Friday, 17 June 2011

The End

So I made it through the master's degree in Sweden. Spring and summer were nice. Got out there a lot on the bike into the fields of Skane.

At the graduation I gave a speech about value and what it means to add value in this life. Here is my speech.

Adjö Sverige!

Sunday, 3 April 2011


In a recent guest lecture, which many in the class said was the best yet, we were introduced to the idea of Baconmilk. After hearing about this delectable beverage I thought I'd better stop doodling and tune in to what this guy was saying so I could get the recipe!

Baconmilk was used by our guest lecturer Hampus Jakobsson of The Astonishing Tribe as an example of how to bring ideas down to simple three-year-old logic that appeals to the different parts of the consumer.

Scientists in the USA were concerned about obesity levels rising and calculated that drinking lower fat milk would have a measurable impact for many people. A successful marketing campaign to this end  found out that they could explain the content of full fat milk by placing a display in the supermarket with a glass of milk next to a sample of bacon that contained the same amount of fat.

People were naturally shocked at how much fat was in each glass and promptly started reading the fine print. Information handouts at the side of the display showed consumers the figures and facts and gave recommendations. The information told them to look out for a special symbol on the milk, which showed that it was healthy. Sales of the lower fat milk increased due to the campaign as people ditched their full cream for skim.

The moral of the story is that there are three parts to a successful message. The consumer is broken down into two parts in Hampus' metaphor: the elephant and the rider.

Elephant: big, cumbersome, has huge inertia, not so bright, slow to react
Rider: smart, nimble, logical

The elephant is our emotional side and the rider is the tiny cognitive brain that sits atop the beast. Usually the huge elephant wins out, but sometimes the rider can influence where the elephant walks. The third part to the metaphor is the road. Both the elephant and the rider like to know that the road is there to follow.

As marketers or entrepreneurs we can learn from Baconmilk like so: the elephant was shocked by the bacon/milk comparison (the equivalent of seeing a mouse), which prompted the rider to have a closer look at the information. Then they looked for the safe path: the markings on the milk packaging that showed which milk was best.

Break it down. Elephant, Rider, Path.

"Would you like some more skim milk?"

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Limit your lumen hours

The amount of lights that are left on all day in Sweden is astonishing. In almost every home there are lamps in every window and extra lighting here, there and everywhere. No one can blame the Swedes for wanting to keep the place lit up, given that in the winter, there are only a few hours of light each day and for most of them you are at work.

That got me thinking. Where I come from turning off the lights as you leave the room is more or less a habit for people. I mean, why leave the light on when you aren't in the room? That's why they put the switch next to the door.

I do most of the work, but you still need to
be "switched on" to the issue!
Often people in Europe (and this is certainly not limited to Swedes) are into energy saving things like energy saving bulbs and other things, but they often don't understand the extent to which they save. Having a fluorescent bulb instead of an incandescent one, doesn't mean that there is no impact and the bulb is 100% good. You might go down from a 70 W globe to an 18 W globe. It produces the same amount of light, but uses less energy, which is great.

What isn't great is that people offload responsibility for turning off the lights when they buy these bulbs. They leave them on 24 hours a day and say "oh they are energy saving." The house I moved into when I first got to Sweden had an obscene amount of lights and they were all on all day. I went round turning them off because it feels strange to leave it on as you leave the room, but it was a losing battle. In the kitchen especially it was an energy black hole: there would have been 20-25 light globes in there.

Also, the place where we have our office at university leaves its lights on seemingly all the time. The main room is something like 200 square metres and has all the lights on, even during the day and on the weekends. Hardly an environmental usage of energy.

It's about personal responsibility. By buying the energy saving globes (which I wholeheartedly support and support because they're cheaper in the long run though the globes cost 10 times more) people think they have done their part and don't need to worry about anything. They shift any blame and responsibility on the energy saving bulb.

Normally a bulb might be on in a room for 3-4 hours a day (lets suppose), but when it is energy saving people forget where the light switch is and just leave it on all day. It uses three times less energy, but is left on for six times longer. Its clearly more energy.

People need to reduce their usage with better bulbs and still remember to turn it off. The maths are simple and the problem of global warming still exists. That's a bright idea — pun intended.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Dragons raw!

Here is the teaser for the upcoming movie about the students in the class and how we faced the Dragons at the University. The editing needs a bit of work, but the idea isn't bad...trying to build suspense...

PS Thank God that YouTube finally has customizable size for embedded video...the old videos on this blog were way too wide...Good that Google has finally made some synergy between their products, YouTube and Blogger. Thumbs up.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Wash me clean

The small machines and centrifuge
in the middle
Washing clothes in Sweden is an activity requiring great precision and timing. Fitting into the schedule for the shared washing machines is quite a task when there are 8 machines for 100 families...

...but thats how the Swedes roll: like all things in the country, washing facilities are built to work well and built to last. Buildings in the country are made solid with all their attachments and peripherals a little bit more heavy duty than needed, so they last for ever.

Underneath apartment blocks in Sweden you will find an equally sturdy laundromat that services the whole building. The machines in there are heavy duty and wash quickly. You can do a whole load (6.5 kg in the normal machines and 10 kg in the big ones) in 37 minutes on normal settings and dry your clothes in as little as 20 minutes.

When you want to wash you need to go downstairs and make an appointment. Usually you can't get a spot on the day, so you need to plan in advance. When it's your turn you get your spot (usually two hours) and then some extra time after that for drying.

The reservation book
There are two washers and a centrifuge in every washroom. Also there is a drying closet, an ironing machine, sinks, a desk, chairs and an ironing board. In the drying room you have three massive tumble driers. Basically everything you need for industrial-scale washing.

By sharing these hardcore washing machines you get to have more space in your flat, more efficient washing, less plumbing problems and so on. It also reduces the risk of fires — when you have 100 washing machines operating in different flats, the chances of an electrical fire that could kill hundreds of people as they sleep increases exponentially, therefore it's better to have a centralized system.

Swedes take the scheduling of the washing very seriously. If you are late to start, you lose your spot. If you are late to finish you are likely to have a run in with an angry Swede. I've never received one personally, but I'm told that the normal way for people to scold each other in the laundry is to leave nasty notes and to handle your clothes for you. This could mean putting them in a basket or throwing them on the floor in the corner. The nasty notes in laundries across the country are so well used that they have inspired books and websites to showcase the brilliant creativity that late washing spurs.

Tumble driers - the one on the right
is somehow special, though I don't
know why...
Speaking of scheduling, sometimes I wonder what people do in there. Given that you can wash 12 kg of clothes from start to finish including drying in less than one hour, I sometimes look at the scheduling book baffled and annoyed when someone takes a six or eight hour block for washing. Either they are helping every pensioner in the housing block to do their sheets or they are just too damn lazy to come back in a timely manner and move their clothes from the machine to the drier.

Drying closet and ironing
machine (click to enlarge)
There is one cool thing that most people in other countries would not have seen: the drying closet. It's a big closet with a massive hair-drier in it. It works at  cooler temperature than the tumble drier so its less likely to destroy your clothes, but it takes 90-100 minutes to dry everything properly. If I have the time and there is no booking after me I use it every now and then.

Washing in Sweden is fun.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Shout out for Petrone

I just finished and reviewed my Baltic journalist colleague Justin Petrone's book My Estonia 2, the second book in the series.

Petrone's blog Itching for Eestimaa can be found in my "Worth Reading" section to the right. Or you can just click here to read it.

The story I wrote for Alfa English about his new book is here.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Getting across a message

"I see that he has 147 slides in his presentation. Isn't that a bit too long?" Koen, my classmate asked while we were waiting for Sean Duffy, the owner and manager of The Duffy Agency to start his presentation.

We were trying to figure out what program had been used to create the presentation that was sitting idly on the laptop in front of us. I think it was Keynote. Actually we were waiting in the schick office in Malmo because our lecturer Tomas was stuck in his car outside the building and needed to be cut free with the Jaws of Life after his car accident.

The interior of the agency looked a lot like other media agencies I've visited: open plan, stylish, desks cluttered with things. All the interior walls in the place were glass: the sort of environment that aims to breed creativity.

We were there to experience a presentation given to us as part of our master's program in Entrepreneurship, but its focus was very much on social media and whether it was a fad or not. The resounding message from the presentation was: "Use social media to join the conversation with customers, or your days are numbered."

The presentation was classic ad agency style: lots of clean pictures and flashy graphics, sound and so on. It was a nice flash back to my first degree in Australia, which focused on advertising.
Do you exist now? Will you exist tomorrow?

In a world that has changed from a top down information flow to where "we have the microphone" social media is now more interesting and more important than ever before: the days of traditional media (TV, radio, print) are gone, as are the seemingly worthless years of Web 1.0.

Thinking back, I don't even know what I used to do on the internet before things like Google and Facebook rose to prominence and we all could participate. I mean seriously? What were people doing online back then? Using the internet in 2000 was something like going for a drive down the highway just to see the different billboards.

Now that the internet more closely resembles a room of talking people, like a bar, rather than one person talking over our heads, like a lecture, companies (and we ourselves) need to take a very proactive stance in order to be seen and heard in the world. After all, if it isn't online it doesn't exist, right?

And in a world where increasingly huge numbers of people are able to participate (around a third of the world uses internet every day) we need to get smarter and smarter if we want to be the ones who have a say in how the message is broadcast.

It's both scary and exciting at the same time, but are we becoming more sophisticated?

It is now the age of "oh I need to get online and have a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page." Sure many companies need to do that, but just becuase we have one, does it mean that we are more sophisticated communicators? Are we getting our message across effectively?

Facebook and Twitter have now been around for a few years, but many people still have no idea how to use them properly. Sure you made a group or fanpage or a twitter account, but no one is looking at it because no can see it.

I think I am seeing a gradual shift away from social-media-for-the-sake-of-it mania towards a more useful and balanced approach combining new and old media in a complementary way: by the industry leaders that is. People are now playing to the strengths of the media and have worked out how to use it effectively.

Of course for every industry leader in marketing and communications there are thousands and thousands of stragglers. Many give up, some get better, but social media is starting to mature.

Its those stragglers that inspire talks like the one we had. The Duffy Agency (and probably every other media agency in the world) are still having to spend time and money to convince their client that social media could be useful for them.

No ostrich ever survived by sticking its head in the sand. Until we all start to understand the pros and cons of social media thoroughly, there will always be a debate around what is it useful for and whether we should use it for our own purposes.