A Look Back with Pride, a Look Forward with Excitement: 7 Lessons Learned from Being a MACER

The past seven months I spent as a MACE student at Kingston University were no picnic for me! Going back to university to complete a second postgraduate degree as a mature student while working as an overseas Social Media Strategy Consultant, was often nerve-wracking. I believe it was just before Christmas break that I realized that I am in over my head. Yet again, I have always enjoyed a good challenge and what better than embarking on a challenge that allows me to better my skills and acquire new knowledge.

However, in order not to run the risk of sounding cliché I am going to be very honest about what happened: In the interest of continuing my academic year successfully without compromising my job (and of course, retaining my sanity in the process) I have come to the conclusion that priorities had to be determined and sacrifices needed to be made.  And so, I have made the decision to dedicate my efforts to the one course that excited me (and at times, terrified me), challenged me, brought the very best in me—skills and talents I never knew existed— and most importantly helped me crystallize my future career goals; the one course that made my grueling journey at Kingston University all worthwhile: “Designing a Business” (DYB).

1. Self-reflection as a structure for professional growth

Despite the highly practical aspect of our course, our journey in DYB has nevertheless been a journey of self-awareness and self-development: “know thyself, improve thyself, and complement thyself” (Tjan, 2012). Not only, did DYB allow me to learn new skills and unearth hidden talents, but most importantly it taught me to be aware of missing skills and areas that needed further development. Throughout my journey with Le Petit Sac, I have come to realize that while real-life experiences are a great way to learn, yet by themselves, such experiences cannot provide me with proper insights on what to improve in myself. It is only when I take a step back to reflect on the value of these experiences, and what I could have done differently, that the actual learning process takes place. You see, it is self-awareness, which “involves active, persistent, and careful consideration and contemplation” of one’s knowledge (Sass, 2012), that ultimately leads to one’s professional growth and contributes to the building of a successful business (Tjan, 2012). Without self-awareness you are ignorant of both your strengths and weaknesses, your “superpowers” and your “kryptonite” (Tjan, 2012).

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2.  Design thinking as a trigger for Innovation

In a highly cluttered world where only innovation can provide a source of differentiation and a competitive edge to a new business (Brown, 2011), we were asked in DYB to use design thinking techniques to contribute new ideas by creating a new product or service that solves an existing problem differently (Beaumont, 2011), and so we did. I have always been so fond of wearing my high-heeled shoes. However, due to the hectic lifestyle we lead in London, the long walking distances, and use of public transportation wearing high-heels soon became a source of torture for me. I recall, during the first few months of arriving here, getting dressed up was a major headache, and always ended up with me substituting my high- heels with flats just minutes before heading out. Additionally, I must admit that seeing women walk barefoot in streets and tube stations on a late Friday or Saturday night has been a shocking cultural experience for me.

I  recall sitting on the train from Kingston University to Waterloo station one day starring at a woman passenger while she searched restlessly for her ticket in her huge Marry Poppins bag that carried her heels, diet coke bottle, what seemed to be the rest of a tuna sandwich, keys, wallet, papers, hair clips among other interesting things. In the midst of her crisis , the blond woman was being teased by her (male) colleague for carrying a pair of heels in her bag, and for that she answered that she had a meeting that day and needed to look serious and confident. That everyday banal encounter marked me and made me aware of the important role, the right pair of shoes can play in a woman’s life.

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And so, after noticing a problem, researching its causes, examining how current solutions in the market are solving, or failing to solve the problem adequately, contemplating solutions, getting involved in a long phase of prototyping and experiments, talking to industry experts, gathering feedback from clients, and finally, iterating on product design that the current Le Petit Sac was born. By framing a woman’s end journey on a night out and attempting to solve her problem by close and empathetic observation, design thinking enabled us to generate a holistic and innovative product that aims to make the beautiful functional and help women maintain their style and elegance while being comfortable.

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3. Learn by Making

We usually learn to do things while thinking about them and doing them at the same time. For example, we learn to drive, not by reading manuals or textbooks, or attending lectures about driving, but by actually sitting behind the wheel and practicing our driving. Contrary to recent popular belief that all educational systems are created in such a way to hinder or kill creativity (Robinson, 2012),  learning by doing—which is the process of achieving productivity through practice, self-amelioration small innovations (Dougherty, 2014)—has been the distillation of the learning philosophy of DYB at Kingston University.   Throughout the course we were invited to become active rather than passive “consumer(s) of education” (Dougherty, 2014). We were makers, creators constructing a new kind of education and learning system that promotes creativity and critical thinking.

4. Build a Lean Startup 

As explained in an earlier blog entry, Eric Ries’s lean startup philosophy was applied for developing Le Petit Sac as a business (Maamari, 2014). Since we are introducing a new concept to the market, we adopted Eric Ries’s MVP (minimum viable product) strategy during our product development phase (Ries, 2011). Significantly, we created a series of only 6 Le Petit Sac clutches that were not fully refined, yet had all the core features that allow them to fulfill their purpose, along with an advert video hosted on our website that tells our visitors the story of why Le Petit Sac was created and how to wear it. By doing so, we were able to gather significant feedback from customers and early adopters about our product with the least effort possible (Maamari, 2014). Additionally, due to the high-end positioning of our product, we underwent a long and grueling prototyping phase that exceeded over a 3-month period. While we were able to finally generate a good quality product, we did however miss out on sales opportunities. However, our aim at that stage was to see the reception of Le Petit Sac when launched to the market. Hence, using the Lean Startup approach was perfect for us because it allowed us to test our vision continuously (Ries, 2011).

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 5. Know Thy Market 

Perhaps an obvious lesson that many acknowledge, yet fail to abide by when launching a new product or developing their business is finding out who their target audience is and then, catering their product or service and communication messages accordingly to drive sales. Often startups get caught up with their own product or service and tend to forget everything else, focusing their efforts on a “a one-size-fits-all marketing and sales approach” (Evans, 2013). I can still hear Dr. Beaumont’s words resonating in my ears when she stood in the middle of class back in October and warned us: “if your target audience is everyone then you have dig deeper to prioritize and rank them. Otherwise, your target audience is no one” (Beaumont, 2013). By following the Lean Tribe Canvas model, a customer-centered framework that maps out the different elements we should consider when launching a new product, Le Petit Sac was able to  move from ideation phase to development and finally to implementation  successfully (Beaumont, 2013).

6. Be Different                      

In a world saturated with “me-too” products and services competing for the attention of customers (Neumeier, 2007), my experience with Le Petit Sac, as part of the DYB course, has taught me that it’s ok necessary for any successful business to “be” different, to “think different” (Apple Inc., 1997),  and to “zag” when everyone else zigs  (Neumeier, 2007). However, the product or service only needs to be different enough to appeal to the customer, have a tangible impact and stand out from the clutter available in the market, “but not so much as to alienate existing customers” (Ideo.com, 2014).

7. Step out of your comfort zone

I can still remember how nervous and excited I was as we were briefly introduced to the different courses we will be undertaking during our first day of MACE orientation week. It all intensified when I started hearing the deafening words: “In Designing a Business… create a new product or a service… by mid-October you should have selected your teams … your first prototype must be ready by end of December… by January you will need to be done with manufacturing your product and move on to sales”. I could not help but think to myself: How will we ever develop the needed skills to build products from scratch? Me? the English Literature student? The Social Media specialist sitting behind her screen, analyzing and consulting? Me.. Build a product?

Even if I (miraculously )  managed to make it , will I ever be  be able to pull through and  create something worthy and valuable?  Well allow me to admit that after being the  recipient of a £250 prize for Best Business Idea from Bright Ideas 2014 competition, winning the Best Young Enterprise Company award for 2014 at Kingston University, as well as, Kingston University’s entrepreneurship award and  a £3,000 in seed money for Le Petit Sac, I now look back at that day now and laugh at my naivety. You see, little did I know, back then that I was already on my way to transformation and that with design (thinking ) you should really  “never stop thinking that you can’t renew yourself, do it differently, see another way through and not be frightened by doing things you don’t know” (Wolff, 2010). In a way what the DYB course has taught me is that in an increasingly competitive, fast-paced world, it is only those who are willing to  constantly work on improving themselves, updating their skills, taking risks, stepping out of their comfort zone and diving into uncertainty who will eventually reap the biggest rewards (Warrell, 2013).

 Looking Forward

During my academic year at Kingston University, I have juggled many hats at Le Petit Sac; from managing the team, devising strategies and overseeing development, to the conceptualization of the business idea, designing the product, the brand identity as well as creating and managing the current Le Petit Sac website.In a recent article for My Kingston, I said that Le Petit Sac “has slowly turned into a real business” (My Kingston, 2014), and that’s true for me.  I am extremely passionate and determined to pursue my managing and creative work with Le Petit Sac once the DYB course is over. My journey has enabled me to acquire key entrepreneurial skills that would otherwise be wasted if not put to use in the real world. Hence, I have dedicated my dissertation project to devise a feasibility study that can help me realize Le Petit Sac’s full potential, and make it grow it into a national, and hopefully, a global brand in the future. After few years of trying to climb my way up the corporate ladder by working long days and nights for someone else without experiencing any sort of personal fulfilment, starting my own business feels like a natural step for me. My journey in DYB course has made me fully aware of the risks and the challenges that lay ahead of me as a female entrepreneur in the UK, yet it has also introduced me to a wide and influential network of business mentors, and equipped me with the right level of confidence, knowledge, and tools needed so I can survive the tide and launch my career successfully.

With our academic year coming to an end, I have recently finished off setting my milestones for the upcoming phase between refining the design and quality of Le Petit Sac, securing a patent to generate interest from high-end retail stores, reworking the production flow and securing contracts with local manufacturers and suppliers, changing our current business model and shifting to e-commerce, as well as achieving brand recognition— the upcoming year is looking both very challenging and promising to me. As far as blogging is concerned, I have not yet decided whether or not I will continue to use this platform for my future blog posts. However, I promise you this: I will continue to blog. So stay tuned to find out how my journey goes!

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How to Make it in World of Advertising Clutter & Loss of Audience Attention?

Whether you are out and about, listening to the radio, watching TV, or using the computer, how often do you come across such scenes on a day-to-day basis?

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What is advertising clutter?

Every day we are exposed to thousands of advertising messages via different media. Every service, product and brand compete to gain our attention and consequently, increase its market share.  Advertising clutter may be defined as “a situation when an advertisement is surrounded by other advertisements, thereby forcing it to compete for the reader’s, viewer’s or listener’s attention” (Banerjee, 2009).

Statistics floating around the marketing publications suggest that the number of promotional messages that are competing for consumer’s attention every day have gone “from about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today” (Marketing-made-simple.com, 2014).

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Usually, consumers were always able to avoid mass media advertising. Often we used television breaks to make snacks or hit the toilet. When reading magazines we could simply turn the page or move on to an entire new section. On car radios, commuters would shift between alternative stations as soon as the commercials become intolerable. Today, with the advent of technology, avoiding commercials is made even easier, “many people watch only shows that were recorded earlier so the commercials can be skipped, or many broadcast services are now by subscription and commercial-free”(Rotfeld, 2006).
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Nevertheless, it seems that “the advertisers’ “solution” to audience avoidance of their messages is to increase the number of messages, so even the effort of commercial avoidance becomes a source of audience frustration” (Rotfeld, 2006).  As a result, Television commercial breaks are longer and the commercials are shorter, and online ads need to run for at least 3-4 seconds before the “Skip” button becomes available for you to use.

So, how do you get noticed in the crowded modern marketplace?

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1. Ensure your ad is appealing

Some themes strike an emotional chord with the vast majority of the population. However, if your product does not appeal to the emotional side, you will need to highlight its practicality to your customers.

2. Choose the right channel

Social media and traditional mass media channels are all completely saturated with marketing messages and competition is very high. Hence, you need to consider who your target audience are and ensure you target them accordingly. Sometimes targeted letters to individuals can prove to be more successful than generic ones sent to the masses.

3. Think outside the box

We live in a highly competitive world, so don’t be afraid to resort to innovative ideas in order to engage your customers. In fact, “91% of marketing professionals felt that they could save money and better impact consumers by being more innovative about the media they use” (Marketing-made-simple.com, 2014). Between viral ads, experiential or guerrilla marketing, there is a variety of different innovative approaches to marketing and advertising that you can choose from according to your brand and need.

4. Keep the message clear

How many times did you come across an advertising or marketing campaign which left you clueless about the brand or the nature/purpose of the product depicted? Hence, it is of utmost importance that you keep your message clear and simple. Make it obvious what you’re offering to the customers and that the steps to achieve your offer or redeem it are kept as easy as possible.

Why Every Business Needs an Introductory Video on its Website?

Globalization has completely altered the way in which people run their business and resulted in a shift away from traditional face to face communications. Hence, many businesses nowadays strive to create deeper connections and seek effective communications within a workspace and with key external stakeholders. According to Guido Jouret, Chief Technology Officer for the Cisco Systems, “enterprise video is a key element of this shift because it radically changes the way we collaborate and share information with colleagues and customers” (Savitz, 2012).

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Back in 2012, video was announced as the number one traffic destination of internet consumers, with 48 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute (Savitz, 2012). By 2015, video traffic on the Internet is expected to more than quadruple, with 1 million minutes of video to be sent across the Internet every second (Savitz, 2012).

As a result, video is expanding across many industries, such as: manufacturing, high-tech, banking, retail, healthcare, government and education. According to Forbes, a majority of Fortune 500 companies make use of video to cut travel costs, scale resources and expertise, and most importantly provide a more engaging level of customer service (Savitz, 2012).

As part of a course requirement in Designing your Own Business, we have had to generate a one-minute advert video that can help us introduce our company or product to the public. After reaching a satisfactory level of quality with our video and since we are introducing a new concept to the market, it became clear that incorporating the video onto our Le Petit Sac website will prove to be highly beneficial.

In building Le Petit Sac, Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup has been a constant source of inspiration. As I mentioned earlier, although on the surface level Le Petit Sac might strike you as a simple evening clutch, yet the minute you unravel it, you come to realize that it offers you much more. By being able to fit a pair of foldable ballerinas, carry necessary ID/Travel cards, and most importantly, expand at the end of your journey so you can pack in your high-heels, Le Petit Sac can perfectly be labeled as a “new concept”. In our conquest to make the beautiful functional, we adopted Eric Ries’s MVP (minimum viable product) strategy in product development (Ries, 2011), especially that the cost of producing  Le Petit Sac  in the UK is very high.

Our MVP consisted of producing 6 pieces of Le Petit Sac and an advert video. Our aim was to target early adopters; in our case those were fashion authoritative voices, which are not afraid to sport something new. While other startups immediately tend to produce and sell in bulk, we created a decent, yet not fully refined, version of Le Petit Sac that has all the core features that allows it to be deployed and fulfill its purpose in order to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

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Additionally, as was the case with Dropbox when it first launched back in 2008  (Ries, 2011), our video has helped us explain our product and demonstrate how Le Petit Sac can be used, which resulted in us receiving tens of orders on Le Petit Sac the same day we published the ad video on our website. Now that we know there is a high demand on our product, we intend to use the £3,000 in seed money to refine the design of our product, order Le Petit Sac clutches in bulk from our supplier, and ensure we stock Le Petit Sac clutches so that our customers no longer have to wait for their orders.

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Even in the future, our video advert will continue to be of  great value for our business as it will help us in the following areas:

1.  Improve SEO

In an attempt to limit the impact of content farms, changes in Google’s algorithm in 2011 under the banner of “Panda” had severe consequences on organic search (Marshall, 2012). Panda has changed how content is valued and pointed to the importance of having content that engages, educates and incentivizes users to stay on a company’s website Significantly, today’s content must engage its audience, and nothing does that better than video (Marshall, 2012).

2. Generate sales

According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, forecasts are 72% more likely to purchase a product or service when video is used and also help accelerate buying decisions (Videomann.com, 2014). Why? After seeing a video, most prospects will have a greater understanding of the subject or product, which in its turn will positively affect their buying decision.

3. Create Consistency

Consistency in branding and messaging is key to the success of any startup. Significantly, video can help present a consistent message every time a visitor enters your site. Make sure you incorporate a consistent orientation, demonstration, or marketing message in your video to enable wider audiences and on demand viewing.

4. Explain a New Concept

Another advantage for incorporating video into your company’s website is that it can show your product or service in action. Such a point is of utmost importance when your product/service is new to the market. In this case, the video can help you showcase the real benefits of using your product/service. It is also a perfect way to explain a complex process or, as was the case with Le Petit Sac, help show how a product actually works.

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References

Marshall, C. (2012). Why is Video so important for SEO? | WindowBox Media. [online] Windowboxmedia.com. Available at: http://www.windowboxmedia.com/why-is-video-so-important-for-seo/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2014].

Ries, E. (2011). The lean startup. 1st ed. London: Portfolio Penguin.

Savitz, E. (2012). Why Every Company Needs To Create A Video Strategy. [online] Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/07/02/why-every-company-needs-to-create-a-video-strategy/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2014].

Videomann.com, (2014). Why is Video Important? | Video Mann Productions | Video filming, editing, and production | Fredericksburg, Virginia. [online] Available at: http://www.videomann.com/why-is-video-important/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2014].

SS’14 Window Dressing & the High-Street Shopping Experience: Colorful, Wild, Adventurous and… VIRTUAL

I have always been a fashion enthusiast. I recall playing silly fashion-related games while growing up such as testing my knowledge in luxury fashion brands by trying to recite them in alphabetical order (Don’t judge, I did say it was “silly”), and when I became few years older, I remember trying to guess the name of the brand before it is announced on TV just by watching its latest collection on the runway and noticing a pattern that might give away the designer or the fashion house.

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(Picture: The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior)

However, recently, I have come to notice that my passion for fashion has reached a deeper level. Owing to the progress of Le Petit Sac and the various aesthetic milestones we have had to achieve for the success of our business, coupled with my newly gained knowledge from being part of the team in charge of designing the stand for Kingston University’s Graduate Fashion Week in the Design School, I have developed a keen eye for details and can now appreciate the artistic dimensions behind every collection, stand or window display I come across when visiting my favorite fashion houses.

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According to experts in the fashion industry, shop design and stock display are  important in retail and perceived as “a communication tool between the consumer and a brand” (Friedlander-Boss, 2012). Window dressing, visual merchandising and store design not only support brand recognition, but according to recent studies, can also boost sales figures and enhance the customer experience (Friedlander-Boss, 2012). The success, however, depends largely on the creative inspiration, the intuitive capabilities and personal skills of the window dresser and visual merchandiser of every fashion brand.

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In this blog entry, I invite you to discover some of my favorite Spring/Summer 2014 fashion campaigns and window displays,  as seen on High Streets around the world.

1. Be “Puzzled” with Liberty London’s “Game on” Window Display

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The Spring window displays at Liberty London are inspired by puzzles, featuring products from their different departments including: design, home, menswear, womenswear and accessories.

2. Go “Up, Up and Away” with Anthropologie’s “Hot Air Balloon” Window Display in the U.S

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From creatively substituting the “O” in Anthropologie with a hot air balloon to using everyday lightweight materials like tissue paper, canvas, burlap, etc…, the visual team at Anthropologie went above and beyond to take the passers-by on an adventure far, far away.

3. “Be Bold” with Prada’s Vibrant Colored Artsy Window Display in NYC’s Bergdorf Goodman 

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A team of illustrators were asked by Prada to design the portraits featured in the Spring windows by emphasizing the themes of femininity, representation, power, and multiplicity. The remarkable portraits were derived from original paintings of muralist Miles “El Mac” MacGregor created in Milan.

4. Let’s Play “Hide and Seek” with Lanvin’s “Anonymous” Window Display in Paris

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Lanvin’s “anonymous” Spring Display features mannequins playfully hiding behind the colorful Lanvin boxes.

5. Go “Geek Chic” with Topshop London’s Virtual reality Show


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Earlier in February Topshop London collaborated with interactive production company, Inition, to create a complete virtual reality world of their Topshop Unique  AW14 show. Topshop selected five lucky fans to win a seat on the virtual front row by asking them to share their London Fashion Week style through Instagram and Twitter. The winners took their seats in the iconic windows display of their Oxford Circus flagship store and donned virtual reality headsets (complete with cute sunglasses designs) to watch the show in 3D, live from the shows pace at Tate Modern (Topshop, 2014).

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References

Friedlander-Boss, K., 2012. The evolution of the role of window dressing in the high street shopping experience, its relationship with visual merchandising and its function within the contemporary fashion retail environment.. UG. Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design,.

Topshop, I., 2014. RELIVE TOPSHOP UNIQUE IN VIRTUAL REALITY. [online] Inside-Out – The Official Topshop Blog. Available at: <http://insideout.topshop.com/2014/02/relive-topshop-unique-in-virtual-reality&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Pictures Source
 Best Window Displays – The Creative, Inspirational and Best Window Displays. 2014. [online] Best Window Displays. Available at: <http://thebwd.com/&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

 

 

Remembering Wally Olins, brand expert, 1930-2014:

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On Monday April 14th, Saffron Consultants sadly announced the death of their Chairman Wally Olins, after a short illness (Designers’ Friend, 2014). Besides his work at Saffron, Olins was recognized by the Financial Times as “the world’s leading practitioner of branding and identity” (Olins, 2014). During his lifetime Olins successfully managed to establish branding as a unique business discipline that is different from marketing, advertising and design (Cookson, 2014).  His constant stress on the importance of branding for the past 50 years, has made his claims and theories an accepted wisdom by corporations, governments and even individuals who now more than ever constantly obsess about their brand identities.

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Olins, known for his famous round-framed glasses, vibrantly colored bow ties, and eye-catching check shirts, consulted many of the world’s largest organizations and was in charge of the re-branding of BT, previously known as British Telecom, as well as creating the brand Orange, one of the leading telecommunications operators in the world.

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Brand is a Tribe!

Owing to Olins we now know that branding is not a cosmetic, superficial and commercial phenomenon, but rather a much more profound and complex process that relates to the nature of human condition (Olins, 2014). For Olins, branding is about belonging. Olins perceived a tribe or a religion as a brand. “Every tribe, and every member of tribe, distinguishes themselves from other tribes by tribal markings, by dances, by language, and by visual and verbal signs of differentiation. That enables people who are part of the tribe to see that, and enables those who are not part of the tribe to see that too. Whatever you feel about the tribe is precisely manifested by the way the tribe presents the idea of itself,” says Olins (2014).  In a world where people purchase according to their emotions rather than their needs, understanding branding as such is what differentiates great brands from the rest.

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Branding the Nation!

Olins has also been attributed for pioneering the concept of brand as a nation which aims to emphasize the distinctive characteristics of a country. During his lifetime, Olins has worked on nation branding for a number of different cities and countries, including London, Mauritius, Northern Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Lithuania (Olins, 2012). The concept was based on the idea that the branding and image of a nation’s state “and the successful transference of this image to its exports – is just as important as what they actually produce and sell (Olins, 2012).

Corporate Identity!

During a visit he made to steel plants in India in his early twenties, Olins soon realized that there is little differentiation between the organizations he visited and so, he thought that “there must be some way of underlining a difference between an organizations apart from the way that it promotes itself – a way to communicate its personality” (Olins, 2014). Consequently, Olins returned to London and started designing identities for corporations “that needed help projecting themselves to the outside world,” and became subsequently involved in what came to be known as “brand architecture” which helped him gain a better understanding of brand identity (Olins, 2014).

Although Olins was not a designer by background, nevertheless, his books and works became primers to PRs and graphic and product designers, to anyone who wanted to successfully create a brand, or sound credible in the ideology of branding.

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References

Cookson, R., 2014. Wally Olins, brand expert, 1930-2014 – FT.com. [online] Financial Times. Available at: <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b3bb8f14-c574-11e3-a7d4-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2z9FCJLCT&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Designers’ Friend, a., 2014. Journal Wally Olins CBE1930-2014. [online] Saffron-consultants.com. Available at: <http://saffron-consultants.com/views/1930-2014/&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Olins, W., 2012. Wally Olins | Speaking about Nation Branding. [online] Wallyolins.com. Available at: <http://wallyolins.com/video/me-on-nation-branding/&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Olins, W., 2014. Wally Olins | Brand is a tribe. [online] Wallyolins.com. Available at: <http://wallyolins.com/article/brand-is-a-tribe/&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Olins, W., 2014. Wally Olins | Me. [online] Wallyolins.com. Available at: <http://wallyolins.com/me/&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Olins, W., 2014. Wally Olins | My interview for Designboom. [online] Wallyolins.com. Available at: <http://wallyolins.com/article/my-interview-for-designboom/&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

York, P. and Damazer, M., 2014. Wally Olins obituary. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/apr/15/wally-olins&gt; [Accessed 17 Apr. 2014].

Getting in Touch with my Artistic Side!

I have never been into artsy kind of things, but I must admit that Dale Chihuly’s new exhibition, Beyond the Object, in the Halcyon Gallery on New Bond Street was simply amazing!

Who is Dale Chihuly?

Chihuly is a famous American artist who works in the realm of glass sculpture. Along with a dedicated team of experts, Chihuly has contributed over the years to the development of glassblowing, and  has revolutionized the Studio Glass movement elevating the perception of glass from the realm of craft to fine art.
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Sculptor Dale Chihuly poses for a portrait with his work Mille Fiori at the new Halycon Gallery on New Bond street in London
If you live in London, you have probably passed by some of Dale Chihuly’s works. One of his most famous pieces lies in the V&A, South Kensington. It is a monumental and vibrant chandelier, which has been seen by millions of visitors since its installation in the main entrance of the historic museum back in 2001. That’s not all! In 2005, Chihuly launched a large scale garden exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, called Gardens of Glass, which is reported to have been viewed by more than 850,000 people. Beginning of February of this year, another art piece was unveiled in London by Chihuly: a 16 feet wide amber and gold Chandelier now stands in Harrods’ Grand Hall Entrance [Source].
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What to Expect?

The first thing you notice as you enter the gallery is the Persian Pergola Ceiling, “an immersive canopy of color, form and light”. The Pergola helped set the mood and theme of the exhibition that features Persian Walls as well as Chihuly’s new Persian Crescent artworks.

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The exhibition ranged from glass towers and chandeliers to more practical glass vases. As you wandered from one art piece to another, you could not help but notice the recurrence of three important themes: the interesting use of light; the way the art pieces fill and consume the space around them; and the play on color from sheer to more opaque and vibrant colors.
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The Verdict:

Whether or not you are an art student, or an art connoisseur, you cannot but appreciate the technique and craftsmanship that has gone into creating the colorful and hand-blown glass pieces that feature in this installation. Although the exhibition was not very vast in terms of number of works displayed or actual space—which might have run the risk of having the sculptures seem rather repetitive- yet one cannot deny that Chihuly has managed to add a dash of color to the Big Smoke and has beautifully transformed New Bond street Gallery with his distinctive and unique sculptures.

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5 Business Lessons You Can Draw from Watching Mr. Selfridge!

Over the past few weeks I have been catching up with the British Drama Mr Selfridge on Netflix. Although I am not a huge fan of the store—I must admit I prefer London Liberty to it because I believe it managed to remain true to its heritage and brand essence and is far less commercial than Selfridges– yet, I decided to watch it because with all the milestones we are facing with Le Petit Sac, I honestly needed to relax a bit, and what better way to relax than watching an inspirational success story from the fashion retail industry? After viewing the trailer, seeing the ratings on IMDB, and researching Lindy Woodhead’s 2012 book Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Selfridge, I was ready to enter the world of the “man who knew what women wanted”!

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What is striking about the series is that as I watched it mainly for pure entertainment purposes: to pass time, think of nothing, and just try to take my mind off of business and studies, I could not help but think of the topics it touched upon and which we discussed in class, such as: engagement, creativity, future vision, time management, team work, and leadership.
Whether or not the series is based partially or entirely on accurate biographical account of Mr. Selfridge’s life, one could not but admire the visionary character on the screen, and take a lesson or two from the Chief himself:

1. Importance of Time Management:
Mr. Selfridge’s office consisted of only one desk and a chair for him to sit on. However, there were no chairs for his guests, because he believed that “everything that needs to be said can be done in 15 minutes and everything else is just hot air”. With the average attention span reaching as low as 8 seconds in 2013, according to latest studies, no wonder why “Ignite!” and “Pecha Kucha” presentations, which are limited to 7-10 minutes, are now considered the right tool to convey your message accordingly.

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2. Engage and Empower your Employee:
(in)Famous for coining the sentence: “customer is always right,” Mr. Selfridge was nonetheless an inspirational business leader who really appreciated and respected his staff, and knew exactly how to empower, inspire and engage his employees. In one of the episodes, Mr. Selfridge and the management decide to start a sale just a day before the opening of a competitor’s store. On announcing the news to the Heads of departments, Selfridge said: “We decide on the what and the why and you decide on the how”. By doing so, Selfridge has given his employees the liberty to creatively think how to incorporate the sale across their departments. According to an article in the Daily Mail, each morning at 9.30 am, Mr. Selfridge “would don his hat and walk the store’s six acres, asking staff for suggestions and jotting them down on his shirt cuffs. The tour took more than an hour but was an important facet of staff morale, with employees talking for the rest of the day about the Chief’s comments” (source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-492141/Harry-Selfridge-The-man-sex-shopping.html#ixzz2xxBXwRfN )



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Mr Selfridge

3. People Don’t Know what they Want until you Show it to Them:
As Mr. Selfridge was introducing a variety of new and “bold” ideas to incorporate in his store, he was often faced with a little resistance from some conservative employees advising him against such decisions, because they might not appeal to customers. To such claims Mr. Selfridge responded: “how can people know what they want if they haven’t even seen it?” Selfridge’s rhetoric question reminded me of a quote by Steve Jobs, in which he said: “Some people say, ‘Give customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”‘ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”(Source: http://mvctest.com/the-steve-jobs-research-quote-should-rest-in-peace/ )

4. Networking, Networking, and some more Networking:
If there’s one lesson to deduct from Mr. Selfridge, it has to be the power of networking. Being an American launching a new concept/store in 1909 Britain, Mr. Selfridge had to resort to making strong connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships as a marketing technique to accelerate and sustain success for his store. Similarly, now that we live in a highly cluttered world where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements, emails, status updates, special offers, and sales pitches, personal relationships and referrals enable us and our business to stand out, rise above the noise and remain top of mind.

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5. Turning Bricks and Mortar into Experiential Spaces:
In her book, Woodhead’s describes Selfridge’s store as “a theatre with the curtain going up at nine o’clock”. Way before the digital era started to threaten bricks and mortars retailers; Mr. Selfridge was already convinced that a store ought to do more than generate sales. Not only is he known to have created “the shopping experience,” but Mr. Selfridge also believed in the experiential value of his store space. In fact, Selfridges was the first store to allow customers to “browse before they buy”. Previously, customers had to ask if they wanted to see a perfume or lipstick. Additionally, the store’s windows displays were meant to attract customers and “window shoppers” alike. Hence, the windows always kept current with the latest happenings and conveyed specific themes with an artistic twist. That’s not all, Mr. Selfridge also believed in the power of engaging his customers and staff by hosting events in-store. “When Frenchman Louis Bleriot became the first man to fly the English Channel four months after the store opened, Selfridge was there to greet him – and followed up his coup by displaying Bleriot’s tiny aircraft at the store for four days. The exhibition drew hordes of visitors, and set a benchmark for in-store entertainment” (source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-492141/Harry-Selfridge-The-man-sex-shopping.html#ixzz2xxBSqHnJ )

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I guess for once, I do not have to feel entirely guilty for snuggling in my sofa with my favorite tea cup watching another episode of Dear Old Mr. Selfridge- Or may be I’m just trying to convince myself that it’s ok 🙂