Sunday, February 28, 2010

ICA To go - for time-starved city Swedes

Are city Swedes ready for ready-meals? ICA, the largest food retailer in Sweden appears to think so with the launch of ICA To go – a new convenience food retail concept for time poor city dwellers. The new concept will be focused on providing fresh food, ‘fast to cook’ food and ready-meal solutions for time-poor, and (most likely) fairly cash rich city folks. The first shop will open on busy Kungsgatan sometime later this spring. The move also follows the success of Gooh, the innovative ready-meals initiative by Lantmännen. After five years in the Stockholm region where Gooh is moving from strength to strength. The Gooh movement is now moving over the Swedish west-coast with 18 so called ‘shop-in-shop’ retail spots opening across Gothenburg during February 2010. From its launch until this day Gooh hasn’t really faced any serious competition. Tthe ICA move is a sure sign that this privileged situation won’t last forever. The interesting thing will be to see what kinds of food ICA have dec ided to offer time-starved city folks and professionals. Gooh’s offer is hard to beat with their offer of high quality, premium ready-meals based on their co-operation with Swedish maestro chef Stefano Catenacci.

Well, this sure is an interesting development in Sweden, where we don’t yet have the convenience food retail concepts similar to e.g. Tesco Extra, M&S Food and Sainsbury’s Local that one can spot on any high-street in the UK. So,soon I’ll be back with my first report after visiting Ica To go. Being one of those time-starved people I hope it will be a positive one!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is this the stove of the future?

I like to see innovative thinking - this time it comes from Swedish kitchen appliance manufacturer Electrolux. Is this the stove of the future?

What do you think?

Where are the differentiated brand positionings in the world of banking and insurance?

That's a good question. I'm just in the process of transferring my home insurance and it suddenly struck me that I feel no loyalty whatsoever to the company that has been my home insurance provider for years. No, instead I'm sick of being ignored as a customer after having paid more than 5000SEK a year for a number of years. Where are the customer benefits or the perks? Why don't I feel special or valued? I'm moving on. And this time I will change to a provider that will be probably be equally rubbish at making me feel special - but this time for 3500SEK per year.

So, what's the problem - why don't these companies try to differentiate themselves and their brands? Is it simply that they don't feel the need to be different? They somehow inherit their customers (the child goes to the same bank as the parents...), tie them to the bank by creating difficult transfer systems (Anyone out there who's keen to swap retail bank?). In the UK some 10 years ago there were a number of online banks that did a great job of creating differentiated brand positionings. One of those is Egg. I loved the way they communicated their brand as youthful, fun and energetic. I've personally never used them as a bank but I think they've done fairly well for themselves. Apart from Egg - another bank that is different and has made me feel special and valued as a customer is First Direct in the UK. These banks have a clear view of their target group. They understand their banking needs. For First Direct this has resulted in an amazing level of customer service and a matter of fact, simple, personal and non-interfering style.

In Sweden I've got nothing to report on when it comes to different brand propositions in the world of banking. But hopefully new names like e.g. Avanza, might realise the potential of brand when it comes to engaging with and creating long lasting loyalty with consumers. We will see!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Benefit - the fresh thinkers in the world of cosmetics

When I visited New York a few years ago I came across Benefit, the wonderful and very creative cosmetics brand for the first time. Benefit is one of those brands that just stands out as special and different in a premium cosmetics category where most brands appear to go after the same target group with the same products and very similar positionings. Well, Benefit sure is different from those brands. It positions itself as the girlish cute, ultra feminine and tongue in cheek premium cosmetics brand for women who are proud to embrace the positive aspects of 'girly'. And the execution of their positioning is clever too. They've got an amazingly creative product portfolio with products to prove their worth. I bought my first Benefit product recently when travelling through KL airport. It was the Hello Flawless powder and... it's far better than any powder I've tried recently. It's the first Benefit product I've bought - but it certainly won't be the last. Unfortunately though, Benefit still doesn't have a presence in Sweden... So, I have to save my money for now. But I do want to be a Benefit gal!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Saab Spyker Automobiles - what's in a brand name?

This is one of the questions I get back to every time I read a new article discussing the take-over. I think the new Saab Spyker brand name just sits so well on the tongue... 'Saab Spyker' - it sounds different, it sounds bold and it sounds fast!
Will the Saab Spyker cars deliver against those criteria? I don't know... only time will tell. But if they are clever and play their cards right they might have something very powerful there... Think about Apple, think about Orange, think about Innocent or any other truly different brand name that you've come up against that sits really well on the tongue... If those names represent the embodiment of differentiated, challenging, niche positionings that appeal to a specific (and perhaps fairly affluent) target group they stand a fairly good chance of doing well. However, I'm also very aware that I say this purely from a brand perspective. I'm surely not an engineer, and I'm surely not a financier either...

So good luck Saab Spyker! Whilst sorting out your financing and engineering, don't forget your most powerful asset - the brand Saab Spyker. If you play your cards right, the Saab Spyker brand will last and flourish. Who knows, I might just crave the latest edition Saab Spyker one day just like I'm currently craving the Apple Iphone...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Santa Maria shows off new concept called 'A more spicy Africa'

Well, I've been quiet for a while but now I'm back again...

So, what's new? Well, I just spotted this new and 'spicy' spice concept by Santa Maria, an innovative swedish food and spice company. It's called 'A more spicy Africa' and includes four new spice products inspired by the african food and taste culture.

The range includes: Durban Curry, Green Harissa, Chermoula and Piri Piri. All presented with a touch of 'african cool' when it comes to product and range design. To present the range Santa Maria also use the Swedish master chef Markus Samuelsson, internationally famous with his well-known NYC restaurant Aquavit. Nice touch (albeit a bit costly?)!

What do you think? Hit or miss? I personally love the idea. The african food culture is certainly one to watch when it comes to new and trendy food flavours. The one thing I would be worried about when spending money on this launch is how swedes will be educated to use the african style and very new flavours and spices in their cooking. I hope the Santa Maria people have a clever communication plan. And I would personally love to learn more about african spices and cooking myself... so bring it on Santa Maria!