The Brand Blog

Owing a HOME: the cornerstone of The American Dream...well we all know how that went during the "Great Recession" and historically it's had it’s ups and downs. Now when compared to other nations, we still have it good, the recession also brought: record low interest rates vs. 24% in Argentina and 32% in Brazil (Source: World Bank 2010-2014).To add, the 30 year mortgages period, which for us is "standard" for many foreigners it's "unbelievable" adding to the fact that our land governed by laws that protect both Buyers & Sellers and among other benefits, yes your house won't be taken away from the government, the only tax you pay upon sale if any is " capital gains" vs. for example the high 45% you would pay in a country like Ecuador. To add to icing on the cake, we have it so good we're actually on the rebound of a new upward cycle in a very optimist real estate market. 

Now some changes are coming, both oldies and newbies to the market need to know a couple of things when it comes down to the act of buying & selling real estate: rates can vary within a couple of days, down payments in the good old USA border the 10% if you are a US Citizen or Resident and 30% for qualified foreign nationals, yes there's credit for you too. The there's the paperwork, some changes here: the days of filling out the famous "HUD" (HUD-1 refers to:  the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the form itself is a standard use in the United States of America which itemizes services and fees charged to the borrower by the lender or broker when applying for a loan for the purpose of purchasing or refinancing real estate) settlement form and getting a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) from the lender are winding down. On October 1st, 2015, those two forms are going away. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) disclosure form is going away, too. Replacing them are two new forms: the 1.) Closing Disclosure and 2.) Loan Estimate

There are also new rules for the closing procedure. One rule requires all forms to be ready three days prior to closing. NAR (National Association of Realtors) is recommending you actually get everything ready seven days prior to closing, so when you go into the three-day period, you don't have to make any changes. For those who’ve already purchased hopes, you know that making changes as the clock winds down comes with a cumbersome  set of hurdles.

What this means is, you and the other settlement service providers, including the lender and title agent, are under the gun to get everything squared away earlier than you have to today. And the buyers and sellers have to be cooperative as well, because if last-minute changes are made, a new three-day waiting period kicks in, at least in some cases.

Yes, owing a home entails a long list of documents and forms, but it still is a great investment and this is still a very good moment to buy and pass on to your loved ones in form of inheritance, US currently holds a 40% - vs Japan at 55%, South Korea 50% and very soon Ecuador to achieve a Guinness World record of 75%!

You can familiarize yourself with these new forms on the website of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has taken over administration of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) from HUD. Goto:

A Brand Called “Kodak”

posted an hour ago by Edwin Marchan   [ updated a minute ago ]

Digital Killed Kodak or was it Lack of Vision?

Once the hallmark of photography, Kodak has filed chapter eleven whilerestructuring for the digital revolution. But doesn’t it seem kind of late? A move to adapt when the train has already left. I can attest to having tons of prints & slides in various format. Bottom-line: assets of $5.1 billion and debts of $6.75 do the math...

How does a brand that was a synonym of innovation and survived so much competition and emerging technologies, finally throw the towel? Wasn't this evident, what happened? How does a company loose it's edge and become obsolete in it's own turf? Sounds like the iPod vs. Sony Walkman...along comes this new technology and the later just becomes history. Was it too much R&D? Lousy management?

Before we answer let me walk you down memory lane. If you where born in the digital era, the Kodak brand may not ring many bells. In my case, the first camera I owned was the Instamatic with a 110mm film cartridges, pocket size. Then I remember going to Sumer Camp in New Hampshire where I enrolled in my first photography course and my Dad let me take his 35mm Zeiss-Ikon camera. It was heavy, it was precise, pure German engineering clockwork. 

Probably my love for photography & imaging comes from my Father. He would film us with his 8mm Kodak camera, send the film for processing in Panama which was the only place that developed film and then months later we actually saw the movies on a screen in our living room. Yes they were in color, yes they had "no" sound. 

In my long romance with photography I may have spent months of my life in relative time trapped by light in a dark room. This was when I met the Kodak ASA 400 which had a 100ASA grain but could be forced to 800. Still have boxes of B&W print in all sizes and formats. Just the idea brings back the scent of chemicals needed to process that great 100 in a hundred silver gelatin print.

I recall an episode in Mad Men that very well captures the role the Kodak Carrousel played in our lives. Just saving money to by rolls of Kodakchrome 25 & 64, you can even see the layers of color. but I just went digital. The cost per click became trivial, everyone who can point and shoot is now a photographer and sharing can be done online, just with a couple of clicks.

So lets get back to the why did Kodak fail?

Paranoia; Canon and Nikon which where "coopetitors" saw it coming and rapidly went digital, when Kodak figured this out it was probably too late.

Convergence: "gadgetization" = iPhone, Smart Phones, Cellphones, Flatscreens, USB Drives, Macs and PCs...suddenly we have all these apparatus with imaging capabilities and we shoot like crazy, anytime, anyplace...

Pricing Strategy: the cost of shooting became trivial, instead of thinking out if it was worth the click, with digital, you could just point and shoot, just for the fun of it at a ultra low cost.

Immediate Retribution and User Experience: with the emergence of social media; you shoot, you view, you upload and you share. No need to send the roll to the lab...satisfaction guaranteed. End of day we shoot to immortalize moments and we want to share these moments. 

How does Kodak Get Back into Profitable Terrain?

1.) ID Core Strength: what can Kodak do better than any other company? 

Kodak Management believes it's printing, SW&Svcs., Packaging.

But Kodak is really about "memories" and memories need to be on some type of support, way it's going it's digital...satisfaction and these days don't have cameras, it's a Cell Phone and up in the cloud.
  • This author believes it's beating the competition with innovation. Where are the $X billions in R&D? 
Kodak Management Believes in Four Core Product Groups Established Digital Cash Generators;

  • Consumer Inkjet to Achieve Profitability During 2011
  • Commercial Inkjet to Achieve Profitability During 2012
  • Workflow Software & Services
  • Packaging Solutions 

 Why this won't work?

  • Kodak is not unique in any of the areas where it plans to dig trenches.
  • Where does the cloud fit into all this or is it part of the SW+Svcs.?
  • Is the consumer really demanding more prints? they must have strong numbers behind this, yet goto any WalMart, Walgreens and the printing machines are generally empty..
  • Consumers need printers, sure, but they must be compatible with the upcoming gadgetry, if you ask me I'm after the "Air Print" technology where HP and Epson already lead. In addition the prnter has to do paper and photos where Kodak doesn't seem to ring any bells.
  • What about that big "R" called recession hanging over our heads? Unemployment and consumer confidence? well those are variables that are probably in the equation. 
  • Disrupting Trends and Technologies: social media is Kodak's biggest enemy but if the right partnerships and joint ventures come in time, Kodak could benefit big time. To date I've seen no presence of Kodak in the New Media...seems they are missing out on this one too?

What will Works:
  • Stick to your guns
  • Go Big, Go Bold:
    • Give the printers for free
      • Charge only the ink and paper
  • Sharing memories is where all this is going
    • Engage with the big Social Media players and Gadget Manufacturers
      • Become a "facilitator" for printing memories from social media sites & gadgets
      • Include S&H
      • Engage the digital generation
  • Get out of the business space - all companies are promising the same thing and trying to make photocopying something that it's not. 
For now none of the photo products I have are Kodak but I'm a potential customer, just make it easier for me to get there.


In the midst of elections when unpopular bills are under scrutinized it was bound that public uproar would stall SOPA & PIPA.  In effect, as of January 20, the US Congressional leaders in the Senate and House indefinitely postponed further action.

So what's next? 

Lets get down to basics: the bills are designed to protect US ideas and inventions from bootleggers, pirates, etc... so inherently who's responsibility is it to protect a "brand's" assets: music, software, clothing, movies etc...? 

I believe in everyones right to protect their intelectual property, copyright etc...but at the cost of internet freedom, guess it's a high price to pay for, at least thats what public opinion thought. 

Specially in an economy thriving for innovation and exchange of ideas over the internet, anything designed to limit communication is bound to be rejected. Already ACTA has been discussed as an alternative but will these measures actually halt the business of piracy? 

My thesis is that innovation and invention are the answer instead of lobbying and legislation.

Hackers will hack, pirates will continue pirating and companies concerned about their intelectual property will need to create news ways to defend their brands from copyright violations. 

For one an open contest by each industry inviting entrepreneurs to devise news forms or devices. If this is really a war against piracy it should be fought like one. Look at the inovation in defense and the investment + job creation in these areas. These are issues that can be tackled with creativity, I mean clearly the big bucks are out there.

If the US was able to eliminate the need of a pilot and an expensive airplane to fly over it's enemies by creating drones, with the right stimulus in place, I'm sure that we will be able to find the "smart minds" to devise a technology that can stop a fellow in a storefront in some far away land, from burning a bootleg DVD. 

Internet unharmed.

tuesday, january 17, 2012

A Brand Called "SOPA"

How free is freedom of speech if SOPA is approved?

SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith was announced late October and it will probably be the headline for all things digital in the upcoming weeks, months...

Internet enthusiasts and web companies around the world have hailed their opposition towards the proposed bill. In a couple of hours Wikipedia in English will black out in protest, we'll see if Google who claims ideals has the guts to get offline? Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn are also in the list, lets see when the rubber meets the road...if they will do the right thing or hide behind lawyers or under boardroom tables. In conjunction they announced that SOPA is "a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation's cyber security."

SOPA & PIPA the two bills procured are after Web sites that happen to be located in a nation more hospitable to copyright infringement than the United States is (in fact, the U.S. is probably the least hospitable jurisdiction in the world for such an endeavor). Because the target is offshore, a lawsuit against the owners in a U.S. court would be futile.

Who's behind SOPA & PIPA: 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: 

 "Rogue Web sites that steal America's innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs." 

The Motion Picture Association:

Highlighting an analysis it commissioned from First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, a former MPAA attorney, who concluded SOPA is perfectly constitutional. Here's another pro-SOPA rebuttal.

A Politico chart shows that Hollywood has outspent Silicon Valley by about tenfold on lobbyists in the last two years. Here's a CNET article on why the Chamber is so pro-SOPA.

Over 400 businesses and organizations have sent a letter supporting SOPA.

The Recording Industry Association of America:

SOPA could be used to force Internet providers to block by "Internet Protocol address" and deny "access to only the illegal part of the site." It would come as no surprise if copyright holders suggested wording to the Justice Department, which would in turn seek a judge's signature on the removal order

What will happen if SOPA is approved: 

"An explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation." 

It will allow the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It's kind of an Internet death penalty.

More specifically, section 102 of SOPA says that, after being served with a removal order:

 A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order...Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

What is SOPA after? 

Goes further than Protect IP and could require Internet providers to monitor customers' traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.

Are there free speech implications to SOPA? 

SOPA's opponents say so--a New York Times op-ed called it the "Great Firewall of America--and the language of the bill itself is quite broad. Section 103 says that, to be blacklisted, a Web site must be "directed" at the U.S. and also that the owner "has promoted" acts that can infringe copyright.

Here's how Section 101 of the original version of SOPA defines what a U.S.-directed Web site is:

(A) the Internet site is used to provide goods or services to users located in the United States; 
(B) there is evidence that the Internet site or portion thereof is intended to offer or provide such goods and services (or) access to such goods and services (or) delivery of such goods and services to users located in the United States; 
(C) the Internet site or portion thereof does not contain reasonable measures to prevent such goods and services from being obtained in or delivered to the United States; and 
(D) any prices for goods and services are indicated or billed in the currency of the United States.

Some critics have charged that such language could blacklist the next YouTube, Wikipedia, or WikiLeaks. Especially in the case of WikiLeaks, which has posted internal documents not only from governments but also copyrighted documents from U.S. companies and has threatened to post more, it's hard to see how it would not qualify for blacklisting.

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox Web browser, responded by creating a page saying: "Protect the Internet: Help us stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation." It warns that "your favorite Web sites both inside and outside the US could be blocked based on an infringement claim."

Web sites including Wikimedia (as in, Wikipedia) charged that SOPA is an "Internet blacklist bill" that "would allow corporations, organizations, or the government to order an Internet service provider to block an entire Web site simply due to an allegation that the site posted infringing content." Tumblr "censored" its users' content streams, and reported that its users averaged 3.6 calls per second to Congress through the company's Web site--nearly 90,000 total.

Sources: CNET, Wikipedia



A Brand Called ""

"Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes little sense for those who know what they're doing."
Well Warren your right on the money, but when you say "diversification" do you mean portfolio, industry or geography?

In past weeks I've learned you can juggle your way through recessions and the upswings of the market, but it's really offshore investment what it's all about. During the last market crash I had banked all my trust in good old Wall Street...yep me a couple other suckers...when the DJIA hit the 8000's I was cashing out everything. Yes you, me and many others like us lost a lot of money...

This made me reflect upon the next crisis and I stumbled upon a brand called CitiTrust International which provides a great strategy, they provide financial services in the emergent and sunny Belize since 1994. Today they can proudly boast the are the #1 provider of international financial services in Belize and other jurisdictions, specialized in incorporating international business companies under the flexible International Business Companies Act of Belize and other jurisdictions and the formation of Trusts under the Belize Trust Act that is unlike any other trust legislation in the world. 

CITITRUST International Inc. turned out to be a responsible international financial services company operating at the highest level of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality, with an excellent reputation.

To wrap it up when the storm came, I was in good hands;)

A Brand Called "Social"

posted 13 minutes ago by Edwin Marchan

Coupons have been around for a longtime and now we are seeing them evolve from paper into digital. Start-ups like Groupon have popped up from nowhere to become the  next big IPO. Some call it the social media bubble, I just view as opportunity to get more for less. The recent player on the field is Social which caters to the Hispanic/Latin American community. The brand is new and we'll watch it closely, but the deals are just amazing! I applaud the spirit of entrepreneurship with which this small company is rolling. But with all honestly what mostly caught my attention is the upcoming deal, specially for someone who loves to vacation, relax, eat out and just enjoy life.

Don't miss out on this deal!

Imagine a $699 Three night cruise to the Bahamas for two at 71% discount = $500...can't beat that can you?

Norwegian Cruise Line

Social Libre Deal

MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2011

A Brand called "Coca-Cola"


On May 1886, exactly 125 years after Dr. John Pemberton from Atlanta, GA delivered via a mix of water and other mysterious ingredients in a brass kettle the one and only secret Coca-Cola formula. But that was just the product, it was actually his bookkeeper to whom we owe the name and the original hand written logo. From nine servings sold per day to a staggering 1.7 billion servings per day - talk about growth factors!

I guess we've all had our story with Coke, it's a brand with a specially emotional connection. Mine starts back when I was a kid all I wanted was to drink it all day long, but it was for special occasions only. Remember my mother gave me a can, I drank half of it, filled up with water so it would multiply...what a waste. 

On another occasion went on a school picnic and some kid opened my can inside the bus, sprayed everyone...all that was left was a mushed sandwich inside my Harrods plastic bag (no lunch boxes in UK back then) think I was five...cried like a baby and had two older girls feed me for the rest of the outing. Later on when I lived in Ecuador I recall my best friend and I would climb over the wall into his grand father's house and get Mr. Martinez to open his bar and grant us with a pop of the forbidden elixir while he told us stories of when he was a real cowboy. The bottles were smaller back then but grandpa's tales are unforgettable.  One day the Coca-Cola truck came by the house and my mom actually brought an entire case, it was like a dream come true, 24 bottles of Coke in the fridge! As time passed the bottles got bigger, plastic took over glass. There's that amazing story of the Cola Wars when Pepsi and Coke bottlers would buy each other's bottles and break them in order to gain market share....

Then when I had my own income to drink it on a daily basis we discovered it had too much sugar. So then they launched the Diet/Low Cal version which resulted dangerous for your health....well I have to admit, I love a drink of Coke, specially Zero in the black can, ice cold...aaaaaahhhhhhhh. Then there's the mixes with beverages: in Chile we'll drink Piscola: Pisco plus Coke, then there's the famous Cuba Libre: Rhum and Coke or Jack & Coke. I'm sure every nation has it's own mix. Bet you want one now, thats exactly the strategy, to be on your top of mind "recency" and awaken thirst. 

The master of advertising as we know it, 125 years doing the same drink but always keeping it fresh. And the caffeine rush of course...anyone remember the "New Coke"? the ultimate marketing belly flop? Later on in  I had the opportunity to handle the Coca-Cola account at McCann-Erickson, one of the all time highs in my career. Never experienced a brand that cares so much about it's customer base and appreciates input. Everything was tested with the target audiences again and again: ad campaigns, messaging, story boards, promos, quality standards, flavor, etc.... I recall the European Union aluminium can crisis - millions of cans were taken off the market due cases of intoxication. As a result Coke was banned in Europe and the globe. A major PR and Policy mishap we should all learn from. 

Another encounter I had with the brand was in Galapagos where a ship had capsized during a storm close to the beach. I went snorkeling one morning to the see the wreck and in a most surreal panorama saw the entire ocean covered with Coke bottles. On the bright side, the brand is well known all around the world, crossing cultural barriers. The unforgettable Christmas campaigns with Santa Claus, the Polar Bears...This is one brand that will probably outlive us all. Please let me close with a  - cheers - and the celebration ad produced by my ex-colleagues at McCann

My last story, don;t want to bore you kids went to the Coke Museum in Atlanta, where you can try Cokes from all around the world and as a souvenir they brought back an aluminum bottle, mus of been in the fridge for more than a year, have to confess one night I drank;s still there (filled with water...)

Blessings & have a great week!

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A Brand Called "#1" or "Google goes Social"

Google: Social Search Finally Launches

It was only a matter of time till Google went social on a larger scale with +1 (similar to the "like" button on Facebook) and timing has a lot to do. Ex-#1: Eric Schmidt  is replaced today by Larry Page who takes on the role of "The New" #1/CEO/Emperor of the Search/Media/Advertising/Communications Conglomerate. Now what is #1: think of it as a digital "word-of-mouth" - people like something, they click #1 and boom, via diverse Google channels and sites across the Web you'll see your friends recommendations.

What does it cost? well as in all things "Googly": you need to create a "Google Profile" which puts the privacy issue on the table. You can keep it private if you choose. If you desire to be among the #1s in experiencing this feature you can join at Google Labs.

Have an awesome weekend and don't forget to Marchan-dise it!




A Brand Called “Survey Salsa

How do you know what your customers think about your brand? Do you have a system and process to retrieve feedback after every interaction? I’ve seen this hundreds of times, companies pitching “state-of-the-art” technological solutions, passing out a survey on paper. Then the data needs to be processed manually, input on a spreadsheet and later on displayed in graphic form, when the business dynamics require we do business @ the speed of thought. 

Recently I teamed up with an old colleague of mine: Miguel Munoz, I was "flabbergasted" by his new cloud based software: “online surveys with spice” a one stop solution for surveys, forms and questionnaires. Bottom-line its data that can help you evaluate & understand the customers’ experience. Information that empowers business to make fast corrective actions.

On the flip side if you are looking on hot to innovate on social media I suggest you test this as a tool to evaluate perception among your network. Ask friends and family what they think about a particular contact in a fun way. For example ask if John was an animal which one would he be? What has being his funniest story? If he was a car, which one would he be? Just to name a few. You would be surprised to see how creative people are and the different perceptions they have of the same person. Make a quick survey and post it on Facebook! But before showing the results in front of everyone, make sure your friend responds to the survey. You will give the gift of insight and hopefully some laughs!

What I love about Survey Salsa is the ease of use, lets you order “a la carte” and export data directly into excel, creating the reports you need, in English and Spanish, so try it while it's free;)

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A Brand Called "Seth Godin"

Clearly Mr. Godin is making the publishing world rumble with his rebellious outlook ion what 

good for the readers vs. what good for the publishing Corps. - this is the Domino Project

with the sole objective of making books or information more available to readers vs. scarcity 

and high prices - kind of utopian but doesn't it make sense to make knowledge more 

accessible to everyone? I mean greater offer would reduce prices. In his latest book the central

 theme in "The Death of the Industrial Age" is what "Poke the Box" is all about, leadership, 

failure and even a very interesting concept: 

Start and fail: "There's a tyranny that's quite prevalent in our society, which is the tyranny of 

being picked, of waiting to be selected by the boss, by the HR person, by Oprah or by 

someone who will anoint you as the winner. The Internet is opening the door and allowing 

people to pick themselves," said Godin about why he chose to publish one of his own books

 first and why anybody should think differently about the work that they do. "That's what I am 

doing. I picked myself, and I think that's what people ought to do. People have asked me

 how they can submit their book ideas for me to publish, and my answer is, 'don't.' Just publish

 it yourself. Give it away, watch it spread and build a platform. 

The cost of failing has gone way down. It is far cheaper to fail now than ever before. If you failed 

when you were designing the plant for General MotorsSaturn car, the cost was a 

billion dollars. If you failed with a Super Bowl ad 10 years ago, the cost was $2 million. 

If you fail with a blog post, it costs nothing, and yet bosses say, 'yes, go innovate . 

but don't fail.' 

You can't have success without failure. So, what I'm really trying to sell people on is that it's now 

okay to fail. Here's what I know: I have failed more often than anyone reading this, 

and if you fail more than me, you'll be doing just fine."

End of day, it's OK to fail as long as you get up and endure one more day;)

Use of social media as a means to advertise your brand and ultimately generate conversion

Marchandising is the way to go!

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A Brand called "Marchandising"

In a nutshell “Marchandising” is: the use of social media as a means to advertise a brand and ultimately generate conversion. As opposed to traditional forms of advertising, where only “deep pockets” are capable of getting a message across to the target audience, “awakening needs” and persuading purchase intent. With a smart Social Media strategy you can target, persuade and influence at the lowest cost per sales lead possible. This is exactly what every business is after: ROI (return on investment).

Marchandising has a holistic approach towards branding, therefore entailing different stages that initiate with a thorough brand assessment which should derive in a traditional SWOT Analysis: Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. It may seem simple but clearly identifying the brands “core strength” and defining the unique sales proposition are a longtime challenge for marketers. Once the brands marketable asset is defined, all energies should be focused towards this purpose.

The next step is weaving the “digital spider web” by using a series of techniques to develop content on the diverse social media outlets. The more content created on the internet, the easier it becomes for your brand to be found and attain optimum search rank. Three steps need to be taken in order to achieve “Brand Equity” which is equal to the Customer Value (what a customer is willing to spend on a particular brand) minus the Product Cost (what it really costs to make it): BE = CV - PC

·         1: Brand awareness: increase traffic on your webpage

·         2: Brand Recognition: increase search ranking

·         3: Brand Preference:  convert into lead generation; qualified leads

The road is not easy, but the destiny that lies ahead is one where customers willingly end up paying a “premium” for the pleasure of proudly displaying your brand. Great examples of developing brand loyalty are:

·         Apple: you can get a PC for as low as $238 and people will pay hundreds more and even wait in line to get a MacIpad or Iphone

·         Ralph Lauren: made in the far east polo shirt can go for $270

·         Gucci: a bag is a bag is a bag....but put the logo on it and its suddenly expensive.

Blessings & have a great weekend!

Edwin Marchan

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Marchandise it!

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A Brand called "Nokia" by Stephen Elop
Hello there,

There is a pertinent story about a man who was working on an oil platform in the North Sea. He woke up one night from a loud explosion, which suddenly set his entire oil platform on fire. In mere moments, he was surrounded by flames. Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform's edge. When he looked down over the edge, all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.

As the fire approached him, the man had mere seconds to react. He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames. Or, he could plunge 30 meters in to the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a "burning platform," and he needed to make a choice.

He decided to jump. It was unexpected. In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times - his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a "burning platform" caused a radical change in his behaviour.

We too, are standing on a "burning platform," and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour.

Over the past few months, I've shared with you what I've heard from our shareholders, operators, developers, suppliers and from you. Today, I'm going to share what I've learned and what I have come to believe.

I have learned that we are standing on a burning platform.

And, we have more than one explosion - we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us.

For example, there is intense heat coming from our competitors, more rapidly than we ever expected. Apple disrupted the market by redefining the smartphone and attracting developers to a closed, but very powerful ecosystem.

In 2008, Apple's market share in the $300+ price range was 25 percent; by 2010 it escalated to 61 percent. They are enjoying a tremendous growth trajectory with a 78 percent earnings growth year over year in Q4 2010. Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.

And then, there is Android. In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry's innovation to its core.

Let's not forget about the low-end price range. In 2008, MediaTek supplied complete reference designs for phone chipsets, which enabled manufacturers in the Shenzhen region of China to produce phones at an unbelievable pace. By some accounts, this ecosystem now produces more than one third of the phones sold globally - taking share from us in emerging markets.

While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind.

The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.

We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.

At the midrange, we have Symbian. It has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms. As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and further behind, while our competitors advance further and further ahead.

At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, "the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation." They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.

And the truly perplexing aspect is that we're not even fighting with the right weapons. We are still too often trying to approach each price range on a device-to-device basis.

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we've lost market share, we've lost mind share and we've lost time.

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor's informed that they will put our A long term and A-1 short term ratings on negative credit watch. This is a similar rating action to the one that Moody's took last week. Basically it means that during the next few weeks they will make an analysis of Nokia, and decide on a possible credit rating downgrade. Why are these credit agencies contemplating these changes? Because they are concerned about our competitiveness.

Consumer preference for Nokia declined worldwide. In the UK, our brand preference has slipped to 20 percent, which is 8 percent lower than last year. That means only 1 out of 5 people in the UK prefer Nokia to other brands. It's also down in the other markets, which are traditionally our strongholds: Russia, Germany, Indonesia, UAE, and on and on and on.

How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?

This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally.

Nokia, our platform is burning.

We are working on a path forward -- a path to rebuild our market leadership. When we share the new strategy on February 11, it will be a huge effort to transform our company. But, I believe that together, we can face the challenges ahead of us. Together, we can choose to define our future.

The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same.


A Brand called "Citrix"

For years the Citrix brand has specialized in one particular niche: "Virtualization" and has become a synonym of this term. But what does “Virtualization” really mean? What miracle can it perform for average Information Worker’s desktop? Especially when the average IW takes his or hers laptop out on vacation! A recent USA Today poll headline read: “One in Five Brings Laptops on Vacation”. Are you one of them? (I know I’m in one of these freakish four). Why do we do this? Well, our hard drives contain years of work & play, the idea of losing a gigabyte brings along emotions of nightmarish proportions. Take a moment and think about the last time you had to access data from your computer and didn't have it with you. Not a good feeling right? “Information Workers” drag along theirlaptops around the globe challenging the old adage: “the lighter you travel, the farther you go…” Computers also contain our music, photos, videos, games and the never ending desire to connect to the web. But for some, been connected to the “business” is mission critical.

So what if I told you that the data on your desktop can be accessed from any device? Well that is exactly what Citrix can “virtually” do for you. It empowers people to take full advantage of the connected world; this means data following humans wherever they are.  Imagine empowering mobile IWs to reach their data and resources anytime on Smartphones, IPads or other tablet devices. Enabling a workforce fast access to answers and solutions means more satisfied customers & partners. The IPad App receiver for example lets you access your Windows PC, so you are using Office Applications thru anIPad

Bottom-line: flexibility to reach applications, software and processes on any device, anytime, at any location, also means increased productivity for IWs. IT benefits from the ease of deployment and reduced downtime providing organizations significant cost reduction. In addition, when the hardware is lost, the data is secure and easily accessible from any device (bet you love that one). In today’s 24x7 business, lowering expenses and increasing speed of reaction creates a positive impact on P&Ls.

So on your next vacations consider leaving the laptop on the office desk and carrying anew generation mobile device. In the future we can only expect to see more consumer devices able to tap into the corporate IT infrastructure, we may even manage to mix "work & play":D and I'm sure Citrix software will be there as a facilitator.

Marchandise it!

Brand Equity Powered by Social Media

Some large corporations are starting to recognize the power of social media not only as a means of communications with customers but also as a powerful feedback tool. Those who understand that this is not a trend but only the beginning are ahead of the game and will benefit from an early start. Ford as a good example has a coherent strategy tied directly to customer service. In minutes after tweeting via @emarchan10 in regard to my father in-laws' F150 truck that "melted" due to a short circuit, customer service took control. Swiftly the issue was taken offline.

On the flip side, in December 2010 I had an issue with the convertible top on my Chrysler Sebring, spent hours and countless days on the phone with the dealer and Chrysler Corp., with no resolution. Finally found how to fix-it myself without the dealership nor the manufacturer's support. Despite my best efforts to provide feedback on the issue itself and the resolution, no one from Chrysler ever contacted me. On the sideline I'm followed by 4 or 5 individual Twitter groups from Chrysler.  

The learning is having a coherent strategy with clear a process and protocol on how to address customers concerns. Customers tend to base purchasing decisions upon the latest interaction they had with a brand. This is why it's so important to make every communication count in favor of the customer's best interest. Repeated purchases happen when customers are satisfied. Probably Amazon is a good example where you have tools to make your transaction in absolute transparency. Pricing is clear, product alternatives, a community that comments & rates, a nutshell you feel empowered to make the right decision. To add the "Price Check" app for Iphone lets you scan bar codes and connect to the Amazon site to compare prices.

A brand, as well as a products or service require planning that ensures strategic integrity, this is why Marchandising provides a free assessment before anything. This gives you a very objective analysis of the brands current status and how to benefits from the core strengths. 

Edwin Marchan

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