Monday, April 25, 2011

AÉSOP: Australia's First Luxury Brand

Update: 23 Feb 2012 - An article in the Sydney Morning Herald provides a facinatining insight into Aésop and the methodical thinking of the founder Dennis Paphitis. Additionally there are a couple of figures quoted including:

  1. Aésop's like-for-like growth in Australia was up 30 per cent
  2. This financial year will be the first in which total sales outside of Australia will be greater than sales in Australia

If you don't know Aésop ( and you have an interest in Brand Management, Consumer Goods or Retail then I strongly suggest you take note of the truly amazing experience that is Aésop.

Founded in 1987 by Dennis Paphitis in Melbourne Australia, Aésop is establishing itself as Australia's first true luxury brand. (Here is a good article from Mark Ritson on the complexity involved in establishing a luxury brand). The business has grown steadily over the last 20+ years and now has signature stores in capital cities throughout Europe, Asia and Australia. In early 2010 Harbert Australia Private Equity acquired a "significant minority" stake in Aésop that enables Aésop to continue its growth strategy. The company has recently announced that by the end of 2011, it will open 4 new stores in Manhattan. Like many private companies Aésop's financials are not readily available however I would be surprised if the company's growth was not the envy of most businesses out there. However as with most great privately owned brands, I don't think it is their numbers that drives them (caveat: the PE injection may inevitably change that)

Whether it is the incredible designs of their stores, the familiarity of the hand wash basins in all stores (even in concession stores), its signature pharmaceutical bottles wrapped in very simple black and white cream labels with philosophical quotes, or the founders' ethos of “Simplicity, integrity and authenticity”, Aésop is a brand whose attributes appear unwavering.

If you have not, or do not think you will, have the opportunity to visit a store in London, Tokyo or Paris I strongly urge you Google the images and see for yourself the statement this brand makes in its focus on design.

The reason I am mentioning Aésop is that in today's world where retail execution is so boring and uninspiring, and consumers scour the net for their retail experience (simply a price driven activity), Aésop remains a benchmark for all brands. As an aside if you would like a research driven piece of what makes for great retailing here is a paper you may find interesting. My own personal view is that Aésop absolutely nails the 5 senses element (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) in both their product and retail environment and it is the fact that Aésop is able to arouse these senses that helps deliver such a great retail experience.

Here are a couple of articles on Aesop. Some are very old but they point to the origins and heritage of the brand values and hence make for interesting reading:,776

Favourite quote:
"Of course we have celebrity customers and I'm sure many of them would have no issue with being nominated, but it's not our way," declares Paphitis. "Let's just say in terms of fabulous Aesop moments we haven't surpassed the day that (actor) Catherine Deneuve took Yves Saint Laurent shopping for Aesop in New York."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Under promise and over deliver

Tom Peters is a smart guy. He is the author of many books but none more famous than "In Search of Excellence". Tom is credited with saying "Formula for success: under promise and over deliver".

I am sure most of you will read this and say that is an obvious statement. But why is that everyday, companies seem to go out of their way to do the exact opposite.

Airlines, Banks, Retailers, FMCG companies.....I could list them all. Whether it is advertising or customer service it doesn't really matter the fact that many customers end up disappointed seems to suggest:
a) Abraham Lincoln was wrong. We the people are foolish!
b) Tragically this has become the norm and the mass market just accepts it.

It is interesting though to think about companies that do exactly what Tom Peters suggests and end up creating the WOW factor.

APPLE is the obvious company that springs to mind. How many times have you heard someone say "It just works". Talk about under promising, although many will argue it provides an accurate insight into the delivery and use of technology forced upon the average user.

Imagine if people spoke about airlines in the the same way i.e. "It just flew"

Which brings me to why I wrote the blog. Take a guess. I was either:
a) bored and had nothing better to write
b) recently traveled on an airline that has a lounge where people crowd over each other to eat off a tea saucer, painful queues to get on the plane, long wait before we took off, average service and the obvious.. we were late on arrival!

At least I can say, "It just flew"!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My No. 1 Networking Lesson

Like many others out there I try to network as best as I can. There are a number of blogs, books and articles available that focus on networking but personally I find the strategy is often easier to formulate than the actual outcome (execution)

However I was taught a lesson by Jon Burgess ( that I have found absolutely invaluable and with Jon's permission I would like to share with you.

Basically Jon told me "When you meet someone don't think about what the person can do for you but think about what you can do for them personally". In other words, it does not matter who you are meeting, don't think about how they can help you or what you can sell them etc. Think about how you can help them personally. I took this on board and even though I was hesitant when I met very "senior" execs I still thought I would give it a go.

So every time I meet someone as part of a focused networking opportunity I ask the question, "Is there anyone you would like to meet". You will be amazed the difference it makes when you become a connector. On a side note don't think that Senior Execs do not want to network. Senior Managers may be trying to sell a service, CEOs may want to be directors, Private Equity want deals bought to them etc etc.

Immediately you move from being a person on the end of the phone or table who wants something, to being someone on the end of the phone who can offer something...MASSIVE difference but one that will help ensure you build a genuine and valuable network.

Monday, April 11, 2011

12 (plus more) things good bosses understand

Prof Bob Sutton has a fantastic article in HBR call 12 things good bosses understand. You can read the article in its entirety here:

What I particularly enjoyed was reading the various comments on his blog.

The points I wanted to share from the comments were:

1) Even though I'm the boss, I too can be replaced, and on that note I'm equal to my employees and should act accordingly.
2) I am accountable and responsible for the success and failure of my people. If someone in my team screws up it's because, more often than not, they were not set up adequately for success


People need to know 3 things
1) To know what's expected.
2) To know how they are doing in terms of those expectations
3) To know how you(as their boss) are going to help them get there.

Great advice for those looking to execute better!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spending marketing money...the social way

A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to be taught Brand Management during my MBA by Associate Professor Mark Ritson. I rate Mark very highly as he is not simply an academic theorist who has written for HBR ( but he understands the real world and complexity in executing great brand strategy.

Mark writes for the UK publication Marketing Week and a recent article of his - - caught my attention.

I highly recommend you read the article as I believe it demonstrates a case of execution gone wrong driven by the flawed strategy.

Favourite Quote
"An overt focus on social media had blinded Pepsi to the realities of its market. It was not marketing a movement, it was marketing cola. Marketing at Pepsi should have never been about conversations or dialogue - it should have been about reminding consumers what Pepsi stands for and encouraging them to go buy it."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Improving Email

Email is part of our lives. Whether you use an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird or a web based service like Google, Hotmail or Yahoo there be is no doubt the email experience can be better executed.

There are a number of services, free and paid, that attempt to improve aspects of your email software.

Xobni is my preferred program for Outlook. I have found the search capability incredibly useful. At present I am a beta tester for Xobni for Gmail and again I am impressed by the integration into gmail and the search functionality. It is interesting when you consider that Google is the No. 1 Search provider on the planet yet the reality is others can take Gmail and improve the search function. Makes me think about execution.....

Other tools use may want to consider:
Email Social Connectors - Gist, Rapportive
Tasks = Remember The Milk, Toodledo
Contact Manager - There are a bunch out there but considering what they charge I'm happy using Outlook Contacts

Finally if you are in to GTD (Getting Things Done) have a look at Jello Dashboard. Considering it is free it is very impressive.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My first post (since 2000)

This is my first post..... in around 11 years. Before blogs were common place I had a personal website built using Frontpage. I used the site to update friends and relatives of our lives (wife and I) whilst we were living overseas. Back in 2000 there was no Facebook (which I do not use...anymore) so I had to come up with my own way of keeping everyone updated.

So here I am some 11 years later and back on the web.

I intend to use this blog to share my thoughts but also share other blogs and articles that I find of interest.

As the title of my blog suggests I have an interest in strategy and how the strategy is executed. Nowadays everyone has an opinion and the world is filled with opinionated theorists and strategists. I admire those that get it right and those who at least gave it a real go....and got it wrong.

Additionally I also have a keen interest in technology and how it impacts our daily life. Again the focus on implementation and execution is what where I like to focus.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Comments Policy

I love comments on this blog however I am aware that spammers are prolific users of blogs, like Execution & Strategy. As such I have put together a simple comments policy to assist readers of this blog.

  1. I delete spam 
  2. Relevant links in comments are welcome
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