Archive for February, 2011

How now, Purple Cow?

Posted in book review/summary on February 24, 2011 by gohelpyourself

A purple cow is better than a brown cow. (Purple Cow by Seth Godin, Portfolio 2002; photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu)

by Anthony O. Alcantara

A purple cow refers to something remarkable. It’s something that stands out in an excellent and extraordinary way.

Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow, wrote the book to document, well, purple cows. These can be companies or people or concepts that are essentially remarkable.

With the popularity of his books and blog, Godin may well be the new patron saint of marketing. It’s easy to understand why. He’s a purple cow himself.

He claims the five Ps of marketing are not enough. These Ps — product, price, promotion, physical distribution and people — need another P to make it all work better.

Many know the five Ps already, but they don’t know how to be remarkable. Godin shows how in his book. Purple Cow contains many case studies of purple cows. And readers can dip into it for inspiration. Godin sprinkles his prose with key takeaways in bold text preceeded by an octagonal symbol.

If you don’t have much time to read the book, you can just read the introduction and the key takeaways. Just dip into the interesting parts where the key takeaways seem brilliant to you.

For example, one of his takeaways is, “Instead of trying to use your technology and expertise to make a better product for your users’ standard behavior, experiment with inviting the users to change their behavior to make the product work dramatically better.”

He explains how Otis, a manufacturer of elevators, exemplifies this. In order to make elevators work better and reduce waiting time, Otis came up with a system where people just key in their floor using a control panel. The control panel then flashes the specific elevator they have to take.

With some smart software, the elevator essentially becomes an express elevator. The results? Shorter waiting times and fewer fraught nerves.

Godin combines remarkable with being different most of the time.

He says, “What tactics does your firm use that involve following the leader? What if you abandoned them and did something very different instead? If you acknowledge that you’ll never catch up by being the same, make a list of ways you can catch up by being different.”

No copycats for Godin, except if it’s done in a creative and remarkable way.

Purple Cow is indeed a treasure trove of ideas. It cites many remarkable companies that have found their purple cows.

Another takeaway: “Ask ‘Why not?’ Almost everything you don’t do has a no good reason for it. Almost everything you don’t do is the result of fear or inertia or a historical lack of someone asking, ‘Why not?’”

So why not read this book? Well, if you’ve already found your purple cow, don’t bother.

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(This book review also appeared in PLDT’s ACC:ESS magazine.)

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Football Madness: The search for new sports idols

Posted in miscellaneous on February 15, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Girls' eyelids flutter at the sight of Phil Younghusband. But my eyelids refuse to budge. He's my Idol Number 2, though.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

It is the perfect seat. Next to the area of the VIPs at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, it is the best place to be. I make myself comfortable in the first row of the grandstand where the hoi polloi are supposed to be. This is going to be an amazing experience, I tell myself.

I’ve never watched an international football game before. Though I’ve heard about the Azkals, especially with the hype generated by Phil and James Younghusband, those two very good-looking bastards, I’m not much into kicking balls. I prefer to smash them with a paddle on top of tables.

Sadly, however, table tennis is not so cool in the Philippines. Not enough good-looking players I suppose.

Nevertheless I’m excited to see a great game of football between the Azkals and the Mongolian team, whose compatriots have won a lot more Olympic medals than Filipinos have. I’m also excited to see the new sports idols that many Filipinos have come to worship.

Soon, however, people start congregating at the area just in front of the first row. They can’t find vacant seats anymore. The pathway is there for people to walk on so they can get to their seats.

But nobody’s walking. And they seem to think that the people behind them would be entertained by their jiggling buns. Instead of pinching those buns, some people seated on the first row ask everyone to sit on the floor instead.

It worked. But not for long. Just before the game started, they stand up again to get a better view. So those of us on the first row get up on our feet, too. Earlier, I was told there were 16,000 tickets given out and sold.

I suppose there are more than that number of people at the stadium. The announcer introduces the players. Loud cheering spews out from the crowd. I squint my eyes to see their faces. I barely recognize anyone, even the good-looking bastards, especially since they’re just the size of my right thumb’s fingernail.

Maybe it’s better to watch the game on TV, I tell myself. There are about five rows of people in front of me. The game starts but I still can’t get a good view. I tiptoe. Every 10 minutes or so, I sit to relieve my calf muscles.

The Azkals warm up before the game as their German coach, Hans Michael Weiss, looks on.

I see a girl wearing a football shirt with “J. Younghusband” printed at the back. Another is wearing a white t-shirt filled with signatures, which I assume belong to the players. I’m with fanatics. And it’s not a good idea to mess around with these people.

Suddenly I hear loud cheers. I see Chieffy Caligdong running and rejoicing. Later on I learn how he made the goal. He kicks the ball up over the head of a charging opponent, then he kicks the ball again right between the legs of the goalie.

How could the goalie let that happen? Between the legs? Ridiculous. But it was a brilliant move by Caligdong. He has become my Idol Number 1.

Disappointed by not  seeing that first goal, I decide to find a way to squeeze my way to the railing so nothing will block my view. After about 15 minutes, I manage to get to the third layer of the crowd before me. The view is better, but still not ideal. I see the numerous near goals of the Azkals and I yell together with the crowd.

Finally, during the break after the first half, some of the people in the first two layers of the crowd take a leak or get a drink. So I quickly advance to the railing. At last, the perfect view.

I come to enjoy the people around me. One radio reporter gives a blow-by-blow account of the game. I can’t imagine people listening to a game of football over the radio. Golf or chess would have been okay. Not football.

I see Marc Nelson and Dyan Castillejo at the VIP area. I take pictures.

The Azkals don’t make much progress in scoring another goal, though they seem to dominate the game. So I take a break and take pics and videos of things I find interesting around me.

That’s when Phil Younghusband makes another goal. Shucks, I missed it again, I cry out. I find out later on in YouTube how Phil made the goal. It’s not as impressive as Caligdong’s, but it’s a goal nonetheless. Phil Younghusband has become my Idol Number 2.

The jubilation is electrifying and infectious. I have never thought that watching a football game live, even if I don’t see much of the players, can be this exciting and satisfying.

The Azkals' bus doesn't get much publicity. So I'm including it here.

Later on at the victory party at the Azkal’s hotel, the fans, particularly the girls, surround the players, especially the good-looking bastards, and ask them if they could have their photographs taken.

I see the girls flutter their eyelids at Phil Younghusband. And I see them tilt their heads as if offering their necks to a vampire.

After the first batch of fans leave, I approach Phil Younghusband and say, “Can I have a picture with you?” He smiles. But he fails to make me flutter my eyelids and tilt my head.

I now have a pic with my Idol Number 2.

I fail to get a picture with Idol Number 1, though. The crowd is getting crazy, and I see the next batch of fans line up. The half-Filipino players, who share the same table, get a disproportinately huge share of the traffic. The players who have no English accents get a trickle. They lump at another table.

Am I seeing a cultural divide? I ask myself. These guys need to gel more.

In any case, the Azkals have played an outstanding game. May their quest for excellence be an inspiration to Filipinos.

I feel like fluttering my eyelids now. It’s time to sleep.

 

Philippine flags are everywhere. Some are on people's faces.

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Are companies giving enough?

Posted in social responsibility on February 2, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, says companies can do more for the poor.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Every time I receive my payslip, my eyeballs drop from their sockets  whenever I see that entry called “withholding tax.” I don’t know if the eyeballs of the owners of big companies also pop out when they see their payslips, but the question is, “Should companies give more?”

If you ask Manuel V. Pangilinan, an accomplished Filipino businessman and chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), they should.

PBSP, founded 40 years ago when the poverty rate was 50 percent, is an organization supported by member-companies who donate money and expertise to help solve poverty and its related problems.

Since 1970, it has implemented over 6,500 projects in health, education, livelihood and the environment, managed P5.2 billion in grants and donations, and helped 6.4 million Filipinos to have better lives.

But poverty remains. Our economy is still in a cryogenic state, and many are demanding that President Noynoy Aquino do something to make it gallop like a horse.

“Poverty today has grown so large, and has become more complex compared to what it was 40 years ago,” said Pangilinan in his speech during PBSP’s 40th Annual Membership Meeting and Foundation Day Celebration recently.

Forty years ago, with a population of only 37 million, there were about 18 million living below the poverty line. Today our population is approximately 94 million, and with a poverty incidence of 33 percent, it means we have about 31 million impoverished Filipinos.

Despite all the technological, political and economic advances we had since 1970, the number of poor people has increased.

For Pangilinan, effective poverty amelioration will need two things: innovative solutions and more grants and donations.

Innovative solutions, he said, involve such things as sustainable livelihood programs and microcredit, a concept popularized by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunnus.

Pangilinan also said donations and grants must also “increase to a quantum that will make a difference.” A quantum may be infinitesimally small, but Pangilinan is right in saying that more donations are needed.

PBSP’s grants and donations in the last five years amounted to P1.8 billion. Pangilinan wants to increase that amount to between P4 billion to P5 billion.

So why should members of the PBSP increase their donations? And why should companies join PBSP?

Well, just as people have different motivations in losing weight, companies have different motivations and inspirations for striving to be good corporate citizens.

Some give more to help promote a good corporate image. Some give more to help market its products and services. They call it enlightened self-interest. Some give more because they believe that doing so helps more people to prosper. More prosperous people means more will buy their products.

“We come together to honor a single powerful idea,” said Pangilinan. “The idea that business can do more than do business, that we can change lives, and transform society into something more than a marketplace.”

“We’re tied together in life, in this nation–that a person becomes human not as individual, but in community, that the despair of one touches us all.”

I guess people will always question companies’ motivation for being good corporate citizens. But that shouldn’t prevent them from doing social work.

The world’s richest man today, Mexican Carlos Slim, doesn’t believe in corporate social responsibility. He believes that the jobs he generates and the services he provides through his companies are enough.

But the two other richest men in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two men who have occupied the top slot in the world’s richest list for far longer, think differently. They’ve already committed to donate most of their wealth to charity when they die. And many are following their example, not in the extent of their donations, but in the spirit of giving.

To give or to give more? That’s a question that companies could consider today.

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(If you want to learn more about how businesses, whether big corporations or small and medium enterprises, can help eradicate poverty, visit www.pbsp.org.ph)