R E L A X I N G / R U M I N A T I N G

I’ve just spent a little over a week travelling through the south-west of Western Australia with friends.  Filled with beautiful beaches, amazing views, exciting wildlife, quaint towns and a landscape that seemed to be ever changing, there was plenty to see.  Yet as soon as that landscape became a little bit monotonous, I found myself looking for a device to pass the time.  I’m sure there was much that I missed – especially in the first few days.

We have trained ourselves out of relaxing.  No longer content with looking out a window or to watch what’s going on around us we seem to feel guilty if we are not absorbing some work or socially-related content, news information, checking email, doing our shopping or challenging ourselves to an online game.  We feel almost lazy if we’re not engaged in doing something. 

Have a look at any commuter train – nobody seems to look out of the window anymore.  They are too engrossed in their devices.  And while there is nothing inherently wrong with that – I’m sure they’re very productive – I wonder, when do we wonder?  When do we take time out just to think?  Perhaps we need to add think time to our routine along with exercise, meditation and all of the other things we need to fit into our busy schedules. 

Take some time to watch, to think, to relax, to ruminate.  10 minutes a day.  Once you get used to it, it’s quite liberating.


I had a fantastic week last week connecting with a great bunch of consumers face to face.  Data is great and it fuels our marketing and product decisions but there is nothing like getting in front of people and asking their opinion in real time.  The other benefit is that you can dig where you need to so that you get not only the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ as well. If you only have the ‘what’ then you’re left with a bit bunch of questions about what to do with that ‘what.’

I’ve been working on a new offering in the F&B space and as I’ve said over and over again (at least it feels like I have so I hope it’s not too repetitive) ignoring Boomer Consumers is plain bad business.  They are cashed up and they’re keen to spend that cash unlike previous generations that were so very focused on preparing for the worst and making sure they had a plan B.

This next generation feels like they have done their bit – they’ve educated their children and set them off on their own path to success.  They’ve created a nest egg so they’re lifestyle is protected. Now it’s time to kick back and relax for the Boomer Consumers and that means they’re entering a phase of wanting to reward themselves.  That’s great news for premium and luxury brands and offerings because it means they have far greater elasticity in what they’re willing to pay for exactly what they want. But you’ll never know what that is, unless you ask them.  So, get out there and ask! Or ask me to do it for you!



The changing face of the workplace.

Much is being written about the changing face of the workplace, remote working, coworking spaces along with the pros and now cons of open-plan spaces. I was pondering this as I sat in a busy city café between client meetings last week and it struck me that maybe open-plan offices were a contributor to the cafe’s success.

It seems the close-to-office-café is now a place to gather, to share weekend stories, to have a little whine about the working day, to laugh, to recharge, maybe to have an awkward conversation in relative privacy and of course to drink coffee. At around 10am in any office precinct, you’ll see a steady stream of purveyors of the black stuff ready with their refillable cups and loyalty cards. I recall hearing a couple of years back that a large top end of town legal practice in Sydney had employed their own baristas to circumvent the frequent exit of associates for their coffee fix. But I’m not convinced it’s a coffee fix. I think it’s more likely a simple reflection of the continued evolution of the workspace. If it were all about the coffee, the in-house barista would have worked. But it didn’t. So, I’m thinking it’s not about the coffee – or rather the coffee is the hygiene factor in this whole work-break thing.

What came before the cafe? I don’t remember heading out for a morning or afternoon coffee when I first started work (and yes, coffee existed them!). I do remember a water cooler with little paper cups and people would make their way to have a piccolo sized cup of water and engage in a social chat. But a piccolo cup of water hardly does the trick in 2019 because we need to guzzle three litres of the stuff each day and that would mean no time at your desk. Plus the paper cups are an absolute no-no.

Then there were the smokers – they had an excuse when finally smoking was banned inside office buildings. They had to have their fix and could, therefore, take a well-earned break because they were addicted and so we need to forgive their 15-minute absence each hour. Then they had to start hiding behind big wheelie bins and in dark alleys when the ban was extended.

It seems people have always been looking for quick work breaks sans guilt. But now that our daily water consumption is in megalitres, the watercooler chat has all but disappeared. And with open plan offices, socialising just for socialising-sake is very visible, and people feel exposed. When you could duck into someone’s office for a quick chat, that visibility wasn’t there. We can’t use a smoke as an excuse, and even if you did, you’d be flat out finding a smoking-buddy, so it’s now all about the coffee. Baristas, your future is assured (but not if you are in-house!).



Listening to the Voice of the Customer – are we asking the right questions with Net Promotor Score/ what are we really measuring?


I wanted to follow up on a piece written by John Dawes Ehrenberg-Bass  in 2018. The article had huge popularity and I imagine this was driven by the popularity of the NPS as a generally accepted best practice measure of the likelihood of positive WOM for a brand.  But John argues that it usually follows one or two questions to the customer about their recent service interaction so in that context it is more likely to be a measure of the satisfaction with the service experience than a measure of the likelihood of recommendation.  I totally agree. It might make senior management feel good that they have a high NPS but it’s next to useless if that number isn’t tan accurate reflection of the likelihood of positive work of mouth.


I’ve taken on a personal crusade against the way this question is framed and I’m sure it has absolutely no impact at all but it just feels good to have my say by giving high scores for my service interaction (if that is the case of course) and to then I jump ridiculously low for the NPS question.  I am then asked why that is the case and so my tirade begins. Like I said, I doubt anyone reads my tome but it feels better having had my say all the same.


John suggests asking “Have you recommended the company?” with some time frame such as a week or a month binding the question.  I think the recent interaction combined with the well-researched inability of consumers to recall anything with very much accuracy might provide some reliability issues and what we’re really concerned about here is validity.  Is the question measuring what it claims to measure?


I guess we first need to ask if the NPS question is asked because the company is looking to see how a recent service interaction has impacted an individual’s NPS (in which case we’d need to know what it was before the last interaction) or it is just a mean/global score that the brand hopes to increase over time and report back to the Board with a gazillion decimal places (another bug bear but for another time)?  Of course any increase would no doubt be attributed internally to superior service interactions but you’d have to be hopeful of a positive impact on market share for it to hold weight.


Maybe getting it right (or just a little bit better) isn’t too hard if the idea is to understand if the recent interaction is going to drive high levels of recommendation.  My concern as a brand-owner would be that regardless of how well I service a client, if that client is not in the habit of recommending a superannuation fund/airline/supermarket to family and friends, my brand might still end up with a low NPS.  I don’t think it requires too much more than some context. Perhaps we could expand the question with this approach “Based on this last interaction, if a family or friend asked you to recommend a superannuation fund, how likely would you be to recommend this fun?”  What do you think?


Take a look at the original article from John. https://rwconnect.esomar.org/why-net-promoter-score-is-actually-a-bad-tool-and-what-to-use-instead/








I’ve talked about my love of package innovation before, and I might be a bit presumptuous in assuming that everyone else feels the same way but come on – check out this fantastic eggsample (sorry, I just could not help the pun) called Smooth Egg Skin from Korea.  


This is a Peeling Foam that claims to contain eggs from the chickens of Mount Jiri in South Korea.  I’m not sure what Peeling Foam is but the pack was so attractive I couldn’t help buying it thinking I’d figure the use out later.


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Online has really changed the game for packaging.  If you’re 100% online, some things aren’t so important anymore and others that you need to double down on.  My eggsample was in a brick and mortar retailer, and that led to a couple of misses. First, I was unable to see what the product was because it was just the egg on show – no outer pack and no external branding so that the retailer had to make up a sign to explain what was in the egg.  This is a lost opportunity and means lost potential buyers. There was a tiny information sheet within the egg, but you don’t know that until after purchase or unless you open the egg at the shelf.


Secondly, while the egg-shaped pack was impressive, it didn’t display that well and took up a bunch of shelf space with a lot of lost space in between eggs, and that’s lost revenue if you are not maximising value from available shelf space.  It may have worked better for the supplier to come up with a display unit that came with the eggs that ensured that it had a square footprint. This could be recyclable so need only be supplied once to the retailer.


If you’re 100% direct online sales, that lack of a B&M retailer means you only get one shot at delivering a perfect product.  Make sure it’s going to hold form in transit – you don’t have the luxury of a retailer to check that there isn’t any denting or misshaping before it gets to the customer.


Continue to innovate but give due consideration to the customer you are trying to attract and the retailer who will help you do that.


Some thoughts…

  • Consider shelf standout if you’re selling offline – you want people to notice you and you can by using shape, colour, messaging and other cues better than your competitors.
  • If you’re 100% online, use that additional flexibility you have to create memorable packaging that evokes curiosity and repeat purchase.
  • Ensure your pack can convey to me the product use and attributes.  No matter how clever the package, there’s little point if I don’t know what’s inside.  Most shoppers are not insanely curious like I am.
  • At some point, this product will need to be transported either directly to a customer or via a retail outlet.  Make sure it will arrive safely and is durable enough to be free from defects or damage in transit.
  • Innovate but not by being so smart that you end up alienating your retailers by compromising their profitability.




I’ve had my fair fill of nostalgia over this past week, and I was amazed at the comfort it brings.  That familiarity is a little difficult to articulate. I attended a school reunion in my home city of Adelaide last week; we had one 15 years ago, and for many of us it was the first time to see each other again since that last meet up.  The odd thing is that nothing much seems to have changed and the conversations were not directed at status or achievements but more about the future, families, happiness and health.  We talked about lasting memories we had of each other and teachers who loomed high in our recollections.   In the days following, there were numerous messages and emails about how much everyone enjoyed the chance to reconnect and their desire to do it again sooner rather than later.  Why?  I suspect that we’re comforted by nostalgia and it’s a safe place for us all because other than some people being a bit smarter than others at the time, our last memory when we finished school together, is of us all being on a reasonably level playing field.  No status issues, no class issues – just a bunch of middle-agers feeling like they were 17 again.


In the same week, I caught up for dinner with 4 friends that I have known since I was 5.  We do this on a regular basis, and except for a few years between school and having kids, we really haven’t had a break from each other.  That group has the same sort of comfort and nostalgia to it as the high school group.  We know each other so well that there can be no pretence in our interactions – and if anyone tries, they will quickly be pulled back to earth.  Why is that?  I expect it’s because we never have to pretend – we are always our authentic selves in a world where we often have to fake it a little.  It’s nice just to be who we are rather than what we’re expected to be.


I haven’t lived in Adelaide for 15 years, and it’s always great to visit and see what is changing and what stays the same.  The consistent things are family, friends, the beach, the fabulous wine, the Christmas Pageant (this year 300,000 people watched – that’s around 25% of the population), talk about Peel Street and the ease of getting around.  On the change side public transport has really improved, there are some great places to eat and drink (yes, Peel Street included), traffic is non-existent as much as everyone wants to tell you it’s horrendous, the airport runs smoothly and there seems to be an energy that some attribute to the change in government.  The quarter-acre blocks have all but disappeared (at least close to the city and the nearby coast), and there seems to be a plethora of elderly housing options opening up.  Let’s hope that doesn’t mean Adelaide is doomed to be the ageing capital of Australia but rather a place where everyone – old and young – can enjoy a great lifestyle.



Retailers as Community Hubs

As bricks and mortar retailers strive to maintain relevance, I’m today reminded of their importance as hubs of the community.


Years ago, I recall accompanying my mother to “the shops”.  This was never a quick trip as it involved 3 or 4 outlets (the butcher, the fruit and veg shop, the bakery, the deli etc.) and the requisite pleasantries to be shared with the proprietor of each store.  Then we “ran into” friends and acquaintances to share a hello and a bit of gossip.  I’ve often wondered why we referred to it as “running into” people as there was never a collision involved but then I think there are a lot of funny terms from my childhood that I still don’t quite understand.

These trips were as social as they were practical.  As large format stores made their presence, the neighbourhood shops disappeared one by one yet we’ve seen a resurgence in cafes, and I’m wondering if cafes are just about good coffee.  I think not, and I suspect they have a meaningful role to play as community hubs, gathering spots and a place where we can belong.


When I moved to my current place 3 years ago, there was a small café opposite.  We live close to a ferry wharf and the mornings at the café were really bustling; however 10 days after moving in (yes! 10 days I kid you not) the shop closed.   No longer did we hear the sound of busy commuters grabbing their morning pick me up, stopping for a quick chat and wishing Proprietor Paul all the best for his day.  I often wonder what became of Paul.


Fast forward to today, and bakaliko & co has taken on that same store with a new offering of coffee, upper-end convenience items and a small range of cakes and lunch options. Shameless promotion from me?  Maybe – I have a vested interest in seeing this place survive as it services a small community with no other choices but I think its meaning goes deeper than pure commercialism.  I hope to see it become the morning and early evening hub that was the mark of its predecessor and for it to take on the role of a connector in our community.  I popped in today for a takeaway coffee, and three generations of a family from the apartments next to the café gave me a smile and a hello – our very first interaction in the 3 years I’ve lived opposite them.  Let’s see.

One of the biggest challenges for them is going to be their branding though I expect they’ll become known as the café at the ferry rather than by name.




The branding is a little confusing and might take a while before everyone catches on to the Landa symbol that joins the baka to the iko – sometimes I think we can be too smart for our own good on the branding front and making recognition simple for customers is always a plus.