Published on: June 17, 2011Notes and comment from the Content Guy...
MNB’s Exclusive, On-The-Scene Coverage of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit is sponsored by TCC Global, a leader in Best Customer Marketing
BARCELONA - What’s in your future?
If some of the speakers on the second day of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit are right, probably a little revolution, taking place at unexpected velocity, which can only be coped with if you embrace technology as a way to innovate.
At least, that’s a start on what your future looks like.
To begin with Joshua Cooper Ramo, managing director of Kissinger Associates and former foreign editor at Time, suggested that we are in a time of constant revolution, but that while this can be scary because it creates ongoing conflicts and issues like terrorism that seem unable to be solved, “revolutions don't just destroy things. They also are times of great opportunity.” In times of revolution, he said, great fortunes can be made and great ideas can be hatched.
Part of the problem with embracing such opportunities, Ramo argued, is that a revolutionary age tends to baffle the so-called “experts.” This means that they are discredited, that the credibility of established institutions gets undermined and people lose confidence because “the people we rely on to get it right don’t get it right.”
Ramo also said that people should not kid themselves that we are living through just another business cycle; what is taking place right now, he said, is a fundamental shift in economics - we live in a networked world in which it is difficult to contain anything, in which there are more people than ever before grouping together in different ways than ever before, driven by similar interests and intensity of passions that can threaten the status quo.
And he left the audience of senior executives with the following cautionary note: “If you haven’t been shocked by the nature of our age, then you probably haven’t understood it.”
An interesting phrase, and one that was echoed by writer Peter Hinssen, who paraphrased race car driver Mario Andretti when he said, “If everything seems under control, then you are not going fast enough.” Velocity, he said, is mandatory .... even to the point where you think you are going to flame out, because that’s when you’re going to have a transformational breakthrough.
Hinssen, a self-described “nerd” and IT specialist, pushed the audience to begin thinking differently about technology. “The last 20 years have been about becoming digital,” he said, “but the next 20 years will be about becoming clever with digital.”
To do so, Hinssen said, businesses actually will have to catch up with their consumers and employees, who almost certainly have better technology at home than they do at work. In fact, he said, many people now define work as “that brief period during the day when I have to use old technology.”
The ability of these groups to cope with information - even too much information - is key to understanding them, Hinssen said. But you have to understand where the breakthroughs are. “The iPod didn’t change the world,” he said. “iTunes did.” Likewise, it was not the iPhone that changed the world, but rather the App Store that allowed people to access new and innovative ways to process information and use technology. That, he said, is where the power is.
“If you only see technology as a way to be efficient,” Hinssen said, you are missing the point. But “if you seen technology as away to innovate, then you’re there.”
In an otherwise mediocre presentation given by Hans Eyesink Smeets, a Dutch retail strategy consultant, a similar point was made, albeit by using a non-traditional example.
Smeets said that his traditional walk to work through the streets and along the canals of Amsterdam used to bring him past a dozen porn shops, but that today only two are left - not because of some sort of newfound puritanism, but rather because they’ve been put out of business by the internet. The two that are left, he said, have gotten out of the content business and shifted to hardware, because that’s not something readily available online.
“Banks, music and porn - all are primarily in the information business,” Smeets said, and all are susceptible to attack from virtual competitors. But other retailing venues, such as food, are not immune to attack, because they increasingly depend on the providing of information to close the sale.
In other CGF news from day two...
Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Walmart International, took the audience through his company’s efforts to be 100 percent supplied with sustainable products, have zero waste, and “sell products that sustain both people and the environment.”
McMillon described a children’s toy truck which had originally come with six feet of wire to tie the product to its packaging. Working with their supplier, they had managed to reduce this by 90%.
And, he pledged further collaboration, both with manufacturers and other retailers. McMillon said that when Walmart recently opened a store with a closed loop refrigeration system, he took great delight in calling one of his biggest competitors and inviting them in to see and learn about the system, so they could adapt it as well, if they wanted to. At first, he said, the competitor thought it was a joke. And then they brought 15 people to examine it.
MNB will have more from the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit on Monday...
While the CGF Forum considers issues of global importance, retailers all over the world still have to cope with the day-to-day challenges of doing business. How to build customer traffic and loyalty. How to generate higher sales and higher average transactions. How to differentiate oneself from the store across the street or down the road.
That’s where TCC Global comes in. For many of the companies attending the CGF Forum, TCC has been a proven marketing partner, helping them develop meaningful and demonstrably effective programs that change shopper behavior. Because that’s the name of the game when it comes to improving store-level bottom line performance.
To learn more, click here.
- KC's View:
- One of the great advantages that CIES, now the Consumer Goods Forum, has always brought to the table is the use of thinkers like Hinssen and Ramo who talk about big ideas that relate back to the everyday conduct of business. The idea is to shake up conventional thinking ... to get people beyond the reassuring self-deception that all they have to do is stick with fundamentals and ride out the storm.
When the sessions work, they can be marvelously provocative. When they don’t, either because of an inexperienced speaker, bad moderation or a mis-conceived topic - as in the case of a session yesterday about umami as a cooking tool - it is like an enormous belly flop. But the risk, I’ve found over the years, generally is worth the reward...