The Warehouse Sends Tents back to China


The Warehouse managed to get loads of publicity about the story of getting a request from the Chinese Embassy, recalling their tent stock from the branches and selling them to the Chinese at a substantial discount.

This sort of fits in to my previous story about getting great mileage from a PR opportunity. The NZ Herald gave them a nice story and they even got coverage with TVNZ.

I don’t want to pick on The Warehouse, (note there is no mention on their website, an opportunity missed) they did a nice thing, but lets look at the opportunity from a business and marketing perspective.

First it is autumn and the likelihood of selling more than a handful of the 1200 odd tents before spring is negligable, so they become aged stock, take up valuable room in their stores or their warehouses which costs money.

There are only 1200 of them and they probably paid next to nothing for them. The heavily subsidised price would probably be similar to their FOB and holding cost and the Chinese Embassy probably did them a huge favour.

Wouldn’t it have been better to do a big song and dance about their benevolence and GIVE THEM to China. They can write it off as charitable donations and win huge favour from the Chinese community. The additional business and goodwill they would have generated would far outway the small cost of these items. Now that would be newsworthy!

Bottom line, nice story but could have been far better for them. Also a thought for the people of the Sichuan Province in China. I can’t comprehend the devastation those poor people have suffered. Speaking of PR, what a difference between the way the Chinese Government handled this situation and the disgusting situation in Myanmar.

Angry People


This morning as I was listening to a Jimi Hendrix MP3, reading a couple of articles in The Business herald while waiting for my CRM to synchronise, I noticed a column from Seth Godin saying Angy People Are Different and there were some common threads and something missing.

None of them really had a good answer for how to deal with angry people. Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were sying F them in the Arse. This was a bootleg audio clip from a live show that a friend in France sent me. Not very productive.

There was a story in this morning’s NZ Business Herald (not on the net yet) by Neil Green talking about how GlaxoSmithKline spend most of their time justifying their position, even after being found guilty of exaggerating the amount of Vitamin C in Ribena. On their web site they have made some announcements about what they have changed and they haven’t done a bad job, but what they haven’t done is made a personal apology and made a human face.

Something I note all the time is that business and commerce is ultimately about people doing business with people and you should forget that at your peril. What amazes me is that the very people who learn from case studies in university (and Ribena is bound to be in one in the future) don’t remember their lessons when they get in the real world. Bad publicity is often an opportunity to put on a positive face and it is well known in the world of sales that the relationship with key clients is often far better after effectively managing a problem, than it was before the problem arose.

Debbie Mayo-Smith is one of the great imports to New Zealand and often speaks and writes about pitching to the emotion and reaffirms what all sales and marketing people have taught, but some have forgotten, haven’t I just said it. People do business with people. My relationship with all brands whose (note the last word) products I use is at a personal level. I use their products personally. If I find a pip in a tin of pipless peaches and contact the QA department of the manufacturer who listens, apologises and sends me some free product, I no longer talk about the pip, I talk about the genuine caring nature of the company who put things right. I trust them more than ever. The brand that says, shit happens, if we get 1 wrong in 10,000 products its good, get over yourself, I will stop using them because they don’t care and I am angry.

So back to Seth Godin. What I learned when studying Psychology and Negotiation was based around NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. If you try to soothe or calm the person who is angry, you are likely to upset them more because they will think you are being patronising. If you justify your position without acknowledging the other person’s position as Glaxo did, you will lose their trust as has happened in New Zealand with Ribena, where thousands of parents gave this product to their children thinking it was far superior to other fruit juice products on the market. They feel cheated and justifying your position just tells them that you feel you are superior to them.

In NLP they talk about pacing the person first. If they are talking in a loud angry voice, do the same. Get on their level. Show them that you empathise with them and would feel the same way in their shoes. A common mantra in negotiation is the 3 F’s of Feel, Felt, Found. I know how you feel, I had a similar experience to yours and what I actually found was……………….

The most important thing is sincerity in the use of this technique. People are adept at seeing through insincerity whether they are conscious of it or not. If you were genuinely wrong, admit it and do something about it.

Now if only Housing New Zealand could learn from this.

Red Light Cameras in Auckland


Just a quick comment. I get so angry at the many people who run the red lights. We see and read so many stories about accidents involving innocent people who have the misfortune to be in the right place at the wrong time with people who seem to be in a real hurry to get to the hospital.

Auckland City who previously said that red light cameras were too expensive, have decided to install them after doing some surveys with safety cameras finding that the numbers of people doing this are in the thousands each day. I hope other cities including North Shore follow suit especially at busy intersections like Tristram Ave.

Offenders will pay a $150 instant fine and there are suggestions of giving them demerit points as well, which I would be fine with. Something needs to be done to stop them and there is no good reason for anyone to risk their and others safety in this way. So often I sit behind someone who runs the red and then when all the lights have cycled, I drive through and end up sitting behind them at the next set of lights.

TV3 did a good job of producing a news video and obviously didn’t have to wait long to prove the point.

I’d like them to introduce a program like the old dob in a smokey, reporting cars spewing smoke from their exhausts, so we can all police this problem. They tried this for a short time last year and it worked well, wish they would do it again.

It’s a little bit funny


On wednesday night I was ready to go to A Songwriter Speaks to hear a presentation and some music from Dave Dobbyn and others courtesy of APRA of which I am a writer member. Then at about 4:45 I got a call saying that thre were 4 comp tickets available for Elton John’s first gig in Auckland for 10 years. Well sorry Dave, but I’m sure I’ll be able to see you in Auckland again within the next 10 years and sorry APRA for not using the tickets you kindly sent me.

Well the concert was great and I agree with everything said in the NZ Herald review, in fact it really stole my thunder and it’s great to see a nice review in the paper that doesn’t spend time aggrandising the reviewer and tells it how we all saw it. What a great night.

Elton flew in from Sydney in the late afternoon, came to town, did his sound checks, relaxed did the gig and within an hour was back on his plane to Sydney. Given that this is his 3rd trip down here in 3 years (I said not in Auckland remember?) I guess all I can be is grateful that he took the time to pop down and share with us. As he said, it is such a long way to come.

We love Elton down here (who doesn’t) and he always gives a great show and although he didn’t talk much, he took the time to do autographs for everyone in the front row of the stage which was awesome in these paranoic days and kudos to security for not getting carried away, which you see overseas all the time.

As to the music, it was awesome, it was a wonder I could play at my own gig last night after shouting and singing for almost 3 hours. There was some virtuoso piano playing which was awesome to listen to and watch on thebig screens. How does he play so well with his little hands? One of my favourites was his 10-12 minute rendition of Rocket Man and the others were almost everything he played.

I mustn’t forget Davey Johnstone, the awesome guitar player from Scotland, now of Los Angeles, who’s stage collection of guitars made my 6 look puny. Davey has played with Elton for many years as well as on the Tommy show. He ha also featured on a number of Elton John Albums including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 2001. He has worked with a Who’s Who of artists in the past. He even merits his own page in Wikipedia. He first played with Elton as early as 1972 on Honkey Chateau which was Elton’s first number one album in the US.

Amongst the guitars that caught my attention at the show were a Fender Strat and a Fender Tele, Gibson Les Paul, Gibson Flying V, 2 double neck guitars that I suspect might be Rickenbakkers, one tuned for slide and the other including a 12 string. Then there were 4 (I think accoustic guitars including a 12 string and a nylon string and then there was the banjo. I told my wife that I have some buying to do, but first of all I had better sell some songs. Anyone looking for a new country song?

Elton John aka Reginald Dwight is a legend. He’s been around and started performing before I was born and I’ve been around a while. I could tell you what I was doing and where my life was at when a number of his songs were released and I’m sure you could do the same with songs like Rocket Man, Daniel, Song for Guy, Candle in the Wind……… I don’t need to mention them all, you know them. Of course Bernie Taupin was a major factor in his success he has continued to write and reinvent himself and is still current in my book with recent works including work on Lion King, Billy Elliot and loads more including loads of benefits, the tribute to Princess Diana and some awesome DVD’s and specials.

What impressed me more than anything was that at 61 years old and having been through so much in his life, his voice is as strong as ever, capable of bellowing out for 3 hours, his keyboard playing is if anything continuing to develop, especially creatively. Watching him on stage, other than his acrobatics being a little more subdued you wouldn’t have thought him more than 40 years old.

Thanks Elton, for coming down to New Zealand again, you have adoring fans aged from 8 to 80 and you will always find a warm welcome and big audience, even at the crazy prices they charged. One final footnote on the Vector Arena. The accoustics aren’t great, but the sound engineers did a brilliant job. It’s hard enough to make sure people get good sound throughout a major venue, but even more so with such challenging accoustics. Kudos guys.

New Zealand Carbon Taxes and Carbon Trading


I sometimes wonder about this country. First of all we told the world that we were clean and green and carbon friendly, so we signed the Kyoto Protocol as a sign of good faith. Our government likes to set a good example and we are very PC (politically correct) so we led the way. Of course we noted that countries like the United States, China and other major polluters didn’t sign, possibly because they uderstood the implications better than our politicians did. I believe even Australia didn’t join the party.

Then we started looking inward and understanding the implications and in the last year we have seen dramatic changes in the way we look at ourselves, much of it very good. Business and consumers have been given lots of opportunities to measure their carbon footprint and look at ways that we can recycle and in other ways try to become carbon neutral.

I understand that one of the Agreements we have signed allows us to only have to worry about the increase in carbon emissions since 1999. Now I’m not a specialist in this area and not so much interested in the finer details. I’m happy wherever possible to do my bit as a consumer and in business. I have been recycling and separating paper waste, plastic, metals and glass from my household waste and do the same in the office wherever practicable.

I was surprised to learn recently that even though as a country we are separating waste into various categories much of it is still dumped and not recycled, but that’s another story.

I don’t have a major issue with carbon trading within business in our country, for those who wish to partake, but for many small businesses that it is a problem, yet another compliance issue that makes it difficult for businesses to focus on generating revenue and hopefully profit. This has the potential to damage many industries in New Zealand.

What really bugs me though is that even though we have loads of native bush and domestic forestry and are largely an agrcicultural nation, we will apparently still have to buy carbon credits from other countries who have a better carbon footprint. I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with this if it applied to the entire developed world, but when giant countries who have huge large scale industrialisation and generate mass pollution, greenhouse gases etc don’t and don’t have to participate, this situation is unfair.

I accept that the world can’t go on as it is and that the future landscape for our children and grandchildren looks bleak. I accept that we have to take responsibility and I believe that most New Zealanders do. Even industry such as the Comalco aluminium smelter in Invercargill which could close down due to the proposed carbon taxes claims to be the greenest of the 200 off smelters around the world. If they close due to our governments obsession of being the best example in the world, they will take away 3,000 direct and indirect jobs which in an area of only around 50,000 people could be enough to close the city down economically.

The government want us to pay carbon tax on our petrol which is already up at the highest level it has ever been per litre, as well as adding regional taxes to pay for roading developments, public transport improvements, when traditionally the taxes we pay in this area go to the consolidated fund to be used on whatever they deem important. Fortunately there is a moratorium on this for 2 years, I wonder if there is any relevance to this being an election year. Then instead of using those taxes to improve our country’s carbon footprint, we have to buy tax credits from other countries and then on top of that again, they will want us to spend even more money on trying to become carbon neutral.

All of this in a climate (pardon the pun) where house prices are higher than they have ever been, food prices are going through the roof, interest rates are high, in short the cost of living is far exceding the average income earners pay increases and businesses in the finance industry are falling over. I could go on, but if you live here you know what I am talking about. We don’t have enough money to support our stretched resources in health and many children are going to school without breakfast in our working class areas.

So for all of that, instead of taking carbon taxes and investing them in our own country to improve our sustainability, our government wants to send the money to other countries. I applaud the government for drawing our attention to the environment, to our responsibility to its health and to future generations. But surely the money would be better spent at home? If the rules are not the same and enforcable for the whole developed world, then lets make our home a better place and set the example. We can’t afford to give money to other countries who are ‘greener’ than us, because it sets a good example. Let’s tidy up our own back yard and become sustainable and then say to China and the USA and anyone else that isn’t doing their bit, ‘follow our example’.

Myanmar and others needing aid and not getting it


I have a real problem with donating to aid organisations when so often it seems that the military, government, war lords or whomever runs a country has control over whether the aid gets to the people that need it.

It was pleasing to hear today that the military rulers have eased restrictions a little on allowing aid workers to send food, blankets, medicine etc into the devastated areas, but I also read that to date only 25% of the people stranded and hopeless have received anything.

On TV I see and hear about stockpiles of donated goods that sit at airports while people are starving, dehydrating and suffering from illness caused by the contaminated water and food. Yesterday I was listening to the latest Digital Planet podcast and they had interviews from people who said a truck arrived in their emergency compound with rescue aids including enough water to supply one family!

So PM Brown is telling the rulers of Myanmar to lift aid restrictions. Big Deal! Didn’t he tell Mugabe to play fair as well, didn’t that make a big difference.

So here’s the thing. We see advertisements on TV all the time about donating funds to all sorts of organisations to send supplies to countries in need. Then on news stories we see evidence of those same supplies stockpiling in warehouses or simply dissapearing between arrival and the people it was supposed to go to. There is a real credibility issue. I don’t mind donating, but I restrict it to charities or organisations that convince me that they are actually doing something. I think most people feel the same way, we don’t mind going without a little if we have evidence that what we are giving genuinely goes to the people who need it, irrespective of their politics or allegiances and doesn’t get enjoyed by people who don’t need it, or who out of their thirst for power allow other people to die of thirst, hunger and malnutrition.

I love programs like Idol Gives Back because they show evidence of results. They seem to show that people are doing better as a consequence and if they were here I would have given some koha (Maori for unconditional gift). But having seen so many examples of the generosity being abused, I generally limit most of my donations to local needs such as Hospice, Child Cancer and the Foundation for the Blind, being charities I trust and where I can see where my money is being spent. This is sad because many possibly very hnest and capable organisations miss out, not because they are doing anything wrong, but because people like the Myanmar Junta stop them from doing their work.