Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dance of the Internet giants great for consumers

Google have just signed up with the world's largest PC seller Dell, to factory pre-load a suite of Google web and desktop search software on Dell’s PC’s for consumers and some corporate customers. This deal is a real challenge to Microsoft’s decade long dominance of the user experience with software pre loads.

At the same time Yahoo and eBay joined forces in a multi-year deal to counter Google’s rise and Microsoft’s renewed web aspirations. Yahoo and eBay will share search and graphical advertising, online payments, a co-branded toolbar, and the testing of a click-to-call functionality.

Thoughts: This partnering dance of the giants feels like serious competition (= drives innovation) and potentially great for me the consumer. Has the music stopped and is that Microsoft still standing?

KEY WORDS: Software; Internet; Advertising; Innovation

Monday, May 22, 2006

Oil industry ads drive uncertainty stake into heart of climate change debate

A public-policy group financed by oil company Exxon Mobil Corp. and automakers General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co began broadcasting two sixty-second ads across 14 US cities last week. The ads challenge the validity of current climate change science. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a nonprofit conservative business friendly think tank, have timed the ad campaign to coincide with the release of a documentary called “"An Inconvenient Truth," which is about the threat of climate change that features former Vice President Al Gore. Check out the ads here. The CEI ads defend carbon dioxide as a beneficial natural resource rather than a dangerous pollutant. Each 60-second ad ends with the line, "They call it pollution; we call it life."

It’s hard not to see this CEI action as a cynical continuation of the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) propaganda strategy, which was first exposed by the New York Times in 1998. The New York Times published an API memo outlining a strategy to invest millions to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours, with Congress, the media and other key audiences.” The document stated: “Victory will be achieved when…recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

Thoughts: My tracking of global warming and climate change science research over the last 2 years signals that humanity’s use of fossil fuels is having a dire and dramatic impact on Earth. When oil industry funded ‘research’ comes up with the exact opposite finding, and seeks to manipulate public opinion, you have to laugh at the absurdity. And cry, because of the power such big oil interests can bring to morph the truth into such self-serving, and environmentally dangerous spin. Having ‘outed’ the lies and deceit of the tobacco industry, it’s now time to uncover the untruths and manipulations of the fossil fuel barons and their political stooges.

KEY WORDS: Sustainability; Climate Change; Politics; Ethics

Sunday, May 14, 2006

How romantic…blue cheese perfume!

You’ve got to give credit to the UK Stilton Cheese Makers Association for pushing the boundaries of industry innovation. They have just launched ““Eau de Stilton” which it claims to "recreate the earthy and fruity aroma" of the pungent blue cheese "in an eminently wearable perfume". Apparently Shazia Awan, 24, of Manchester agreed to try the scent for a day. And she reported that none of her office mates complained.

Thoughts: It’s actually not as strange as you might think. In author Patrick Suskind’s bestselling novel “Perfume : The Story of a Murderer”, the abominable 18th Century French hero Jean-Baptiste Grenouille wove a mixture of rat mouse droppings, cats urine and sweat into a perfume of invisibility.

KEY WORDS: Lifestyle, Marketing, Milk

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bush’s Watergate?

The scale of the USA Today’s exposure of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) confidential tracking of the phone calls of tens of millions of Americans, ‘authorized’ by a secret Presidential executive order - is breathtaking. The content of the calls has not been recorded. Rather the NSA has been collecting and using call data to “analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” The tracking began shortly after ‘9/11’ when three major telcos – AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. starting handling over customers' phone calls records to the NSA. Apparently one big telecommunications company, Qwest Communications International Inc., has consistently refused to turn over records to the NSA, citing privacy and legal concerns. Washington is going ballistic. Senior Democrats and Republicans are screaming blue murder.

Thoughts: Shades of Watergate and impeachment in the air. In peacetime this phone tracking of millions of citizens would be outrageous. But at a time of this ‘War on Terror’ where should you draw the line, when you are trying to protect your own citizens? When combined with recent exposures of secret CIA prisons and abuses in Iraq, the unfolding picture is one of a completely unfettered security apparatus. And you have to assume that the press is only seeing a fraction of the secret picture. So the question is – when does Bush push America across the spectrum line of defending the principles of democracy to becoming itself a totalitarian state? I think this did it.

KEY WORDS: Democracy; Politics; Security; Globalisation

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Global wine bust and boom

A recent 2005 Deloitte Wine Industry Benchmarking Survey shows Australian wine export prices are down by a massive 33% since 2002 and 40% of Australian wineries are making losses. "The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports the average selling price of Australian wine exported in January 2006 was just $3.78 per litre. The Australian Business Weekly (subscription required) summarises the problems in their May 4th article “Wine: The grape squeeze”:

  • Production of wine exceeding demand.
  • Panic selling by inexperienced growers.
  • Strong $AUD making exports less competitive.
  • Retail consolidation hurting boutique wineries.
  • Slow growth of 2-3% a year in domestic demand due to high tax on alcohol.
  • Poor understanding of demand trends.
  • The number of wine companies growing from 892 to 2000 in the past decade.
But wait…it’s not all gloom and doom. Union Tribune Staff Writer Frank Green reports that in a recent Gallup Poll, “39 percent of Americans said they drink wine more often than any other alcoholic beverage – the first time wine has outpaced beer, at 36 percent, in consumer preference”. U.S. wine sales have boomed in the past 10 years, and they rose 8.3 percent last year to an estimated $26 billion. Part of the continued growth, and sales spikes in the US market is attributed to “increased quality of imports from Chile, New Zealand and other countries.”

Thoughts: This boom and bust is very tough on the rapidly growing number of small wineries which lack cost scale, and very challenging for the volume producers of average wine. The strength and growth of the US market will eventually pull the Australasian industry out of trouble…there will be a whole lot less boutique players in the game by then. For consumers operating on the ‘24 hour cellar’ this wine bust will be great news for the next few years. Pass the bottle!
KEY WORDS: Wine; Globalisation; Lifestyle

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Anticipation goes mainstream

A Milwaukee based business group called “The American Society for Quality” has run a survey of 62 selected international business executives s to identify six leading factors shaping the future. Intended as a tool to prompt business execs into developing adaption strategies, the selected six in priority of importance are: Globalization, Innovation/creativity/change, Outsourcing, Consumer sophistication, Value creation, and Changes in quality.

Writing of the top six, John Schmid of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel comments. “What's interesting are the topics that didn't rise into the top six: the aging of America, global warming and various geopolitical factors and medical advances.”

Thoughts: Have you noticed that over the last year words like future, trends, scenarios, uncertainty have increasingly crept into both business and lifestyle language. This business of anticipation has moved from the realm of magic to mainstream.

KEY WORDS: Trends; Strategies; Future; Anticipation

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Coffee gets us to yes

At last some research that supports my coffee habit. Some Australian researchers have found that “a caffeine hit improves our increases our ability to scrutinise the content of a message and increases the extent to which we listen to and take on board a persuasive message.”

Advertisers will perk up on this news…but apparently there is a downside: excessive coffee will lead us into a distracted state. So “if you're looking at an advertisement you may be more distracted by the attractiveness of the person selling it than the actual product."

Thoughts: Food; Augmentation; Advertising

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The most important speech of his life

Every time I fill my car's petrol tank I wonder how bad the current situation can get? Peak oil advocate Michael C. Ruppert has just made a speech in New York to the conference on Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma titled “The Paradigm is the Enemy – The State of the Peak Oil Movement at the Cusp of Collapse”. On his website Ruppert rates this speech as the “This is the most important speech of my life.”

You will be shocked by it. But there is no doubt there he has built a compelling argument founded in a deep understanding of the unfolding geopolitical dynamics surrounding fossil fuel. It’s definitely worth reading – a powerful tool to test your own assumptions about the current(?) energy crisis. Ruppert quotes his friend Dr. Faiz Khan, “A paradigm is what you think about something before you think about it.”

Monday, May 01, 2006

From taste-free calories to calorie-free taste

Here's one for your jaded palette! The latest consumer offering for calorie-conscious Americans – Flavor Spray Diet. These FDA approved enhancers come in 32 flovours including Parmesan, Raspberry Chocolate Truffle and Memphis BBQ. Read all about it in “One spray away from a tasty meal” - West Central Tribune - 26 April 2006

Thoughts: What next? spray on youth?, sex? music?

KEY WORDS: Consumer, Food, Lifestyle