SMARTKETING’s original business model is still relevant; coordinate a home-based business plugged in from anywhere. Candidly I feel I have been working remotely from Day One. Regardless, I still follow workplace trends, especially how they have morphed thanks to the pandemic. I have posted about Zoom. Time for an update.
Over the holidays I finally caught up on my backlog of saved articles. One article which piqued my interest was about a new movement in interior office design. Pre-pandemic a majority of the work places were open air (a.k.a. cubicles). Workers found them to be distracting; the noise level and lack of privacy. Then the pandemic hit and white-collar workers abandoned offices in mass to work remotely. Post pandemic offices came out of dormancy, but when workers, thanks to adapting to utilizing video conferencing (Zoom and Team meeting) found the noise level of open-air offices intolerable.
Enter some creative interior design firms who were already selling innovative privacy booths/capsules targeting noisy, open-air offices. Enter, close the glass door behind you and stay focused thanks to no noise. Modular in design, these stand-alone pods can be assembled on site, expanded or adapted to accommodate one or several people complete with screens embedded in the wall for video conferencing. Sounds like future offices will be a room full of phone booths. Claustrophobic?
Great tool! I am not talking about for opening bottles of wine. Rather an evaluation process taught to me by my leadership guru Wally Graham to improve future performance.
The process entails asking four tough questions after completing a project or passage of time.
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What did I learn?
- What would I do differently next time?
I share this process with you today since I know this is a reflective time of year. We are looking back on 2022 which is now behind us – family, friends, work, experiences. We are busy assessing the road ahead, 2023.
For The Record: I still like to use a corkscrew as a tool to open a bottle of wine, especially when I begin to ask myself the four corkscrew questions. Trust me, the evaluation process is really enjoyable with a good glass of wine. Try it some time.
Back in August 2020 the London-based startup Notpla caught my attention. I was delighted to learn last week they won the prestigious Earth Shot award for environmental innovation. Notpla has developed innovative packaging materials from seaweed Congratulations Notpla!
The United Nations projects there is 400 million tons of plastic waste per year, half of which is single use. I have addressed this issue in the past how our planet is choking on plastic. Notpla believes their products will compete directly with and replace plastics in the future. Their innovative packaging products are entirely biodegradable and can be utilized in a bubble sachet to hold liquids/condiments, a coating for food containers and paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry. Currently Notpla’s one noteworthy success story is their strategic partnership with Just Eat to launch a seaweed-lined box for takeout food in lieu of plastic boxes.
Today will my last seaweed post of the year. The more I learn about kelp, I am amazed how versatile the earth-friendly algae seaweed is and the significant role it will play in planet earth’s future – a source for nutritious food products, a carbon neutralizer to offset the impacts of environmental change, an innovative way to replace plastic packaging materials and a potential source for energy (e.g., biogas and ethanol).
I am excited the number of articles published online the last two months detailing the current seaweed revolution and its potential role to help mitigate climate change. The list of companies engineering viable ways to capture/sequester carbon is growing.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is when Wayne Gretzky, hockey superstar/legend was asked what makes him so great, he responded: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Two skaters (a.k.a. seaweed innovators) I became aware of recently are Sam Elsom and John Auckland:
- Sea Forest – Sam Elsom a former high-end fashion designer with his own label, decided to become an aquatic farmer after learning about seaweed, a zero-input crop with no requirement for land, fresh water or fertilizer, plus its potential to have a positive impact on climate change. With the assistance of a team of university scientists and some venture capital, he founded his company Sea Forest (2018) which produces an engineered compound when fed to livestock, reduces the amount of methane gas they produce (e.g., cow burps). Global methane emissions from livestock which trap heat is currently estimated at 6%.
- Seafields Solutions – A British business leader’s vision John Auckland, is to capitalize on the carbon capture properties of seaweed by creating[JM1] a massive floating farm of sargassum seaweed located in the South Atlantic (21.2K square miles). He and his investor partners are currently testing the technology needed and project the floating mega-farm Seafields would capture one gigatonne of the fifty gigatonnes of CO2 emitted annually into the atmosphere. A mere dent, but a starting point!
Each company still needs to conduct extensive research to better understand seaweed’s benefits to society and ocean ecosystems. Regardless, I am optimistic about these two companies and plan to continue posting seaweed success stories. My next seaweed post will be about its potential for packaging innovation.
Last month I posted about the potential of seaweed being an environmental solution for neutralizing carbon. Last week, I read an article on BBC Future about a UK restaurant chain providing carbon footprint labeling on their menu. Ridiculous! Sounds like greenwashing to me.
My company specializes in marketing in the food-away-from-home channel which I rarely post about. However, today I cannot resist but post my point of view about menu carbon footprint labeling. As a food futurist I am aware the food choices consumers make have a major impact on the climate, especially as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, I support plant forward diets, more vegetables and pulses since they are beneficial to both personal and planetary health. What I do not understand: Are consumers really going to become committed to making food-away-from-home food choices based on the environment? How reliable will the metrics be for a future menu carbon footprint labeling system? Menu calculations would need to take into account the emissions of growing all the ingredients, as well as those generated transporting, storing and the energy utilized for cooking. Note: What about factoring in the carbon footprints associated with how the restaurant’s guests and employees get to the unit – do they walk?
Sounds like menu greenwashing to me. A marketing ploy to get consumers thinking the chain restaurant is an environmentally concerned entity.
COP27, the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference, is coming to a close today in Egypt. To stay current regarding our current climate crisis, I follow Lubomila Jordanova on LinkedIn who publishes a great newsletter The Climate of Business which I highly recommend. Her COP27 conference takeaways were wide-ranging.
Lubomila wrote in the newsletter: “I am leaving COP27 with a glass half full and a glass half empty.” A long- time attendee of the conference, she felt the empty part of the glass came from tepid new commitments and unfulfilled old commitments which failed to demonstrate the boldness needed in challenging times. However, progress is being made, but has been slow which led her to conclude after conversations with sustainability professionals in business, they will be the key stakeholder to address and fix the climate crisis. Therefore, she remains realistic a lot of work still needs to be done, but optimistic (glass half full) business has the capital, moves fast and will make decisions with the planet in mind.
I followed the two-week conference closely. What excited me the most was the number of articles published online about the current seaweed revolution and its potential role in fixing the climate crisis. I have been an advocate (now known as a Kelper) for seaweed since my first post on the topic back in 2019. First as a superfood, touted as the next kale. Currently, for its positive environmental impact; a planetary solution for being a carbon offset. Today I just want to briefly focus on what some scientists are researching:
- Seaweed’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Field trials are being conducted to learn how to scale up seaweed cultivation as a climate solution.
- One strategy being scrutinized is carbon sequestration – cultivating seaweed and sinking it into the deep ocean. Interesting solution! Seaweed grows relatively quickly, requires no arable land, fresh water or fertilizers unlike planting trees (note: seaweed captures up to 20 times more carbon per acre than terrestrial forests). In addition, it is good for the ecosystem of the planet’s coastlines – protection via wave reduction, enhances fish production and marine biodiversity.
The potential of seaweed as one solution to help mitigate climate change still requires a lot of research to better understand its benefits to society and ocean ecosystems. As a Kelper, I plan to post seaweed success stories on a regular basis to keep my readership in the loop.
Currently, my company SMARTKETING is strategically targeting sustainable foods. Unfortunately, the food-away-from-home channel is still recovering from the pandemic. Investment in future innovation is lop-sided. Reminds me of some words of wisdom my mother once shared with me: “You do not create a future, with a foot in the past.”
As a Business Catalyst, I am a firm believer innovation is paramount to the long-term success of any organization. I am continually researching, as well as writing about the topic to further amplify my marketing skills. Over the years, if there is one thing I have learned/experienced to quote one of my favorite innovators of modern dance: “The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it’s with you all the time.” (Alvin Ailey – American Dancer)
As I stated above in the Blink the food-away-from-home channel is still recovering from the pandemic. A majority of food companies I engage with are still scampering to get their businesses back to pre-pandemic levels. During the recovery process, they have been challenged by supply chain disruption, rising costs and shrinking margins. As a result, when I propose assisting in the development of sustainable products which are good for the future health of consumers and the planet, I encounter budgetary hurdles. Especially from a majority of start-up companies who have raised substantial funding to develop innovative products, yet do not think it is necessary to invest in the due diligence needed to better understand market realities to develop a strategic roadmap.
Is the post pandemic lop-sided investment in future innovation totally attributed to tight budgets? Not really, I believe there are two other major factors:
- Routine – Same old, same old stunts creativity. Established/mature companies are too caught up/programmed in their day-to-day operations to take timeout to think outside the lines. To be truly creative, you must challenge the status quo and to look at everything from a different perspective. “Any business today that embraces the status quo as an operating principle is going to be on a death march.” (Howard Schultz – American Business Leader)
- Eating Behavior Myopia – In a relatively short period of time we have experienced three major historical global disruptions – The Great Recession, COVID-19 and the current global warming crisis. A major byproduct of these events has led to a consumer renaissance in eating behavior. For starters, The Great Recession led to the emergence of frugal consumer behavior at Retail Grocery and an offset at food-away-from-home, the demand for indulgence and experimentation (e.g., bold ethnic flavors). In regards to COVID-19, several leading research surveys validated a large majority of consumers changed their eating habits. A survey conducted by the IFIC (International Food Information Council) revealed American respondents were cooking at home (60%) to a greater extent and observing healthier eating habits. In addition, the pandemic heightened the awareness of the fundamentals of the foods system supply chain. Food companies need to be farsighted beyond their current sales and fully recognize consumer consciousness is on the rise. Consumers are focusing more on their health and well-being, as well as the planet’s. Consequently, food & beverage expectations will continue to evolve as their F&B IQ increases. Food companies must begin investing now in designing products which reflect their consumers future personal lifestyles. During this process, companies need to be transparent right down to the source of every ingredient and the energy utilized in manufacturing/delivering their products to market.
Time to innovate. “The status quo sucks!” (George Carlin – American Comedian)
Whatever happened to business interactions? I remember the days……….
When you just picked up a phone and called people at their desk unscheduled. Then came voicemail – “Sorry I am currently away from my desk. Your call is very important to me, so at the tone please leave a detailed message.” To avoid voicemail, I began to call a few minutes before lunch or at the end of the day to catch people at their desk. Then came “Sorry the voicemail box is full.”
Before there was email, there were grammatically correct, proofed three times interoffice memos typed by secretaries (note: now called administrative assistants) delivered in brown envelopes which piled up in my inbox. I actually had one boss who got irate his staff was not responding in a timely manner so he special ordered blue envelopes so we knew to respond immediately when his blue envelopes showed up.
Then came email complete with typos and lengthy copy lists including everyone in the organization except the mailroom. People would even email co-workers down the hall or a few cubicles away. Then email became the standard modus operandi, a popular form of communication. Subsequently, people became overwhelmed especially when they traveled which led to the evolution of “I am currently out of the office” bounce back messages. Now in the era of smartphones with 5G networks people actually added to their message, “I have limited access to my email so if you need immediate help, you can _______.” (Note: I will let you fill in the blank).
Before LinkedIn people would network internally over lunch or externally at conferences or trade shows; engage, exchange business cards and write follow-up notes.
Before COVID-19 people traveled to conferences/tradeshows and filled out expense reports documenting how they spent OPM (a.k.a. other peoples’ money). For the record: OPM paid for the best wine course I ever took.
Before working remotely, people booked conference rooms for meetings without agendas. Then came meeting agendas and minutes to improve productivity, plus CYA. Then to further increase meeting productivity came catered working lunches with oversized chocolate chip cookies. Productivity increased to the next level when meetings were held first thing in the morning complete with catered breakfasts. For the record: I alwayswondered where all the tea bags and Splenda packets disappeared to.
Before working remotely, people casually engaged at water coolers or break rooms or by working the halls.
Then came Zoom!
In September, I addressed the growth of influence marketing and how it has evolved into a digital form of groupthink. Since my post, AdWeek published some stats validating how people really trust buying a product or service mentioned by an influencer.
- 74% of those 18-24 rely on social media influencers for information about products and services; however only 24% of those over 55 do the same. Overall, influencers are looked to nearly as often as a brand or retailers’ websites for product information.
- 60% of respondents have bought something on the recommendation of an influencer, this goes as high as 72% of 25–34-year-olds.
- 90% of respondents of all ages would trust an influencer over a celebrity.
- Instagram is still the top platform where 18–45-year-olds follow influencers with Facebook leading the way for consumers who are 46+.
While aggregating information for this post about influencers, I learned smart marketers are now shifting from traditional demographic targeting strategies to cultural triggers to better understand and reach the next generation of consumers. Media researchers have identified five new major cultural consumer buckets: gaming, entertainment, education, fashion and beauty. Media agencies warn marketers to closely monitor these cultural triggers since they are constantly morphing and fragmenting.
Since we began handing over data to high tech companies and with the increase in computational algorithms utilized in customer targeting, marketing has been on steroids! I made the transition from finance to marketing back in 1984. Back then my basic understanding of marketing 101 was simple – the set of activities or business practices (a.k.a. marketing mix) of promoting and selling products or services. With the advent of the Internet, it has become more complex. Candidly, I find it a challenge to keep up with all the changes, especially the evolution of influence marketing and the different platforms affecting social media influencers. Are marketers overprocessing targeting the different lifestyles, cultures and subcultures to authentically build a trustworthy brand? Or as one of my all-time favorite marketers P.T. Barnum once said pre-Internet:
“There is a sucker born every minute.”
Saturday morning, I went out on my balcony to have a cup of coffee and learned I had dropped a piece of avocado from my salad Friday night. I had an ant colony! How did my dropped piece of avocado go viral among ants?
For starters, the first thing I was concerned about was where did all these ants come from? My apartment is on the fourth floor. I have occasionally spotted maybe a couple feasting on a dropped croissant crumb, but never a colony. I felt better when I read the science section in my Saturday paper. An ecologist from the University of Hong Kong published his new ant census count in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – ant ubiquity: 20 quadrillion! Ants outnumber humans 2.5 million to 1. Note: His colleagues believe this figure is conservative.
- How do ants find food? They have a strong sense of smell which enables them to detect chemical substances (e.g., sugar and other food) in their surrounding environment via receptors/bristles on their backs. Most ants can pick up a strong scent from as far away as approximately 11ft.
- How do ants communicate? They use a chemical known as pheromones and leave a trail of chemical signals behind them so other ants from their colony can follow their trail. Over time, scientists have discovered ants select the shortest route to their food source so their colony members can locate the food source quickly, thus conserve energy.
By studying ant colony behavior, scientists have been inspired to employ biomimicry an innovative process emulating nature’s time-tested patterns like ant colonies to develop sustainable solutions to human challenges in the real world. It has helped computer scientists utilize computerized virtual ants to solve complex computational algorithms. Best path ant colony behavior has also had a positive impact on logistics execution, mail delivery and the distribution of media through networks and to mobile users.
In the future when I eat out on my balcony, I will be careful not to drop any food and create more science experiments.