Thursday, 27 February 2014

Student Profiles

Royal Holloway Full Time MBA International Management student profile links:


Amanda Chen Wei
Prashob Vellalath 
Cohort in photos


Bolour Gharibi
Rashak Maini
Amy Sharath
Srinath BR
Kelliann McDonald
Pritsana Wasana
Amy Sharath
Shrenik Shah

Ibou Barry 

Royal Holloway Distance Learning MBA/MSc International Management student profile links:

This Digital Marketing project from three 2013/14 MBAs offers some interesting personal insights from a number of female MBA (& other post grad) students.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Building a beer brand through social media: Windsor and Eton brewery case study

Windsor and Eton Brewery field trip for Royal Holloway MSc Entrepreneurs

Located just off the railway arches on an aesthetically average industrial estate in the foothills of Windsor castle in Royal Berkshire you will find a remarkable entrepreneurial business.  The intrepid group of MSc Entrepreneurship students from Royal Holloway set out to feel their learning in action hosted by one of the four company founders.  

Founding partner Paddy shares entrepreneurial insights with students

Our host was founding partner Paddy, a mid-fifties ex-corporate professional, who had been operating in consulting but found the work unfulfilling.   Having had some experience in the brewing industry early in his career, Paddy had wanted to set up a brewery near his home in Manchester, but the proliferation of competitors put him off.  

Top side view of the fermenting vessels

Surprisingly the London area, which has "a lot of chimney stacks" and many pubs keen to offer customers a variety of guest beers, possesses relatively few mircro-breweries.  Sambrooks is a rare example.  A conversation with a friend soon sparked into a business plan, two additional ex-professional directors brought together a powerful blend of brewing, manufacturing and marketing skills and, in record breaking time with pension funds and savings raided, a brewery was operational within 6 weeks of receiving planning permission for an industrial shed that was really 'a bit too big'.  

Tasting the product:  a different kind of learning experience

Reluctant to borrow for funding and with a clear focus on building a long term business based on effective trade relations, the Windsor and Eton brewery (W&E or URL  restored the craft of brewing to the population of Windsor with a remarkable customer response.  Not the function of an expensive marketing campaign, although one of the owners does have a marketing pedigree, but because one of the founders wives insisted on using Facebook to develop a social media following that charted the journey through planning permission approval and brewery kit out to the eventual St. Georges day launch.

Laura's favourite drop

The market for real ale peaks from Easter to early summer (warm weather sees colder lagers favoured) and Paddy tells one story of the kind of luck that is often needed when a new business is being established.  A minibus load of real ale 'knights' from Cheltenham, in full St. George fancy dress, arrived at a Windsor pub asking "Do you serve Guardsman ?" the first commercial brew that had been launched at 1200 that day.  The clever marketing stunt (in reality a serendipitous unplanned occurrence) saw locals and American tourists clamour for 'some of what they are drinking' and within a thrice, two casks were emptied and the happy landlord was on the telephone to the brewery ordering some more for the following day.  

Licking your palm to taste

 the essential oils from 

the hops: a bitter experience

In fact local publicans were persuaded to stock the unknown local brew by aspiring consumer inquiries during the week prior to the launch, locals who had followed the development of the new craft brew brand, some even particularly keen to take the first pint pulled at 1200.  The sales team at Windsor and Eton compete hard to sell their wares, with average publicans called 20-30 times each week being offered traditional cask beers from around the country.  A variety of cost effective marketing activities are undertaken including group factory tours, a retail outlet,  and hosting rugby games using a big screen on the wall of the brewery to allow 100 fans  enjoy an unusual community experience that emanates authenticity.  The odd banner, limited advertising in magazines and beer mats are nearly the full extent of the advertising mix, thus positive word of mouth, creative use of social media and strong business-to-business relationships are crucial for the enduring success of the company.  The first weeks production of 23 casks were all sold, the foundations of a great new business had been laid.

Tasting malted barley: think Horlicks and Maltasers

From a marketing perspective the brewery has creatively leveraged a B2B push and B2C pull strategy that utilises personal relationship heavy telephone selling to place casks of guest beers into pubs (which do not benefit from automatic and regular reordering that established, national brands can rely on thanks to their powerful marketing support) whilst generating word-of-mouth interest and ultimately B2C demand using social media.  Targeting the fat sausage catchment spreading 25 miles north and south and 40 miles east and west of Windsor, regular deliveries are made in the Thames Valley that includes 'all of London'.

Imperial casks: Red Metric kegs

Blue and purple are 

'stand out' beverage colours 

The Windsor Knot brand was developed to celebrate the wedding of local celebrities, Will and Kate, with the iconography of the label using Royal Windsor swans, beaks touching to form a heart and surrounded by a golden tie boasting a Windsor knot.  Clever visual puns that are designed to grab the attention at the bar.  

My chum Peter, who worked at drinks giant Diageo, stated that consumers are very open to suggestion as they approach a bar, with as many as 50% undecided on what they would purchase - no wonder the point of sale paraphanalia in the form of drip mats, handle labels, ice buckets, pump clips, bar towels, glasses and swizzle sticks is so over loaded with heavily branded visual cues.

Students benefitted from a full tour of the brewing process, including tasting the raw ingredients that include smoked, caramelised and lightly toasted malt to licking the bitter tasting essential hop oils from the palms of their hands.  Paddy explained that the operation might be thought of as a fungi factory that has a nice tasting by-product (beer !), explaining the various processes required to create the optimal conditions for the yeast to grow and to transform malt into beer.  

Students also got to ask questions about the motivations of the entrepreneurs, their strategy to grow the business and to understand the kinds of risks and returns taken by the founding investors.  Unlike BrewDogs the fast growing, City financed international brand that looks primed for a brand optimisation approach, the team at Windsor and Eton are comfortable with their organic growth strategy that relies on internal sources of investment, a common shared passion for brewing and building long term business relationships.  Paddy said the personal trade-off rigour required for agreeing and deciding to invest in the business (perhaps with extra storage space or a bottling line) or alternatively using the funds to take family holidays, results in extremely well thought through financial decisions.  The business has grown much more quickly than expected and W&E are keen to find more space to continue to grow organically and, because they are beholden to no one, they are happy to chase bank managers off the premises. This appears to be a very liberating approach, judging by Paddy's rhetoric and body language.  

Seeking to whet the appetite of, to cite a rather trite marketing cliche', "ever more demanding customers" the team used All Black Rugby legend Zinzan to develop his own drop, naturally presented as an all-black bitter using New Zealand Redback malt and Waimea hops from the South Island for a 6 Nations only sales period.  Treetops is another limited edition brew of African Stout that uses sorghum syrup, roasted millet and toasted yams.  W&E import raw materials from around the world to create a range of sustainability friendly, super local brands (e.g. Knight of the Garter, Eton Boatman and Conquerer) whilst linking international dimensions (Queens Jubilee Commonwealth) to allow for more exotic ingredients to be used, such as cardamom, coriander and jasmine petals.  

Reflecting on low barriers to entry ("Anyone can buy this equipment from Burton-on-Trent and set up a brewing process with a bit of nous") Paddy suggested that competition from the regional, national and global brands was intense, with many larger companies buying up micro-breweries to satisfy strong consumer demand for variety.  Interestingly,  several craft brew outfits, including Windsor and Eton with its Czech inspired Republika, are looking to the lager market, using bottom fermentation processes, to offer a craft lager experience that benefits from a wider market demographic and to stretch their production capacity into the hot summer months when refreshing chilled drinks top the tables.  

Our group of international students (many who were not big beer drinkers) thoroughly enjoyed the visit and we highly recommend the experience.  Link to tour page

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sitting down is not so easy, Jet-set Mike Robinson shares complexities with Royal Holloway MBAs

Never thought too hard about sitting down before ? Royal Holloway MBA students were taken to another level recently by aviation industry consultant Mike Robinson, who jetted in from Geneva to give a master class on how consumers cope with complexity and particularly choice.  

Royal Holloway MBAs pondering customer behaviour complexity in seat selection

First up really was; Where to sit ?  The traditional rows of desks and chairs were replaced by an aircraft simulating 3x3 seating plan, with a single, central aisle.  MBA Director, Justin O'Brien, predicted correctly that the front row would be the least popular area and the cool crowd would fill up the back row.  Unlike a plane, where seats 1A and 1H are much sought after and there is a general preference for the front rows over those down the back.  

Ever wondered why you end up driving around an empty car park, not quite able to decide which space to take.  Which is really the perfect one ?     My wife certainly finds this behaviour very difficult to comprehend.  But multi-storey car parking has become a bit of a taboo subject in our house, so best to leave this one alone.  Mike suggests it is a function of too much choice and cites a variety of examples that indicates that giving too many options can enhance customer choice satisfaction, but decrease actual purchasing behaviour.  Great data, wrong question, just like new Coke - one to chew over with colleague Sameer next week ! To example this assertion Mike highlighted the huge product range offered by leading supermarkets, but the much narrower, one choice per category offered by discounters like Aldi and Lidl.  

15E the least chosen seat ?

Sharing key insights from his time heading up the commercial arm of the management consultancy practice at IATA (the de facto global airline membership body) in Switzerland and drawing on a wide experience on projects undertaken around the globe, Mike encouraged the Royal Holloway MBA group to attach great importance to customer insight and devoting material time and resources to ensure that real behaviours of real customers is integral to all commercial decision making.

Mike highlighted, by way of case study example, the entrepreneurial 50+ strong retail chain that sells healthy soup targeting the needs of one particular group of Japanese customers, women who like nutritious soups and want to feel safe eating alone in a smoke free environment.  
Mike Robinson at Royal Holloway

Research for a leading European point-to-point airline identified the importance of toilets in the decision making of female and older customers, young people it seems have strong bladders.  Proximity to or access to facilities being a key seat choice factor, and its importance growing with increasing flight duration.

Travellers were also prepared to pay a significant premium for pre-allocated seating in the front of the aircraft and most were happy to pay a notional figure to allow choice at the point of booking and avoid the rugby scrum melee that can occur during a free boarding process.  Crucially the charging framework under investigation failed to optimise the full value of additional fees travellers would have been prepared to pay, underscoring Mike's key tenet that more focus on customer insight is often needed and it can drive the bottom line. 

During the Q&A Mike Robinson explained to the engaged and curious Royal Holloway MBA group that the front of an aircraft was a more popular choice for a variety of reasons including; speed of entry/exit access, lower engine noise and a smoother ride.  

And the answer to life, universe and everything is 15E, the seat most likely to be vacant on a typical short haul aircraft, so choose D or F in that row to optimise your own elbow room.  

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fun Learning at the Entrepreneurial Chocolate Factory

Learning REALLY can be FUN !  Just ask the Royal Holloway MSc Entrepreneurship students, they know. 

Tasting warm chocolate-which to choose dark, milk or white ?

Pick your decorations YUM !

Experiential learning is a central tenant of MBA Director Justin O'Brien's approach to bringing alive the theoretical concepts taught in his Entrepreneurial Marketing module on the Royal Holloway MSc Entrepreneurship.   

Looking for innovative ways to bring across not only the important, traditional elements of marketing Justin sought to introduce this years cohort of students to Keith from The Chocolate Factory, a new business start up situated in the heart of Windsor's pedestrianized shopping precinct.    Keith is a serial entrepreneur with interests in a number of business. 

Keith explains how to make chocolate

During the hands on workshop he explained to the students that his inspiration for this particular business idea had been enjoying a similar offering whilst on holiday in Spain with a group of family and friends. Whilst a keen foodie (he appeared in the BBC series 'masterchef' a few years back) with a self-acclaimed palette for flavours, Keith knew little about the serious business of chocolate, although he has hired two chocolatier/pastry chef professionals.

Food hygiene rules require fashionable head gear to be worn by everyone

Co-ordinated Popping Candy - great fun !

Rosie's winning design

Those of you of a certain age may remember 'space dust', we were given a large container full of industrial quality popping crystals.  What fun as we all popped a small handful in our mouths and listened to an orchestra (of sorts) as popping sounds came out of our mouths.

Having explained the history of chocolate consumption, which dates back to Mayan times, Keith showed students how to make their own 100g chocolate bars, using three bar moulds and a variety of colourful ingredients. 

'520' in Mandarin means "I Love You"

The part retail, part experiential 'factory' attracts a variety of customers, including walk ins looking to enjoy a hand made chocolate experience, special orders (a 2kg Darlek was waiting for one of the series writers) including bespoke company Easter eggs, childrens parties on the weekends and evening workshops for adults, a concept that is also popular for Stag and Hen parties.  Sometimes they even allow University students to participate !

Owner Keith's winning bars

Thanks to Keith for sharing his entrepreneurial insights -

Saturday, 8 February 2014

A very Japanese approach to marketing a Kit Kat

Regulars to this blog will know my interest in all things Japanese, marketing and confectionary, and particularly the recent trend to reinvent (I would say 'sex up' but that does not have a very academic chime to it ?)  long standing stalwart brands, such as the Snickers bar and even old faithfuls from days gone by like the traditional custard cream biscuit.  

I have an inkling of looking into retro sweets, you know, those old fashioned boiled sweets you used to buy loose from a big jar, like strawberry bons   bons, pontefract cakes and mint imperials.  It seems sales of these products grew significantly last year (nothing to do with Wolworth's demise I suppose ?).  My old favourite 2p priced liquorice stick is now retailing at an eye watering 25p, supposedly because suppliers are hard to find according to our local olde worlde sweet shop.  

Imagine my delight when Hayata-san, over to visit Royal Holloway before putting in an application for the full time MBA programme, presented me with a gift set of unusually tailored Kit Kat special editions.  Since my last visit to Japan, when we picked up sakura, green tea and wasabi flavoured gift packs using our last Yen currency at Narita airport, the clever marketing people in Nestle' Japan have taken the ideas further and developed a wider range of options.  Some leverage an interesting flavour, so chilli draws from the ancient Aztec {savoury} dish that sees chilli and chocolate blended together for the adventurous palette. Strawberry cheesecake uses a white chocolate coating and biscuit infused with red goo.    Both have got to be winners with a clear appeal of dare and hedonistic pleasure.  Others that purport to regional Japanese differences allow for a Tokyo product to boast its own geographic credentials, and fit effectively in the Japanese gift giving culture that seeks to venerate an element of the local culture.  

Hurrah ! say I.  In a world that is increasingly homogenious, seeing a global brand localise in such a manner is genius innovation and that just has to be congratulated.  

Not forgetting that the simple and relatively cheap, packaging adaption (four large bars are wrapped together using a four colour, gloss printed, cardboard sleeve) repositions a generic and ubiquitous fmcg item into a bundle that makes it suitable to give as a gift for family or in a business context.  Added value, marketing premier league style !

Arigato Hayata-san !