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Once upon a time 6 - storytelling brands

Last year I missed out on the Once Upon A Time event that hosts a quartet of speakers who talk about what their brand means to them and how they built it up. Their story, hence the title, is much more than the product or service. It is about where they came from, what they stand for and the future.

The crux of these events, that Mark Masters from the ID Group puts on, is to show the importance of the company story and values, and the content that can be derived from that rather than the dry product information. The marketing approach and content approach has to touch a potential customer in a much more different than your competitors.

I unfortunately missed last year's event but was glad to have made it to this one held once again at the Shelley Theatre. This year there were these four speakers...

The show started off with Ernest Capbert, co-founder of Who Buys Your Stuff and previously co-founder of Finisterre. A colourful character, as they all are, and colourful as his language. It was all real, no airs or graces. Through sheer determination and not a great deal of understanding of their customers, Finisterre built a huge global brand and defined the Cold Water Surf scene. It was through the realisation that when asked who were their customers spending all this money on their products, the management team just didn't know, or had an assumption on a romanticised version of who they think are buying it, or who they would like to be buying it.

It was that total disconnect between the company's romantic view to that what the raw data would show, gave Ernest the direction of where he wanted to go next. A brave move. A totally different move - from building a product company to building a software/services company - in fact a customer research company.

By looking at the raw data of who is currently buying your stuff, hence their company name, and also asking the customers more about them and why, then you get a more informed picture of reality. Citing examples of where a website may be targeting young mothers with aligned words and photos, whereas in reality it is younger woman, with a party lifestyle. Getting that wrong will stagnate sales, getting that right will make it fly. So goes the theory.

His observation is find out who the lead personas are, as they will be providing 60% of the purchases, and then give that persona to a copywriter who can do their magic and really tailor the content. To use one of Ernest's favourite sayings, they will be "crushing" it.

Next up was Damian Lee, from Mr Lee's Noodles. Damian's story was of one from the brink. Having ran companies across the world, ending up in London with a leading recruitment agency in London for the financial sector and he finally settling down in Bournemouth with a digital agency on the up. That was when he was diagnosed with cancer and given a short amount of time to live. He fought the cancer through a diet of raw food and came out the other end successfully. His craving for healthy noodles during that time gave him the vision to start a business to bring a revolution in potted noodles.

He is steering a course that still leaves him in control but with a global partner and still having options left open. His story is not one of delivering mass market, low margin, low quality food product - it's one of total health and goodness. He's daring to be different and even the route to market is different as it's not only a product it is a service, as he has developed a vending machine that will dispense the hot finished product within a minute. And it won't be a faceless kiosk either, it will be a modern digital kiosk that opens up more possibilities in engagement and story telling.

I didn't get a chance to ask my question that would have been what challenges he faced in pushing forward a very Chinese ladened brand into the UK market place. Damian has kindly invited me to their offices so I can get to chat a bit more around this topic.

After a break Mark Walker from Eventbrite, the system that we used to book our places, spoke about how his approach to building their Blog as a major component of their website to draw people to the website and potentially become a user or customer of its services. Obviously as a commercial business it is trying to raise revenues by more people using its services, but the ethos behind that was as an enabler for bring people together through experiences.

The blog is not there to drily sell services by being punctuated periodically with company announcements, it was about giving and sharing real experiences, valuable insights whilst being fun and engaging. He said while we like success stories, the blog entries that centred on epic fails, when people share their failures, drew the most traffic. Maybe it's because of the honesty, or that we are british :-)

He is taking his approach to their US operation, so hopefully it is not a British phenomenon.

Last speaker of the day was the most local, it was Mark Cribb owner of the Urban Guild group of restaurants and bars. Hospitality is not an easy trade and unlike B2B sales, you can't readily choose who your clients are, it is whoever walks through the door. Turning a run-down hotel in Boscombe into something serving quality food and drink was not easy, and was done over time as a work-in-progress kind of project.

Winning the tender to open up a restaurant down by Boscombe Pier was even more of a shock and further hard work. A total shock as he wasn't expecting to win it and Urban Reef was born.

After the cafe in the Russell Cotes museum came Jenkins and Sons. Trying to create a new environment serving only craft beers and ales, rather than mass market dross from the big manufacturers took time but as we can see now, that is all the rage.

Mark's passion and inspiration came from his travels, from seeing first hand that even where people have virtually nothing in the poorest parts of the world, they can still be welcoming and create happiness over food and drink. The Urban culture is about changing the world one hug at a time. The concept of world means your world, the space that you inhabit and have contact with, not necessarily on a global level.

A fantastic afternoon where we were not pitched to, but just sat in on good honest conversation and stories.

I thought this was 2016 and not the 1980s…

I’ve heard many strange things in business but this week has been particularly peculiar and then outright shocking when I have had chance to digest things.

Whilst I may have my faults and weaknesses in business and in life, and success can be judged on many different relative levels, one thing that I do pride myself in is that I never want to act like a **** to anyone. (insert any appropriate four letter word you would like to use) I aim to act fair and ethically whilst maintaining a friendly and diverse work environment.

This week we had a supplier on site, someone we are paying for the service if not necessarily the pleasure of doing work for us. This was the second time they have been here, and it is actually an individual I am taking to task here rather than the whole company. During the first time, we thought this person’s interpersonal skills were a bit odd and slightly inappropriate at times, but we were heavily focussed on the task at hand. Time passed by when that piece of work finished, but it wasn’t forgotten.

So, come the second visit, the behaviour was much more noticeable and much more uncomfortable for a member of staff, and uncomfortable for me to see.

During his time here his interaction with women in general seemed to be different than towards men, an in particular with a member of staff from Eastern Europe, making quite pointed remarks along the way beyond what could be considered social niceties and chit-chat.

The final straw for me was during our closing meeting he mentioned Brexit and how that would affect the business as this person would need to leave the country. My member of staff calmly pointed out that it would be unlikely to affect people that are already here and working in any case. This is person had the gall to mention not if Nigel Farage got his way.

Having been caught slightly off guard and a little shocked, as is my nature I tried to make light of the situation. However, afterwards we did bring this to the full attention of the supplier and the matter is being dealt with.

For me, as a British Born Chinese person, to have someone in my office directing comments about people having to leave the country to my member of staff is very distasteful. It wasn’t like it was relevant or part of a wider socio-economic discussion, this was IT and business processes. Previous directed comments had included how well they spoke English and how we do things differently in this country. I am very lucky to have been able to taken on someone highly educated, having done a Masters at Bournemouth University, hardworking and fitted so easily into the team, where other “home-grown” applicants have fallen short on even the basics. Thank to the EU, this attitude and approach can help all small businesses and has been a positive impact on us.

The talk of people needing to leave the country was the mantra of the National Front and its thugs whilst I was growing up during the 70s and 80s, in a parochial English town. Being on the receiving end of that vile rhetoric is not a pleasant experience as a child but to have it invoked whilst giving the name of Nigel Farage any credence or validity, in my office is one step too far.

That individual will certainly never be back at our offices nor will that attitude ever be accepted here.

The incident made me recall the time when I was being interviewed in Birmingham by one of the Top-4 accountancy firms during my last year at university, whether my parents were part of the Triads. I thought it might have been one of those interview techniques where they through you a curve ball to see what happens. No, they were just being a ****, insert your own word here.

Heck, it was the 80s after all….

Unlike that time, at least this time I was able to say something, be heard and have something done about it.

Roots Restaurant in Southbourne

Thought I would just quickly post up this collage from when we recently went to the Roots Restaurant over at the other end near Southbourne Crossroads.

We want to go back another time and try out their tasting menu. The food looks fantastic and tasted great.


Rum tasting by The Floating Rum Shack

I spent an enjoyable cheeky little midweek rum tasting session up in the Library of Liquor, hosted by Peter and Pauline Holland from The Floating Rum Shack.

An absolute bargain at £10 for 6 tasting measures and 90 minutes of good insight into the world of rums, beyond that major brand that you mix coke with. Peter is very knowledgeable and this wasn't some brand manager pushing product so it was very laid back.

Read more: Rum tasting by The Floating Rum Shack

Lovely Southbourne on Sea

We got this picture from our friends for Christmas. It is from a local, well local to Dorset, artist called Richard Watkin who has been doing these stylised artworks from the local area. We love Southbourne, not sure you can tell, as it is very groovy.

Website: Watkin Art