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Month: January 2015

Why researchers tricked a woman into cleaning her floor

Why researchers tricked a woman into cleaning her floor

Have you ever really thought about what happens when you mop a floor?

You take your mop and bucket, fill the bucket with water and add your cleaning liquid. Then you plunge the mop into the soapy water and – having wrung it out – start to mop your dirty floor. With luck, you can see the dirt ‘disappearing’ with every wipe.  After a few wipes you plunge your mop back into the bucket and wring it out. Now you’re ready to start mopping again, and on its goes till the floor is ‘visibly’ clean.

Job done…or is it?


 Let’s think about this whole process a bit more closely. 

After wiping the floor for the first time you plunge a dirty mop into the soapy water to ‘clean it’– the dirt on it comes off, but that dirt doesn’t disappear. In fact it contaminates the clean soapy water making it dirty soapy water.

The next time the mop is plunged into the bucket, even if wrung out, it will come out as a dirty, damp mop and you are going to use it to clean your floor.

You’re not removing the dirt, you’re just moving it around.

It was this thinking that led the Director of Corporate New Ventures at Procter & Gamble to say “There has got to be a better way to clean a floor. Current mops are the cleaning equivalent of the horse drawn carriage – where’s the car?”


P&G decided they needed to really understand how people cleaned their kitchen floors. Ethnographic researchers were sent into people’s homes to watch them clean, dust, wipe and mop.

At first the results just didn’t seem quite right; it all seemed too easy. It was then that the researchers realised that many of the people they were coming to watch had already cleaned their house because someone – the researcher – was coming to visit.

The researchers decided they would have to be sneakier. They started arriving with dirty shoes and surreptitiously spilling dirt or dust.

One day, one of the research teams spilled some coffee grounds while visiting an elderly respondent.

However rather than breaking out a mop, the grandmother swept up the grounds with a broom and then proceeded to use a damp paper towel to clean up the rest of the fine dust.

In that moment inspiration struck and the Swiffer was born. An electrostatic cleaning system designed to facilitate both sweeping and mopping with a single mess-free device. It would be a variation on “the razor and blade system” whereby the heads would be regularly replaced.

In the year after its July 1999 introduction, more than 11.1 million Swiffer starter kits were sold.

The Swiffer remains one of Procter & Gamble’s most popular consumer products with annual sales of $500 million.

It’s a great innovation born of identifying a problem others hadn’t seen before, and persevering and adapting the research approach to get to the right results. 

Le marketing est arrive

Le marketing est arrive

Le marketing est arrivé – How Beaujolais Nouveau raced to the top


When you think about races in France the first two that probably come to mind are La Tour de France and Les Mans, but a third famous race has seen by far the greatest variety of ‘vehicles’. Contestants have used cars, trucks, motorcycles, balloons, helicopters, rickshaws, elephants and even a Concorde jet.

It’s a race that, for the last 50 years or so, has started at one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of November. It runs from a region, just north of Lyon, to the capital, Paris, and the contestants are all carrying the same thing – that year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. Their aim – to be the first to see the banners proclaiming “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!”

While Beaujolais Nouveau has a much longer history, it is only in these last fifty years that it has become a global event – an opportunity created, promoted and led by Jean Tixier, an advertising executive at Havas, Georges Duboeuf who founded his wine brand in 1964 and Pierre Boisset, a broker at Nicolas who persuaded his employer to start promoting it.


The Beaujolais region is 34 miles long and varies from 7 to 9 miles wide. It’s home to nearly 4,000 vineyards which produce the twelve officially-designated types of Beaujolais known as AOCs. These include some of the finest and priciest grand crus wines, including Fleurie and Cote de Brouilly. The most common two are the Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages, but the most famous wine is the Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais had always made a “vin de l’année” to celebrate the end of the harvest, which was drunk in the local bars, cafes, and bistros of Beaujolais and Lyons. Each autumn the new Beaujolais would arrive. It was a wine made quickly and designed to be consumed immediately – taking only weeks from grape to glass. The better Beaujolais were allowed to take a much more leisurely course.

In 1937 the Beaujolais AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) was established to help reflect and protect the quality of wines produced in the region, but AOC rules meant that Beaujolais wine could only be officially sold after 15 December in the year of harvest.

It wasn’t until after the war, on 13 November 1951, that this rule was relaxed, at which point the region’s governing body, the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais (UIVB), formally set 15 November as the release date for what would henceforth be known as Beaujolais Nouveau.

Sales of the nouveau were still modest and mostly local, only 1 000 hl in 1960.

Led by Jean Tixier, Georges Duboeuf and Pierre Boisset, the UIVB set out to change things and to create a marketing event out of the release day. The Beaujolais Nouveau race and the “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” slogan were born. 

The race to be the first to deliver the new harvest’s wine to Paris  quickly became a phenomenon, first in France, then across Europe,and by the 1970s it was starting to generate worldwide publicity.  In the 1980s and 1990s the race itself was expanded to now include new final destinations in Japan and the United States.

In 1985, the release date was again changed, to the third Thursday of November, another clever marketing move to ensure it was always available just before a weekend and close to Thanksgiving in the U.S. which was by then and remains a major market. 

The long running slogan was changed in 2005 to “It’s Beaujolais Nouveau time”.

Nowadays over 70 million bottles, nearly half of the region’s total annual production, will be Beaujolais Nouveau.

Georges Duboeuf remains a tireless promoter and more than a fifth of his annual production, about 4 million bottles, is Beaujolais Nouveau.



Zigging when the world is zagging – the story behind LinkedIn

Zigging when the world is zagging – the story behind LinkedIn

Zigging when the world was zagging

Founded by Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, and Jean-Luc Vaillant on May 5, 2003, LinkedIn has gone on to have the sort of success that so many start-ups only dream about.

Looking back to 2003 which was the heyday of services like Friendster and MySpace, the creation of yet another social network didn’t really seem to be an easy or even a sensible option.

However, as Guericke was later to tell Bloomberg Businessweek, LinkedIn set out with a view to be different from the traditional social and youth-orientated networks. Instead of appealing to the teenagers and young adults who wanted to share their updates with the world, they decided to go after an older generation who were into professional development and looking for a new way of doing business.

“We’re here to build a business, not to create something cool. MySpace and Facebook have done really well. And I think they can monetize what they have built, probably by adding in more e-commerce. But I think the opportunity on the business side is ultimately larger.”

Their business idea was built on the insight that “People who have been working for at least 10 years have a network. It doesn’t come from networking; it just comes automatically, from going to work. But people tend to lose touch.”

Guericke believed that “Those networks are valuable. I see business as a Darwinian enterprise. People tend to hire and make other business decisions by drawing on these personal networks. Is a job candidate honest or hard-working? You can’t tell from a resume or even from an interview. That’s why people fall back on trusted relationships.”

This point of difference was what gave the company confidence even in what Hoffman remembers as the “dot-com winter” following the bursting of the “dot-com bubble” in 2000. He says that consumer internet ventures were looked upon with scepticism and it was crucially important for new ventures to distinguish themselves from everyone else.

According to Chris Saccheri, formerly LinkedIn’s Director of Web Development, in the early days, user adoption was rather slow. In the first week, the service had 2,500 users, which grew to 6,000 after the first month. Within six months, there were still only 37,000 users. (Friendster had grown to 3 million users within 3 months of going live) 

Two years after launching, LinkedIn had more than 1.7 million professionals signed up and was ready to show that those networks were valuable not only to the professional who could now remain in touch but as source of income for the business.

Their first move was the launch of LinkedIn Jobs — combining online job listings with its recommendation engine. Building on its ability to let hiring managers assess a candidate’s viability through their relationships, references, and reputation utilising its LinkedInsight feature it differentiated itself from competitors like Monster, HotJobs, and CareerBuilder.

Since then other services have followed like subscription programs, sponsored updates and service and premium accounts.

LinkedIn reached profitability in March 2006.

In June 2013, just over 10 years after launch, LinkedIn reported more than 259 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories with nearly $325 million in quarterly revenue.

Blue Sky Thinking – the birth of a new beer

Blue Sky Thinking – the birth of a new beer

Given that lots of people decide to go dry in January, I wondered if they might enjoy a story about a beer even if they aren’t drinking one. 

Blue sky drinking

Given how many military families there are, where generation after generation join up, often to the same regiment, it was perhaps something of surprise when Karan Bilimoria decided he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Karan’s father, Faridoon, had commanded a regiment of Gurkhas when India fought on behalf of Bangladesh in the 1971 war of independence. Faridoon went onto become the commander-in-chief of the central Indian army, with 350,000 men under his command.

However Karan decided the military wasn’t for him and chose to go into business instead.

“If I had followed in my father’s footsteps I was worried that I would always be compared to him, and be in his shadow,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “I decided that the army for me would have been too constraining … I wanted more blue sky”

And it was with some ‘blue sky’ (original, creative) thinking that Karan was to make his name.

It was while he was at Cambridge University in the late 1980s that inspiration struck. Karan like many students was a lover of beer but for him there was a problem, none of the existing beers went really went with a curry.

He recalls: “The lager was too fizzy, too harsh and too bloating. It meant that I couldn’t eat or drink as much as I would like. At the same time, I found real ale to be great in a pub, but too bitter and heavy with food. So I came up with the idea of creating a beer with the refreshment of a lager, but with the smoothness of an ale.”

His idea for what was to become Cobra beer was that “I wanted it to not just be drinkable in its right, but a great accompaniment to all food, and particularly Indian cuisine.”

Despite having no experience of the beer industry, Karan decided to take his idea to the head brewer at what was then India’s largest independent brewery. Luckily the brewer liked the idea and so together they developed the recipe for the smooth-drinking, refreshing lager which would be targeted firstly at Indian restaurants.

The first deliveries from India arrived in the UK in 1990, and came bottled in big 600ml bottles. Without realising the benefits this would bring, Karan and the head brewer had simply chosen a bottle size similar to other beers sold in India.

Looking back Karan can now see how this point of difference gave the business an immediate advantage, as the bottles stood out in curry houses.

“People sitting at other tables would see the bottle and say, ‘What is that?’ The popularity spread like wildfire, people loved the taste, and we got 99% reorders.”

The business grew rapidly and so in 1997 brewing was switched to the UK from India to help meet demand. A switch that didn’t faze his drinkers “They didn’t mind where we brewed. This is logical as the Indian food you eat here is not flown over from Delhi.”

Karan Bilimoria was knighted in 2004 for his services to business and entrepreneurship and was appointed to the House of Lords two years later.