Friday, February 16, 2007

From paper to plastic to mobile phones?

Diablogue has a link to an overview in the Economist today on the Future of Money. The issue of money itself would not normally interest me, but this article looks at the change in the way that consumers are paying for goods and the move towards using mobile phones as a method of payment. I’m discussing some of the points below, but give the article itself a look, it makes for very interesting reading.

I have been surprised that pre-paid ‘smart’ cards like the Hong Kong’s Octopus and London’s Oyster cards for public transport have never filtered throughout the country. Having been around for a number of years, they have already proved extremely popular and in London, apparently account for 3 out of 4 journeys on the underground and buses. Instead of fumbling around for money to pay the conductor, passengers can simply hold their cards over a reader which deducts the price of the journey from their card. Surely by now this technology should have at least spread to the other cities in Britain?

While we are still waiting for this technology to reach us non-Londoners however, in London, New York and Tokyo money is beginning to move yet again, from plastic to mobile phones. It is being done using the same type of technology as that found on these other “contactless” payment systems. Basically, a device reacts with a reader, and due to the fact that the device itself only costs a few cents, they could be inserted into every new mobile phone. And, because the device is within a phone, it can be a lot smarter than ‘smart’ cards because they can be deactivated remotely; they have a screen that can show information, they have a keypad to input information and most importantly perhaps, they are able to communicate.

The appeal of this e-cash, apart from the speeding-up of transactions is that no change is required, counting errors are eliminated, fraud and theft are reduced, and, for the retailer, it reduces the cost of handling money.

Sounds great.

There will presumably be resistance to the idea however and plenty of teething problems, but in a world where we want to do maximise every second of the day, I think that this mobile payment system will become popular relatively quickly. But then, it may very well be dependent on the support from banks and credit-card firms as well as retailers themselves. That is not to say however that the system will not receive such support if it proves itself to be effective. Alas, like the smart cards, I fear it may be a very long time until the system makes its way out of the larger cities and into the population as a whole.

I find the whole thing quite fascinating though and it is interesting to read how the system is developing already in the cities and countries embracing the technology. Maybe the world shown in ‘Minority Report’ is not too far away after all…


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Guilt free sweets anyone?

On my return from Australia in 2005 I was shocked to see so many obese people on my first trip back into Glasgow in many months. When seeing it every day we seem to become accustomed to the amount of dangerously overweight people in this country. Having been away for a while, I had become unaccustomed. In Australia I can honestly say that I did not notice many obese individuals and sadly, when I did, they were usually British.

But what are Australians doing right that we are not in the UK? Granted, they have the weather that lends itself to outdoor pursuits and have a tradition for many sports. But, there were sweets, crisps and fatty foods on sale the same as there is back in this country. Perhaps they are just more disciplined than us?

When exactly did it all start going so wrong in this country, especially with children? It hasn’t been a million years since I was young, running around my old street, getting myself into scrapes, and there were not even half as many obese children back then. But that’s what is different – I ran around, I wasn’t sitting in all day eating rubbish. Now, of course there are reasons why children are not out so much these days and maybe the marketing of junk food is a lot more aggressive than when I was at that age. Maybe there is even more junk food around.

What is the answer though? That’s where the government and all the health bodies seem to fall down. They are trying to promote healthier eating, they have banned junk food advertising to children, taking the issue very seriously and making some positive steps. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think it’s enough by any means. Do I have the golden answer? No. But I’m not running the country.

I was once again thinking of this issue today due to reading that Cadbury have decided to introduce ‘The Natural Confectionery Company’ products in the UK by the end of the year. An Australian company that Cadbury bought over in 2003, their range of jelly sweets contain no artificial colours or flavourings and are 99% fat free. The company has 18 products in total and has a share of 9% in Australia where its wine gum brand is the sector leader (according to Cadbury). I can actually recall seeing the brand in many a vending machine over there on my travels. Having been launched in Ireland in 2005, the brand has become the second largest bagged-sweet brand in the country. So, now it’s on to the UK.

Providing a lower fat, lower sugar alternative to some of the other sweets on the market will hopefully prove to be as popular here as it has been across the pond. It obviously won’t provide a solution to the problem, but it’ll help chip away at it a little more. It’s unrealistic to expect that vending machines and newsagents will begin filling up on fruit and such, so this would at least provide a better option than what is currently sitting on the sweet shelves.

Have a look out for them when they arrive.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

“What’s it going to take?”

Women’s Aid, a national domestic violence charity have begun a new national campaign this month "What's it going to take?" using a range of famous faces. The campaign, from Grey London, consists of a series of images taken by the photographer Rankin, in which celebrities’ faces have been made up to look like they have been the victims of domestic violence. Both Rankin and Grey donated their services for free for this campaign and the charity’s media partners also donated free media space.

The celebrities taking part include Jemma Kidd, make-up artist; Anna Friel, Actress; Fern Britton, presenter; Fay Ripley, actress; Anne-Marie Duff, actress; Miquita Oliver, presenter; Fiona Bruce, journalist; Honour Blackman, actress; and Kate Thornton, presenter.

By focusing on the celebrity culture, the campaign endeavours to emphasise the fact that if a public figure were suffering from such abuse everyone would be aware of the issue. The campaign asks everyone to “act until women and children are safe” – so – to admit domestic abuse is a problem, call it by its name and talk to someone about it. Nicola Harwin, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said “We want this powerful campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence, to get people talking about it, to make those experiencing it to realise that they’re not alone, and to get everyone to do something to help.”

With one in four women being affected by domestic violence at some point in their lifetime and two women every week in England and Wales being killed by their partner or ex-partner, this hard-hitting campaign appears long overdue. When it does not affect you or someone you know directly it is easy I suppose not to pay much attention to the issue. In this culture where celebrities’ lives are constantly splashed all over the media, leading the general public to feel as if we ‘know’ them, it is a clever ploy from Women’s Aid to use this to their advantage. And, why should they not? By using these famous faces they have been able to make people think about how they would feel if it was someone that they knew living this life. And hopefully this will encourage people to look for the signs of abuse in the people that they know.

I like this campaign and I hope that it does achieve the desired effect. Given the statistics, I could very well know someone that this affects/will affect, or indeed have it affect my life in the future. A scary prospect. As I say, I hope the campaign is successful.

Should you wish any further information on the charity or the campaign itself, visit

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Free and low cost methods of promotion

Everyone likes to get something for nothing, so we thought we’d use this post to give you some ideas of how you can carry out some free promotion for your company.

  • Be your own publicity and sales promotions writer
    Submit press releases and editorials to publications read by your target audience. Include a good photograph and always, always follow it up with a phone call.

  • Make your efforts work twice or even three times as hard
    When any of your press releases or editorials are published, add them to your information pack and send to clients, colleagues and prospects in your target market. If you have a blog or a news section on your website you can also add them here. When reprinting the articles, include a note saying ‘Recently seen in…’

  • Be a guest speaker at a local business or community group meeting, or even on radio or TV talk shows
    Contact organisers or producers and emphasise how your product/service would be of interest or benefit to the audience. Should you get the opportunity to speak, you may even be lucky enough to secure a regular appearance or a fee for your efforts.

  • Put flyers on all free notice boards and outlets read and visited by your target audience(s)
    Even handing out flyers or brochures to passers by and business attendees can prove effective.

  • Register your business on as many appropriate web directories as you can find
    If possible, also provide a link to your own website to allow prospects to find you easily.

  • Check all outgoing communication to make sure you’re using it’s promotional capabilities to full advantage
    Set up a footer on your computer’s letter template for new letters, faxes, bill payments and receipts. Use the footer to promote your product/service offering. Make sure that your e-mail also has a signature providing all your contact information and a promotional tagline.

  • Run a competition
    This is not strictly free, as it will cost you the price of a prize. However, running a competition allows you to collect the contact details of entrants which can then be used in future mailings. When the winner is announced it will also allow you to gain further publicity.

  • Use reciprocal marketing
    Again, not entirely free, yet running promotions with complimentary businesses or sharing costs such as advertising, databases or research will allow you to get half of your marketing for free, or, allow you to ‘run one, have one run free’

These are only a few examples of what is possible. So let loose your imagination and start thinking how you can improve your marketing for absolutely nothing!


Friday, February 02, 2007

Online Marketing on a small budget

Our last post focused on our new campaign for Plan Your Course and the online campaign we are conducting for it. With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at how to get the most out of your online marketing, even on a small budget.

Your website is a very important stop for many prospective customers looking to find out more about your company and possibly even purchase your products. It may be the case that you feel you do not have the budget to get the most out of your online marketing, yet there are a number of low cost activities you can carry out which can have a big impact. Making the most of your website and all your electronic communications doesn’t have to be wildly expensive.

  • Using a promotional signature in all e-mails you send out may seem like a simple, insignificant addition. However, it can prove to be extremely effective. Information such as your name, contact details, e-mail address, postal address, company logo, and a short sentence to describe your business or tagline can all be included. Most e-mail software allows you to automatically add a signature to e-mails and it is completely free. Just think of all the e-mails you send, and indeed, receive in a day. It makes sense to utilise this form of communication to enhance your marketing message.
  • Getting to the top of search engine listings, or at least onto the first page of listings is extremely important. A good ranking under relevant search terms on the main search engines is an excellent and cost effective way to drive targeted traffic to your website. If your budget extends to it, pay a specialist agency to conduct your search engine optimisation. If not, you may want to take the time to learn this valuable skill yourself. There are numerous books on the subject and Scottish Enterprise also run a wide variety of e-business workshops, some of which are focused specifically on this subject. For a full list of the courses available, visit
  • Get the right websites to link to yours. The quality of your links is much more important than the quantity. Quality links will provide quality traffic, prospects who are actually interested in what you have to offer. Quality links will also help to improve your sites ranking on search engines as the quality of the sites linking to yours is taken into account when calculating your ranking. To find which links will be the most appropriate to link with, analyse your competitors’ links, search for other sites that you wish to link to, make sure that your content will be attractive and relevant to potential links, publish appropriate outbound links on your site and ask these sites if they will reciprocate the link. One your links are in place, monitor your results and build on them.
  • Taking part in the right online community can also bring rewards, particularly for those of you in niche markets. In order to find suitable communities search online, through search engines and related websites/blogs, read trade magazines and ask around. Before you take part, get to know the site and the quality of its contributors. When you do take part, make sure that your contribution is genuinely useful. Your sales pitch can be made elsewhere, don’t be overly commercial on these sites, otherwise, taking part will do your reputation more harm than good.