The Swine Flu isn’t going away any time soon


So the story continues. It seems a long time ago (Monday of this week!) when I asked the question, Is the Swine Flu going to be a pandemic? Well on level 4 indicating a significant increased risk of a pandemic, a global outbreak of a serious disease.  It isn’t yet a Pandemic, but it doesn’t show any signs of abating. As it appears that secondary transmission of human to human may now be occurring, a Reuters story says that they may soon raise to Level 5.

Another Reuters story also mentions that many countries have imposed a ban on US pork imports, this could lead to similar bans on pork exports from all countries where Swine Flu has been confirmed. This is despite WHO announcing that you can not catch A/N1H1  Swine Flu from eating pork, and in fact there is no evidence of pigs in Mexico or the USA being sick. There is conjecture that they may have captured the virus from Asian birds, possibly imported into Mexico, but the mystery is if the pigs aren’t sick, how is it that humans have caught it from them. It’s no wonder that conspiracy theories abound, while we have no real answers. A team of WHO specialists are now in Mexico trying to unravel this mystery.

On Tuesday I commented that Swine Flu is a bit close to home as New Zealand is one of the early significant areas where Swine Flu was strongly suspected to exist. This was confirmed yesterday and 360 odd passengers on Air New Zealand Flight 1 from Los Angeles were asked to quarantine themselves.

On Wednesday I blogged about how to get Swine Flu and within 24 hours most large corporates had emailed their staff with instructions about personal hygiene and how to minimise the risk of infection. Whether people are concerned or not is difficult to gauge and I suspect a lot of people are still thinking, this wil never happen to me. Despite this 2 hours ago the number of confirmed infected was increased to 14 and the suspect list includes an additional 56  people according to New Zealand’s TV3 News.

According to the Google Swine Flu Map the Kiwi’s affected are spread from Auckland in the North Island to Otago deep into the South Island. They of course had to use confined public transport to get there, so it is likely they may have spread the virus further.

One question I have is why have people died in Mexico but not in other countries. It also seems that the symptoms have been worse for people in Mexico. One theory is that it is attenuating as it spreads from one person to the other and weakening in the process. This could explain why the people in Mexico, including expats, have suffered far more than people in other countries, although this ios contraindicated by the fact that most if not all of those in New Zealand contracted the virus whilst personally in Mexico. There have been a very small number of people suspected to have Swine Flu who had not been to Mexico, but had been on flights together with people who have been confirmed as having Swine Flu. I have yet to hear of anyone who has been confirmed with the virus who were noton a flight with people who had been to Mexico or hadn’t been to Mexico themselves.

There are still some unsolved mysteries and it is the secondary nature of the spread of this virus that holds the greatest risk of a pandemic.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

And please do leave a comment!

What’s wrong with calling yourself a New Zealander


I love the Census. Every 5 years we get this massive set of questions about who we are, where we come from, what we do, where we live etc. There is an amazing wealth of information in the Census and this time the Government have made it available for free if you can find what you want without assistance.

I spend a lot of time helping people on the fringe of this and am working on the development of a web application to help people view both their own business data and relevant Census data. Watch for this in a future blog if you are following me.

One of the questions they ask us Kiwis is about our ethnicity. I remember in 2006 when there was a strong movement of people saying to each other that they had had enough of the racial issues between Maori and Pakeha (and this clearly came from both sides of the fence).  A large percentage of Kiwis grew up side by side with Caucasians, Maori and people from many othr places including the Pacific Islands. They grew up as friends and neighbours and if there was discussion of ethnicity it was with interest and pride, not with any tensions or mistrust.

On that theme, 400,000 Kiwis signed their ethnicity, not by selected tick boxes for European Caucasion. New Zealand Maori etc, they signed in a text box called other as New Zealanders.

Whilst this made sense in a way as they tried to make their point, it has also caused some significant problems for organisations who use that information for decision making and the Department of Statistics is looking for ways to get better information in the next Census is 2010.

In the Statistics New Zealand Draft report, prepared for public discussion, they outlined some of the concerns and explained ways that the ethnicity data is used. Here are some examples including some of my own:

  • The health sector uses ethnicity data to target services for groups experiencing inequalities in health. For example, it is commonly known that Maori have a significantly lower life expectancy than Europeans.
  • Asian people, especially new immigrants have unique health needs.
  • Local government agencies use these statistics in planning and service delivery, particularly in regions experiencing significant demographic, social and economic change.
  • Marketers with products targeted and particular groups are able to identify where those markets reside.
  • Education planning needs to take into consideration the demographics that make up local communities to ensure that education services are relevant to the needs of that community. Diverisyt is a key tenet in the NZ education system, but in order to best support it and plan for it, statistics are requred.
  • In the business world, demographics can help with many aspects of business planning. For example a manufacturer of baby bottles found that in one area bottles with blue teets weren’t selling and in another area bottles with yellow teets weren’t selling. After a year or so with lots of stock thrown away or discounted they discovered that it was an ethnicity issue. By rotating the stock to the other areas the problem was solved.
  • Today we have many ethnic communities, which is a relatively new situation, at least in Auckland where most of the population lives. This can be very useful for specialist retailers or service providers such as ethnic supermarkets, restaurants, clothing, music and entertainment providers. This is also of relevance for churches who want a lot of their congregation to be able to walk to their place of worship, immigration consultants, language schools or ESOL and so on.If a business can identify where their target market lives, they can better plan on placement of their business or how to find their new customers.

From a futurist persepctive we can use this information to try to predict what the city and country will look like in the future, where the opportunities and threats lie and how to support the changing community. For many people, New Zealand is seen as a wonderful safe and green place to live and raise a family, but each one brings a piece of their own culture with them, but also bring issues of culture, work training, language, education, commerce and the need to belong to a group of people with similar interests and problems, while their children are assimilating into the local community. New Zealand has changed dramatically over the last few decades and it is essential to the wellbeing of the country that the Census accurately represents statistics that can assist in making sure that everyone is able to enjoy living in this country and able to contribute in their own ways.

The Census provides valuable information about the changing nature of our country. Unfortunately this ‘movement’ towards calling people Kiwis means that it has been very difficult to monitor the change in ethnicity in NZ from the 2001 Census to the 2006 Census, meaning that the data is difficult to use for a 10 year period.

Statistics New Zealand is now asking the country for input as to how to allow people to assert their relationship to the country, while at the same time allowing Statistics to gather important information in order to help the country meet the needs of the large range of ethnicity in our country.

I think the answer has to accomodate both the desire for people to consider themselves bona fide New Zealanders irrespective of their ethnicity, but it is also essential to understand their roots or backgrounds. It shouldn’t be hard to combine the questions in such a way as to support the need for quality of information as well as the need of people, irrespective of their origins, to feel they belong and are important players in our multicultural society today.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

What’s That Smell?


When I was a lot younger than I am today I had a keen sense of smell, many of which I still remember and can relate back to earlier times when I smell them again. There was the smell of ozone in the air when it was about to rain, the smell of the steam as a tar sealed road near my home dried up after a rain. Certain food smells evoke memories. For example a few days ago I was in Tauranga for the jazz festival and smelled food cooking in a nearby restaurant, which smelled exactly the same as the pork my late grandmother used to broil in butter on a Dutch winters evening. If you speak Dutch, here’s a recipe which is very similar to how she used to do it. I can still remember many odors from my youth.

According to C. Russell Brumfield, author of the book Whiff! The Revolution of Scent Communication in the Information Age, we can more easily remember what we smell than what we hear. Apparently scent goes straight from the nose to the brains emotional centers whereas the other senses have to go through an interpretation process first. Of course the ability to smell has many purposes that date back to our primitive past where this sense would help protect us from danger, identify food and when a partner was in season, so to speak. Pheromones are of course well researched and companies who manufacture perfumes and fragrances, would consider it the holy grail to come up with a scent that genuinely causes people of the opposite sex to flock to their side.

When I first embarked on my sales management career, I read the mandatory books such as Tom Hopkins, How to Master the Art of Selling Anything. One of his key areas of expertise was selling real estate. A classic example of his teachings was to drop a little vanilla essence on the stove element, which would make the house smell like fresh coffee. I’ve often wondered why nobody does these things, its much more appealing than the ammonia smell of wet nappies.

I often talked about smellovision and there have been a number of attempts over the years to come up with scratch and sniff cards for TV shows or movies. A couple of years ago I visited the theme parks of Disneyworld in Orlando and in one of the theatre shows, they sprayed the scent of cookie dough and others into the audience. The aromas were authentic and while it was a novelty, it certainly was a taste of what will come in the future. I’m sure that before too long, digital theaters will be equipped with atomizers designed to send odors around the room. It may not happen often, but this is a great opportunity to enhance the theater experience and keep people going out to enjoy movies. Whether it is the scent of flowers in a romantic spring scene, or the metallic smell of blood in a horror or action movie, technology will ensure that we are immersed in the scene.

Many organizations have been considering the use of smell with their products. For example, Nokia has been experimenting with the ability to emit smells from their mobiles. At MIT’s List Visual Arts Centre, they used a technology to immerse the smell of sweat and fear into the white paint, which you can smell if you rub the painted surface.

Pepsi used a similar concept added to the surface of the bottles when they launched their new Black-Cherry Vanilla Soda.

My early prediction of Smellovision came true a few years ago with the launch of Smellavision (oh well it was pretty close). I’ll leave the final word to ScentAndrea who are doing it now. They have scents from burnt charcoal, to car paint to fresh coffee and donuts and they have an agent near you.

OK I lied, here is the final word, scent has such a great following that last year they held the SCENTworld conference and Expo in New York and there is another this year in Las Vegas.  So if you haven’t got a whiff of it yet, don’t hold your breath. You could hit the casinos and smell the money as well:)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Is Unilever trying to hoodwink us?


This afternoon my daughter came home and said she had an argument at Pak N Save, (the premium brand of NZ owner operated supermarkets in New Zealand under the Foodstuffs banner) with a promo person who was telling people about the new concentrated laundry detergents of Surf, Drive, Persil, Cold Power, Fab and Dynamo, all from Unilever, who according to their UK website are one of the most trusted brands in the UK and state that Always Working with Integrity is one of their key philosophies.

So you would think that their new ‘ small and mighty’ 2x concentrate products on all of their laundry detergents would offer great value. The pamphlet that arrived in our letterbox says that the product has been changed to a super concentrate that offers the same washing power in half the volume. The promo person at Pak N Save, said that the new product offered far better value because you could do the same amount of washing with half the amount of powder. My daughter didn’t have a problem with that, the problem she had was that if it was essentially the same washing power, doing the same amount of washing, why did the new product cost more?

Herein lies the problem and it was perhaps slick marketing at first, because your first reaction with new improved and concentrated would be better than the product it replaced and therefore worth a premium, which was pretty much what the promo person in the store was trying to get across, but that wasn’t what the printed material says. It says that it does exactly the same as the old product did, but with half the volume of powder. So from a benefit or performance perspective it is exactly the same result in a smaller box.

The smaller box has many benefits for the grocers and Unilever because it uses at least a third less packing and distribution costs are halved because it takes up half the space in the warehouses, trucks and supermarkets.

That’s all great, but the problem is that they are charging more! My daughter said that on special she used to pay $1.89 or sometimes $1.69 and the new promotion special was 2 for $5 yesterday. Which equates to $2.50 per box. That represents more than a 25% increase in cost to the consumer for a product that costs less to bring to market and does the same job as the old product.

Perhaps someone from Unilever would like to explain this. It appears to me to be a cynical attempt to hoodwink consumers out of their hard earned money, which in today’s economy would appear to be out of step with their stated values. It sounds to me like a rip off!

They don’t have a New Zealand web site, but this is their Australasian contact page if you would like to ask the question. I will be making contact with them and if I don’t get a good answer, I’ll be following my daughter away from the Unilever brands.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)