The first month of spring was rich in news. After spending a week away from civilisation, I couldn’t believe the number of stories I missed. Facebook’s price tag grew again. Not unexpected, but 30% in six weeks is not even funny. Luxury Goliath LVMH has swallowed the previously family-run Bulgari; good news for Burberry’s shares. Finally, the birthdays of Twitter (5th) and Mac OS X (10th) and further success of LinkedIn (100 million user rich now) have been marred by the departure of Paul Baran, a visionary engineer and one of the great minds behind the Internet.

Marketing read

Thou shalt not lie
A small story with long-lasting impact: The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority will be keeping an eye on the corporate online media, monitoring companies’ claims about themselves. Dark day for ruthless PR practitioners- homepage headlines like “Johnson’s staplers make all your dreams come true” will have consequences now.

One of a kind
The media star of the month is, without any doubt, Charlie Sheen. Widely known for his predisposition towards seriously rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, the actor got fired from the very popular “Two and a Half Men” sitcom (CBS) a week into the month. What happened next will go down in the history of marketing. Hopeless lawsuit aside, the actor decided to capitalise on his image and opened a Twitter account. Within 24 hours he was followed by a million, setting a new Guinness World record. Within the next 24- the first offer, a $3m endorsement deal. Irrespective of what lies ahead, whether the stand-up shows or a career in music work out, I wish Charlie Sheen, flamboyant guest at a dull party, strong health and good luck.

Easy prey
Some say product placement tactics haven’t changed much over time. The industry knows a few legends, still in play today – Ray Bans in Risky Business, Reese’s Pieces in E.T. – placements that have changed the natural flow of products’ lives. Often rather blunt, product placements are rarely popular amongst the public. Due to various factors, their efficiency is also hard to determine with absolute certainty. Neuromarketing does not help making integrations more passable but it can make them considerably more efficient. The technique allows marketeers to integrate products and services into the moments of viewers’ maximal attention and emotional engagement, ensuring the utmost impact. Professor Uri Hasson of Princeton University calls it “neurocinematics“.

Starbucks goes into the light
McKinsey’s Allen Webb talks to Howard Schultz, the proud author of “How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” and Starbucks’ CEO. No matter what one may think of the world’s most famous coffee shop chain, it is hard to argue that the tanned gentlemen of the West Coast have built a huge business. In this interview, Schultz talks of mistakes made invisible by growth, plans, hopes and lessons learned the hard way.

Great viral
Released by Corning, the glass and ceramics company, this clip is not too informative and over 5 minutes long. Yet, it is one of the most powerful viral videos of late. Can a video that long about something as trivial be anything but excruciatingly dull?

Apple v World

Business read

Apple v World
Where would we be without such an active newsmaker as Apple? Following the steps of Paris Hilton, the company has sued Microsoft and Amazon for using the ‘App Store’ name. On a more positive note, the cool Californians have promised to bring iPhone to a wider market by developing a more affordable version of the gadget.
Last but not least, at the end of the month, one of company’s top legal advisers, Maximilian van Lime, has mentioned that his department is working on a case that would secure Apple Inc. the trademark rights over the name of the namesake fruit. You may think it’s a joke, but the International Farmers Union does not. Union’s scouts claim the gadget-makers are heavily lobbying the idea through their omnipotent members of the board.

Wag the dog
When does the fourth power becomes the third or, god forbid, the first? Rupert Murdoch, a man of many talents, has built a media empire. Is it just business and should he be able to grow it as much as his acumen allows or should we be cautious and take national security more seriously? News Corporation, the owner of hundreds of prime media assets, The Times to 20th Century Fox, has been allowed to take over the satellite broadcaster BskyB.

Spend some to get some
AT&T, the largest landline and mobile telephony provider in the United States, agreed to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. Whilst Randall Stephenson (CEO, AT&T) explains why one has to pay $39bn to gain $40bn in synergies and the consumers worry about their data plans, the deal will take another year to get through market regulators.

Google to control the knowledge of humankind

Tech read

Google to control the knowledge of humankind
It all began seven years ago, when Google decided to build an intellectual cathedral of 150 million scanned books and manuscripts. The project commenced with an agreement reached with several major research libraries to digitize their collections. The authors and publishers were predictably less enthused and sued. The initial settlement was reached in 2008 and confirmed by a judge in 2009. Three years, several appeals and over 15 million scanned books down the road, the venture suffered a heavy blow in Manhattan last week. It is unlikely to stop the programme altogether but will surely make some lawyers a little more affluent.

Staying relevant: Dell and HP in the mobile world
Dell and Hewlett-Packard are known as innovators. However, the increasingly mobile world changes in accordance with its own laws and bright ideas may take just a little too long bouncing off the walls of the huge office buildings. Will the companies adapt, transform and survive? Will they shed the non-core assets like IBM did in 2005? Tablets are taking over one flank, smartphones– the other; how many people will keep buying bulky machines by 2020? The server business isn’t doing that well either. Cloud computing allows people to store vast amounts of data on rented space and access it anytime, anywhere- why buy and maintain your own servers? The Economist offers a good analysis of the two business dominating companies trying to turn things around.

Info bites
Hwang Jenn-Chang of the National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan) suggests making gadgets more flexible by using liquid silk instead of plastic.

Qwiki may not challenge the likes of Google but its approach to displaying search results and reading the findings out loud will surely find its followers.

Comic relief

Comic relief

As we all know, a venomous Egyptian cobra went missing from New York’s Bronx Zoo, earlier this week. In a remarkable marketing twist, something that could have caused a poisonous PR bite turned into one of the best social media campaigns of the season. Should the snake be returned to its habitat before attacking anyone, the case will surely be studied by the marketing students and professionals alike.

In short, the glamorous but oh-so-human reptile has got a Twitter page followed by a swarm of followers. Intended or not, it is a great, and seriously funny, example of a spin.

Looking for the snake, the zoo keeper also keeps public up-to-date about his endeavours. His first tweet summed the disaster up with elegant brevity: “SH*T”.

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