Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Level 5 Leadership & EQ

Level 5 leadership is a term instilled upon people who can balance two almost contradicting worlds. According to Jim Collins, they make ends meet between shyness and fearlessness, as well as modesty and strong will.

The importance of that kind of leaders lies in their skill to drastically turn companies from a downfall into a success that is maintained after their reign is over. They are more concerned for the goodwill of the company than their own personal fame and fortune. In fact, they dread recognition and tend to grant credits to the organization and the actual employees.
Following a 5-year research, based on the fortune 500 companies, only 11 experienced the exceptional turnaround mentioned above and were able to maintain it. All of which had level 5 leaders on top at the time when the transformation took shape. Quite a remarkable finding.

Could that type of introverted leadership be qualified by a superior EQ level? Think of it this way. If a CEO takes credit for the work of the organization, how would it effect the rest of the staff's motivation? When one person is granted the fruits of their labors, employees feel used. If the level 5 leaders do not take credit for the firm's success, it is probably not because they don't think they deserve it; rather that they understand how people function and know how to behave to gain the respect of their co-workers. This is emotional intelligence by excellence. Do those people lack the critical skill of EQ, as defined by Daniel Goleman, that is "awareness" of their capabilities? I think not. Their modesty is part of their job. This can be attributed to another characteristic that qualify their Emotional intelligence's superiority: "empathy".

I think that it would be interesting if those people were to be interviewed after their term is over; once they're off the job; would they admit, then, their achievements?



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Inhumanly Bearable

I am no Superwoman. I'm not. I'm not. I'm not. However, I just realized, I might have, once, was.
I just got back home around 10 days ago. I knew I'd miss France, but I never thought I would find difficulties to re-adapt to Lebanon. I was seeing this place through French eyes, and the lack of order was driving me crazy!

Let's start with the roads. Nothing wrong with a truck suddenly showing up and blocking the HGHWAY in width as he freely decides to execute a U-turn, right? Or that jeep who gets angry with the traffic (did I forget to mention that? well, it's the holiday season! It comes with special effects.) So, the guy gets impatient and decides to cross from a highway to another by climbing over a 30-cm wall barrier in the middle. No, this does not shock anyone here. I guess, by now, you've figured that running red lights, escaping middle-of-the-road bumps or wholes and driving "in-between" (that's what we call here when a driver zig-zags outside/inside his lane; which if you plan to get somewhere in Lebanon, you need to get the hang of) are all very normal!
Getting ahead is a question of personal skill in disregarding and down-sizing others. PATIENCE my friend, you need to learn how to control your temper when someones steps on your toes. Well I am not as cold as I once was, and those practices get on my nerves! As I waited for hours to talk to an advisor at the bank, a man suddenly shows up, walks right by, straight into the advisor's office, disregards the customer there, and points out that HE is here. Wait a minute now did I just miss something. Well, I felt as though my blood was boiling. The advisor was kind enough to look after my needs first but I really had to bottle up my anger. As I went down to the teller to withdraw some money, an old acquaintance was kind enough to speed up my process.

So networking and building relations become a must in this little country. Which gets us to the importance of social duties, which are suffocating me. I can't stand all the visits you have to conduct just because you just got back from travel, and people actually hold grudges against you if you don't. Did you know that those even have an expiry date? If you've been in town for a while, you'd get reprehended! Moreover, since it's the holiday season, you need to welcome the new comers at the airport; aside from visiting the sick at the hospital, buy the entire family presents, and of course find time for all your friends. You're also expected to check on your old office co-workers; maintain contact with the new ones...

In addition, since I do not have official working hours, people expect me to be completely free, and start asking me for favors... Hold on, please! I do have a thesis to work on; I have a personal plan to develop professionally, can I just lock myself in the room and work on them?! The answer is simply "no", because if you spend more than 10 hours at home, including sleep, people will start wondering whether you're doing ok.

Well, I'm fine! Thank YOU.



Monday, November 10, 2008

Sinking Through

In the business world, people get lost between management and entrepreneurship. While they seek to grow in the hierarchy chain of their enterprise the few who manage are those who are actually skilled and set for success. They are sinked into the multi-nationals, under the command of often less qualified superiors and are stuffed with a fair amount of consuming assets, while the real benefits of their hard work are channeled to the shareholders ...and I can only wonder what effects this might have on the economy, when people reap what they did not saw.
However, this is not what really scares me. What challenges all my means of logical understanding is when people are set aside for being too perfectionists and doing their tasks a bit "too well"; as if this term should actually exist! I am devestated at the thought of 2 amazing people leaving Siemens at about the same time as my stay is coming to an end. These employees, that I regarded as genius and would only dream to match their skills, are to step aside. Are multi nationals that strong in structure to handle the shock of losing their best assets and surviving the transition? I can't wait to see the results of Siemens PTD Grenoble the year to come, to conclude just how replaceable humans actually are in an enterprise...
For now, I blame it on a lack of judgement and interest from the HR department in the actual success of the company; and an unforgiveable jealousy and individual concern from the part of the head of the enterprise. To think that success leads to concern and makes you an enemy is not conceivable...



Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Tribute to Theodore Levitt

I have known his concepts and teachings for years, but it wasn't until recently that I got to know his name. Theodore Levitt is, to me, a man who made of marketing a respected science. Known for his provocative style and practice-oriented thoughts; he transformed a theory-based subject into a business focal point.
From the product life cycle concept to his marketing myopia article, Levitt never ceased to amaze. Although not always accurate, he often created a rave of thoughts and lead others to analyze and look into things they tend to dismiss.
His numerous articles in the Harvard Business Review showcase his talents for, not only ingenuous thinking, but also conveying a message; a real marketer. He has been known to "market" marketing itself, as he strongly believed in its power and relevance in the business world. He has also been attributed the introduction of the term globalization into a futuristic market outlook...
A genius, in one word.



A Feminist Call

I used to think the only thing that stood in my way of climbing the corporate ladder was my age. I often thought I could do things better than many positioned above me. Ego? Maybe.

I was reassured when a teacher who now has her own firm complained that she was never taken seriously at a young age. She said things change when you become in your mid-30s and this comforted me, although I still had a lot to wait.

However, I was destroyed when I found myself in a multinational in France, at Siemens PTD, and saw that the higher positions were not only occupied by older people, but they were also, in their totality, dominated by males. "Dominated" does not even give the distribution justice. It leaves us to assume that there's a minority of feminine presence; which until today, I still have not detected. With less than 1% of its senior level workforce female, Siemens PTD Grenoble is far from believing in gender equality. What's more is that merely 18% of its total workforce is female...



Friday, September 19, 2008

PR in Action!

I must have been at the right place at the wrong time; but I got to live an important instance in a corporate giant's history. Siemens had announced earlier on this summer that they were planning to fire more than 16,000 employees.
While the story ravaged the business news and made top headlines in financial news; it did not move much the people concerned for it was perceived as a far-off fact that was not directly linked tgo them. It was only after the news had cooled down in the media, that the real action took place. The people in Grenoble were notified yesterday. They were only going to be affected by 17 jobs out of 800, given their good financial performance this year.
The communication strategy was to give the news directly from head down the organization structure, before it could move horizontally and create noise. We were called into a meeting and notified in the afternoon. The news was reassuring, they're doing their best to reintegrate the people concerned in other departments. No one was going to be laid off unwillingly. Right. I was surprised to see that the employees actually believed this, but they did! How gullible can they be, with all the fuss that went around... Having less "per employee profit" than their competitor GE was not reason enough; they truly believed in their good intentions.
Internal communication was perfect. One step down the ladder. One step closer to the truth.
The shock will not be NEWS anymore once the real action will take place. Thus it won't be of anyone's interest to talk about it or revolt against it.
Marrvellously done; and I am left to wonder whether this was spontaneous or planned...



Monday, September 8, 2008

Between Theories and Practice

I am more and more convinced that when it comes to business no one knows what he is doing. I thought it would be different in a multinational. Nonsense.
All the systems, the matrixes and the models seem to be drawn to dilute the idea into a broader sense of control over intangible results.
While I can easily stuff graphs and numbers into the simplest presentation to make it look scientifically correct, I remain the hardest person to fool.

Yet, the other day, I saw a ray of light.

The Product Life Cycle Model might be one of the tools I never resorted to. Despite the stress and importance it was given in my marketing program, somehow I thought they were out of things to teach and had extra hours to fill.
Until the day, I myself was out of matrixes and models to present, I thought I'd fill an extra page. As I graphed the demand of each product over the period of time, never had I imagined I would get this result: 5 perfect curves, as perfect as the theory... and I was not dreaming!
What's more is that the stages of the product life cycle corresponded amazingly well with the actual situation of the product. I was shocked, astonished, bedazzled... no, enchanted!
Out there somewhere, there's a marketer who knew his business and who created a theory out of it. Now, remind me, who was that genius again?

*goes searching for the author*



Thursday, August 7, 2008

Love it AND Leave it

Welcome to Lebanon!

What has this land become? .... A party land. Our awaited vacation destination. A place no one can afford unless of course, he gets his income from, well, elsewhere.

A paradise with a double folded glory, so controversial that it can be heaven for people with different, even opposite, values.

Lebanon is ruled by the skies, bound by religions, a place where satanics and gays are sentenced to death. Rough, you might think... but you haven't digged into the reality of it all, that's only the icing of the cake... but the bulk is just as juicy, and, boy, are you in for a surprise.

With wars and political unrest, this heaven has maintained its sanctity, safe from the media and the tourists, it has kept its cultural purity.

Life! You know not what it's like, if you have never been there. Try booking a table in any restaurant any time of day, any day of the week - full house. The pubs, the night clubs, the night life, unbeatable... and it's not just walls with nice decorations, it's the people!
Beauty! The city lights at night look as festive as a christmas tree. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks, the wind, the sun, the sand... can only be knocked down by the snow covered mountains.

What did it all bring us? An over-educated population, with a living standard it cannot keep up with. A local inflation in prices of goods and real-estate that cannot be constrained. An additional dose of freedom that others would have done without. The safety to dress up and look stunning every single day with absolute innocence... and without standing out in the crowd. A socially defined set of standards we all abide to, unconsciously, the will to strive and succeed and meet communities' unreachable requirements. Consequence? Brain drain, immigration, temporary working visa...etc.

Lebanon has fought its wars from abroad and left many dazzled by its unmoved economy despite the local security issues.

That's Lebanon! We love it, and we leave it, swearing we'd be back.... WHEN the situation calms down, and we all see the irony in that.



Monday, August 4, 2008

Measuring Your Marketing Efforts

I have been reading about economics in relation to marketing. In general, the marketing effectiveness is measured as a relation between the marketing budget invested and the sales returns. The formula is simple MR=MC.

Sounds logical? Maybe, but it isn't quite so.

Marketing efficiency depends on the marketing campaign's success. A marketing budget is only relative to the marketing costs (graphic designer, medium, marketing research... etc) which in their turn change under different settings. Meaning? The same marketing budget can be translated in campaigns of different sizes, depending on the market costs. Thus, a marketing budget is irrelevant in the calculation of marketing efficiency.

Moreover, sales in $ is not representative of the response to the marketing efforts. The same amount, let's suppose $3,000 of total sales, can be a sale of 3 products of a value of $1,000 each or 300 goods costing $30 each. Moreover, the profit margin on the products can be different; thus looking at the sales profit makes things even more complicated.

The real criteria that one needs to look into are frequency and reach of the campaign...



Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lord of the Wings

...So I am in love with this concept!
A new restaurant opened in Lebanon, a special fast food chain. They called it "Lord of the Wings", sounds like "Lord of the Rings" and it is intended to. Great catchy name created to grasp the young target audience.
First opened in a trendy street in Beirut where pubs abound, now in a mall. The name says it all! They serve chicken wings with different flavors! The only other choice would be a burger... could they have done anything more cost-effective?!... and talk about differentiation and specialization, they're right on track!

But let me tell you what else they did right: a keen attention to details.
  • The menu is handed in on a sheet for the customer to fill; definitely makes you want to tick more than one box! i.e. more sales.
  • The chicken wings are served with gloves and wet wipes in a well-presented basket. What's more is an additional glove, which you might take for a mistake; but make no assumptions, they're only considering your needs in case yours got ripped.
  • You know what else they correctly anticipated? Customer behavior! The first thing a customer seems to ask is which flavor is which plate. Only to notice a small tag on each. well-sought!
  • Add to this a friendly staff and free-refill for your soft drinks...

I bow down to the Lord. The Lord of the Wings!


Friday, July 4, 2008

Conditional Marketing: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

Once upon a time, advertising meant the brand is successful, what the consumers translated as “the product is good”. That is in a far away reality, which we now doubt ever existed.

Later on, people looked for confirmation from a second source. While they often relied on a friend’s advice, they also trusted a credited source: what they’d label an expert. Trial and error taught them that experts are not always honest; they often have their own reasons for praising.

Now, with the increase in interactive marketing a new way of doing things has emerged; a "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” type of marketing. If you have a blog or are member in a community, you’ve probably already witnessed this: “you link to me, I link to you” or “I commented on your text, come check out mine”. However, this activity is not limited to the digital world, and this is what most of us ignore. It is everywhere.

I was recently reading a book called the Black Swan. It’s author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out how the academic world has become a “you quote me, I quote you” type of place.

If I say I am great, no one will believe me. If you say I am great and I say you are great; then the world is fooled to think we both are indeed – that is – if the same person does not stumble upon both sentences at once. It is even the basis of social interaction.

I recently realized how little value we have for real “merit”. We trust other people’s judgments blindfolded. If I was to buy a book, I would not pay attention to its content, as much as who commented on the back cover or which book got better reviews from the big sources.

Consequently, a business book published in India, for instance, has less chances for success than one published in the US; “country of origin effect”? Not quite so. If an Indian author would publish his business book in the US, he’s as likely to be acclaimed, as is an American author. The trick would be getting reviews from the big CEOs and the renowned business magazines: Businessweek, Financial Times and the likes.

What some people might attribute to luck, is logic but in a non-mathematical sense; and not everyone grasps this. Some people are born in the right place; others just understand how the customer functions, the latter are the marketers... and both find the way to success.



Monday, May 26, 2008

"Underdeveloped" Label

How did the world come to overrate some countries and undermine others? ...better said, how did the nations labeled "underdeveloped" came to accept their tagged inferiority?

Being drained in a multi-cultural environment for quite some time now, I have realized that the people coming from the third world have a beautified image of the west; which clashes very strongly with the actual reality in those countries. Vice versa, the western world has a low regard to the developing nations and an outrageously wrong perception of the rest of the globe. What was once probably due to propaganda came to be assimilated by education. Status is a learned attribute.

It is revolting to see the capabilities of the developing nations being wasted due to limited opportunities and learned low-esteem attitudes. It saddens me to see a defeatist behavioral pattern. Let the rest of the world label you as they please, but once their labels become socially acceptable in your own communities, you create a self-learned helplessness that deepens your defeat and creates roots to your current position blocking your hopes for a better future.

if "made in China" was not perceived to be of inferior quality by the Chinese themselves, wouldn't the world gain a better image of the products?...

I can't help but wonder whether those negative attitudes were self-inflicted and came naturally, or whether they were part of a global well-crafted plan to maintain the west's leadership... Politics and international economy can as well be products of marketing. Maybe I am just imagining that the developed nations can be that shrewd and tactful due to the brainwashing; or then again, maybe not.



Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Perishable Products

Listen to this old song and enjoy:

Love is Free For All - Gus Farah (edited version, but no download needed)
Love is Free For All - Gus Farah (download the first song from the list)

This is a tune on which anyone in his 20s in Lebanon can easily sing along to... This once was a successful song; perceived as a classic by many. Often placed side by side with songs like Hotel California.. However, finding its singer is a challenge!
...and for good reason!!! To most people's surprise, it was sung by a Lebanese. This is far from being the classic, many misinformed thought it was. I was not short from being shocked and had to see this for myself to believe it.
This song is unknown to the international public! It never got the attention it deserves...

Can it still be turned into the classic it once should have been, and reach the position it upholds today in the Lebanese youngsters eyes? Time changed since it was launched.... the environment evolved. This type of songs may no longer be played on the radios.

This is a case where what once was a good product, is no longer so. It could have been an international hit back then, it had all the potential to be one.

I sadly admit that this opportunity is lost.



Monday, April 28, 2008

Print Advertsing: Critique and Correction

The rules for NGO marketing still conform to the norms. Unfortunately, the people involved fail to recognize the rules as they are often inexperienced in the marketing field.

Here is an advertisement hanged in church targeting teenagers:

print advertising


It does not take a genius to figure out that it will fail to reach its audience. Here are the flaws:

First of all, it fails to talk to the customers in their own language. Teenagers do not perceive Arabic as the trendiest of languages. They watch American movies, listen to foreign music, and will NOT expect to be targeted by a poster at church… Especially not with that gothic font style; not to mention that it is almost incomprehensible (ineffective for any audience for that matter!!)
Second, the message has to be intriguing. A bulk of words does not come out as the most attractive text to read…
Thirdly, colors SPEAK, they can even shout! …A combination of matching colors is thus crucial. Colors can even identify the person intended for the message, for instance an emphasis on the pink color says “girls only”.
Fourth, the pictures have to match the message. They are not simply decoration tools.
Finally, the message has to highlight the benefits in order to entice a reaction.

Keeping all that in mind, check the renovated posters:


Enjoy!


print advertising





print advertising




Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Popular Fraud

explosive detector lebanon

L'hebdo Magazine

explosive detector lebanon

Le Commerce du Levant

explosive detector fraud

L'Orient le Jour


These are just a sample of the many articles that have been written in the Lebanese magazines and newspapers regarding the antennas (rod) fraudulent explosive detectors that abound in Lebanon.

Other articles were written in Assafir newspaper, Al Tamin, Future Newspaper, Annahar and live reports were filmed by LBC and Future TV.

However, this has not translated in any action on the ground. Companies like ABC, Biel, Storium Saliba and several parking lots still use this product... Don't they have any concern for their consumers' safety at all?

These are claimed to be explosive detectors, but what they are is antenna “gadgets”. These devices were the topic of scandals in the international security field. They were clearly identified as fraudulent by many worldly governments.

Even more revolting is a claim found on a Lebanese based company website (I refrain from mentioning its name for ethical purposes):

“The range of detection is around 50 meters with obstacles and up to 650 meters in outdoor parking lots, the unit can also detect explosives submerged in water or buried underground. Detection from a hovering helicopter is also possible.”

Based on the US Navy and the US government related SANDIA laboratory reports, this equipment can’t even detect a highly relevant amount of explosives if it were right next to it! The NIJ (National Institute for Justice) report on explosive detectors only features half a page about these products... and the title start with "WARNING".

Today, these products have invaded the Lebanese and Middle Eastern markets under different names: Mole, Sniffex, Alpha 6, Quadro Tracker, ADE series... etc. However, the device is the same: it is made of magnetic pieces that help sustain an antenna in a plastic case. There are no electronic components, no power source such as batteries, capacitors, solar panels, etc. The antenna swivels freely. It just pivots. All scientific claims that it can detect explosives have been disproved.

This phenomenon is clearly due to consumers’ ignorance, despite the existence of professional and effective explosive detectors in the market…




Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Advertising Taboo

security marketing


To celebrate Zod Security's 30 years' anniversary, this advertisement was supposed to be displayed outdoors on the streets of Beirut.

However, it was judged too controversial to actually be used.

After many trials to come up with a perfect advertisement capable to generate word of mouth and yet fit within the company's brand identity, we came up with this (see picture). It was just right, or so we thought.

"Trust in Zod, God is busy".

Zod Security was the second best option to God when it comes to protection. A great message to communicate the upscale image and the incontestable quality of its equipments in a few words.

However, the marketing campaign fell victim to society's norms.

First of all, God is a subject that is dangerous to tackle in the Middle East, as it can easily generate magnified reactions. Things could easily get out of hands. It is a risk one would be taking.
Second, This was to be printed during a hectic period in the Lebanese history. It was a time when explosions were abounding on the streets. Could the public be offended by this message in such times of crisis?

The decision was taken.... The project was put on hold.




Monday, April 7, 2008

Marketing Security

Did it ever strike you that in order to market an insurance policy or a security service, you need to first market insecurity?
Is there any ethical issues lying underneath it all? ...and to what extent can this actually be efficient?

I have realized that in order to reach their customers the companies in these type of industries strongly rely on salespeople or brokers. Could this actually have anything to do with it, or is it just the need of knowledge and expertise that makes this strategy the driving force in these industries?

Security remains a basic need (if you refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs). Would advertising insecurity lead to an increase of sales in the security industry?

In order to send an advertising message and attract consumer interest, agencies tend to link the product to one of the needs, sex being the most popular tool used but it is not the only one. The human need for belonging is often successfully addressed... Why not security?



Friday, April 4, 2008

Play God

All the hype around Web 2.0 and interactive marketing is making me wonder: How good is this in building goodwill? It might generate word-of-mouth, possibly brand awareness... but what happens to the brand name?

If you're already big in the industry then this could be a good solution for you; but can smaller or medium sized companies resort to this marketing means effectively? Contrary to what the experts are saying, I think not.

A brand needs to be seen as an unaccessible superior power of some sort. To create a brand name, you cannot go to the consumer on a one on one basis. You should not come up as "human". Humans make mistakes.

However what the web 2.0 can actually provide is an all-knowing and all-seeing omni-potent presence to the company, that was never there before. Companies can now monitor their environment closely. Knowledge... that's what this information era is all about.

The industry lacks experience with new technologies, and I am afraid that many have gone wrong. Spamming is one offensive and detrimental mean that has previously been used under pretext that it provides measurable results. Pop-ups is another. Those have already been proven to be ineffective.
However, the inclusion of forums on official websites, or the company web logs and personal involvement of the corporation in these are quite demeaning. the brands are being downsized. If such activities are not carefully done, great damage can be caused.

By getting involved, you're making your brand "human"... and thus subject to criticism.

The correct way to deal with interactive marketing is to use it for information gathering, customer monitoring, catering to consumer needs and responding to critics. In two words, play God. Be the good, knowledgeable, capable God who answers prayers not yet formulated.



Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Flash Mob... Future Marketing Tool?

Mobbers… That’s what they call themselves.
(check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_mob)

It’s hip, it’s fun and it’s secret; and it just got into town! Emails have been spreading around about a crazy event in Beirut. The date is set. The people are being gathered. The actual act… is still to be disclosed.

… and all I could think of is …. What a great concept for guerilla advertising!!

What if one company would sponsor those acts, provide them with all the stuff they need in exchange for some limited exposure?

Mutual benefit… sounds doable to me.



Sunday, March 30, 2008

Network Marketing... where's the catch?

Is it a good use of direct sales and word-of-mouth marketing? or another means of deceiving customers?

This thing is all over the place! I just got two proposals this week to join such "networks". It sounds odd, it kind of is.

Apparently http://www.goldmineint.com is a new trend that has been spreading like cancer on my previous university campus... Or so have I heard from a fellow alumni and current member of this network. OK, so my source is not the best there is out there! ...But I would not be surprised.
First I thought it was a smart way to sell gold. Our Brand management teacher, from South Africa, was explaining to us a couple of weeks ago how almost impossible it is to market mines. According to her, the best way to gain more money in these types of industries would be to increase the production efficiency. The product being hard to differentiate with a "brand" and having strict standards, is the same produced everywhere. Well, maybe not.
This just might be the added value some NEW consumers would be interested in. I think it's fascinating. Of course in the long run, the point of the game becomes the game itself and the gold becomes the tool of the trade... but it's still smart.

Furthermore, I have just received an email from an old friend, check below:

Hi Friends,
it looks like a real MLM ( Multi layer marketing ) profitable money. It is an Emaraty site called "DubaiMLM.com" this site OFFERS you $50 as u register to it, then when you invite people to it you get $10 dollars on each person, and when your friends invite others u get $1 dollar on each person.
All this money is transfered to your account thru Western Union.
All what you have to do is click on this link and register
http://------------.dubaimlm.com (keeping the real address confidential because it involves my friend's username.)


Yes, yet another Network marketing website. well if you think of it... it does get the customer highly involved! ... and isn't that the current global marketing orientation?



Saturday, March 29, 2008

Evolution in Digital Marketing

It is funny how in order to determine the new trends in the market, you need to look at the teenagers... They tend to decide what's in and what's out.

There came a time, not long ago, when search engines (the likes of google and yahoo) were the search tools of choice. Back then, the new ways were being fought by traditional conventional thinkers. Information gathered from the internet was not a valid reference. Today, this mode seems to be more widely accepted.

Now even search engines are becoming outdated. When you tell a kid to look up information about a topic, the first thing he relies on is Youtube! ...It's catching on. Does it normally qualify as a competitor to Google? I suppose not. Was it intended to fill this place? Again, I guess not. However, what the user decides to do of a website is often out of the company's hands. This time, it's in their favor. There is inherent benefit in Youtube's offerings. Something they can seriously work on. Could it be the future of research, there, right in front of our eyes?

In order to effectively market a product today, companies should rely on several new forms of media. The digital marketing is no longer limited to banners and official websites (of which, by the way, one can seriously criticize the efficiency).

Today, marketeers should have four main considerations: blogs, facebook, wikipedia and youtube... and even those are bound to change in the near future.

The power is the consumers'.



Monday, March 24, 2008

Variations in Medium Sensitivity

Marketing is not global. What applies in one industry does not necessarily work in another. I think I have identified the key for successful marketing when it comes to restaurants and pubs: word of mouth.

You can put a billion dollars advertising on billboards and magazines, if you are not offering an added-value that will eventually generate word of mouth; chances are that you have just literally thrown your money away... and I have news for you, they are not coming back!

Make sure your marketing department has some marketing sense. The only thing you need to do to succeed in this industry is to offer something exclusive to you; create your own identity prominently enough to be marked in the eyes of the consumer and you're in the game... make sure it doesn't become boring, and you're winning.

Are marketing mediums industry specific?

I was staring at some outdoor advertisings the other day... and I spotted some Perfume posters. Who the hell gave that marketeer this position?! The day it becomes a want to wear the same perfume everyone else is wearing, will be the day billboards become an effective tool for perfumes!!! Whoever put an accountant in the marketing department has made a terrible mistake. It might be cheaper to target a broader mass this way, but your damaging your image!

Customers actually search for perfumes in the glamorous magazines, they expect them to be there, so you better give them what they want. If you want to sell, that's where your investment should be. Forcing your product to the mass is neither a good strategy for your brand image nor a smart sales technique; as far as I can tell. I can't think of someone wanting his perfume to be on the streets... consumers want their perfumes to be in fashion editorials and stylish magazine pages... It doesn't take a genius to figure this out. It's common marketing sense!

Unless there has been some benefit gained from overriding the competition, these companies need to seriously consider their profits and redefine their marketing plan.



Authentic Customer Service

I sat around in Geneva’s airport, after getting some Swiss chocolate and a Euro 2008 souvenir… I still had some time to kill.
I watched the passers by, trying to guess their nationalities; I am still quite bad at this.
Finally, I could board… and as I was climbing the stairs up into the MEA, I saw the cedar on its tail, the one I was boasting on my passport, and I felt I was already home. I was content.
…Until the takeoff, when the hostesses apologized about a failure in the system. The entertainment was not available. I looked beside me, there, was seated, a little girl. I was wondering how her dad was going to keep her busy… I did not want to be in his place. I then put myself in a stranger’s shoes. How awfully would such a lack affect MEA’s reputation… and how would that reflect on Lebanon? Personally I was willing to swallow it, I guess it could have the worst service in the world and still be immune to criticism from my part… but what if I had a foreign friend with me? I would have wanted them to see this airline as it is in my ideal world, PERFECT.
I was disappointed.
Soon the meals arrived, followed by the drinks, soft and alcoholic, then the tea and the coffee… The little girl was being entertained by her father. He was explaining to her how to read her watch, while switching between the French, English and Arabic languages.
The hostesses passed by with a warm smile on their faces to pick up the trays.
The people; that is what I love about Lebanon. The system can be completely down or inefficient… and they still manage their way around it, as if nothing happened.
As I was admiring the view from my window, something odd happened. The co-pilot (or at least that’s who I think it was, guessing from his uniform) was distributing traditional Lebanese pastries, and wishing everyone a happy Easter. The father explained to his daughter that it was a Christian celebration, as he enjoyed the desert.
I turned towards the window, but this time, not to admire the scenery but to hide. Tears had filled my eyes. It is the little unplanned customized offerings that stand for genuine customer service and the pastries were just about enough to compensate and exceed my expectations.

Sometimes, an act of real kindness, that’s all it takes to succeed in business.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Your Destiny has an author.... You

The first time I had attended the debate on "whether there is such a thing as fate" was at church. The meeting closed with the conclusion that man is both free to choose his path and only lead by his destiny when it comes to birth and death... at the time, I was 15, and this statement made sense to me.

As life went on, I was leaning more and more towards the destiny theory.

When I graduated from school there were so many options laid out in front of me. I got scared of making the wrong choice in such a significant way that it would have devastating repercussions on the rest of my life. Choice, yes, man is free.... or so I thought.

I had two main fields of interest, either fashion design or marketing. However, since to complete the first I had to do my final year in France, I crossed out this option... "France"... I thought... "I don't want to go there, not me".

Thus, I went for marketing. and here I am today, continuing my master's degree, an hour away from Lyon (where I would have been this very same year had I picked the other option) and half an hour away from the Alps (where, very oddly, I was discussing to travel with some friends a year before!)... and all I can tell you now is " I am where I am meant to be".

Can we, thus, assume that the choices we have are only a mere impression of choice, and that the way we can affect our path is very minimal?

As I was coming down to this conclusion, I discovered something else at church this Sunday, a week before Easter. When the preacher was reading the Bible a sentence struck me "His blood be upon us and on our children".
Could those words have affected the Jewish people's entire history? Allow me to state this more explicitly, at the risk of offending some (unintended): if the genealogical tree of those who suffered in the concentration camps could be traced back, would it come down to the same individuals who were yelling in the crowds "crucify him"? and if so, wouldn't this reinforce the image monotheists have of a fair God?

Moreover, this gets me thinking of fortune tellers. There was a time when I did not believe in their speeches. Then with people like Michel Hayek (a very known Lebanese psychic) predicting the future of my country a year before the events took place; I figured "maybe" but "only short-term future". This, however, went against my Christian beliefs... and I just found my answer. It is known in Christianity that the devil does have knowledge of the present and past, and he is highly cunning... If such events accomplished in the past provoked the future, then yes, the medium with a devil can actually predict short-term future, but what it actually is, is an acute analysis of the present. Then, it can still be true, only God knows the future.

All I can say is that this world operates in funny ways. I did not yet assume an answer to that question of fate... but I still have a life time to figure it out; to be continued.



Thursday, March 13, 2008

No I'm Not Schizophrenic... But I NEED Help

Is being a marketeer about leadership or creativity?

Somewhere down the line between the businessman and the genius lies the successful marketeer. He is not the artist who hides from the world nor your average workaholic who disregards the external environment... But can a marketing professional get anywhere without an innovative flare and a dedication to his work?

Companies look for good communicators to put them in marketing positions. Are those people in the right place? This is the point where you need to draw the line between marketing and sales.

A marketeer should be able to conceptualize an idea without any tangible materials, understand how it fits within its market and position it in the right angle so as to guarantee interest and subsequently sales. Thus a marketeer should above all be a genius, a person who can think out of a box in a down-to-earth manner.

However, the requirements of today's organizational structures do not allow such people to prosper. Talent is not appreciated. Thus a marketeer should be a leader, one who not only believes in his ideas and is ready to fight for them, he should handle the pressure of responsibility in a risk averse and uncertain environment. He should be able to convince managers that he is comfortable with it. Even more, he should get the top of the pyramid to trust in HIS intuitions.

..But aren't these two personalities mutually exclusive?

We're asking for extremes of two different characters. Yes, extremes. Anyone who lies in the middle will not be able to get his ideas through. Thus I wonder, is any one marketeer complete?



Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The 1st phase of Marketing: HR

No matter how hard you try to satisfy a customer, if your employee is not satisfied, you're throwing your money away. Yes, I know you've figured out and implemented thousands of ways to sustain control. But trust me, they'll turn your world around, upside down and about if you do not quench their thirst. They know how to make themselves heard. Deep down inside you know it; and admit it, you fear it!

In my last job, one of the first steps I discovered I needed to implement to respond to the company's MARKETING needs was to establish an employee of the month program ...and I thought I had moved away from my field.

But no.

What's the use of promoting your company to the world if at some point in time you'll have an "insider", one of your own, or so you'd think, disconfirm your image? When the employee no longer associates himself with the company, when it becomes a "they" instead of a "we" ring the alarms, you have a problem.

Isn't Human Resources all about marketing the company to the employees at the end of the day? Marketing functions are rarely ever in the hands of the marketing department.

Isn't the general manager's job in some way strategic marketing? ...and the salesman's duty operational marketing? If even accounting can become creative in order to better market to the investors... one might wonder how much further can marketing go.



Saturday, March 8, 2008

Forgive me for calling you STUPID

I look around and all I see is environment friendly products. I go to companies' websites, and their corporate social responsibility is flunked on their homepages. I go down the streets and i see the recycling trash sign everywhere... Take a glimpse at the political agenda... did you see these magical words?

...well excuse me for calling you stupid! This is the new trend in marketing, the more environmental awareness you gain, the better they control you.

Do you think that these environmentally friendly products haven't damaged nature in order to be manufactured? Do you think they were parachuted from a cloud into your supermarket? Look closer.

Did you know that the companies that claim being concerned are the ones causing most of the damage? It is not the small companies who claim to "care about the environment" but the leaders, the ones who can afford it; or more accurately said, the ones who need to cover their misdeeds.

Do you think the governmental body members, that passed that law to reduce car usage, go to work on their bikes? Well, say they did cut down on car use, what about the military weapons and air force.... I'm sure those are less damaging to the environment! Wake up people! They're earning your votes for free.

Next time you participate in a "save the earth" demonstration; think about how many trees have to be cut down to make your signs...



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ignorance is Bliss - Cronulla Riots

I just recently found out about the Cronulla riots and events that took place in Australia in 2005. Yes, 3 years later.

I have wasted my day reading about hatred... hatred towards my beloved country and its people. How is it possible that I didn't know? Never could I have imagined that anyone could hold anything but admiration towards Lebanon.

This is my heaven, the land where 18 religious communities live side by side in 10, 542 km squares, the land where almost everyone is trilingual, most people are in private schools, the place where everyone is welcome with open arms... where you would find the world's most beautiful women, the friendliest and most life-loving personalities. We created the alphabet, the first boat and the first law school in the world. We are known for our unmatchable services, our business skills and strong banking system. This is the Lebanon I know, nothing but PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE!

This is the country where more than 40 newspapers are published daily and where universities abound, where everyone aspire to be a lawyer, a doctor, an architect or an engineer. To the point where we have one doctor for every 10 patients! PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE!

However, what really characterizes my country is its Holiness. Lebanon is the only country in the world that has kept its original name since Biblical time, that has resurrected after wars, and regenerated to bloom again and again. Lebanon is first and above all IMMORTAL.

Its very own Byblos is the oldest city in the world, the very same city that gave its name to the Bible (since the papers that were used to produce the book came from this town). Lebanon was mentioned 75 times in the Old Testament, same goes for its symbol, the Cedar, it was mentioned exactly 75 times as well. Coincidence? I suppose it is true what they say, that every hair on our head is counted... Not to mention that the first miracle Jesus Christ ever made was in Lebanon. PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE!

What's more is Lebanon's historical wealth. Lebanon was occupied by more than 16 countries. It has witnessed the rise and fall of the biggest civilizations. It is the most crowded country in its archeological sites... and yet it still makes it on the top of the world's headlines for war and destruction. Do you still wonder why?

Today, Lebanon has one of the world's best night lives. It offers the Middle East its finest singers, businessmen and writers.

It is true that Lebanon has been a nation where major terrorists originated. This is the Lebanon you know, the one you read about and see on the news... But did you know that it has generated and raised even more SAINTS than terrorists? Have you heard of Saint Charbel, Saint Rafka, Saint Hardini... and many others are still on their way to pontification.

I suppose where there is good, there is evil. Could it be the reason for all the wars? The fact that there's a God goes without saying in Lebanon, no matter our religion... Our soil has a sky.



Sunday, February 24, 2008

Second Life: Networking and Marketing

In the life we are familiar with, companies go where the consumers are likely to be found to market themselves. In the life we are familiar with, marketing academics study existing trends. However, in Second Life the world operates upside down and it troubles me!

How is it that a company that was established so long ago suddenly gained popularity? It had been launched before, why did its use peak now?

Skip.

I am a graduate student in France, the second most popular location for Second Life, and the first time I heard about this “world” was through a teacher intrigued about this new scope of retail and finance possibilities. No, that’s not my main concern. What puzzles me is that I since heard a lot about Second Life, only it always came through academics! 100% of the Second Life users I know are either teachers or encouraged by their teachers to open an account; and I can’t help but wonder why.

Why is it that so many reputable universities and big renowned companies jumped on board an online application that has yet to prove itself? Why is it that the teachers are studying a “consumer” phenomenon when the consumer is not there yet? Why is it that the most important part of the equation is left out? …Is this part of a marketing strategy scheme?

What is this application that even my brand new Apple cannot support its graphics? How do they expect it to catch on, when it requires so much effort from the part of the user? All the new internet successes focus on ease of use, simplicity, speed and accessibility. The world is moving away from downloads and installation. Video games are now played live online. Movies are viewed directly… Everything is live and requires minimal effort from the user… and while the internet is undergoing such a movement, those big names disregard the possible failure of Second Life. Thus I got curious!

I wanted to know who was behind it. Searched the creator. His history. His life. Could he be part of some network that encompass all those powerful company leaders? I am thinking free masonry…. I don’t know what I am thinking. I found no clues.

However what I did find was the CEO of Second Life on Facebook and LinkedIn; and my thoughts drifted away from my problem: If I was to contact him through a conventional company medium, it would be almost impossible… while in this new world, everyone’s only one click away.



Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marketing Madness (Politics in Lebanon)

I live in a country where every family has a political history. Every family has a martyr… or a victim. Every house has been damaged, at least once, by war. I live in a country where you cannot get to power unless you are politically supported by a party of some sort; and this even applies at university levels.

It is in this atmosphere, under this sky, that tensions started building up.

Here, everything is political; and everyday some new event drawing speculations takes place, leaving evidence free for interpretation since no “facts” are ever revealed or proven! Everyone’s an expert and each has a different opinion… even a 5 year old voices his comments confidently and holds his political party at heart.

Democracy at its best!

However, Lebanese are good businessmen… a bit too good for their own sake. They excel in commerce, even when the product is intangible; and so the insanity begins!

Every political party has its color; orange for the Free Patriotic Movement, military green for the Lebanese Forces, yellow for Hezbollah, flashy green for the Marada, darker green for Amal, light blue for the Future Movement, red for the Progressive Socialist Party…and the list goes on. “Beautiful!” you may think…. Well, not so much when you start being judged and labeled by the color of your clothes. Try any of these colors on Election Day or any other day where some leader has called for a political statement (they abound around here), and you’re sure to get hurt.

If this is not enough, what if I tell you that the way you honk your car could get you into trouble? Yes! Honking CAN and IS a political statement…. Since, believe it or not, some parties have their own “combination of notes” that makes them recognizable.

That, aside from the political songs and each party’s anthems and slogans… at some point, when political enthusiasm rises, they get played in night clubs! Not to forget the mobile ringtones…

Not crazy enough? Well check this: every single political party has a single leader they swear by; one, which can never be nor do wrong. Our entire history has been rewritten to fit each and every party’s point of view; now there’s so many versions that no one can guarantee any aspect is true! People argue on contradicting “facts” they feel strongly about. Our history book at school stops before 1975 since, starting that date, we failed to agree on a single version of the truth.

Of course we have each party’s logo, their own website; but one party even has its own product line to finance its activities (everything from pens to umbrellas, to bottled water and fuel!)

Ok, so this is not so bad… Let’s talk about propaganda! Freedom of the press! Every newspaper or television station has its political stand… talk about brainwashing! We’ve reached a time where everything you hear or read is biased and you have to interpret it in accordance to its source… but how did we get here?

Consider this; you had a percentage of neutral individuals in Lebanon. These were your guarantee. These were the reason for all the marketing effort. They were the people who shifted the balance from side to side. And so the fight had begun!

Speeches, poetic and patriotic statements; stereotyping and labeling events and people to promote certain ideas and turn the neutrals to your advantage… That’s sales. Associating adjectives or facts everyone repels to your enemies and you’re winning, it doesn’t matter if you’re mistaken as long as the trend catches on and everyone starts using your expressions.

However, they didn’t stop here, songs and video clips to support political views proliferated; but my favorite marketing tool remains the billboards. The more a political party advertised and showed its presence, the more its partisans and that of the opposing parties got attached to their beliefs. What people didn’t get is a fundamental lesson in marketing; when you already feel strongly about a product, advertising only makes you feel stronger about it.

The jackpot was the neutral cluster. Soon, the first advertisements attracted counter-advertising efforts and the madness took place. Marketing mayhem was a personal enjoyment. The Lebanese economy is barely striving to survive and political marketing is booming!

Shortly afterwards, no one was neutral anymore. For stupid reasons, everyone had unwillingly taken a side in the conflict. As it goes in social psychology it is easier to sell something when the person in question already made a pro-statement or took action to defend it. So the brother turned against his brother and the mother against her son, the husband disagreed with the wife and suddenly watching the news at home or talking about politics became unbearable.

Today, my country is agonizing from democratic overdose and political poison: an attestation to the power of marketing.



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