Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sweet but Crude

Hallelujah, three of the companies we love to hate got their come-uppance this week.  Starbucks has given the boot to T-mobile, and a court has ordered Ryanair to pay thousands to the new Mrs. Sarkozy in compensation for unauthorized use of her image. (The judgment favored Hubby Sarkozy also, but he accepted only one Euro in damages.)

Over the years I’ve written twice to Starbuck’s corporate to complain about T-mobile.  It’s eerie to think about how something one has written may – or may not – have affected the outcome of events.  (I just had a similar experience with Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, which I’ll tell you about on another occasion.)

As Starbucks’ CEO is now trying to turn the company around, both of my epistolary thrusts return to relevance. First, bad wireless service wipes out the consumer loyalty won by good coffee.  Second, don’t ignore the b-school concept of core competence: My credit union, correctly claiming competence in banking but not in brewing, charges checking fees and gives me free coffee. Starbucks is good at coffee, doesn’t know spit about wireless networking, and so should charge for java and not for wireless.

I’ve already talked the VP of one small hotel chain into dumping T-mobile.  (It’s not eerie when you know you’ve influenced events.) Again, the core competence argument: Why use a phone company for Internet service?  If you want to give your guests good service, find a company that specializes in Internet.  Next on my list is the Hyatt chain, which contracts with T-mobile for wireless and doesn’t know how much bad will it’s generating. 

A couple of years ago on the Euroblog I said all I have to say about Ryanair. When you reach the Euroblog page, hit control-F and enter the search term “weeze” (sorry, I neglected to put an anchor there).

Oh yes, I said three companies… Hugo Chavez has cut off Exxon-Mobil’s supply of Venezuelan crude oil. If you’re still mad about the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska (or the fact that the company still hasn't paid cleanup costs) consider that vengeance is sweet… but crude.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Electoral Dance

Questions from readers! (I love it.)

Q: Clinton, Obama, McCain... your take?

A: David Brooks’ New York Times column today made it clear even to a dense marketing professor like me: Clinton is selling a product, Obama is selling an experience. 

Obama is to Clinton as the Mac is to the PC, as The Body Shop is to Walgreen’s.

Thus Barak Obama is more in tune with modern times.  He’s also more likely to get young people excited about politics.  Both valuable characteristics.

I have a suspicion about Hillary.  GW Bush eviscerated checks and balances in our government, and created an imperial presidency.  Sometimes I think Hillary looks at the imperial presidency and thinks, "I want one of those."

I personally like Obama better – though Hillary thinks faster on her feet in a debate – but the real question is: Who can better defeat McCain?

I hear the reactionary Republicans are ready to throw this presidential election rather than support McCain.  They’ll let the Dems have this one.  They’ll retreat, regroup, and rebuild strength for 2012.  But we can’t count on the GOP taking a dive; we gotta make sure the Republicans get outta the White House now.

John McCain is by far the least objectionable of the Republicans.  Trouble is, he’s old, and he will choose a running mate from among younger Republicans.  His VP candidate could be one of these neocon jerks who don’t know that they’re all washed up now, and s/he may well end up President if a victorious McCain is later incapacitated.

So is Clinton or Obama better able to prevent this?  This question can be answered only be detailed, precinct-by-precinct research in districts that may swing to the Republicans.  The Clinton and Obama campaigns have (I hope) done this research, or maybe the Democratic Party has. They ain’t sayin’. I certainly don’t have access to such research, so: I’ll vote for the Dem, whoever it may be.


Q: What brought on the tango passion?

A: Saw it, thought it was beautiful, took the odd introductory lesson (in Portland, then in Maastricht, then in San Diego) without learning much over a span of four years.  Finally, business travels eased up; I would be in the same city for four consecutive Tuesdays!  I signed up for the 4-week beginner sequence last month.  Now I’ve graduated, and have started taking the “Salon 1” sequence.

Check out this video of Yo-Yo Ma, and see if it doesn’t do something for you


There’s another one you must see, but YouTube won’t let me embed it in this

 page.  Right-click this URL and tell your browser to open in a new window:

Like aikido, tango is a worldwide community that welcomes sincere strangers.  (I was welcomed at a tango bar in Lima last summer - here's their poster - even tho I had no skill then.) Like aikido, tango is a lifelong endeavor in which you can improve slowly and surely without end.  I love aikido and still do it, but I confess that as I get old and creaky, getting slammed into the aikido mat a couple hundred times a day is no longer my idea of a good time. So you see, there’s method in my madness.