Tesla are losing money at an incredible rate. According to The Verge, they lost around $785 million in the first quarter of 2018 and are down to cash reserves of only $2.7 billion, after starting the year with $3.4 billion. If they carry on at this burn rate they will run out of cash and have to file for protection by the close of 2018.
But when did Apple last create anything that was truly disruptive? The iPod, the iPhone? maybe the Apple TV?
All of their recent lunches have been derivations, not innovations.
Their launches over the last number of years have been dull to say the least. But there’s little doubt they design some of the most sought-after products in the world that carry an incredible premium price.
On the surface this is similar to the Tesla.
It was a disruptor in the passenger car market and their Semi is sure to disrupt the market for Heavy Goods Vehicles. If you’ve ever driven a Tesla, it’s hard to argue that they are anything other than quick, but their fit and finish is poor. It’s nowhere near as good as the products coming in from the German manufacturers Audi and Mercedes and a long way behind the British designed Jaguar iPace – All of which will match the Tesla for range in the next few years.
When these products hit the mainstream market, they will have a serious impact on Tesla sales. The competitors’ products just look and feel better. The one area Tesla continue to lead is in their battery technology – which for me as an iPhone owner, is another serious Apple weakness.
So Tesla need design input, they also need cash – desperately if they want to continue to compete. The interior of the Tesla is just plain bland and for me, cars like the Model X are different, but ugly and overcomplicated. The gull-wing doors are schoolboy stuff, designed by someone with a Countach poster on their wall as a kid. For me, they have no place in the real world.
Apple need to advance their battery technology and look for an outlet for their cash that is going to give their shareholders a long-term return. We know Apple are working on a car, it’s been leaked all over the place. When Apple do eventually launch, are they really going to be satisfied with the standard charging system available to everyone else?
The answer has to be no.
They even had to design their own charging plug and headphone socket for their phones!
The Tesla charging network is already worldwide and can deliver charge at exceptional rates.
We know that Dyson, who have some of the most advanced motor technology, are working hard to produce a car too. Autocar have produced their own drawing of what this may look like here. It’s quite cool and they could again come in as another disruptor to the car market.
So for me, Apple and Tesla throwing their technology and design together will be the perfect match. Working together with Apple’s cash, will leave them both in a considerably stronger position than the sum of the parts.
I’m not sure which of the stocks to advise investing in, but maybe wait until Tesla tanks a little further and then swoop in, as if Apple come to town with the Tesla, it is going to be a world beater and every major car manufacturer needs to take note.
They are two brands that have made their name for innovation. Their brand values overlap in almost every way and there doesn’t seem to be anything that would stop them working together apart from some bloody-mindedness from Apple because the existing Tesla model range wasn’t their initial concept. To me though, it seems like their innovation and their organisational culture – such as single-minded strong leader, obsession with detail, being a massive disrupter in new markets – are completely complementary and both need each other to grow to the next level.
Brands have got a real problem coming. It’s also going to have a huge effect on some of the biggest economies around the world too.
We all have enough stuff.
Back in Spring 2008, my favourite brand Howies sent a card inside my quarterly catalogue asking if I’d fallen out of love with them, or maybe whether I just have enough clothes for the time being. It has been something that has stayed front of mind for nearly ten years now as I think we are at a stage where we probably all have enough stuff.
I have a newish computer, my car is fine (even with 130,000 miles on the clock) and I have quite a few watches. My Phone is reasonably recent and I really don’t need an Apple Watch, a new TV or another bluetooth speaker. In fact we have TV’s all over the place, bluetooth speakers all over the place and a lovely old valve amp for playing proper music.
I have outerwear coming out of my wazoo, at least six pairs of jeans, two gilets, jumpers, shorts, socks and shirts in every material for every eventuality.
I have access to almost every song ever produced with Spotify and every film ever made, with a combination of Amazon Prime, Netflix and a mildly chipped Firestick.
I adore Oxford United and should make more effort to see them home and away. That’s tribal, it isn’t about the brand. This is an opportunity for tribal experiences like football and they will be one of the few areas to do well out of this.
I love holidays, exploring new places and going to the pub. In fact, probably my favourite thing to do is walk to the pub with the dog, have a few pints and walk home again.
But in effect, I want for nothing.
Which is the problem that any brand faces.
We all have too much stuff.
There is no consumer good that creates real desire, real anticipation and a real need to have it in your hands.
New products are all derivations. Small but barely discernible differences that the brands create to try and make us want them. But the differences aren’t real enough. They don’t add value to our lives and as such, they just become normal, within a moment of owning them.
Social media makes things worse. You can now see that everyone owns everything and we are all bored of this. It’s why so many people are turning away from Facebook and it’s dying on its arse. No-one lives that perfect a life and we can all see through it for what it is.
But if everyone has everything anyway, who is there to show off to and what with?
It’s also why everyone needs to pay less than full price for anything. Why else do you think the outlet villages and discount sites are so prevalent? The only thing left to give you a buzz is the bargain, rather than the brand you’ve bought.
So what do brands do to overcome this?
The answer is to fulfill something deeper than a need to own something. My clever friend Leila pointed out that this is why there’s a huge rise in Mindfulness and Wellness. We are all searching for something more than just the diminishing thrill of owning things. I know with the challenges I’ve been through in the last year, I couldn’t care less about material things, I’m quite pleased to be vertical and pretty much pain-free again.
That’s one hell of a challenge and one thing I can say is that not all brands will survive this imminent crisis.
You can summarise it all very easily in just one line.
If there is no actual need, then the only way to sell is by creating desire.
maybe that is what marketing is all about. Creating desire. The issue I have is that we are all losing our desire for material things and therefore selling anything material is just going to get harder and harder.
It’s a self-imposed austerity that could run for quite a while. With an economy built entirely on buying such things and a Chinese economy built on making these things, I suspect things are going to get a little rocky in the manufacturing-based economies.
I ran a brand consultancy for well over 20 years and as a team, we created literally thousands of logos and quite a few brands that you would know. The logo is one element of the branding, but it’s one that is easy to spend a fortune on without getting something you are totally happy with.
Design is a completely subjective thing and one person’s great is another person’s awful. So, only you can decide whether you like a logo or not. The great thing about this Artificial Intelligence design tool which is called LogoJoy is that you can create as many versions of a logo as you like, without having to pay. I have given LogoJoy a full review over here complete with plenty of examples of it in action.
Here’s a film to show you how to do it for yourself. You can honestly create a great logo in under ten minutes.
So that’s it. It’s dead simple and anyone can use this to create a great logo. With the artificial intelligence behind the system, it genuinely learns what you like and the more you use it, the more close it gets to something you’ll love straight away.
One thing I do mention in the film is the difference between pop songs and album tracks. When you have created a few options I would always advise you print them out and stick them on the wall. Don’t make an immediate decision. The one to choose is the one that grows on you and that isn’t always the one you love immediately.
Organic Stars in search results were outlawed for many years by Google as there were too many people ‘gaming’ the system and using results from all of their products and pushing them against every product they own individually. This is still obviously outlawed and if you do it, you will get a Google penalty.
But the good news is that there is now a super simple way to get Organic stars in your SERPS, just by adding your aggregate rating wrapped up in a simple Organization schema. They can improve CTR by a huge percentage, so for so little effort, there’s very little else that delivers more for your buck. This is what they look like when they are delivering.
The Schema is simple and as follows:
At present, you do need a reviews provider to give you these scores, but it may be possible to gain them from Google’s own rating if you can deliver a dynamic link into the Google page with your aggregate rating.
It is important to note that when you add it to your page, it’s worth testing it through Google’s own Structured data tester to ensure you have the code exactly right. It’s also CRITICAL to note that if you miss any of the elements off above, it may well pass, but you do need ALL of these elements to gain stars.
So it’s that simple. Add it to your home page, wait a week or so and you should get stars. I have used this many hundreds of times and it works every time!
Good luck, and please feel free to post examples of stars in the comments when they arrive on your site.
When my father was taken ill around 12 years ago he wanted to make sure everything was sorted for my Mum, so she didn’t have to worry about things when he was gone. He moved the home insurance to Saga Insurance, thinking they would be safe, reliable and trustworthy. But 12 years on when I happened to see a home insurance renewal from Saga, the cost was clearly very heavily inflated. £616.69 feels like a lot to me for a low risk existing client. So I had a look into it.
I think what makes it worse is some of the itemised costs. £20 renewal arrangement fee? Have you ever seen that before? Where does that cost come from and who on earth would ever pay that.
So bring on Compare the Market to see how this quote stacks up against an open market competition for a retired person living at home, with awesome security and who has never claimed in her life.
This is a like for like quote. £1 million rebuild cost (which is way too much) £75k contents, also too much and accidental damage everywhere. It is massively over-specced, but still comes in 79.7% cheaper at £125.00.
There were actually quotes as low as £102.93 (which is actually 83.4% cheaper) but these had a few things like legal cover missing, so weren’t identical.
So for Saga, they seem to assume that because they deal with the over 50’s, none of them will ever check quote them. For me, that’s not the way for a brand to ever behave. Maybe Saga is just another corporate money making machine like any other company these days. This is sad. I had always believed, like my Dad before me that maybe they were slightly better, knew how to look after customers and were in it for the long term. But obviously not.
We live in a totally transparent age, anyone can see almost any data these days and it is easy to find out of you are paying too much. This ploy of Saga feels like cynical profiteering to me. Surely they can only increase prices at an RPI linked cost?
In the meantime, we’ve signed up with Legal and General, complained to the Financial Ombudsman about the behaviour of Saga and passed the file to Money Saving Expert so they can have some fun with it too.
We have had phone call from Saga and an apology (not an admission of guilt) but they acknowledged that there may have been some overpayment by my Mum and offered some compensation. I am rather delighted to share the cheque with you today for £1839.66. I’ll take that. Thanks very much. The little man fights back and wins.
I was at east Midlands Airport recently and they have something of a captive market for their meal deals with both Superdrug and WH smith offering meal deals for £3.99. On the surface this looks like great value.
WH Smith is a brand that started 224 years ago in 1792 in London and has 1,351 outlets with 615 on the high street and 736 travel outlets in airports and stations. It turned over nearly £1.2 BILLION in 2015 and employs 14,500 people.
So with all of these years of experience, heritage and the sheer number of interested parties, you’d think they would understand the concept of authentic brand values. Built on this history and surviving the worst of the high street recessions they really ought to know better.
But they don’t. They have an own brand product in store called ‘Munch’ which is entirely fake.
Munch, which is a range of sandwiches and wraps, tells you you can ‘Grab a bite of the good stuff’. A pretty compelling proposition for food on the go. They back this up with a brand support statement that says ‘Gloriously delicious food-to-go. So irresistible everyone wants to get their paws on it! Satisfies even the wildest of appetites…’
But the sandwich was disgusting. I didn’t want more, I never want to eat it again, I never want to eat anything for sale in WH Smith. I didn’t even want to finish the sandwich. Eating it, made me feel ill and dirty. Eggshell in the egg mayo didn’t help and even the bread was stale and unnatural. So I had to have look at the ingredients.
This was a total shock. I was genuinely horrified with what it contained and it bore no relation to the brand values all over the packaging whatsoever.
Even trying to ignore the fact that claimed ingredients added up to 118% (It must be all the shit they have piled in to make it taste less natural and healthy) the list was not all all irresistible. In fact it was entirely resistible.
I won’t be eating ‘Munch’ again. I’d suspect that if this is how WH Smith run their business, they are in trouble. I’ve talked about Tesco in the past and the start of their problems being with the quality of their products, which all came true. Any brand that says one things and delivers another like Abercrombie and Fitch will be found out soon enough. WH Smith are that brand.
I’m no whistle blower, but if I had any money invested in WH Smith, I’d get it out fast. This is a brand heading for the gutter.
I’m not going to say much here, so I’ll let you decide for yourself. I have talked about Google and their monopolistic power previously. Google is still totally dominant in the global search market. You’ll see from this graphic below that they have 67.78% of total search share compared to the next biggest Bing with only 13.27%. That’s over five times the share. In the Uk, this is 86.6% for Google and only 8.88% for Bing, which is over ten fold.
So you would expect that their results would be completely above reproach wouldn’t you? They’d play fair as they are in such an obvious monopolistic position right?
I wanted to understand how seller ratings worked in Bing. Were they any different to those in Google? Was there anything else I needed to know?
So an obvious search term produced the following results in Google with no sign of Bing on the whole of the first page.
And in Bing, quite different results here with their own two useful articles in first and second place as you’d expect.
So based on my search intention of trying to find more information about ‘Bing Seller ratings markup’, which produced the most useful results?
This does look remarkably like a playing field that is not at all level. Naughty Google.
Since I wrote this earlier today, Google have been all over BBC news for their alleged abuse of power with Android too.
British Steel first appeared in 1967 which was formed out of the nationalised British Steel Corporation (BSC). It went on to be privatised and launched as British Steel plc in 1988. It was even big enough to be part of the FTSE 100 Index. In 1999 the company merged with Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group and even then, many of us thought it was a mistake and would start the end of the steel industry in Britain. It’s easy with hindsight, but it looks like that was right.
And it’s why we need British Steel again. Quality, traceable, home manufactured fabulous, british steel. It may not have been a glamorous brand, but it was one we knew and understood.
There is a new standard in Europe called BS/EN 1090 and what it says is that EVERYTHING, right down to welding rods has to be traceable back to source. No traceability, no CE Mark. This is currently impossible with imported steel as there is no way of knowing where it came from. If you don’t know how it was made, where it was made or what it was made with, then how can you guarantee it is safe? For an insurer, how can they assess that risk?
So for me, bringing back British Steel would be a huge step forward.
So maybe this is just too obvious to be useful but if we are about to lose our steel industry and 15,000 jobs anyway, then surely it must be worth investing in this industry again.
We poured billions into our banks to save face more than to save jobs and now it must be time for this support to turn to one of our core industries. Steel.
Even taking the finances alone. 15,000 families will be immediately having to draw benefits for some considerable time. Let’s say an average of three years. Then by my maths that’s at least £1bn million over this period and ongoing devastation to communities that just don’t need more bad news.
If you take Port Talbot as a case, then maybe energy is the issue? This can be solved with the Severn Barrage. Every aluminium producer in the world seems to use Hydro Power to smelt aluminium, so why not clean steel up at the same time and make it go green. That’s a bargain at between £10-34bn – which makes the saving of steel look positively cheap.
British Steel is Britain through and through. It’s literally what our country was built with and by my very simple way of thinking, something our government should not just support but make it a model of how decent targeted intervention can help rebuild Britain from our proud industrial heritage outwards.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but my first reaction when I heard that VW had rigged the software in their cars to behave differently when it detected it was being tested, I thought “wow, that’s clever”.
There’s no doubt they have done a huge amount of harm to their brand and damaged the trust that has been built over many, many years. They deserve a really big fine as they have been found out as liars. Brand owners who lie generally get found out and they generally struggle to build their brand back up afterwards.
But, do they deserve to be put out of business when it is near certain that every other manufacturer in the world is pulling the same stunt, without having been caught yet?
I think not.
It’s bad yes, but it isn’t life and death. They will be hit hard enough with a potentially huge decrease in sales and profits for years to come.
So for me, the talk of a £20bn fine is excessive. When you add in the lawyers scurrying around like leeches starting Class Actions in the US and it’s getting ridiculous. Assume £10,000 per car and this could easily be another £50bn on top. Really, have they done £70bn of harm?
As I work with some great theme parks, I am a member of the Themed Entertainment Association. One of the benefits of membership is their organisation of visits to some of the best the world has to offer, to see what they do and how they do it. And I have just come back from Puy du Fou, and can safely say that it is, without doubt, the best theme park in the world.
It’s a total one of a kind and without any of the conventional rides you associate with other theme parks. It draws in the local community, trains all its own staff through its academy, creates everything internally (even the shoes and costumes) and delivers spectacular, emotive and beautiful shows that you have to see to believe.
It’s been created by Phillippe de Villiers, the father of Nicolas de Villiers who runs it today (and who showed us around). The control Nicolas still exercises is phenomenal. It’s not like any other brand. If anything it’s a little like Google in the way they controlled their growth in the early years but this has lasted for 35 years already. He even interviews the shortlisted kids for the academy and watches every Cinescenie to be able to feed back to the managers where they could do the show even better. The level of detail they manage is unbelievable and even the back stage areas are immaculate.
We had a totally jam packed 48 hours and got to see behind the scenes of nearly every show. Here’s a summary of the best of them.
The first show I saw there and an amazing introduction to life at Puy du Fou. It’s filled with eagles, horned beasts, vikings and marauders, all backed up with huge explosions, gigantic flames and boats magically appearing from stage left and under the water, with the performers disappearing with it. Animals everywhere and a large cast. It’s an amazing start and an even bigger ending.
The Knights of the Round Table
It’s a story of Excalibur with Merlin, mermaids, sword fights in the water, horses walking out of the huge hidden caverns underwater and probably the simplest of the whole lot we saw. It’s great fun, has the best safety warning I have ever seen (hilarious) and I saw it twice.
The Secret of the Lance
This is a huge show that just keeps on growing. Spectacular horse riding, massive sword fights and jousting and flames everywhere. Then a disappearing castle, another HUGE castle that moves and rotates and amazing sounds and effects everywhere. There are things going on all over the place and we were lucky enough to get to see behind the scenes here. It was sooooo good, that a few times during the show I felt myself becoming a bit emotional.
This is a huge great roman spectacular played out in a purpose built amphitheatre that seats over 7,000 people. Again, it starts off quite small and then just grows and grows. The cast is huge and varied and whilst the story is their own version of history, it’s still truly amazing. Just look at the pictures.
I saw this one twice too. It’s the only inside show and simply massive. Perhaps a little hard to follow in french, but I found it far more enjoyable to just watch the show and ignore the story. It’s breathtaking but you aren’t allowed to take photos, so this is a sneaky one of the set, just as the flamenco dancers start going crazy. It’s quite reminiscent of Riverdance with horses and water and swords and explosions and…..
The Phantom Birds’ Dance
Now this was a real highlight. Again I saw it twice from two different seating positions. The first time from down in the pit gave a great view, but the second time, right at the back at the sides gave you far closer access to the birds. The show itself is incredible with beautiful, haunting music and a cast of over 170 birds. If you are going to sit at the very back, it’s probably best to shuffle forwards just a little so you don’t get pooped on by a vulture, like I did. There is simply noting like this anywhere in the world. It is totally breathtaking.
The Organs of Fire
This was the first night show I saw and can only be described as breathtaking (I’ve used that a lot haven’t i!). It starts with a lone violinist emerging, her dress lighting up and her floating around the lake playing music until she meets the pianist, who does the same. The orchestras appear, huge fountains emerge and an even bigger organ suddenly appears to add to the music and the gigantic party. I thought it was the biggest show I’d ever seen, but I hadn’t seen Cinescenie at this point!
Now this show breaks record after record. It’s the largest permanent show in the world with a nightly cast of 1,500, all of whom are volunteers. None of them get paid. There are 3,400 of them trained to play their roles and it’s held 28 time per year in front of a crowd of 14,000. For the volunteers, it’s a huge social and cinematic event and they train all year. It’s so popular that there are over 1,000 on the waiting list to volunteer and you can’t buy tickets for the event for another year. I won’t say too much about it but it is simply massive, incredible and beautiful (and hard to photograph). I have again, never seen anything like this. It started at 10.45 pm and went on until well after 12.15, so it’s a good long show too. It’s worth it for the fireworks alone.
The TEA Team
Being with the TEA gave us an all access pass to the whole site and the team that created it. It was a huge privilege and worth the membership in its own right. For only three days away it was completely exhausting, but to be able to get to see this place was worth it and i’ll be back to do it again.
Are you watching Nottingham?
It does however make me sad when I see references to knights, castles and even Robin Hood himself that my home City of Nottingham, can’t even get an attraction out of the ground to recognise our most famous son. The French have delivered a genius show that would draw in millions of visitors if it was created here. Nottingham still hasn’t delivered a single thing. So, Nottingham, please take note. Puy du Fou turns over €74m and is very profitable, filling every hotel for miles around with it’s 1.9 million visitors per year. A little of this would go a long way.
Where we stayed
The accommodation offer is quite new, but growing fast. They may look like simple tents, but they house a fabulously well equipped four poster bedroom with wet room, two bunks for kids and even decent wifi.
If you have kids you have to come here. If you don’t come anyway. It’s amazing, awe inspiring and unique. It’s the best kept secret and the best theme park in the world. And it’s my new favourite.