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Welcome to the New Lantern blog. Our goal is to shine light on leading innovators and creative artists, and how your business can learn and profit from them. Companies large, medium, and small can benefit from employees who think more creatively. New Lantern may be just the source of inspiration your company needs to spark more innovative products, services, and processes.

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Archive for Tag 'customers'

Remembering a Lively Red Bull

Posted by on March 22, 2012 at 11:06 pm

The Red Bull energy drink founder, Chaleo Yoovidhya, died last week in Bangkok at the age of 89. Chaleo was worth $5 billion according to Bloomberg, which made him the third richest man in Thailand.

Chaleo was born to a poor Chinese immigrant family in northern Thailand in 1923, and was a duck farmer early in his career before importing antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, as reported by Time.

In 1962, Chaleo developed a highly caffeinated, sugary, non-carbonated drink, which he named Krating Daeng, meaning “red bull” in Thai. He targeted working class Thai consumers in an effort to build “the brand to convey strength and power.”

Red Bull soon became very popular in Thailand as the sleep-deprived began purchasing the high energy drink on a regular basis, including farmers, truck and taxi drivers, and factory workers.

Then in 1982, an Austrian toothpaste salesman, Deitrich Mateschitz, was traveling in Thailand and tried Chaleo’s drink and found that it cured his jet lag. Two years later, Mateschitz approached Chaleo and suggested that he carbonate the beverage and market it worldwide. The two men formed a 49-49 partnership with two percent of the company owned by his son.

And the rest is Red Bull history as they say.

Red Bull’s success spawned an entire high-caffeine energy industry. Over the years, numerous competitors have tried to emulate the Austrian-based Red Bull energy drink king, but none has quite measured up. Last year, Red Bull sold 4.6 billion cans – up 11 percent from the previous year. The Austrian-based company employs 8,000 worldwide.

Chaleo’s business empire included a pharmaceutical company, a hospital chain, a winery in Thailand and two international soccer teams: the New York Red Bulls and the Red Bulls Salzburg in Austria.

Throughout his career Chaleo was always friendly and kept a low-profile, preferring to let Mateschitz serve as the company’s more showy executive. His son Sarawut described his father as “lively and happy,” content with his work, and someone who “valued honesty and credibility.”

These ingredients are as important to one’s success as they are for building a global brand-leading energy drink. We all would be wise to follow the lead of this Thai business entrepreneur. And that’s no bull.

New is Good, Old Can Be Better

Posted by on January 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm

“New and Improved.” “Newly Renovated.” “New Leadership Team.” “New, Faster 4G.” “New, Better Tasting Formula.”

In today’s fast-paced frenetic world, the term “new” is losing its luster. Everything is “new.” Every “new” product is higher in Omega fatty acids, easier to use, more feature-rich, or is bigger than the previous model.

The humorous television advertisements that show a customer’s smartphone as obsolete the moment after she purchases it is not far from reality.

Of course “new” is not new in the world of business and marketing. For decades, businesses have been peddling their products and services as “new” in an effort to lure customers. And for decades, market research has supported this notion.

Yet, I may be bucking the trend here, but I’m willing to step out on a limb to say that “old” has never been better positioned to make a comeback.

Sure, when it comes to products, customers will likely want to shell out the most dinero for the newest versions. However, when it comes to business, there may be opportunities to embrace some of the “old” ways of doing things that could lead to greater sales, higher margins, and happier shareholders.

Take talent for example. Routinely, companies bring in new, fresh talent and work them hard over the first few years. This is the classic management consulting firm model. Newbies are cheaper, more apt to work longer hours, malleable, and come with less personal baggage like child care or parental care. What’s not to like?

There’s a time and place for new talent in any company. However, I would argue that the best deal and greatest value these days may be with the older and more mature cohort. Cheaper is not always better. And with personal baggage comes experience and valuable perspective. And malleable sycophants are definitely not the recipe in my book for improving your company’s productivity.

Companies should not simply look at employees as units of labor, but as a valuable resource that should be mined and nurtured. A team made up of at least several more mature team members is likely the team that will not repeat past mistakes.

And most importantly, a team member that is willing to speak up and challenge the status quo in a constructive way – based on years of experience – is better positioned to add value to the bottom line, not take from it.

So look around you and embrace the old. Not every time, but when it is wise to do so. This newfound wisdom may be just the ticket for your company to compete in the new global marketplace.

The Gift of Inconvenience

Posted by on December 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm

If you’re like me, you’re still finding gift cards that you received last Christmas, but never used.

Oh joy, with Christmas 2011 only 11 days away, we’ll soon be starting the gift card mania all over again.

Try going to any store these days without being inundated by gift cards from scores of retailers. The supermarket. The drugstore. The office supply store. Even the 7-Eleven down the street has umpteen variety of gift cards. I guess that’s why we call them convenience stores. But is there such a thing as too much convenience?

Standing in the checkout line of any of these stores, you can find yourself an arms-length away from any number of brightly colored gift cards from places like Barnes and Noble, Applebee’s, Best Buy, and Bass Pro Shops. Hey, don’t snicker. Bass fisher men and women need a little love during the holidays too.

What happened to the good old days when you had to actually go to an individual store to purchase that store’s gift card, or God forbid, purchase a gift itself? And try giving someone a $50 American Express Gift Certificate these days, redeemable like a traveler’s check. They came in matching gold-colored envelopes and made a great Christmas or graduation gift. Nowadays, you might as well try giving someone a rotary dial phone.

I must admit that I too find it hard to resist buying a gift card or two each year for that special someone — or not so special. It’s easy, and requires little thought or planning. Isn’t that the American way?

Let’s try something bold and new this holiday season. Physically go to a store and actually buy a real gift for that friend or loved one. And pay extra to get it wrapped by a human being.

In fact, make it a point this year to demonstrate a little inconvenience. Go out of your way. And do the same with your customers and clients. You’ll enjoy the results and the good cheer it will bring.

Happy Thanksgiving and Beyond

Posted by on November 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Now is the time to give thanks to your employees, customers, clients, shareholders, partners and all those who help make your company hum.

Better yet, I suggest that you carry the Thanksgiving spirit with you throughout the remainder of the year and into 2012. No company or organization ever succeeds alone. It is always a group effort.

By demonstrating a little humility and thankfulness, you’ll greatly increase the chances that your company will be around next Thanksgiving and many Thanksgivings to come.

Using the Old Bean

Posted by on November 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Nothing says November like the feel of wearing a wool sweater from L.L. Bean.

I’ve been a fan of L.L. Bean’s no-frills, long-lasting clothing products for over 30 years. They are comfortable, affordable, and always get the job done.

If I had a dollar for every “Blucher Moc” moccasin shoe that L.L. Bean has sold over the years, I would, well, have a lot of dollars. The shoe is timeless and iconic, and the product description today was the same 30 years ago: “The handsewn upper conforms to your foot for a fit that only gets better with time. Traditional rubber sole has channel grooves to provide traction on wet surfaces.” Current retail price: $69 a pair.

If it ain’t broke, keep selling it. Or something like that.

L.L. Bean owes its success not only to great products, but to great customer service. Year after year, L.L. Bean ranks among America’s top 10 companies for customer service according to the National Retail Federation, based on written surveys of over 9,000 shoppers.

The company was founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean in Freeport, Maine — a place that knows something about the importance of keeping warm and dry. Today, L.L. Bean’s flagship store and campus is still in Freeport on the original site where Bean opened his retail business.

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the 200,000-square-foot flagship store draws nearly three million visitors each year.

Next year marks L.L. Bean’s 100th anniversary. Few companies on the planet survive long enough to celebrate this milestone, much less one that is still at the top of its game. The company’s annual sales now top $1.5 billion.

L.L. Bean wrote the book on succeeding as a mail-order business, and decades later was able to successfully pivot to capitalize on the e-commerce revolution. Like its famed Blucher Moc, L.L. Bean has been able to effectively adapt and conform “for a fit that only gets better with time.”

Yet, L.L. Bean’s current President, Chris McCormick, knows that the company’s success will continue to rely on its commitment to putting the customer first: “It goes back to L.L.’s Golden Rule of treating customers like human beings.”

That’s using the old bean from which we all can learn.

Some Old Dogs Take Top Innovation Awards

Posted by on October 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm

In October, the Wall Street Journal announced the winners of its 2011 Innovation Awards.

Compared to previous years, winners this year included big company names such as IBM, Novartis, Intel, and Abbott Labs. Start-up companies have traditionally dominated the stage for the innovation awards, but not this year.

A team of Wall Street Journal editors and reporters chose this year’s winners from among 605 applications from companies, organizations, and individuals in 31 countries. A total of 35 winners and runners-up were chosen in 16 categories.

Novartis won in the Health-Care IT category for a project that tracks medical supplies in Africa. IBM took home a bronze award for its supercomputer system, Watson, which defeated two grand champions this year on Jeopardy!

It’s refreshing to see award-winning innovation coming out of large, mature companies. It shows that old dogs can learn new tricks that can serve to excite employees, customers, and shareholders.

Whether your company is large or small, you should look for ways this coming year to unleash an innovative spirit among your employees focused on a critical objective, such as a new or improved product or service.

You’ll find that the journey to get there will pay dividends for your company even if you don’t bring home the gold, silver or bronze.