Are trade unions the answer to the economic crisis?

Perhaps it was inevitable that, with the rekindling of interest in the economic analysis of Marx and Engels on the crest of the current global economic crisis, the idea of organised labour as a force for good would emerge somewhere down the line.

But a couple of columnists – Will Hutton in the Guardian and Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, in the New York Times – both refer to an unlikely advocate for trade unionism in pieces published over the weekend: the International Monetary Fund.

Continue reading “Are trade unions the answer to the economic crisis?”

Britain’s brand: ‘this frail travelling coincidence’

It may sound like a glass-half-full definition but Frank Cotterell Boyce’s reference to this line from Philip Larkin’s The Whitsun Wedding, perfectly pinpoints the poignant curiosities of the British character that his script for the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony so brilliantly conveyed.

The Larkin reference is included – about 12 minutes in – in this fascinating interview for Radio 4’s ‘Broadcasting House’ in which Mr Cotterell Boyce describes the behind-the-scenes experience of what, for me at least, was the defining cultural moment of 2012 in the United Kingdom.

Why reform banking when we could transform it instead?

Once upon a time – a couple of years ago in fact – I was so alarmed by the high cost of payday loans advertised by brands like QuickQuid and Wonga, that I started a small campaign called 2356percent (it’s a link to an article from the Independent, by the way, the 2356percent site is no more).

One thing led to another and, thanks to Greg Mulholland MP, an Early Day Motion, signed by about 30 MPs, was tabled in the House of Commons. Because of that campaign, I was invited to meet with Errol Damelin, the chief executive of Wonga. We had a fascinating conversation and the 2356percent campaign has been pretty much dormant since.

That’s not because Wonga persuaded me that their loans were a good thing; instead, I realised that campaigning against behaviour in a financial services ecosystem which spawns brands like Wonga is not the same as campaigning for an alternative kind of financial services industry.

I reached the conclusion that – no matter how persuasive the calls for the regulation of people like payday lenders from MPs like Stella Creasy – the financial services industry is unlikely to up its game until there’s an alternative way of doing things that really challenges the status quo.

Continue reading “Why reform banking when we could transform it instead?”

Why we shouldn’t trade Sundays for Sunday trading

When I was a kid, there was absolutely nothing to do on Sundays.

(Well OK, that’s not strictly true. As a son of the Manse, I had to attend church in the morning, but that didn’t really count as ‘doing something’; it was more like the the spiritual equivalent of having to do the washing up.)

Apart from the newsagents that opened in the mornings, and perhaps the occasional petrol station, everything else seemed to be shut.

From a kid’s perspective – and probably an adult’s too – the net effect was that Sundays were truly boring. So I ought to be whooping with joy at the prospect of the Government’s desire to suspend Sunday trading laws to allow shops and businesses to trade during the London 2012 Olympics.

Continue reading “Why we shouldn’t trade Sundays for Sunday trading”

Time to cut the Facebook and Twitter clutter

Whether you’re inclined to regard Aol as a barometer of cultural trends or not, I’m pretty sure that there’s something in David Shing’s reported prediction.

Obviously, it’s worth bearing in mind that Mr Shing’s comments may well be self-serving too: it helps to be in the business of targeted content if more targeted content is what’ll win the day in an ‘attention economy’.

Nonetheless his comments should be seized on – at a reasonably contemplative pace – by people like The World Institute of Slowness; they’ve been banging on about the need for a more measured approach to human existence since 1999. (And, no, the irony’s not lost on me that I’m helping to add to the clutter referred to by Mr Shing.)

Landor: Why ‘I want an iPad’ beats ‘I want an iPad xyz’

Just spotted this really interesting piece for Forbes.com by Allen Adamson at Landor’s blog. The clinching argument is made in the penultimate paragraph of the piece:

“I think the company made a smart decision in not giving the newest iPad a new name. It makes it simpler for people. I want an iPad. How simple is that? I don’t have to explain which iPad, other than saying the newest model or the less expensive model.”

In fact, I think plenty of marketers – and not just market leaders – may want to take note of Apple’s decision not to call its latest iPad ‘iPad 3’ or something like that.

For me, it’s the underlying idea that just the right amount of branding enables people to recog­nise and under­stand how to nav­ig­ate your business’s goods, ser­vices and organisation. A little more branding than is necessary, and it’s probably going to have the opposite effect.

To be honest, I wasn’t at all concerned what the latest iPad would be called.

I suspect I’m like most people: what matters to me that a product lives up to its promise when I decide to invest my cash in it. If it doesn’t, no amount of branding is going to fix that.

Landor Associates

The tweeter, the brand and the reputational minefield

Sooner or later, the consequences of a brand allowing an employee to tweet on their behalf – to the extent that the individual and the brand become interchangeable as brand symbols – was going to wind up in court action (‘Man sued for keeping company Twitter followers’, BBC News, 27 December 2011).

In the case of Noah Kravitz and his former employer Phonedog – an ‘interactive mobile news and reviews resource’ which claims 2.5 million unique visits to its site each month – the legal principle at stake is whether the followers of a Twitter account, accumulated while an individual was tweeting on behalf of a business, amount to a database of customers and prospective customers that may be considered the property of the company once they’ve left?

Continue reading “The tweeter, the brand and the reputational minefield”