Posts tagged ‘transparency’


Opel is not a snob brand

19.01.2011
George Cole as Arthur Daley
Arthur Daley, Opel’s last New Zealand spokesman: ‘Never mind the Capri, Tel: I sell Opels now.’

In the Fairfax Press, General Motors has apparently confirmed it will bring in Opel-branded cars to sell alongside Holden-branded ones.
   It’s an obvious move. For years, a good part of Holden’s range was Opel-designed. Like Vauxhall, the model name was the same as the Opels on the Continent, but with Holden in front, with the exception of the Opel Corsa (called Holden Barina).
   In fact, New Zealand fielded the Holden Vectra before Australia introduced this model with the B series. The two markets have often differed—those old enough might remember the Holden-badged version of the Isuzu Aska, assembled locally as the Camira in favour of the Australian model.
   Australia, which I believe still has tariffs on motor cars, found the Opel-made product increasingly expensive, especially against Hyundai, which has carved huge inroads into the market.
   In the mid-2000s, the Opels began disappearing in favour of Daewoos. The Opel Corsa C gave way to the inferior Daewoo Kalos. The Opel Vectra C, never facelifted, gave way to the Daewoo Tosca. The Daewoo Lacetti was inserted below the Opel Astra G and H, though the latest Lacetti Première, badged Holden Cruze, has supplanted both the former Lacetti and the Astra.
   In other words, Holden’s product was outclassed at every level by its principal rival Ford—certainly on this side of the Tasman, where CD-segment vehicles sell particularly well. Maybe Holden had Ford licked on price, but in terms of brand equity, it was falling fast. Perceived quality? Forget it. Brand loyalty? Don’t think it’s going to happen. There is very little that’s desirable about a Daewoo, though I admit to appreciating the Winstorm SUV’s styling. The car as a commodity? That’ll be the Daewoo.
   The Astra still has a lot of fans in Australia, so the plan is to bring in that model at least—and as affordable, European cars, positioning roughly where Volkswagen is. Corsa, Insignia and others will come in as well, with both a new dealer network and some Holden dealers.
   The analysts have found that in Europe, Chevrolet (Eurospeak for Daewoo) has not cannibalized Opel sales. No surprises there. Take me: an Opel customer. I wrote to Holden some years ago, when they threatened to bring in the Daewoo Tosca, that there was no way in heck I would get one of their cars. I’m willing to bet that I wasn’t alone in feeling that way, and the fact the Tosca looks like a Seoul taxicab helps my argument.
   Why not, I said, bring in Opels and pursue a unique model strategy, as GMNZ did in the 1980s and 1990s?
   The question now is price. Opels were sold here in the 1980s at a premium and found few customers. It was only with the 1989 introduction of the Vectra A, at a reasonable price, that GM began clawing back market share in that segment. New Zealanders didn’t seem to mind whether the car was branded Opel or Holden, but when it did become a Holden in 1994, it made marketing a great deal easier.
   Fairfax hints that Opels will carry a premium in Australia. But it rightly points out that Ford has European-sourced models that are competitive. However, I can make one thing very clear for New Zealand: if GM decides to reintroduce Opel into this market, where there are no tariffs on cars, it’ll have to be positioned against a lot of the competition from Ford. I have a feeling most Kiwis know they are buying German engineering when they head to the blue oval, with the exception of the Falcon, and Ford’s marketing has said as much.
   We’ve had a different history from the Australians, and the brand has different connotations. It’s certainly not premium, and there’s very little reason for it to be. Ford might have had Dennis Waterman as Terry McCann singing the Minder “feem toon” do a dealer ad here in New Zealand, but, remember, GM had George Cole, as Arthur Daley, sell the Opel.
   George Cole is not premium.
   Mainstream European brands have failed time and again with premium pricing here. Peugeot lost sales when it began having ideas above its station. Renault has consistently got its pricing wrong and missed plenty of opportunities.
   I have a feeling some of this is due to New Zealanders being world travellers. In a small country, we have to look outward. And that brings us exposure to international brands very readily.
   We’ve also had plenty of used Japanese imports—including ex-Japan Opel Astra Gs.
   It may account for why we don’t fall for the fake snobbery that automakers have tried to slap us with for many years. We seem to adopt best practice on so many things because I believe we’re an accepting people.
   Transparency will be the order of the day. GM can’t afford to have Kiwis reject a brand for having ideas above its station should it go ahead with a similar effort over here. It has to balance (our relatively small) volume carefully with cannibalization. It has to consider whether it would like to have Holden’s brand equity continue to dip.
   Mind you, we could have avoided all this if in 1992 GM did what I suggested then: badge the whole lot as Opel.* It would have ruined the blokeyness of the Holden brand, but it would have had products that appealed to buyers of B-, C- and CD-segment cars. In 1992, a big Opel Commodore, VP series, wouldn’t have been too bad, would it? And we’d have hopefully avoided this Daewoo experiment that has made ‘Australia’s own’ synonymous with ‘Made in Korea’.

* I know, with hindsight, this would have been a rotten idea, especially with New Zealanders embracing the VT Commodore in 1997. It’s hard to imagine that model having greater success here with a non-Holden badge.—JY


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We like links, but does Google?

07.01.2011

JY&A links' section

For the majority of the years that we’ve been on the web (coming up to 20 years), we’ve maintained a links’ directory. It was disappointing, sometimes, to note that those whom we exchanged links with at the dawn of the web no longer link back. We’ve kept our outward links largely the way they were, updating them whenever we’re alerted to a site moving.
   However, some people may have been scared off linking by none other than Google, and I can’t blame them. Its policy:

Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity. However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.

   I also can’t blame Google for having such a policy because, in the last half-decade or so, there have been many automated requests for link exchanges. I remember spending a good part of one Saturday 12 years ago just sending, manually, requests for link exchanges, so I balk at these automated ones. Back in the 1990s, reciprocal linking was de rigueur. If they are penalizing automated link pages, then good for them.
   It’s very easy to misinterpret the policy if you’re reading very quickly. Google doesn’t say that linking is bad—after all, its logarithm is in part built on how many people link to your site—but that excessive linking without regard to quality is bad.
   My issue is trust: can I trust Google to determine whether the links’ pages we have, which date back to the 1990s, are not of the automated variety? (I couldn’t trust them to determine whether a blog was a splog, and I couldn’t trust them on certain privacy matters, so the Google brand has been tarnished badly in my book.) How many links are considered ‘excessive’, because if you’ve been building a section of your favourite ones, it’s bound to grow? (There’s some site out there called Yahoo! that started this way; maybe Google has heard of it.) Is a link exchange ‘scheme’ one of those automated ones that I, too, hate, or is a weekend of finding compatible sites and requesting link exchanges considered bad? I’ve certainly built ‘partner pages’, long before there was such a thing as Google, with the links hand-selected for relevance.
   Of course, Google provides a solution to all of this: if you want to link to someone, join ‘the buzzing blogger community’. Call me cynical, but I wonder why it’s used the word blogger, even though it’s lowercase, and not blog or blogging. Sometimes, I just want to put up a link with a one-sentence description—and a blog post is not the way to go for that, with a massive headline and a bit too much spectacle.
   Like many things at Google, where the lines lie are shrouded in a bit of mystery. On transparency, it does well on some matters, but others—where it can be scammed—it plays its cards close to its chest. Speaking for myself, I like links’ pages—at least the ones that are manually done, endorsing sites where you’ve had a good relationship or dialogue with their webmasters. Dialogue is a good thing. And sometimes you get this dialogue from companies that are very unrelated to your own and you want to give them props.
   It’d be a pity if some links’ pages had a negative effect on their parent sites, just because the Googlebot has made yet another random, wrongful decision that can’t be appealed. But I’m not about to give up our links’ pages—we’ve put sweat into those and we still want to endorse so many of those people.


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Wikileaks’ brand of transparency is the enemy of the establishment

10.12.2010

There are probably two things, chiefly, that fuel support for Julian Assange.
   First, the idea that the mainstream media are not independent, but merely mouthpieces for the establishment. There’s some truth to this.
   Secondly, the fact that Wikileaks is revealing, this time, things that we already knew: that governments are two-faced.
   While I have posted my reservations about Wikileaks elsewhere, the latest news—that the US and Red China collaborated on ensuring that COP15 would fail—shows that governments are quite happy to follow the money, and be complicit with corporations who wish to continue polluting.
   Creating transparency—something I harped on about since joining the Medinge Group and writing in Beyond Branding with my colleagues—is something I believe in, so knocking down a few walls and having certain suspicions confirmed are good things.
   In the 2000s, the processes in our systems revealed that the Emperor had no clothes over at Enron—which prompted, in some respects, Beyond Branding—and, more recently, that the sub-prime mortgage market was a crock.
   Maybe it is about time that the processes revealed a few truths about government, and the very reasons so many of us mistrust them, or give politicians such a low rating in surveys.
   The fact that despite the democratic ideal, many are not working for us.
   On the 8th, Stefan Engeseth cheekily suggested on his blog that Wikileaks should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, Russia suggested that Julian Assange could receive its nomination.
   Although Russia itself has come under fire, it rather likes having the two-faced nature of NATO confirmed by Wikileaks: on the one hand, saying that Russia is a strategic partner, while on the other, planning to defend the Baltic states and Poland from a Russian attack.
   A Peace Prize for a website or a founder who put certain anti-Taliban informants at risk would not get my vote, but the underlying sentiment of no more secrets does.
   The sad thing is that it might not, single-handedly, usher in an era where governments level with us more—but it is one of many moves that might.
   I say this as the establishment, including financial institutions, closes in on the website. As pointed out to me by Daniel Spector, PayPal and Mastercard are quite happy to accept your donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but will decline those to Wikileaks.


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How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

02.11.2010

I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
   As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
   On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
   He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
   So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
   Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
   ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
   No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
   But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
   These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.


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What’s possible with open government

01.09.2010

Back Jack Yan for MayorWhen I go on about free wifi, it’s not just some vague election promise. Someone mentioned that I should have put the reason behind the message on my first billboard, but the reasons are too plentiful.
   It’s not just about giving businesses and tourists the access they expect in a modern society. It’s also about signalling that Wellington is open for business, especially the type that can grow this economy with Kiwi entrepreneurship at its core. And it’s a great tool for transparency.
   Brad Gallen shared this link, and while these weren’t the apps I had in mind originally, they show that in a creative world, people will come up with great ideas if you give them the infrastructure.
   While the Open311 API has come from San Francisco, under Mayor Gavin Newsom—Jen’s husband—there’s no reason we couldn’t have come up with it here. But now that it has been developed, we should use it. There are five apps that Mashable has identified—and these are the sorts of things I can envisage popping up in Wellington if I am elected mayor.
   Wellingtonians can elect someone who will give little more than lip service to transparency and technology, or someone who will use both to create and grow the city we deserve.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Simon Young shared this link with me: a story on the live Taupo City Council stream. Yet another thing we should have done ages ago. Now, like Dunedin and free wifi, we find ourselves catching up and being reactive. When we should be rearranging the letters and being creative.


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What we need from leaders in the new decade: creativity leads the list

22.06.2010

My friend and colleague at the Medinge Group, Ava Hakim, passed on a few papers from her day job at IBM. The first is the latest edition of a biennial global CEO survey, while the second asks the next generation of leaders—Generation Y. The aim: to find out what these groups think about the challenges and goals for CEOs.
   Unsurprisingly, both studies (involving thousands of respondents) had commonalities, though Generation Y placed global awareness and sustainability more highly on their list.
   Creativity, however, is ranked as the most valuable leadership trait. What society doesn’t need, they tell us, is the same-again thinking if we are to make progress in the 2010s. The old top values of ‘operational excellence’ or ‘engineering big deals’ no longer come up top in this new decade.
   Or, as I heard from one gentleman yesterday, we can’t afford to have the sort of ‘experience’ certain people tout, for they do not have 25 years’ experience—they just have one year’s experience, over and over again, 25 times.
   You know I’m going to say it, so I might as well: this sounds like the sort of ‘experience’ some of my political opponents have had, day in, day out. Groundhog Day comes to mind.
   Indeed, the studies indicate that we have a far more complex world, and same-again thinking isn’t going to cut it.
   In the first study (emphasis in original):

Creativity is the most important leadership quality, according to CEOs. Standouts practice and encourage experimentation and innovation throughout their organizations. Creative leaders expect to make deeper business model changes to realize their strategies. To succeed, they take more calculated risks, find new ideas, and keep innovating in how they lead and communicate.

The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into core processes. They are adopting new channels to engage and stay in tune with customers. By drawing more insight from the available data, successful CEOs make customer intimacy their number-one priority.

Later:

Facing a world becoming dramatically more complex, it is interesting that CEOs selected creativity as the most important leadership attribute. Creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks. They are open-minded and inventive in expanding their management and communication styles, particularly to engage with a new generation of employees, partners and customers.

And:

Creative leaders consider previously unheard-of ways to drastically change the enterprise for the better, setting the stage for innovation that helps them engage more effectively with today’s customers, partners and employees.

The study also highlights an increase in globalization, especially in developing markets, leading to greater complexity. It also says the most successful leaders are prepared to change the business models under which they operate.
   In fact, the world we now live in demands that our leaders are globally aware, and see the need to compete in a global market-place.
   The implications for this city are that Wellington can no longer afford to see itself as merely the capital of New Zealand or the geographic centre. It is one of many cities that must compete for attention and resources at a global level—which means creating world-class centres of excellence for our industries. Creating such clusters can even help them stay domestically owned.
   The study indicates that the style of leadership is going to be, necessarily, internationalist—which means we can’t afford to have leaders who are monocultural, and fake multiculturalism. This, like any aspect of a brand, must be embodied for real. It doesn’t mean giving up what ‘being a New Zealander’ is; it does, however, mean that we have to be able to communicate with other nations and cultures, seeking advantages for ourselves.
   Innovation is a driver both in terms of internal processes and as a core competence—so leaders had better be prepared to do this. And being closer and more transparent with customers—or in the case of a city, citizens—is something practised by the most successful leaders, says the study. It reminds me of the topics in the first book I contributed to, Beyond Branding—where integrity and transparency were at the core.
   When it comes to the Generation Y study, the results were similar. This table summarizes the two quite well, and notes how the two groups differ:

   I don’t want to be giving the impression that the second study is less important, but realize that some of you are sorely tempted to see me wrap up this post.
   I will say, quickly, that the lessons are clear: the next generation expects leaders to be globally minded and sustainable.
   Chinese respondents in the second study, in fact, valued global thinking ahead of creativity. This perhaps highlights where the People’s Republic, above the other Chinese territories, is heading: looking outwardly first and delivering what customers in export markets want.
   As creativity is naturally a trait among Wellington businesses, it’s nice to know that many are already prepared for the challenges of the 2010s. And some of our most successful names would not have got to where they are without global thinking, even if some have been acquired by overseas companies: 42 Below, Weta, and Silverstripe come to mind.
   However, I can’t see these traits being reflected in politics—and that’s something I hope we can change in the local body elections, for starters.


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Chatting to TV, radio and internet journalists for the mayoral campaign

11.06.2010

There have been a few times in the history of this blog where I stepped away from writing regularly. At the end of 2006, I had a pretty good excuse: I was in France. This time, my reasons for stepping away for a few weeks do not include: (a) I was spending too much time with the Miss Universe New Zealand contestants; (b) laziness; (c) being trapped in 1983 and discovering that DCI Gene Hunt controls the Lost island.
   I was, however, chatting to a few more of the parties that we needed to realize some of my election promises. And doing a few media interviews. And looking at more ways Wellington could get nearer balancing its budget, as our deficit has ballooned over the last decade.
   On May 15, I joined my opponent, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, on Access Radio’s Espace Français, in what was my first political interview in French. I expected a nice-natured chat till our hosts said they wanted a political debate. So the Councillor and I gave the audience one, coming from very different angles. I believe we are the only two Francophone candidates. And I don’t think Access does a Cantonese programme.
   You can listen to the interview here, though they only store the programmes for six weeks. You can also download from this link.
   I kept Leauna Zheng waiting for weeks while I prepared my emailed responses to her interview for Skykiwi, the leading Chinese expats’ site in New Zealand. Despite her wait, she wrote a marvellous article (in Chinese, here), and for those of you relying on Google Translate, please note that the term Chinese expatriate is not translated correctly. (I believe this is the first Chinese-language interview to include my name in Chinese ideographs.)
   And, finally, my interview with Bharat Jamnadas on Asia Down Under aired last Sunday. He’s very kindly put it on YouTube, though the aspect ratio is a tad off and I look thinner than usual. There are very nice comments from two members of the Wellington business community, Laurie Foon of Starfish and Brent Wong of Soi, to whom I am extremely grateful.

   The conversation at the end about Wellington v. Auckland was a good laugh, but there were some serious bits.
   And this Tuesday just gone, it was a pleasure to play a “dragon” in a Dragon’s Den-style setting analysing some of New Zealand’s entrepreneurs for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.
   My thanks to Bharat, Leauna, Kenneth Leong, Laura Daly at Access Radio, Jean-Louis Durand and Arlette Bilounga, and Maria Gray and David Powell.


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Wellington needs free wifi and jobs, not a council that goes nuts with spending

02.03.2010

Back Jack Yan for Mayor Funny how a media article can inspire you to send out a release, especially when you’re a ratepayer and you wonder if our City Council of élites understands how hard it was for us to make that money. In today’s case, it was Lindsay Shelton’s Scoop Wellington op-ed about Wellington City Council going nuts with its spending. Lindsay highlighted not only a $350,000 sculpture for the World Cup—money which I reckon we could use to boost the central city’s wifi coverage—but Dave Burgess’s report in The Dominion Post that WCC spends six times as much as Porirua’s council on food and drink.
   I’m not sure how we can justify those sorts of numbers, but I do have an aim to balance the budget if elected.
   As I wrote today, if we can grow our creative and technological clusters in Wellington—and get free wifi up and running (initially in the centre of the city, expanding outward)—we can grow the local economy and create jobs. After that we can look at partying—but not till we earn Wellingtonians’ respect by doing a bloody good job.
   A city that supports its clusters strategically will be able to balance the budget—and so far, it seems I’m the only candidate who is even willing to talk about this issue.
   We can start improving those communities through the new jobs we’ll be creating, and deal a blow to inner-city crime.
   If we fall behind on the tech side of things, consider this: we will lose the Sevens and any other event because our visitors will be asking, ‘Why can’t I get on to Google Maps on my iPhone without paying for it?’ It’s very simple, and when a mayor and council miss out on the simplest things, then it is time for a change.
   I would have thought a divided council—a complaint of the incumbent, Kerry Prendergast—would mean that we would not be spending massive amounts on things because there would be a lack of agreement. Spending ratepayers’ money, for some reason, seems to get rapid accord in this council—which tells me that when we vote in our mayor and council later in the year, we should have a far greater change than even I would have expected when I began my campaign.
   We have a divided council that needs firm direction on how to grow the economy, and a mayor who understands what ‘world-class city’ means.
   World-class does not mean big. World-class means nimble, modern and transparent.
   In 2010, we don’t need the same old, tired voices. Or the same old élites. The direction Wellington needs is a fresh one that brings new promises.

Incidentally, we have added a Facebook widget for my campaign page on this blog. It’s been placed at a few locations on my sites. Also, as of today, backjack2010.com redirects to jackyanformayor.org—it’s important to have the consistency in the domain name and the campaign graphic (thanks to Demian Rosenblatt).


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Beyond Branding Blog removed from Blogger today

23.02.2010

As of tonight, the Beyond Branding Blog, where I first cut my teeth blogging, is no more.
   The posts are still there, but no further comments can be entered on to the site. The nearly four years of posts remain as an archive of some of our branding thought of that period.
   The blog had a huge number of fans in its day, but as each one of us went to our own blogs, there seemed little need to keep it going. Chris Macrae and I were the last two holding the fort in late 2005. Since January 2006, no new posts have been entered on to the site. No new comments have come in a year.
   Google’s announcement that it would end FTP support for blogs in May spurred me into action, and I advised the Medinge Group’s membership this morning that I would take it off the Blogger service.
   I altered the opening message to reflect the latest change.
   I was very proud of the blog, because it was the first one I was involved in. It was also the first I customized to match the look and feel of the rest of the Beyond Branding site, which I designed in 2003. While the design is one from the early 2000s, it has not dated as much as I had expected.
   Beyond Branding’s core message of transparency and integrity remains valid, so while the blog is no longer updated, I think the book remains relevant to the 2010s.


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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 »