Posts tagged ‘corporate culture’


As News of the World closes, we might be getting better at making business accountable

08.07.2011

So James Murdoch has announced the end of the News of the World. It’s no biggie: as others have discovered, a domain name for The Sun on Sunday has been registered, and if this is by an agent of News International, it simply makes sense for the Murdoch Press to consolidate its tabloid brands and raise the circulation of The Sun.
   Chatting about it here at work today, my view was that the problems plaguing the Murdoch Press were cultural, and shuttering one paper really wouldn’t make much difference. I described Rupert’s former hands-on style and, like him or not, the man was the master of his craft for years. He knew the sort of headlines that would shock and get sales. Whether one admires the craft is another matter, though, it should be noted, it made the guy a multimillionaire.
   It’s easy to forecast that News will allow the shock of the death of the 168-year-old newspaper brand to set in, push through with the BSkyB deal, and relaunch the paper under its new name, hiring some of the 200 staff back.
   It’s not the first time Murdochs have rejigged or renamed a newspaper. Already I can envisage a ‘Reach for your new Sun’ headline being proclaimed in a Saturday edition, apeing what happened in the 1960s.
   Interestingly, another writer also believes in the cultural explanation. Simon Dumenco points to how News behaves in the US, seemingly operating in a fantasy-land.
   In Britain, on Wednesday morning, every newspaper carried the hacking scandal on the front page—with the notable exception of The Sun, which led with a pregnant Victoria Beckham. (The Guardian had all 10 papers, but The Sun’s page one has since disappeared, presumably due to a copyright complaint. I have put that front page below.) The hacking scandal appeared on p. 6. Dumenco points out that when gay marriage became legal in New York, everyone there carried that news prominently, except for the Murdoch Press, which relegated it to a bottom-of-page headline in its New York Post, and a second ‘What’s News’ in-brief item in The Wall Street Journal.
   Dumenco predicts that the public will tire of it, though, as I blogged earlier this week, in 1997 a lot of people swore off tabloids. Not a lot changed in the immediate years after that. But we can only hope: one of our predictions in Beyond Branding was that consumers would demand greater transparency and integrity. That certainly has held true for a lot of sectors. They are true, even of media, but the cycle is longer thanks in no small part to the habits some people have with news providers. Nevertheless, it is happening.
   As news consumers move online—and there is plenty of evidence of this shift—it’s possible that the audience will shift to media that are perceived to be fairer. Those wanting confirmation of various biases can find them in niche media or blogs. There are more people analysing the media, so it may be easier for people to discover critical thinking behind the stories.
   There’ll always be a mob mentality (people have banded together since they began socializing) and tabloid journalism will not disappear (there’s a sense of Schadenfreude, especially of celebrity stories, while there’s inequality in society). But this week’s example of the fairly rapid withdrawals of advertising accounts from the News of the World—Ford, Reckitt Benckiser and Renault come to mind—shows that the public has a line that shouldn’t be crossed. The internet has allowed people to group together to make their viewpoints known, and it’s refreshing to note that, more often than not, we do so for good causes and a sense of justice, rather than for divisiveness or harm.

The Sun, Wednesday, July 6, 2011


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Privacy Commissioner agrees with my 2009 thoughts: New Zealand Post breached your privacy

20.06.2011

A Fairfax Press headline today: ‘“Large-scale breach” of privacy rules by NZ Post’. The Privacy Commissioner has found New Zealand Post breached privacy rules in a promotion in July 2009, which I thought would have been a juicy story back then.
   The reporters write:

The 2009 survey asked participants 57 multi-choice questions, ranging from their names, addresses, preferred petrol station and favourite magazine to their mortgage rate, credit card limit and partner’s income.
   It also offered participants the chance to win cash, home entertainment and travel vouchers worth thousands of dollars if they completed the survey.
   Once collected, the names and addressees of participants were rented out to “trusted, contracted commercial partners”, both in New Zealand and overseas.

   I thought all this sounded very familiar, so I went back on to this blog to discover this post. I wasn’t alone in thinking that the survey was extremely dodgy, as there was a comment in agreement, and the Fairfax report indicates that numerous Kiwis went to the New Zealand Post blog to complain. (Unfortunately, with the demise of Vox, the image on my page has been permanently deleted.)
   I wrote at the time:

Essentially, this is a form requesting your details so you can be added to spam lists.
   Ironical that in a country with anti-spam legislation, another government department is prepared to sell our personal information to spammers (including foreign spammers which our law enforcement agencies cannot pursue readily), and believes one’s identity is only worth a maximum of $15,000.

   The pertinent clause, printed in 7 pt type, was this:

By undertaking the New Zealand Post survey, your and your partner’s name, address and other information you supply (including your email and telephone numbers if you tick the boxes below), may be provided to companies and other organisations from New Zealand and overseas to enable them to provide you and/or your partner, with information about products and services relevant to your responses to this survey. New Zealand Post may also use this information for the same purpose.

On the back was 5 pt type, saying New Zealand Post disclaims liability for:

any claims, losses, damages, injuries, costs and expenses suffered or sustained or incurred (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss), arising out of or in any way connected with the competition and/or its prizes except for liability that cannot be excluded by law

   I concluded then: ‘it can’t really be found guilty of passing on information that a consumer submits voluntarily, and based on this term it won’t be found guilty of contributing to the spam problem that we are all trying to fight.’ I advised that the promotion should be reported to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Consumers’ Institute—and if I was on form then, I would have done so myself.
   A professor quoted by Fairfax for its story today concluded, ‘the survey appeared to have breached “each of the four information privacy principles that relate to the collection of personal information”.’
   A lecturer said, in the words of the journalists, ‘the survey’s collection of personal information were unfair in terms of the market research code of practice and industry standards.’
   I’m glad to know the Privacy Commissioner was on to it enough to investigate New Zealand Post. But as my friends in Dunedin are finding over its actions to save the Dunedin Metro branch of Post, this government department is led by some very arrogant types who think they are above everyday New Zealanders. To ‘utterly rebut every conclusion’ indicates that Post believes it exists in a dream-land: it was as clear in 2009, as it is today, that it had messed up. Issuing such impassioned, exaggerated statements indicates that it is yet another outfit that has got too comfortable for its own good, like some others in this city that I can name.


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Google Ads Preferences Manager issue confirmed by NAI

05.05.2011

I’ve now had confirmation from the Network Advertising Initiative that Google has, indeed, been dodgy about its Ads Preferences Manager.

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We were able to reproduce the issues you saw and have been working with Google for the last week to address them. I am happy to report that as of this morning the identified bugs have been corrected.

   It has taken a few weeks for the NAI to respond, and for me to send them my proof (screen shots), but we’ve managed to keep Google honest.
   What surprises me is that sixty-plus members of the NAI have had no problem, but Google apparently lacked the expertise to make an opt-out cookie that keeps a user opted out.
   I can’t really believe that, because, as I wrote in an earlier post, I reckon this has been going on for years, and that Google has always known about it. I am no expert, but my gut says it takes a greater effort to make opt-out cookies that pretend to expire in 2030 but don’t.
   Unless we are to believe that Google is very weak on privacy—given the débâcle over Buzz in February 2010, it probably is.
   As with Firefox and all the other bugs I’ve found on the internet, it’s just nice to be believed. My thanks to the NAI for investigating and dealing with this issue.
   As it is supposedly fixed, pop by to your Google Ads Preferences Manager one last time. If you’re opted back in again, this might be the last time you need to opt out. Though I will keep an eye on mine—I still don’t trust those buggers. Thank goodness I don’t.


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The new Honda goes at over 400 mph

07.04.2011

I have to hand it to Honda. The next new model from the Japanese firm is faster than the NSX and its old Formula 1 cars. It goes at Mach 0·72.

HondaJet

   The simplified version of Honda’s history goes something like this.
   Once upon a time, Mr Honda wanted to make cars. He wasn’t sure how, but he did know how to build a motor-scooter, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a motorcycle, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a small car, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a big car, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a luxury car, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a sports car, so he did.
   Even after Mr Honda died, his company progressed along the same lines.
   After a while, they figured out how he could build a mid-sized truck, so they did.
   Now, it looks like they’ve figured out how to build a jet plane.
   If you read Soichiro Honda’s biography, even a summary of it, you’ll find that this man had a great sense of adventure about him—something that is now interwoven into the company. When it comes to brands, Honda has done remarkably well—as has Acura.
   As Jeremy Clarkson once put it, the difference between Toyota and Honda is: Mr Toyoda wanted to make money. Mr Honda wanted to make cars.
   The Honda brand can easily extend to aircraft, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this side of the business followed a similar trajectory to earlier Honda ventures.
   It transcended land-based vehicles a long time ago, and it has such goodwill when it comes to engineering excellence and next-generation technology, that the idea of HondaJet should be easy to grasp.


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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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