Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Football shirt advertising: Punching above your weight

Justin O'Brien in the AAP3 box at St Marys stadium

I am not a very secret Southampton FC fan.  I'm always a bit contrary, love underdogs and will chose an opposing position often for the pure intellectual stimulation it can bring.  Politically this brings me into deep water, as my left leaning friends (I have a few - remember I work in a uni) think I am a raging Tory and my right wing mates think I'm a leftie liberal.  It's an interesting position to hold, and in reality I am apolitical. 
Hailing originally from Sussex, by rights I should be a Seagulls fan (Brighton & Hove Albion FC) having spent teenage birthday parties watching Mark Ward and Fozzie play in blue and white stripes during their brief sojourn in the top tier.  But, watching the 1976 FA Cup final (back in the days when live football on TV was a big deal) with my dad and a neighbour both rooting for Manchester United, I chose to support serious underdogs, Southampton.  A league lower, wearing golden yellow, Bobby Stokes scored the only goal of the match and my fate was sealed.  Those without a football association may not know that the stories everyone holds around how they first identify with a club are legendary fables.  And once you pick a club, you can never change, whatever happens.

You are allowed 'second' teams, particularly if your team plummets into the lower leagues, as Southampton did for a while not too long ago.  I did like pre-Emirati money Man City back in the eighties for a while when Mick Shannon (also an England legend, famous for his winding up, circling arm goal scoring celebration)  transferred there.  This is a really good thing as my wife, her family and my boys are now avid 'Citeh' fans.  Back to the Saints.....

Now, you are getting the feeling that I am quite into football and Saints FC in particular, you will appreciate just how excited I was when, thanks to a mate referral from Gavin, who is terribly well connected, we were invited by Southampton's shirt sponsors, IT solutions provider AAP3, to watch a game from the comfort of their centre line executive box. 

By avoiding the match day crowds we got to park right outside St. Mary's stadium and enjoy a friendly three course lunch with CEO Rod, Sales Director Mike and Business Development manager Oliver from All About People, Process and Productivity (AAP3).  If you use the 7P's of marketing regularly, as I am prone to, clever use of three P's is always attention grabbing, particularly if you have seen it on your teams shirts for three years without realising its origins.

During our pre-briefing session (ok, chatting in the car on the way to the ground) Gavin and I had discussed the value of a shirt sponsorship deal, particularly as Gavin had experience putting together such deals, with his club Reading before ethically minded Waitrose took that space. CEO Rod described the highly successful marketing strategy for his firms 500 person strong, mid-sized, organisation, which has operations in USA, as very much targeted at building awareness. Of course, the rather unexpected and significant improvement in Southampton's position in the table over the course of the three year deal, combined with the screening of English premiership footie  (EPL) now 'free to air' on US network major, NBS also helped. 

The AAP3 team offer a friendly and effective approach to using their corporate entertainment box, following up a highly entertaining afternoon talking about and watching football with social media links and business opportunity call.  I don't think Business Schools put enough emphasis on personal selling and networking (it is very rare to see modules on sales embedded in UK programmes), but this is something I have begun to put more emphasis on in the Royal Holloway MBA.  I really enjoyed learning about AAP3 and plan to write up a case study to use in my marketing teaching next term.

Justin O'Brien, MBA Director, Royal Holloway University

Saturday, 18 January 2014

How to find a company and job you love !

Whilst for many, particularly in the early career stage, finding a job with a salary that reliably pays out each month whilst being asked to carry out reasonably interesting tasks some of the time, is probably a decent and realistic expectation.  A newbie usually recognises that their limited knowledge and experience means "paying your dues" by shouldering routine tasks whilst assimilating tacit and codified information and developing a social network that begins to establish your organisational credibility.  It took me far to long to appreciate the importance of informal networking.  Eileen, who is in search placements for senior roles, said the best piece of advice she had ever been given was simply "Be brilliant, they will find you."  Whatever the tasks in front of you, you need to perform your best, make friends and be noticed.

Source: Eileen Lee, Nichols Executive Search

Many students are a bit surprised when they hear that after sixteen years, having started as a graduate trainee and benefitting from a company funded executive MBA,  I decided to leave British Airways.  I loved the company, and still do.  I felt profound pride being associated with the organisation.  My mum and dad did too.  Essentially having been given creative and financial autonomy during my time working in Germany and Russia, a London based head office career just was not for me.  But a working wife and child care responsibilities meant that overseas roles were no longer a sensible option for our family.  Thus, reluctantly it was time to move on.

The challenge was finding a new role and organisation that I really wanted to work for.  My passion had always been training and development, my mother had talked me out of being a school teaching after I finished university, so I had followed the travel route, which was lots of fun.  The challenge around leaving a great company like BA is that the grass isn't greener.  And in fact, in leaving, I realised just how good the company's processes and people are.  Good and best practice had been imbibed into my being, and fortunately I found I was probably able to use these skills in a wide range of new avenues.

Eventually I spotted a university teaching role that drew on my aviation background and MBA education, but did not need the PhD and research publications I lacked.  The building, an old school, needed demolishing.  It was, shortly after I left, although not related to my departure. 

The staff were passionate and worked hard.  The students were fantastic and it was very stimulating to develop creative ways of communicating a blend of industry insight with academic business school theory, whilst learning the craft of teaching.  The ranking and reputation of the institution was the polar opposite of BA.  I ended up leaving after four years into unemployment because the Theory X leadership style suffered from the excessive influence of the omnipotent, micro-controlling and short term oriented Big Boss.  Rather than encouraging and nurturing a respectful, empowered and fun working environment, it all felt a bit hostile with a small cadre of 'in' and a wider group of 'out' people.  My direct line managers were fabulous, but rather constrained themselves.  

Luckily, after four weeks, I found myself hired into a temporary role at the School of Management at Royal Holloway.  

"Pinch me ! I had died and gone to heaven."  

Royal Holloway University Chapel

Not only is the campus stunning (I had to pinch myself for 18 months each morning "I work in this beautiful place") but the working culture is fabulous.  I have autonomy, mostly fun work that I can influence, have some super colleagues and I am empowered and trusted to get on and do a good job.  No sniping comments about not being at my desk, or being expected to drop everything to achieve stupidly short term goals.  Eventually I realised it was a function very much of the culture, as both exist as UK universities and influenced by the system of peculiar constraints this brings.  

I saw a post about the HubSpot culture code on LinkedIn.  Clever viral WoM PR using an open approach to their leadership approach from an entrepreneurial organisation. Clever marketing.  I loved the summary list and wanted to share it with you all, having been the key inspiration for this post.  

Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing

Whether you like it or not, you're going to have a culture.  Why not make it one you love ?

Solve for the Customer - not just their happiness, but also their success

Power is now gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant"

You shouldn't penalise the many for the mistakes of the few

Results should matter more than when or where they are produced

Influence should be independent of hierarchy

Great people want direction on where they're going - not directions on how to get there

"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without"

A decent mantra to my mind.  Several ideas concentrating on what and how things should be done combined with a strong customer orientation, but also recognising that people are profoundly important.
Some of these I find metaphorically wonderful, they appear to be begging to be combined with a cracking image and made into a t-shirt.   

So, the advice I end up giving to students I now work with is to highlight that  the two way interview process as an opportunity to understand the employing organisation, to assess whether it would be fun to work there.  To get a sense of the degree of personality fit, the individual into the company, not just about the all powerful company deciding your fate.  

Can I grow ?  Will I be valued ?  And to choose a role not primarily on salary, but on the potential for happiness through meaningful and fulfilling work.  

PS:  there is nothing wrong in being a pebble !

Friday, 17 January 2014

London Calling !

My colleague Peter Quinn has just produced this fabulous profile of Xenia Borissova-Demidova BBC legal and business affairs manager who studied for the Royal Holloway University of London MBA via distance learning.  

Thanks to Xenia for writing an extensive profile.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Guardian features Royal Holloway MBA drama

UK national newspaper Guardian print edition coverage of Royal Holloway MBA drama in early December 2013

Thanks to pioneering the teaching approach and an adventurous spirit from Dr Emma Brodzinski (Royal Holloway Drama) and professional actor and producer Alex Turner (none zero one) and a very up for it MBA group.

Guardian journalist Helena Pozniak captures the spirit of the drama engagement that is now one of the stand out elements of the Royal Holloway MBA programme.

Pop Up McDonald's Container Outlet in Germany ?

McDonald's has always sought to make a big impression at Frankfurt Airport.

It is apparent from the design integrity of the top floor food court, that McDonald's was involved in the creative input to the space themed environment at the ultra modern Frankfurt Terminal 2, which opened in 1994, but still appears fresh thanks to its polished marble flooring, grey and blue colour scheme and paired back industrial girder prominent design.


We always chuckled, back in the days when I lived and worked there, about the tourism statistic that reported the airport was in the top three most visited places in Germany.  For historic reasons and partly a function of Germany's federated organisation the national financial centre also hosts the premier aviation hub, despite a small city population of less than 2m.  Supposedly, as well as being the start and or end point of numerous airlines flight operations including hosting Germany's national airline Lufthansa's main base, it was also a popular spot to go and hang out.  Ok, it did benefit from an integrated train station, and special dispensation on retail operations, I often ended up doing my shopping at the supermarket at the airport.  Odd ?  You wonder why perhaps ?   I tended to find that regular shops were only open when I was either working or asleep, with weekend opening strongly resisted by works councils to protect the family lives of shop workers.  And, yes, back in the days of early aviation, airports were of interest for their spectacle, as flying was beyond the means of many, the preserve of the rich and senior business executives.  But perhaps my geeky analyst issue is a misconception around an over exacting Teutonic categorisation of 'visitor attraction'.  Whatever.

Everyone's doing selfies these days - even Justin !
It has been more than six years since I have visited Frankfurt and I was delighted to spot a rare stand alone McCafe, positioned just prior to the security point that delineates airside from landside.  A while back and in response to the trend towards coffee houses, led by US Starbucks, McDonald's experimented in a number of markets and locations with a specialist hot drinks and snacks marketing mix.  A really short menu proposition.  They have also dramatically improved their standard coffee offering, a clear game changer, I am now very happy to take coffee there.  Unlike UK inspired trend for airside, luxury oriented duty free shopping malls, Frankfurt Airport Group have sought to position their retailing offerings to be accessible to the wider airport community, including meeters and greeters, staff, visitors and ancillary service providers without security passes.  Oh, and smokers too ! 

McCafe - very drinkable
Of course the McDonald's brand experience has a lot to answer for.  I spent too much time during my youth travelling the world and popping into the Golden Arches to purvey their offering and investigating the nature of international product differences.  This led on to guest lecturing on the brand to Lancaster University BSc entrepreneurs, publishing case studies in one of Europe's leading marketing text books and then of course, a career change into academia.  So Ronald has played an influential role in my life !  You can honestly say I'm lovin' it !

So, you may have sensed, I have an enduring passion for all things related to the brand and will often nerdily be seen casting a critical eye over the restaurants I visit.  This is now more frequent than my waist line can reasonably cope with, as both my boys are keen on MickeyD's (KFC is their number one by the way, for balance). I still hope that one day Gill McDonald (a former BA colleague and CEO of McDonald's UK) will invite me to give customer insights as part of their marketing research and product innovation.

Imagine my delight and surprise to see a shiny red and yellow container (like those you see on big ships) on the arrivals level of Frankfurt airport recently.  A pop up and reasonably portable kitchen format that offered screened off standing tables for 'eat-in' customers.  Located at the head of the multi-lane taxi rank, overlooking an autobahn underpass on the extreme limit of the airport footprint.
This was such an ingenious interpretation of convenience, and yet so at odds with my own experience of retailing in Germany from the late 1990's.  It would seem to naturally appeal to taxi drivers who would be unlikely to leave their cars for the significant journey to the top of the terminal to visit the impressive signature  restaurant.  And not forgetting smokers, banned from puffing inside the building, but happy to have a drink and bite to eat outside.  I noted that the point of sale images highlighted the fries and coffee options, although a shorter than usual range of burgers were on offer too.  A whole McDonald's kitchen in a container.  Amazing.
The whole thing seemed to be designed to pack away into the container, but craftily slide apart for operation, tripling its footprint in so doing.  The ultimate* solution for time limited events like the Olympics, festivals and holiday periods.  Remember, Christmas markets abound in German cities, something they have been doing really well for a long time.  Limited storage could be over come through sharing, as needed, lean or just in time deliveries and storage capacity with the larger mother store. Remember that McDonald's standardisation requires the use of in house branded food and packaging materials, you will probably find the company headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois features on the sachets of tomato sauce.  Franchise operators cannot just pop down to the cash and carry to stock up on generic disposable plates and cups.
Tosin, a recently graduated Royal Holloway MBA who I helped undertake her dissertation on the use of truck based mobile retail for a highly successful late entrant telecoms operator in Nigeria.  This seems to be another nifty distribution innovation, I really was not expecting to come across this in the forecourt of Frankfurt Airport, of all places.  Remote communities see mobile libraries and banks.  eCommerce has enabled supermarket home delivery services.  We are used to seeing Kebab and burger vans operate out of caravans, trailers and sizeable trucks, but to see a strong brand like McDonald's start doing the same is quite eye opening.  More to come ?
*Again for balance, some of my colleagues do not include wider fast food distribution in their version of Nirvana.

Peter spotted this in Shanghai, China serving shakes and ice creams

McD's shake shack ?