Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Seasonal Tale of a Louis Vuitton Bag and Just a Little Too Much Pernod Perhaps…

​Now I’m in the business of helping organisations build brands. Helping them define what they are all about, what they are best at and then converting that into a promise to take into the marketplace. And as we all know, branding is all about delivering on that promise to the consumer. Now this has led me in recent years to examine closely, not only some of the brands I’ve personally worked with, but also some of the brands that I chose to buy myself. Over the years I suppose I’ve become a bit cynical when I hear marketing people talk about their customers and how much they really care about them. Now don’t get me wrong, customer focus is obviously a good thing and the logic is that if you talk about it long enough, people will believe you genuinely put customers at the top of the agenda. What I’ve discovered is that for far too many companies it’s pure mouth music. They say it but don’t genuinely mean it. Truth is, I’ve come to discover that most companies are far more interested in themselves than their customers. Shocking but true. All this came home to me personally in an incident with Louis Vuitton. My dear wife bought me a beautiful, and extremely expensive, LV carry on flight bag as a Christmas gift. Well to cut a long story short a wheel on this elegant piece of luggage literally dropped off on a trip to London less than a year after having bought the bag. I couldn’t believe it. Literally it fell off. I spent the rest of the day dragging and carrying the defective bag around the city. I was sure it must be a freak occurrence and that LV would make amends. The store that my wife had bought the bag from however refused to offer any replacement or even to repair the bag for free. They didn’t seem to care at all. I was shocked. We then tried the local consumer protection agency, but they proved to be worse than useless. After twelve months of frustration and complaining I decided to resort to the only course of action I could. I wrote a letter to the Chairman of Louise Vuitton, M. Bernard Arnault. It took me two hours searching on the internet and a phone call to get his personal office address but I did. A hand written envelope addressed to him, for his eyes only, was then dispatched to Paris. I didn’t feel particularly confident it would have any effect, but writing it got the issue off my chest. My letter is below. ———————————————————————————————————————- Dear M. Arnault In December 2007 my dear wife bought me a Louis Vuitton carry-on travel bag as an expensive, but wonderful, Christmas gift. As someone who travels a lot, I was delighted. It looked beautiful, and coming from Louis Vuitton, I imagined spending a lifetime with this particular item of luggage. Growing old gracefully together, aging beautifully with it as my constant travel companion. Maybe I’d even end up looking just a little like Sean Connery in your rather fine advertisements. Ten months later things had gone very sadly wrong. On a trip to London in October 2008, the wheel fell off my bag. Literally fell off. I spent the rest of the day dragging and carrying the bag around the city. My immediate reaction was that the bag was, to borrow a car analogy, a Friday bag. The artisan French worker who had crafted my $1200 bag must have just had a bad day. Maybe he didn’t feel too well after a heavy night out with his friends and a little too much Pernod perhaps? Anyway, I was sure the Louis Vuitton store where my bag was purchased would immediately replace or repair the defective bag. Ten months old and only used on about eight trips as cabin luggage. Louis Vuitton must have a lifetime guarantee right? At $1200 a shot, I expected it. The answer when I returned the bag to Louis Vuitton was non! Forget it! LV does not have a lifetime guarantee, nor does it have even a 12-month guarantee. In fact it has NO GUARANTEE WHAT SO-EVER! None. Zippo. Zilch. After two years of complaining, I’m just totally appalled at the service LV offers its customers. But I haven’t given up hope. I write to you to find out if the LV store in question and its response reflects the standards of Louis Vuitton. Can you help me? With Regards, Julian Stubbs   ———————————————————————————————————————- Now as I said I wrote the letter as a last resort, not expecting much from it, but about a week after the letter had been sent, the most amazingly helpful and concerned manager of the LV store in question contacted me. She wanted to apologise personally for what had happened and have the bag fixed, at no cost of course, as soon as possible. She was genuinely concerned. Amazing what a letter to the chairman can do. Anyway it made me ponder the question again how many companies and brands really do care? I believe that the chairman of LV does genuinely care, but probably didn’t realise that somewhere in the company the brand was falling down on the job. Many companies today really need to understand that to be better than their competitors takes much, much more than just running advertising saying that you care. I’ve also discovered that I’m not bad at complaining and it seems to be a lost art. Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2015.

Doom & Gloom. But a Glimmer of Light on a Dark Swedish Night

Stockholm, Sweden, December 11th, 2014 Watching the news nowadays isn’t much fun. Ebola. The middle east. Global warming. Liverpool Football Club’s rubbish season. You’d think the world was going to hell in a handbasket. In fact one US news channel, if you can actually call Fox a news channel, even polled viewers on the topic. Their telephone survey asked whether viewers thought, considering the world situation, ‘Things are going to hell in a handbasket’ or ‘Everything will be alright.’ 58% of the respondents thought the world was already on the slippery slope to doom (in fact 71% of Republicans, but maybe that’s another story). But despite the fact that it gets dark here in Stockholm (The Capital of Scandinavia) before 3pm, I saw a glimmer of light here this week in the depths of the Swedish winter. It is of course Nobel week, which means we have lots of people with very big brains descending on Stockholm to get their medals (and cheques) in recognition of their work and contribution. Without doubt this is something every scientist aspires to win (despite James Watson, the 1962 winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine trying to get rid of his own medal this week but actually failing to do so – see link below). The Nobel’s are a wonderful way of recognising and rewarding these brilliant people’s extraordinary contribution. But these superstars of science are not actually the reason for my feeling of hope. Nobel Prizes tend to be given retrospectively and it is often many years after the actual scientific contribution has been made and even longer before their work translates into something that actually has an impact. I’m more interested in the young generation of scientists doing stuff today. At UP, we’re lucky enough to be involved with something called The Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. It’s a prize we actually helped create a couple of years ago when we brought together two of our clients, the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) and the journal Science, as joint sponsors. The prize recognises young scientists at the very start of their careers. Funding for these very bright young people is really important and so the prize not only helps recognise their contribution (pat on the back) but also provides some support (money in the bank). Our awards ceremony are held annually in the same week as the Nobel Prizes, and we hold our ceremony in the magnificent Hall of Mirrors, in The Grand Hotel Stockholm – the original venue of the very first Nobel prizes. Our lucky prize winners also get to attend many of the Nobel events and speeches.  
The Hall of Mirrors, Stockholm's Grand Hotel

The Hall of Mirrors, Grand Hotel, Stockholm

One of our young scientist winners this year was Chelsea Wood, who received her PhD from Stanford University. Chelsea gave a fascinating perspective on the Nobel prizes and really brought home the fact that there is still so much to be done. Chelsea’s winning essay and thesis was on the topic of the environment and environmental change and the ecology of infectious disease. She told the story of Ronald Ross, who had been awarded his Nobel Medal in the very room where we were seated on Tuesday evening. Ross was the Nobel Laureate in Medicine in 1902 for, and here I use the official quote, ‘his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it’. Ross received his award one hundred and twelve years ago. Today, according to the WHO, about 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are still at risk of malaria. In 2013, there were about 198 million malaria cases with an estimated 584,000 deaths. Chelsea’s speech makes you think. The pace of change needs to pick up and improve. At UP we are also involved with promoting an event called Digital Health. This two day conference takes place every August in Stockholm and provides a glimpse into the future and focuses on the latest innovations in health and how the digital world is starting to make a significant impact on healthcare. Healthcare is normally the biggest cost any government faces so the potential impact is enormous and needed.
Picture shows from left to right Anne Burrows (Senior Account Director UP), winners Liron Bar-Peled, Dan Dominissini, Simon Johnson and Chelsea Wood, Jenny Aarnio (account Manager at UP) and Susanna Appel (SciLifeLab).

Picture shows from left to right Anne Burrows (Senior Account Director UP), winners Liron Bar-Peled, Dan Dominissini, Simon Johnson, Chelsea Wood, Jenny Aarnio (Account Manager at UP) and Susanna Appel (SciLifeLab).

So why am I so hopeful? This years Science & SciLifeLab Young Scientist winners were, as last year, exceptionally bright and committed people. But most of all they were passionate. Passionate to change things as fast as possible by using science and technology for the greater good. This next generation, who have grown up in an age when innovation happens at the speed of thought, are the people who will help find the solutions to combat malaria effectively, as well as a whole host of other infectious diseases affecting humanity. These are the people who will help change the world for the better and who, despite the doom and gloom and Fox news, give me a glimmer of hope in the depths of the Swedish winter.  
The Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists -

The Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists –

Julian Stubbs is founder and CEO of UP THERE, EVERYWHERE.    SciLifeLab news on the 2014 winners James Watson and his boomerang $4.8m Nobel Medal UP THERE, EVERYWHERE and The Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists Digital Health Days  

Place Branding: Roffa Rising

Years ago I used to work on the Beefeater Gin business in the UK. It’s where I first came across the phrase Dutch Courage. It goes back to the British army who, many years ago, would issue a portion or two of Gin to the troops before they charged off into battle. Gin is made with juniper berries and juniper berries came from Holland. Well Holland to me, but more rightly The Netherlands – the place where the Dutch live. OK, so they possibly have three identities. Now I know The Netherlands pretty well. We have a very active and growing UP member base there and the thing I like is that it seems you can get pretty much anywhere in the country within 45 minutes by train. I’ve been to Amsterdam a lot but never Rotterdam. Where? Yes, Rotterdam, the un-sung second city that everyone kind of overlooks. Well, if you get a chance, check it out – things are happening. I’ve just spent a day there and it’s a cool, happening, city with more of a business beat than most places and an impressive skyline. 32041024_ml
Rumour is that the folks from Boston’s Cambridge Innovation Centre (CIC) have been checking out Roffa (as some street slang calls the city) as a potential European base. That puts it in competition with cities like London, Amsterdam and Berlin etc.  so the city is punching above its weight. But it has a good list of assets such as a strong Life Sciences, Medical, Food and Cleantech offering; the Erasmus University and Medical Center and The Technical University of Delft. Added to this it has some very cool new and renovated spaces for younger start ups at a more reasonable cost.
Thinking of the difference between Amsterdam and Rotterdam raises some interesting thoughts as well. As one friend, local resident and UP member, Don pointed out, if Amsterdam is the me, me, me approach (as in I amsterdam) then very much Rotterdam is about We rotterdam – as the city is all about working industriously together. Another viewpoint I picked up from a  local coffee shop owner was ‘In Amsterdam they spend the money, in Rotterdam we earn it.’ Proud, industrious, lot this Roffa bunch.
Anyway, if you get a chance check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Tourist bits
Not every night you get to stay on your very own boat in a harbour. Added to that the boat was a former dope smuggling boat. The Lammie is moored in a small basin off the Maas in downtown Rotterdam. So if you fancy breaking away from normal hotels for a few nights, and like the idea of being rocked to sleep, The Lammie is the perfect alternative location. Find it on Airbnb.

The good ship Lammie