branding, business, humour, marketing, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, UK, Wellington | No Comments »


Saab promises new generation of cars will have original DNA

26.02.2010

Rumour has it that the new Saab—a small car (finally)—will resemble the ur-Saab, the 92. In fact, inside Saab, it has the codename 92.
   Where have I heard this one before? I know. Stefan Engeseth’s Detective Marketing, 2001 edition. And from what I understand, since in 1999 I could not read much Swedish, it featured in the original Swedish edition, too.
   While I am no fan of retro design, a modern one that has strong inspiration from Saab’s roots could go down well with the market—especially if the new 9-1 model had some advanced, non-fossil-fuel powertrains.
   A car tied to Saab’s roots as an airplane manufacturer could reinvigorate passion for the brand in the same way as the Jaguar mascot unveiling under John Egan in the 1980s. And new boss Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker, has wasted no time getting Saab loyalists excited about the brand again. He has not set his sights on brand-new customers: he wants the old Saab buyers back.
   While it might have Opel underpinnings, it at least gets Saab into the European premium compact car game, one which GM denied it, probably due to overlap with its mainstream brands. It was an opportunity missed as BMW, Audi and others broke in to the compact and supermini game.
   I know at least one Swede who finds Muller’s promises exciting, and I sincerely hope to be proven wrong when I expressed doubts about bringing a 40,000-sales-per-year company back from the brink. Below is the announcement of Spyker finalizing its purchase (via Detective Marketing).

   When he talks about ‘DNA’, Muller really means brand: it will rediscover and redefine that brand and its entrepreneurial spirit, using it to fuel the corporate culture, and having that drive product quality, R&D and other functions. If he succeeds in reaching his 100,000-per-year goal, then we can say that brand loyalty was a huge driver.
   His first announcement alone has been praised, Saab’s 100-day plan gives distributors and loyalists some certainty, and the folks in this video actually look enthused—already this is not like a tired, Rover-style attempt at getting the company back on its feet, even if the annual sales’ figures are far worse than what the English company had prior to its collapse.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, design, leadership, marketing, Sweden | No Comments »


Wellington wants free wifi

17.02.2010

While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
   And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
   We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
   Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
   Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
   When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
   I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
   As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
   Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
   As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
   After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
   So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
   You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
   And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
   As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
   While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
   And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
   I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
   In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

At the Sorbonne–CELSA
Cat Soubbotnik

Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

At Medinge Paris
Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

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Posted in branding, business, France, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »


Taxis signal how a local car industry is going

04.02.2010

When Fiat was in the poo, I remember heading in to Italy and the cabs were a mixture of German and French cars, with a few Italian ones. Generally, it was a reflection of the state of the local motor industry: cab drivers are, perhaps subconsciously, patriotic and quite traditional. If they reject the local product, then that means trouble. (Look at New York: Toyota Siennas and Ford Escapes, which were originally engineered by Mazda, have an ever-increasing share of the market; compare that to when Checkers and Big Four brands dominated.)
   During my first visit to Sweden, most cabbies drove Volvo S80s, S90s and 960s. A few went for Saab 9-5s. Now, the home brands share space with Toyota Priuses and Mercedes-Benz B-Klasses. Again, it’s a reflection of the state of the Swedish car industry, with its American owners insisting Volvo and Saab sell large cars that did not conflict with their offerings from their sister Opel and Ford brands. The consequence is that as the world moved to small cars, Volvo and Saab had relatively little to offer. Even the patriotic cabbies had to buy foreign.
   It seems Spyker realizes the folly of this policy as it takes over Saab and vows to make the company a leader in automotive environmental technology, but the compact 9-1 still does not figure in its business plan formally. Will Geely realize the same when it comes to Volvo?

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Posted in business, cars, interests, Sweden | 2 Comments »