Lockdown ends today here in France. Every nanosecond crept by. I ate and drank well, basked in the Mediterranean sun on my balcony, worked, read and wrote. During my lockdown, I was able to regularly engage via technology with family, friends and business peers.
- As the pandemic began to unfold, everyone would share their concern about getting sick, the COVID-19 statistics, social distancing and how the outbreak would impact their personal life. Perspectives about a post-pandemic world were myopic.
- The #1 overused cliché: “It is, what it is” meaning we all have to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, a challenging, frustrating situation that cannot be changed. Most people indicated we just have to deal with it.
- As the curve began to flatten and details emerged about re-opening the world, people were buzzing about a vaccine being the solution without recognizing the geo-politics, time line and dollars associated with global vaccines.
- Everyone understands we are going to witness major global transformation (social, economic and political) and experience the “New Normal.”
“New Normal?” The definition of normal – conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected. A standard day? A typical week? I do not accept the concept of the “New Normal.” Instead, I believe we now live in a “New World,” a world where one size does not fit all. Example: The different ways three countries handled the outbreak – Sweden with herd immunization, France with strict lockdown rules and the United States with mixed messaging resulting in chaos.
Over the past few weeks, I have published numerous posts advocating “to build a better world, start in your community.” As I get ready to leave my apartment later this morning, I am prepared to face the unknown challenges of the “New World” where one size does not fit all.
Recently I posted an article on LinkedIn titled Where is the Silver Lining Ahead? I advocated how the power of community initiatives will lead global transformation post-pandemic. Below are two great transformation tales.
- A Food Waste Tale – Needless to say, being a veteran of the food-away-from-home business, I was appalled when I first learned about the pandemic food waste problem – farmers dumping milk, smashing eggs, letting produce rot in their fields. The reason being their primary market, foodservice shutdown and evaporated overnight. Consequently, they did not have compatible retail size packaging or the proper “go-to-market” logistics in place. Quickly, southeastern grocery leader Publix step up to the plate with a solution. They announced at the end of April they will be purchasing milk and produce in their region to donate to Feeding America food banks. A total win-win: food banks can help families in need of food while farmers receive some financial support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- A Toymaker Tale – In mid-April, global toymaker Lego based in Denmark, announced that they were going to join humanitarian forces with frontline healthcare workers fighting the Covid-19 outbreak in Denmark. They committed to producing 13,000 face visors a day. In addition, they will be donating half a million Lego sets to children. Community, community, community.
“To build a better world, start in your community.”
Mark your calendar, 3/17/2020 was a significant day in French history. It was the date the country locked down and observed confinement to level the curve of COVID-19. More importantly, it was the day France’s cultural etiquette morphed.
Below, a quote from Thomas Friedman’s New York Times op-ed “Our New Historical Divide: B.C. and A.C. – the World Before Corona and the World After”:
“So, a virus-laden bat bites another mammal in China, that mammal is sold in a Wuhan wildlife market, it infects a Chinese diner with a new coronavirus and in a few weeks all my public schools are closed and I’m edging six feet away from everyone in Bethesda.”
Edging six feet away from everyone in his hometown Bethesda, MD is known as the practice of social distancing. The etiquette of social distancing will vary around the world. However, here in France, 3/17/2020 was the day “Faire La Bise” better known as cheek kissing became extinct.
What will be the significant cultural etiquette change in North America?
Recently I read in the culture section of The International New York Times an article about the release of books being published geared toward 6-to-11-year-olds explaining the pandemic. Then I had an objective reflection.
What would be the result of a whole generation growing up deprived of playgrounds thanks to social distancing?
In my last post of 2019 titled Playground Lessons, I wrote about how playgrounds enable children to learn and connect with other people (peers, family) to build trust and friendship. In addition, playgrounds are blank canvases for their imaginations to flourish and grow.
How do we keep our playgrounds socially open?
Over the weekend I reviewed in depth McKinsey & Company’s global consumer survey in the midst of COVID-19. The results regarding economic recovery varied greatly. Then I thought about my home city, luxurious Cannes and the potential unprecedented cancellation of the 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival.
Before analyzing the economic impact on the film industry, detailed below is a list I drafted of businesses and individuals (a.k.a. festival ecosystem) that would suffer a staggering financial hit:
- Transportation to and from the festival – airlines, taxis, limo services, Uber, etc.
- Lodging – premium hotels, luxurious villa rentals equipped with staff and swimming pools, Airbnb and budget hotels.
- Furloughed hotel staff (e.g., front desk guest assistants, bellman, room service, etc.) and housekeeping, as well as all the supporting sustainable housekeeping businesses – cleaning equipment/materials like laundry detergents, toiletries, etc.
- Restaurants and bars in Cannes plus surrounding areas; La Napoule, Mougins and Juan les Pins.
- Local transportation to and from events – taxis, Uber, limousines, luxury car rentals, mopeds, bicycle rentals, etc.
- Maintenance staff, carpenters and electricians at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès where the films are screened.
- Tourism related jobs – hostesses at Office of Tourism, tour guides, etc.
- Yacht rentals.
- The event companies responsible for setting up film billboards and banners along the Boulevard Croisette.
- Beach businesses – chair rentals, towels, etc.
- Independent beach vendors selling sunglasses, hats, visors, candied nuts, etc.
- Sun tan lotion.
- Hairdressers, makeup artists and all the businesses that supply them with products.
- Luxury retail shops.
- City of Cannes and film festival souvenirs/mementos.
- Landscaping/gardening services that prune the palm trees and plant flower beds along the Boulevard Croisette.
- Illegal substances, sex workers.
- Service gratuities!
I hope I witness first-hand the 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival.
Last week, I posted about premium mangoes. Today I want to post another fruit story. The Migaki Ichigo premium strawberry brand. Individually wrapped, they can be purchased at select Japanese department stores and online for approximately $10 per berry. The brand is the master mind of tech savvy Hiroki Iwasa.
Hiroki Iwasa’s guiding principle? “Action Creates Value!” If you have a strong idea, take action immediately. People will begin to show interest in your intentions and support you. By doing something without delay, you inevitably will make mistakes, but learn how to take corrective action until you get it right.
Hiroki Iwasa’s story dates back to March 2011 when he returned to his hometown Yamamto as a volunteer to clean up the rubble from the earthquake and tsunami. The town’s people challenged him to start a business and create jobs. After learning the area was best known for its cultivation of strawberries, later that year, he worked with one of the local farmers to acquire the knowledge of what it takes to be a successful strawberry farmer – tabulating all the quantitative information about ideal growing conditions. That is when he decided to leverage his technology experience and founded the agriculture company GRA Inc. He wanted to perfect strawberry farming by creating farming jobs to strengthen the regional economy and utilize greenhouse sensors to monitor crops 24/7. The end result was the Migaki Ichigo brand where one out of 100 strawberries grown are graded platinum for their color, sweetness, tartness and aroma yielding a price of 1,000 yen (approximately $10). However, after several successful harvests, rather than expand his own company, Hiroki set up a school on his farm to share his knowledge. GRA’s vision: Create employment for 10,000 people, for 100 companies and for 10 years.
Two premium fruit stories. One about the patience and fortitude of mango farmers over three plus decades of hard work. The second about a tech savvy entrepreneur utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance his strawberry production within three years. Both have a common connection. Agriculture is a collective, collaborative process that grows regional economies.
Are you ready to take action and create value?
Have you ever been gifted a piece of fruit? In Japan it is common practice, especially as a token of gratitude. One popular fruit for gifting is Taiyo no Tamago (Egg of Sun), a premium variety of mango, a great story about the virtue of patience and fortitud
Back in 1985, a group of farmers (8) in the Miyazaki prefecture located in southeastern Japan were seeking another crop to supplement their cucumber and green pepper harvests. They decided to give mangoes a try given the warm, sunny climate of their area. After six years of trial and error, experiencing numerous diseases, they finally produced a successful harvest. However, they had to go to local farmers market to sample their product and build awareness. Mangoes did not become a popular fruit in Japan until ten years ago.
Why am posting about mangoes as a great story about the virtue of patience and fortitude? Every April a mango auction is conducted at the Miyazaki City Central Wholesale Market. Mangoes are judged/graded by size, shape, color and their brix level of candy-like sweetness. You can now find the Miyazaki premium mangoes specially packaged at select retail stores for $100 to $200 for one. Last year at the auction a pair sold for $5,000. Imagine, mangoes, priced comparably to a big bottle of red wine from a select French vineyard. Their hefty price tags reflect years of experimentation, the labor of love dating back to the time Miyazaki farmers started cultivating mangoes in the 1980s. Patience and fortitude! Therefore, the next time you are thinking of getting someone close to you a unique gift, think about gifting them a Taiyo no Tamago (Egg of Sun) mango. Better yet, buy them a vacation package tour so they can explore the mango farms of Miyazaki.
Key learning: Successful long-term business initiatives are the byproduct of patience and fortitude.
Marketing continues to morph. In my last post I addressed the importance for smart marketers to utilize a combination of tools (a.k.a. omnichannel marketing) including influence marketing to reach their target audience. Thanks to existing consumer data, get ready for an innovative wave of personalization marketing.
I first addressed the expansion of data captured at numerous consumer technology touch points in a 2018 post titled Psychographic Profiling as a means to enhance identifying/targeting consumers. Fast forward to 2020. A new survey (source: Merkle) revealed a large majority (88%) of data driven smart marketers are planning to implement omnichannel strategies, including the expansion of personalization, to make their customers’ digital journey seamless. However, only one-quarter of the survey’s respondents currently focus on real-time digital tactics. Moving forward, the key for brands will be to invest in marketing technology and measurement analytics.
The upsurge in digital channels over the past few years has enabled marketers to collect mountains of data they can personalize. One simple tool is an app. A great example is how Starbucks engages each of its guests based on their in-store purchases and location. Some marketers like Spotify utilize algorithms to crunch data to predict user behavior. With the advent of AI-powered tools, personalization will become even more sophisticated and deliver marketing communications in real-time (seconds) across multiple channels. However, the utilization of personal data will always be a pending issue with consumers. Nevertheless, research indicates as long as consumers believe they are receiving value in return for personal data, personalization is key to winning their loyalty/business.
2020 Personalization Marketer of the Year – Big Brother!
Last year I contributed a guest post to the SMRA (Social Media Research Association) titled Influence Marketing – 2019 Awards. I awarded Sephora Influence Marketer of the Year. Consequently, I further decided to conduct an experiment and follow two fashionista/beauty influencers.
The two influencers are female, appear to be in their twenties, one macro from Phoenix, AZ and one micro from Nice, France. Key learning:
- Both are Instagram Masters, posting on a regular basis complete with an overabundance of hashtags, plus broadcasting their new posts on stories. Consequently, they have respectable vanity metrics – likes and engagement if you count emojis as engagement.
- Not sure how they are compensated, but they both endorse a strong portfolio of products. Travel must be part of their deal given all the different places they visit.
- Outside of the occasional car ad, my Instagram feed of sponsored advertising for skin creams, the latest shoe fashions, distressed jeans, sunglasses, etc., is significantly off the charts. No surprise given Sephora spokespeople indicated their influence marketing movement led to a gold mine of consumer data. Remember, I am conducting an experiment with Instagram owned by Facebook, data to generate marketing revenue is the engine that drives their platform.
Now for the spine of my post. Is influence marketing a sound brand strategy long-term? Recently, I read a great point, counter point article in Ad Age between two marketing C-suite executives detailing the pros and cons of influence marketing. Both articulated their thoughts clearly. What resonated for me? The quote below by the individual who believes influence marketing is dishonest and wasteful:
“I think the art and science of marketing has been lost in recent years. I worry that there is a new generation of marketers who think that running a Facebook campaign or partnering with a lifestyle influencer makes them a marketing pro.”
I apologize for being candid – old school thinking. The art and science of marketing has not been lost; it has been morphing. Regardless of their level of experience, marketing professionals continue to realize they have to utilize a combination of tools to reach their target audience. Younger generations feel comfortable receiving their information via social media. Therefore, it is important for smart marketers to familiarize themselves with platforms like Instagram, TikTok, etc.
In closing, I will continue analyzing the benefits of influence marketing, thus continue my first 2020 marketing experiment. However, since I believe it is important to utilize a combination of tools (a.k.a. omnichannel marketing), in my subsequent post I will be addressing what I envision the next big movement in marketing, Personalization.
Remember in science class testing the solubility of sugar in water until reaching the limit when grains appeared at the bottom of the glass? In today’s digital world, I have learned that I reach a saturation point where I am no longer retaining information because I am experiencing AIS.
I typically allocate 90 minutes to two hours for my daily online digital run knowing I will reach a saturation point I interpret as AIS (Aggregating Information Syndrome), the point I am no longer retaining information. No mas, no mas! Time to get off line. This past Friday, I experienced AIS in less than one hour. A new record!
I started with my daily Twitter review. All the people I am following are organized into lists by topics of interest. I decided to check out the most recent tweets on seaweed, a future food category I am bullish about. Found some interesting seaweed content posted by Doctor Seaweed, leader of a company out of Scotland I just started following this year. Great articles on the health benefits of kelp, specifically iodine. Liked and retweeted (a.k.a. Twitter engagement) both articles to seaweed connections. Next, thanks to a non-profit out of Maine funding startups, I learned Sweetgreens collaborated with celebrity chef David Chang and launched a new kelp salad LTO Thursday the 13th. Gold! Just what I have been advocating – innovative product application executed by a national chain will raise the awareness of sea vegetables in the U.S. Shared the news with members of my Tribe and then checked out Sweetgreens. Extensive time consumption! Exited Twitter to check my inbox and review the latest information feeds (e.g., culinary, technology, retail, etc.). I will not bore you with details, but before I made significant progress, in less than one hour, my brain communicated with me that I had the beginnings of AIS.
Are you experiencing AIS?