Business Technology

Trump is right about something! Made in USA counts for a lot

You probably rushed to dismiss it.  After all, in this globalized world it seems counterintuitive that Apple should produce iPhones entirely in the US.  Some would say impossible.  And it is Donald Trump saying it, the man is ridiculous almost 24/7.

Now think about it again.  Cost?  Yeah, sure it would be more expensive to produce in America but Apple has the margin to support it.    It would not be more expensive to the consumers.  And even these Tim Cook days of actually giving back to shareholders, it isn’t just about the stock market.  Apple stock has become a global “too big to fail” ticker, it’s price was never really connected to its performance much anyway.

Some say it is impossible to produce an iPhone entirely in the US.  So let me get this straight.  There are countries out there more advanced than America?  And this is OK with everyone?  Nobody else perceive a medium term threat in the situation?  It is true that no country actually produces an iPhone, it is simply a matter of assembly.  So why can a Mac pro be produced in America and not an iPhone?  Samsung might not seem much of a threat these days but that can quickly change.    You set up your whole supply chain somewhere else and pretty soon “somewhere else” is selling iPhone knock offs at a tenth of the price.    Furthermore they attract more customers on the back of their legitimate claim to be manufacturing or assembling iPhones.  Their countries learn how to produce such items in terms of all their processes, taxes, permits, government procedures and a million other little things we call “know how”.  You are greasing the way for anyone else to roll in and compete.

I know all this sounds very unliberal and unbusinesslike.  That is because we have been schooled to always assume that the free market is the best choice.  It usually is.  Abusing worker rights in China is not.  There is nothing liberal or free about what Apple has been doing (and continues to do) to squeeze its suppliers.  It didn’t join the move of “Made in Argentina” when Samsung and Blackberry did.  Apple doesn’t care about building long term relationships with any market in the world other than America.  Apple always treated its distributors like crap, was always secretive, has always decided from the top and bossed everyone else around.

Well there is no point running complex business analysis or logistics calculations on it.  It is a matter of soul.  What is Apple about?  If it is a truly global company, why does it act like a bunch of Californians with attitude who don’t care about anything?  Making iPhones in America won’t solve any problems.  It won’t make them worse either.

And it just might force the company to face up to the fact that it isn’t really sure what it is about anymore and how it connects to consumers.



Business Society

Let’s make a website and hide the fact that we are Greek

It is a great website.  The English is correct.  The vibe is right.  The concept isn’t ground breaking but on the right path.  So why should it hide the fact that it is Greek?  There is no “about us”.  No physical adress.  If you look hard, in the blog section, there is mention of a “name” and a brief, very vague bio.  And based on this information they want me to shell out 3-4 thousand euro?

It is a very common chorus in Greece these days.  Everyone starts a business conversation with the mantra “forget the Greek market” followed by some idea of  how to sell abroad.  Which is nearly always half baked.  Getting a truly global angle isn’t easy.  I had written some time ago about how the traditional Greek family business should emulate the German model.  Thinking it and doing it are two very different things.  The current crisis in Greece will take at least a generation to get over.  There has to be a generation of people that grow up and decide what to do in the world with no other option than an international market.

Meanwhile the ministry of tourism and the prime minister debate rebranding Greece as “Hellas”.  As if they can.

Using the internet to try out a business idea is a valid strategy.  Some are really good.  Nice branding, great website, good vibe,  content that works for Google…  But a real brand has a real home.  Be Greek and be proud.  You’re not going to convince anyone to buy otherwise and it will end up as yet another big Greek Ego exercise.  Which is great if somebody else is paying the bill.

They are not.


Note: The initial post contained reference to a website which I incorrectly claimed had no Greek address ;   it actually does have Greek information.   I just didn’t see it, must have been the position.  The gist of the article is valid, I just removed the specific reference.

Ouzo around the world

Ouzo branding case study

Ouzo brands marketing and bottle design
A new category - premium ouzo brands - in Adolo by Plomari

There are many different ouzo brands and the competition is fierce.   So it is interesting when a “new” product comes along.   Even more so when it proposes an unused, yet traditional method of production and unique marketing and bottling.   Quoting from the branding experts that put the whole thing together:

Ouzo brands marketing and bottle design
A new category - premium ouzo brands - in Adolo by Plomari

“Adolo” the best quality ouzo Isidoros Arvanitis could produce.

A pleasant smell of anise, mastic and fennel derives from this premium category ouzo, distilled by an innovative recipe that may change everything taken for granted until now, as far as ouzo flavor is concerned. It is a crystal clear liquid that brings a light sense of its smelling ingredients to the taster’s mouth. According to the myth, the history of ouzo began in late 19th century. Isidoros Arvanitis, from Plomari village, Lesvos island, experimented on various spirits using a lot of different herbs in order to create the “ouzo”. This myth reaches its peak nowadays, again at Plomari village, where the premium ouzo has been created. More over, Isidoros Arvanitis used to name  ”Adolo”, the best quality ouzo he could produce, offering it only to his friends.


Discovering  the premium version of the No. 1 spirit of Greece. The challenge of branding a traditional product for a premium audience.

After the branding success of Ouzo Plomari, the leading Greek spirit drink , Yalos was commissioned to brand its new premium version, called “Adolo”.Our target audience are, opinion leaders who dare to challenge themselves with new choices. The retail environments, are a selection of contemporary bars, gourmet restaurants and of course, glamorous parties. ”Adolo” is a really special spirit, subject to three stages of distillation in order to keep the most valuable part of “the core”. Since, packaging has been proven to be one of the most critical factors in the marketing efforts and ultimate success of a spirit brand, Yalos implemented its expertise packaging design on three axes:

  • Transforming the traditional character of the well established brand of Ouzo Plomari, to an upmarket visual impact.
  • Harmonising the experience of the elegant flavouring of the spirit, with the shape of a crystal clear elegant bottle.
  • Incorporating the visual elements of the distillery brass kettle and hence delivering the look & feel of copper.

Thus creating the first premium ouzo brand of  Greece.



Business Communication

Branding and social media lessons from Muhammed

We live in a sandstorm of information.   Blogs, tweets, status updates, emails, sms and everything raining down on us.  In such a desert 1500 years ago a man worked as a merchant meeting various people of the region and listening to them carefully.  He gathered data. And then what did he do?  Inbound marketing!   He went to his cave and developed a religion.  (Through revelation for those that believe this religion, no offence taken I hope !)   In this desert storm of information, make your own oasis.   Provide good information, food for thought, entertainment for all of us tired from crossing the barren wilderness.   Design an environment where we can relax.

And once you have the people in your oasis?  The Prophet eventually went out to preach of course!   His wife converted to his religion. Impressive!  I doubt my wife would be the first convert of anything I came up with!  His family followed.   He built a circle of followers around him, like a well seeded Facebook group.   He left Mecca when things got tough, just like a brand might drop an approach that doesn’t work.   Rebranded himself as he landed in Medina and turned to diplomacy.   Like a company looking for synergies with other partners.   Like finding “friends” in social media, early adopters in technology, allies in the politics of entrepreneurship.

And then, before it got too stale, full scale attack!  The rate of growth of Muhammed’s doctrine is still impressive all these years later. Like a viral YouTube video, his beautiful poetry conquered.   What the verse didn’t do, his sword finished off. One simple message, one doctrine in one language.   Accepting other faiths as long as they had “a book” and paid taxes.   Like letting people post on your wall.  On one common platform for everyone like Facebook or Twitter.

Perhaps most impressive was that the rate of expansion accelerated after he died.  A few decades after Jerusalem fell to the Arabs and the Romans lost to them.   Will Apple keep up there success rate when Steve Jobs dies? The Prophet set up a system which conquered even Persia (not conquered by the Romans or anyone else…ever!), reaching Spain and setting up massive empires.   And a cultural legacy which still affects the world in a big way.

One man.  One brand.   One product which is in fact a simple idea.   But so many tweaks along the way…

(Blog post inspired by a truly terrible pseudo viral campaign by Nestle in Greece for Fitness products.)

Business Communication

Corporate psychoanalysis through the company blog

My friend is a damn good designer.  He has worked for the biggest furniture manufacturer’s and other luminary positions that an industrial designer can achieve including his own lab.   Anything from unique desk systems, to an incredible invention that helps the Athens Hilton fold their tables more efficiently or a sea kayak.  But what exactly is he?

You could call it a mid life crisis.   Too vague and emotionally laden for me.   In corporate terms he is in danger of becoming a jack of all trades.  In his own mind. He needs to focus on less to achieve more.   I have seen companies do this at fancy retreats, with or without gurus like me to assist them.   They run around an assault course, dive backwards into the teams arms, raft down the river, party like maniacs and somehow reinvigorate their common idea of what the enterprise is all about.

Blogging is like all that only better.   OK, I am a blogging junky.   It is not so much that I have a compulsive need to blog all the time so much.   It is more that I see blogging as the solution to more and more corporate ails. I threw at my friend with some sample content.   Like most companies, he wasn’t sure what to do with it.   Then, some time later, the phone calls started:   “How can I change that?”, “do you think we should add this?” and “how would Twitter fit into all of it?”

I haven’t yet seen his first post.   That, to me, is the “bingo” moment of triumph.   Because it means that he has found his public voice.   He has imagined an audience and spoken to it.   For anyone that is an expert in their own field, the content is easy once you achieve this first step.   An excellent example is which I am proud to say I didn’t write a single word of.   OK, they are branding specialists, it is their job to know what to project.   But I simply enabled the technology for them to transfer this know-how to a new medium.   I was just watching  and applauding, reassuring  as much as possible when necessary.   Through this process they are rediscovering their relevance to an international market.

Google, customers and everything else will fall into place.

Business Communication

Follow your bliss: branding is storytelling as an archetype

Heinrich Zimmer was a man with a mission.  You don’t need a guru, he said, you need to find an archetypal myth that applies to your situation and live it through.  His knowledge of Hindu mythology allowed him to interpret works of art through archetypes.  Very Jung-like of him and he greatly influenced my favourite thinker on the subject, Joseph Campbell.

It is a fairly straightforward theory: any story can be categorized in a specific archetypal myth.   A myth that is told and retold since the beginning of human storytelling.  Any journey, be it Lord of the Rings or Rocky IV, has twelve stages.  Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor and so on.  Much like Jung in “Man and his symbols” demonstrated that signs from the swastika to a snake eating it’s tail have followed homo sapiens from his very beginning.  (Great inspiration for logos!)  You can pick a fight with Jung’s last work easily.  Is a lion the same potent symbol today as it was back when I really did fear getting eaten by one daily?  A dragon now that we now all about dinosaurs?  Any symbol in a technologically advanced world which throws any image around the internet and on TV at a breakneck speed?

But you can’t argue with mythological archetypes.  Why?  Because what makes us human is the search for meaning.  Arguably without that, there are no emotions.  And without emotions, there is no marketing.  So, like Zimmer, I say “don’t look for brand gurus”. Follow your bliss and find the myth that applies to your brand.  And the stage it is at.  Start up?  You have seen it a thousand times in those films where a young person suddenly gets thrown into a big adventure.  It seems impossible at first, daunting.  But we learn about his pedigree.  (Good excuse for our brand’s origins.)  Then he finds allies (other companies we are working with) or mentors (brand endorsers).  We are routing for him.  Then we learn about his nemesis.  You can make it specific (“we hate Microsoft” seems to be popular!) or generic “untidy offices drive me mad!”

Myth provides a safe, reliable route to follow.  One that consumers can relate to.  Because the biggest enemy of brand building is incongruity.  Our brains just can’t handle information that seems to make no sense.  Just like in film making or book writing, just because you are following an archetype, doesn’t mean you can’t embelish it, or decide where to place emphasis.  But using well known symbols gives the larger than life effect every brand needs to gain mind share.

Straightfoward stuff.  Now my teaser question: who do you want telling your story?