What do you call a vegetarian beef burger?

24 May 2019

Regular readers of this blog will know I am somewhat obsessed with the names of companies, products and services.

So often during my advice clinics I ‘help’ my clients discover the name they had chosen for their business has already been registered as a trade mark at the UK Intellectual Property Office. At this point some of them say they will no longer be able to start their business without the name they had their heart set on.

I explain that any name can work for a business. As long as it is legal, available and memorable. For example who would have thought these names based on fruit would have become associated with successful ventures (including the most valuable brand in the world).

Apple

Apple2

But, if you can come up with a great name for a business then so much the better. For instance what would you call a vegetarian beef burger? A Vurger of course. And that is exactly what The Vurger Co has done.

Vurger-co

You can read their story in detail here, but it is interesting to see that the idea started with health issues in a similar way to Deliciously Ella. And they way they initially tested the concept with a market stall. The best way to get feedback on a new edible product. I’m looking forward to finding out if they taste as good as they look.

Now I think about it, perhaps Vurger is too good a name, and they risk committing ‘Genericide’ in the long-term. This BBC website article explains how some brands that became household names lost the rights to their very own trade mark. ‘Genericide’: Brands destroyed by their own success. Maybe they will need to follow Google’s example and publish “rules for proper usage” of all its trademarks.

 


The future of motorbikes is electric

23 October 2012

Kawasaki KR1-SI normally leave the coverage of all things patent related in the capable hands of my colleague Steve van Dulken and his Patent Search Blog.

However, Steve is not the keen biker I am (nor the owner of the best motorbike ever created). So he is unlikely to have come across this story in the latest issue of Bike Magazine.

It is about a patent for an electric motorbike from Honda in Japan. And I have to admit I struggled to read all 19 pages of the patent application. But my understanding of the innovation, is the use of smaller electric motors located near the rear axle. This avoids the need for a traditional chain to provide motive power from the engine to the rear wheel.

The point of this story is that you can use patents as a form of market research. It is unlikely Honda would go to the trouble of protecting this idea if they weren’t planning to launch an electric motorbike in the near future.

You can read more at the Espacenet website. US Patent: US8028785  (B2) ― 2011-10-04 ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE or European Patent: EP2168858  (B1) ― 2012-06-06

Honda_electric_bike

Honda_electric_bike2


Royal Diamond Jubilee, Olympic and Paralympic souvenirs

23 September 2012

diamond_jubilee_rain_050612-matt-web_2239104aIt has been quite a summer in Britain this year, and I’m not just talking about the weather.

First we had lots of celebrations and events to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The biggest was the rain lashed Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, with 1,000 boats assembled from across the world. Once again the Telegraph cartoonist Matt (left) summed it up perfectly.

Then we had the London 2012 Olympic games, closely followed by the Paralympic games (not ParaOlympics as some thought).

In keeping with the business nature of this blog, I’ve been keeping an eye out for memorable memorabilia for these three ‘once in a life-time’ events.

maamiteI think my favourite has to be the Ma’amite jar adapted from the long-standing Marmite brand. It’s a bit cheeky, but not too disrespectful of the Queen. And it seemed to find favour with supermarket buyers, as it seemed to appear in everywhere during June. In case you bump into her Majesty, you will need to remember it’s pronounced Mam as in Jam, not Ma’am as in arm.

A rather less respectful, but also best selling product was the Diamond Jubilee Sick Bag. This was a natural follow up to graphic artist Lydia Leith’s unusual souvenir to mark the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. There is a strong tradition of not taking those in power too seriously in the UK, so it was not such a surprise to see this novelty item become something of a best-seller.

Diamond_Jubilee_sick_bag

Waving_QueenI actually prefer the Waving Queen toy, whose solar power handbag meant she would give a proper royal wave whenever the sun came out. I was given one as a present, so took her on holiday to France where she made a great impression on the local gendarmes. We were even given a formal salute, and a french accented ‘God bless her Majesty’, as we drove through a police road block in Normandy.

We spent the holiday trying to perfect the energy saving royal wave twist of the hand.

Waving_Queen_in_Normandy

Waving Queen on tour in Normandy

I think my least favourite item has to be from the Royal Mint in the shape of these specially produced five pound coins. For some strange reason they have chosen a particularly grumpy looking Queen to go on the back (or is it the front). By the way, how do you call heads or tails, when the coin has only heads?

Queen_Diamond_Jubilee_five_pound_coin

Moving on to the London 2012 Olympics we have a rather motley set of  memorabilia.

Anything that is encumbered by the dreaded 2012 logo is damaged goods as far as I am concerned, even if I have not been taken in by the ridiculous Zionist conspiracy theory.

Olympics_logo

Thanks to the post games sales, I managed to pick up a Wenlock for a knockdown price, so am now in possession of this slightly scary cyclops.

Wenlock

You can read the background to Wenlock and Mandeville on Wikipedia. I tend to agree with the critic claiming that the pair were the product of a “drunken one-night stand between a Teletubby and a Dalek”.

I have to admit I haven’t seen any of these for sale, but the Olympic Condoms story is too good to miss.

Apparently 150,000 free condoms were given to athletes participating at the London Olympics, which is 50% more than at the Beijing Games in 2008. That works out to 15 condoms for each of the 10,500 competitors who stayed in the Olympic Village.

olympic_condom

olympic_condom_advert

At the other end of the cost spectrum are signed framed photo montages of previous Olympic champions. For example one signed by Kelly Holmes, Daley Thompson, Steve Redgrave, Seb Coe and Chris Hoy is a snip at £1,000.

If you fancy an umpire’s chair or other more practical souvenir of the games such as a super-long bed, just visit Remains of the Games website.

Adam_Hill_GamesmakerI have really struggled to find any specific Paralympic souvenirs, so I think I will have to go with the knitted Adam Hill. Adam was the host of The Last Leg, the surprise hit TV show of the Paralympics.

A fan of the show decided to create a knitted Adam Gamesmaker and to auction it on eBay for charity. Thanks to extensive use of Twitter on the show, the auction went viral and when last heard the bid price had exceeded £30,000.

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Postcript:

It seems as though I wasn’t the only one to be worried by Mandeville and Wenlock. Although on the positive side perhaps my £2 purchase above will be a collectors item in the future. How Mandeville and Wenlock derailed Hornby.


Arganic Oil a niche Success Story

6 August 2012

Arganic_Argan_OilDespite being a ‘jack of all-trades and master of none‘ librarian, I have to admit to not having heard of Argan Oil before. But thanks to Dana Elemara the founder of Arganic I now know much more than I did.

According to Wikipedia Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree. It is found in Morocco, and is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties.

The Arganic Oil website expresses it more evocatively:

Argan oil is one of the healthiest and rarest oils in the world coming from the UNESCO protected argan tree. Often nicknamed ‘liquid gold’ this oil was the Berber people’s secret for centuries

It takes approximately 15 hours and 30kg of fruit to produce just 1 litre of argan oil. This lengthy process involves skilled handwork that has been passed down from generations.

In late summer the argan fruit ripens and falls to the ground where it is gathered. It is then laid out in the sun to dry. To make the oil, the dried outer fruit is first removed, then, using traditional artisanal techniques involving stones, the seeds are extracted from the hard inner shell.

Argan TreeUp to this point everything is done by hand, furthermore it is only women involved and this employment provides not only a good source of income in a poor region but an opportunity for them to gain independence. The process is governed by cooperatives who also give these women access to free education, and use some of the profits of the argan oil trade to benefit the local tribes and communities.

The seeds are then cold pressed to extract the oil. Nothing is wasted in the process, the fruit pulp is fed to cattle and the leftover seed pulp is used as fuel. At Arganic we have strict controls at every stage of production.

Dana had attended a couple of events and courses at the Business & IP Centre, but is still relatively new to the library. But it sounds like we have already been of help.

‘I trademarked my name only after being aware of it through the free IP seminar at the British Library and it was one of the best things I could have done at the start of my business as I have come across and won IP issues since.’

Here is her story:

Dana had heard about argan oil through relatives that were raving about it but found it difficult to get hold of in the UK. It was then that she decided to leave her mathematical and corporate background behind and the idea for Arganic came about. Luckily Dana had friends living in Morocco who put her through to the right people and the more she learned about this oil the more she fell in love with it and the important social impact it plays for women in Morocco.

Update

I’ve just received this exciting update from Dana:

What a lovely post, thank you so much. There have been so many things happen since we last met, details on my last newsletter here, including TV appearances. Also last week my argan oil won a gold award from The Guild of Fine Foods, and today I found out that I won a Shell Livewire Grand Ideas award which gives me £1000 and free PR. They said I achieved the highest points in my category, and am now in the run for Young Entrepreneur of the Year which is announced in November. So I am extremely pleased right now.

I am still visiting the library and recommending the business centre constantly.

All the best, Dana

Arganic founder Dana Elemara

Arganic founder Dana Elemara


Inspiring Entrepreneurs event – Going for Gold – report

28 May 2012

Stephen_FearMany thanks to my colleagues Michael Pattinson and Gail Mitchell for reporting on this successful event.

Last Wednesday evening the British Library hosted the latest in the series of Inspiring Entrepreneurs events called Going for Gold which featured an audience with the Business & IP Centre’s new entrepreneur in residence Stephen Fear.

Stephen has 50 years of business experience and is involved in our new Innovating for Growth Programme which nurtures existing businesses and helps them grow over a 12 month period. He was joined on stage by two of the participants in the programme, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup and Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Following a brief introduction from Frances Brindle, Head of Marketing at the British Library, chair Matthew Rock started proceedings by asking Stephen about the origins of his entrepreneurial spirit. He talked candidly about his early childhood spoke about his first business venture as a teenager which involved sourcing the formula for an oven cleaning solution from the US and enlisting the help of friends on the estate where he grew up to make up the product. He famously used a telephone box as his office and managed to charm the telephone operator to pose as his secretary.

After much deliberation about which job title to award himself on his business cards, he finally decided that trainee salesman was more appropriate than president or chairman considering he was so young, he set out to make his first sale. After being ejected by the receptionist at Hovis he managed to convince one of the managers who was outside having a cigarette to see a demonstration of the product. He was duly impressed and placed an order. How did he convince him? He told him that he would lose his job if he didn’t get to demonstrate it to someone.

There were several lessons to the story. Always believe in your product and make sure it works; use whatever ‘guerrilla’ tactics you can to market the product; and make sure you approach the decision makers, don’t waste your time trying to sell to the receptionist.

Stephen proved to be a very engaging speaker, down-to-earth and keen to share his entrepreneurial know-how with the audience.

Mandy_HabermanMandy Haberman joined Stephen on stage and spoke about the initial success of her Anywayup cup. She has some new products in the pipeline which she is going to manufacture herself with the help of funding including a baby feeder which emulates breast feeding. After talking about how difficult it was to secure funding Stephen told the audience that businesses will always face such challenges but it’s how you react to those challenges that matters. Matthew Rock asked him if he had any tips for businesses looking for funding. He recommended the British Bankers Association’s Business Finance for You website as a good starting point.

Cate TrotterCate Trotter from Insider Trends was up next. Cate runs a trend spotting service which includes trend tours and talks for clients ranging from large corporations like Marks & Spencer to SMEs. She is currently expanding from being a sole trader. Stephen made the point that this can be a dangerous time as you need to entrust parts of the business to other people who may not share your passion and commitment.

Stephen urged the audience to spend carefully when you are building up a business and to avoid what he called unnecessary fixed overheads such as an expensive office space or a company car. If you put a set of BMW keys on the table people assume you have a BMW, so just get a set of keys!

Mandy pointed out that you can mock up packaging to save money. Stephen came up with a very useful tip called “tacking on.” Some packaging companies may be prepared to package your products cheaply at the end of a run for another client, especially if they think you might be putting more business their way in the future.

Matthew Rock thanked the guests for their insight and then asked the audience if they had any questions. Somebody asked if having a limited company was preferable to operating as a sole trader. Stephen felt that aside from the issue of liability, the legal status of the business was not that important because it was the individuals involved that were important.

Someone else asked for advice about trading overseas. Pick an English speaking country or at least a country where you are familiar with the language and culture, said Stephen. Mandy suggested using international distributors who know the market and have the infrastructure in place already.

Nick Nair at the back of the auditorium told Stephen that if he didn’t use this opportunity to give him a bottle of his product, Flavour Dash, his boss, (ie his wife) would give him the sack. To applause from the audience, he ran down the steps and presented Stephen with a free sample, employing the very same guerilla marketing tactics that Stephen had recommended earlier in the evening.


The Apprentice hits the mark with gourmet street food

25 April 2012

Lucky_ChipThis evening’s Apprentice shows the show’s researchers have their ears to the ground with regard to the latest trend in street food retailing.

Pop-up shops selling gourmet fast food is all the rage in the trendier parts of London these days.

Luckily the Kings Cross development area is just one such place, with its Eat Street, just up the road from the updated eponymous station, and literally across the road from the recently opened University of the Arts.

I have been lured over to this new venture on numerous occasions, despite the relatively high prices compared to traditional fast food outlets. But the food has always been worth it, with a notable spicy burger which had a real bite to it.

As was pointed out during this weeks Apprentice episode, branding is a key element of any enterprise, and some of the stalls in Eat Street certainly have memorable names. My favourites are Daddy Donkey, Well Kneaded Ltd, Yum Bun, Hardcore Prawn, and Eat my Pies.

tongue-n-cheekHowever, I think that Tongue ‘n Cheek needs to find a way make its delicious sounding underrated meat cuts and Italian inspired street food treats, such as Ox cheek with caramelized onions and polenta, a bit more accessible given the queue size I observed the other day.

These names certainly compare favourably to the Apprentice team’s choices of Gourmet Scot Pot and Utterly delicious Meatballs.

Update: August 2012: I’m now a regular at Eat Street as their days and stalls expand all the time. I’ve just had probably the best burger I’ve ever tasted from Tongue ‘n Cheek. It was their Heartbreacker Original burger, made from Ox heart and dry aged beef burger, spicy chimichurri sauce, water cress, cheddar and sour cream. And it tasted amazing.


An Aga Saga blog – to write home about

19 April 2012

aga-ladyI last blogged about Aga cookers way back in June 2008 (Aga goes Web 2.0). Well, they have finally seen the social media light (Blogging for fun and profit) and started a blog.

Rather painfully it is called The World According to Lady Aga, I’m guessing Lady Gaga is unlikely to take action, as she has against Moshi Monsters (Lady Gaga wins injunction against Lady Goo Goo) and the Icecreamists (Milking a story for all it’s worth). After all the AGA brand is nearly 60 years older than Lady G.

On the positive side, it does publish some interesting facts about the expensive cookers (AGA inventor was a Nobel Prize winner), as well as some tasty recipes. And, more importantly, it has a sense of humour, with AGA Characters: Retired Rock Chick, and AGA Characters: Yummy Mummy just two examples.

So the occasional post about new product launches or expansion into new territories can be easily forgiven.


Personal Paralegal: The Social Media Dos and Don’ts to Protect Your Privacy

3 April 2012

1384549_93705926b_httpwww.sxc.huprofilechidseyMany thanks to Fiona Causer from Paralegal.net for writing this useful guide to Social Media Privacy.

In this day and age, it behooves everyone to use social media to some degree – and it can be a great and fun way to keep track of friends, promote a product, or interact with customers. But with this freedom of idea and information exchange has come a new platform for privacy to be compromised by Internet predators, governments or even potential employers with whom one may be seeking employment.

With these cases of privacy violations on the rise, they have become a key topic of interest to paralegal schools looking to equip their graduates with the correct tools to navigate the murky waters of privacy law.  With social media usage sky-rocketing, more accounts of privacy violations will surely arise.  In order to protect your privacy, there are certain Dos and Don’ts that need to be kept in mind when using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Foursquare.

Do:

1.     Follow the sites you are on regularly. If someone posts to your wall or says something unflattering, inappropriate or untrue about you, you want to be able to react within hours, not days or weeks.

2.     Know the privacy policies of each site. Reading the fine print can be a drag, but it allows you to understand what information is publicly viewable, what information is shared with other companies and what options you have in protecting yourself.

3.     Think before you post. You may write things or provide information that you later regret. If you’re angry or upset, wait a few hours before posting.

4.     Make sure that you have the latest security updates installed in your computer. This is just generally good advice. Also, consider downloading Facebook’s security software to further protect yourself.

5.     Keep your credit card and bank information to yourself. With the ubiquity of online purchasing, there’s a tendency to get a little too free with one’s financial information. If you’re not on a secure site with the intent to purchase, there’s no reason to provide this information.

Don’t:

1.     Don’t accept requests from strangers, particularly if something seems fishy. They may be after your password, or attempting to pass you a virus. Check out who they are before clicking on any links they provide.

2.     If you’re an individual, don’t provide your exact address, particularly on Foursquare. People can tell when you’re on vacation – publicly letting them know that you’re out of town, while also showing them a map to your door is a bad idea.

3.     Don’t let unflattering photographs be tagged. Facebook will allow you to un-tag any photos taken of you. Make sure you’re in control of your own images.

4.     Don’t post without proofreading. Spelling errors, clumsy grammar and typos all serve to make you look bad – and it gives view to a private thought process that you may want to keep to yourself. In other words, no reason to show others your first drafts. An extra minute and you can look much better.

5.     Don’t keep an account if you’re not going to use it. Especially if you’re running a business, having a Twitter account (or other account) that is only used once every five months is worse than having no account at all. Plus, because it appears that you’re inattentive, it’s ripe for poachers, who may start using your account to spam others connected to you.


The Deeley Bopper rises again for Sport Relief 2012

22 March 2012

Deeley BopperThis evening I stumbled across a Deeley Bopper in a Sainsbury’s supermarket on my way home from work. In its current incarnation it is being used to raise money for Sport Relief 2012.

The Deeley Bopper or Deeley Bobber is one of my all time favourite ‘inventions’. I’ve used quotes because this multi-million selling innovation from the creative mind of Stephen Askin in 1981, is not actually registered as either a patent or even a trade mark.

Although I am definitely not a fan of the object itself, and you are unlikely to catch me wearing one out in the street (or in the house come to that), I use it as a great example in my business innovation work.

One of the strict rules we apply when we meet clients for our confidential Information Advice Clinics, is never to give an opinion on their business idea or invention. And the main reason for this, is however many years one might have in business, it is impossible to tell what will be successful – and vice versa.

The Deeley Bopper provides the perfect illustration. I just ask my colleagues to imagine how they would have reacted if Stephen Askin had come in for an advice session, and asked for their opinion on his latest business wheeze. I can imagine my response would have been something along the lines of; “You have to be joking. No one will buy those”.

And yet they sold in their millions in the 1980’s and appear almost as popular in their revised ‘Red Nose’ guise today. So, however stupid an idea might appear, it can still make a fortune for its creator.


Open Innovation: Working with others to make new ideas fly

24 November 2011

My colleague Nigel Spencer, Research and Business Development Manager reports on our exciting workshop next Monday 29 November:

OIlogo_text

Do you have access to all the skills, knowledge, experience and perspectives needed to develop innovative products and services within your own organisation?

No matter how large that organisation is, it is highly unlikely that you do.  If you seek input from other businesses, often in different sectors, customers, and others you are much more likely to identify innovative ideas and solutions and to build the type of partnerships which will help you turn those ideas into sustainable products and services.  This simple premise is the basis of open innovation.

Stefan Lindegaard 15inno says that people should view  open innovation as ‘a philosophy or a mindset that they should embrace within their organization. This mindset should enable their organization to work with external input to the innovation process just as naturally as it does with internal input’.

So,you should not look at  open innovation as a rigid business or innovation model. It  is a shorthand that describes a diverse range of engagement and collabration activity with differing levels of formality and structure.  Examples of these include crowdsourcing, online competitions, online jams and more closely facilitated relationships. There are many examples of  global corporations that have applied open innovation methods. These include  ‘Orange’, Procter & Gamble, Boots, Lego and Virgin Atlantic but the growth in social media and online open innovation platforms like Innocentive, mean that anyone can find a way of applying open innovation principles.

However, if you are looking to embrace the world of open innovation, or even dip your toe in the water, a number of perceived and genuine barriers and challenges may make you hesitate. Some of these are:

  • How to make the contacts needed with external organisations and people and develop long-term mutually beneficial relationships. This a particular concern if the businesses are of differing sizes.
  • How to overcome the internal organisational cultures which may be uncomfortable with the kind of openness, transparency and perceived loss of direct control which are involved in applying these ideas.
  • How to protect ideas and creative outputs when these are being shared and an uncertainty as to how intellectual property fits into an open innovation environment.

On 29 November 2011 the BL is hosting a half-day conference which looks at these challenges head on.  It is called ‘Open Innovation: The Challenges & Solutions’.

We have brought together a great selection of experts and practitioners from organisations like 100% Open, Creative Barcode, Procter and Gamble and Quantum Innovation Centre to debate these issues.

More information and booking on the event.

The event is part of an EU-funded Interreg IVB NEW project called The Open Innovation Project.


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – A monster of a book about a monster of a man

24 November 2011

Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_IsaacsonMany thanks to Debbie Epstein for giving me this amazing book as a present.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson is the only authorised story of the life and death of one of the most influential figures of the last 50 years, who died on 5 October this year, aged 56, from pancreatic cancer.

The book is something of a monster at 627 pages, and chronicles Steve Jobs‘ life from his childhood, through the creation and early days of Apple computers, his battles with Microsoft, his sacking and 12 year later return to the company he founded. Isaacson managed to interview Jobs himself over forty times, and tracked down more than a hundred friends, family, colleagues, competitors and adversaries.

I found it a compelling read, and managed to complete it in less than a week. It is perhaps the most honest and revealing authorised biography ever written of an industry leader. Isaacson uncovers both the amazing stories behind the revolutionary products Apple produced. However, he also reveals something of a monster of a man.

Jobs was a sensitive person, perhaps more so due to being adopted at birth, who spent several months wandering across India in his youth looking for spiritual enlightenment and followed Buddhism for the rest of his life. But he could also be the most manipulative and down-right nasty person it is possible to imagine. So much so, that his early colleagues referred to his ability to distort reality to his own ends (Reality distortion field even has its own Wikipedia entry).

Having been something of a computer nerd as a teenager in the mid-1970s I first came across his creations in the form of an Apple II computer. As you can see it was some way from the sleek and sexy design of the more recent iMacs. So reading the story of how Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed these machines made for riveting reading.

Apple II computer

Although he made many mistakes along the way, as well as many enemies, and a trail of broken colleagues, his vision and passion resulted in products which have truly revolutionised the computer industry, and made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Steve Jobs was that he never felt the need to conduct market research (something we recommend all our clients in the Business & IP Centre should do). Instead he worked on creating ‘insanely great’ products people would discover they didn’t know they needed until they saw them.


Visit to the British Invention Show 2011

31 October 2011

British_Invention_Show_logoAfter a couple of years absence I decided to re-visit the British Invention Show (BIS). For this year they had moved from the echoing halls of Ally Pally in north London, to the recently revamped Spitalfields market in east London.

For sixteen years Spitalfields  had been my regular lunchtime haunt, so I was curious to see how much it had changed since its rebuilding. The area now consists of a mixture of shiny new office buildings, trendy boutique stores and restaurants, as well as the traditional brick-a-brack and jewellery market stalls based in the old food market. The visit got off to an expensive start when allowed myself to be lured into a branch of Montezuma’s  chocolate shop and purchase a bar of Brighton’s best ethical chocolate ginger.

The British Invention Show exhibition space had been built underneath the market hall and was smaller than I was expecting. However, once inside the material ‘roof’ meant you forgot about the market outside and concentrated on the exhibiting stands.

As in previous years the number of British inventors was really quite small, compared to those from abroad, especially from Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. There were even a few from Iran.

However, as in the past there were still a few exhibitors who made the trip worthwhile for me.

An additional incentive for going along was an opportunity to meet Tara Roskell writes two excellent blogs – graphic design blog and Ideas Uploaded, about inventing and licensing. She interviewed me December last year, so it was nice to finally get to meet her in person. We teamed up to question the more interesting inventors at the show, and you can read her critical review of the exhibition (British Invention Show 2011 Hit or Miss).

MIBA_barcelona_logoFirst on the list was a set of intriguing ‘inventions’ from the Museum of Ideas & Inventions Barcelona (MIBA). These included:
–    A dining plate with a mirror in the middle (to help those on a diet)
–    Fluorescent dog biscuits (to help pedestrians avoid putting a foot wrong in the dog poo blighted streets of Barcelona)
–    A floor mop with a built in microphone (for those ‘X-factor’ moments while washing the floor)
–    A single bed with a ‘home and away’ score board (unknown dubious purpose)

Pep_Torres

It turned out that many of these wacky inventions were the brainchild of famous Spanish designer and promoter Pep Torres. They are not intended for production but to stimulate visitors to be creative themselves. Children who visit the museum are encouraged to draw their inventions, and each month the best ones are awarded a patent by the Spanish patent office.

Our guide to the MIBA stand – something of a miniature version of the museum located in central Barcelona, was passionate about this new venture. And explained each of the real and imaginary inventions with great enthusiasm (with the notable exception of the Single Bed which she seemed rather embarrassed about).

As Tara and I were leaving she offered us a red pill from a large glass bowl. I assumed this was the traditional exhibition freebie sweet, so was rather surprised when she stopped me swallowing, it and insisted I open it up to reveal a rolled up paper business card.

She responded to our puzzled expressions by referring to the famous scene in the Matrix film; After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Freedman_chairThe other highlight for me was meeting the enthusiastic inventor of the  FreedMan Chair – Simon Freedman.

He is an osteopath by profession and and has spent many years and even more prototypes developing his unique solution to lower back pain.

I have to admit it does look a bit weird, but having never regreted spending £800 on Scandinavia’s finest ergonomic seating in the shape of an RH Logic 400 over ten years ago, any chair that relieves back pain is worth investigating.

Simon explained that his seat does not need cushions because we all come equiped with inbuilt human cushioning

The concavity of the FreedMan seat pads provides support around the ischial tuberosities in such a way that the need for padding is reduced and even eliminated.

Located around the tuberosities are the ischial fat pads and further out are the buttock muscles. The concavity of the seat pads around the tuberosities supports these structures and hence the body provides its own cushioning. In chairs with flat seat pads, the pointy tuberosities push through the surrounding layers, which soon causes discomfort.

You can read much more technical information about the development of the FreedMan Chair on his website.

It was great to hear that Simon is a fan of the Business & IP Centre and has been a regular visitor as his chair developed.

I look forward to hearing much more about this exciting re-invention of the chair.


Baby Beamers another Success Story for the Business & IP Centre

18 October 2011

Baby_Beamers_esther_smallBirgitte Lydum recently got in contact with some lovely comments about her experiences of using the Business & IP Centre.

I first went to British Library’s IP & Business Centre in 2009, when I realised that I needed help with pretty much everything to do with my business idea – a multi-configuration pram cover. I’d just moved past the point where I thought a good product idea was enough, and had realised that I was going to need to educate myself on many levels, before even hoping to succeed getting the product on the market.

So I signed up for seminars on the subjects of intellectual property, business plans, market research, marketing, business finance, a one-on-one with an invention specialist, a one-on-one with a successful entrepreneur, and three hours of free market research with a full report delivered to me – just to mention a few of the amazing services available. I also attended several brilliant networking events listening to and meeting various well known and inspirational entrepreneurs. Many of the people I’ve met at these events, fellow business owners I’m still in contact with today.

Baby_Beamers_logoI was blown away by the quality of the seminars, the staff’s helpfulness, and the amount of information available to me, all for free. I had no idea that there was so much to learn in this wonderful building, buzzing with ideas, creativity, enthusiasm and determination. A bit annoyed with myself for not discovering the place earlier I decided to go there whenever possible, to focus, to learn and to develop my business in the best possible way.

One day, when preparing my patent application in the quiet, clean and comfortable computer area of the centre, I was encouraged by a staff member to try a one-to-one with one of their Information Specialists, who in my case turned out to be Julie Simpkin. It’s without a doubt one of the best decisions I was to make for helping my business materialise. In just one hour Julie taught me so much more about what I wanted from my business than I’d ever be able to learn by myself, from a book or the internet.

For me, she had the effect of a really good business/life coach. We discussed my ideas for the product and the business, and gave me a lot of constructive and sincere encouragement. Julie was the one to suggest that I separated the company name (Baby Beamers) from the product name (SunSnoozer, instead of Baby Beamers Pram Cover), in case I wanted to add more products later. Good practical advice like all the other nuggets of brilliant advice I left with. She made me commit to my goals there and then by getting me to sign a to-do list for our next meeting, and I floated away from there, head and notebook crammed with new ideas, and a much better and clearer understanding of what it was that I wanted from my business.

Baby_Beamers_esther_and_birgitte

Baby Beamers

Baby Beamers Ltd was founded by Danish designer Birgitte Lydum, when she realised that a pram sun cover she had invented to protect her baby against the sun and make it easier for her to sleep, filled a gap in the market. After numerous prototypes, extensive market research and product testing the SunSnoozer is now available to buy. Other products to help make life easier for new parents are in development.

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Baby Beamers:

  • Encourages better sleep by eliminating bright light and visual distractions.
  • Allows constant view of baby, while still eliminating direct sun or wind.
  • 7 different configurations allow full protection no matter the wind/sun’s direction.
  • Easy access – no need to detach cover when lifting baby in and out of pram.
  • Can be left on the pram, saving valuable storage space. Machine washable.
  • Fits easily under rain covers, mosquito nets and any other pram accessories.
  • UPF 50+ (click HERE for test details, and further info on baby sun protection).
  • The ultimate no fuss, all-season, all-round pram accessory for new parents.

British Library and the Open Innovation Project – Working with others to make new ideas fly

14 October 2011

My colleague Nigel Spencer reports on an exciting new project at the British Library:

Working with others to make new ideas fly is the strap-line for a European Union funded project to promote open innovation principles across the North West Europe region.  The British Library is a partner in this three year project along with partners from France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland and other parts of the UK.

OIlogo_text

openinnovationproject.co.uk

The concept of open innovation is simply that by being open to external input you are more likely to develop innovative and successful products or services. This is because it is unlikely that any single organisation will have all the skills, knowledge, experience and perspectives needed in-house. Open innovation covers a range of types of activity including crowd-sourcing, co-creation and includes activities with varying levels of openness and transparency.

Stefan Lindegaard from 15inno says that people should view  open innovation as ‘a philosophy or a mindset that they should embrace within their organization. This mindset should enable their organization to work with external input to the innovation process just as naturally as it does with internal input’.

Examples of organisations that have applied open innovation are:  ‘Orange, Procter & Gamble, Boots, Lego and Virgin Atlantic.

There are a number of perceived and genuine barriers and challenges which prevent businesses of all sizes from taking the leap to applying open innovation principles; Some of these challenges are:

  •  How to make the contacts needed with external organisations and people and develop long-term mutually beneficial relationships. This a particular concern if businesses are of differing sizes.
  • How to overcome the internal organisational cultures which may be uncomfortable with the kind of openness, transparency and perceived loss of direct control which are involved in applying these ideas.
  • How to protect ideas and creative outputs when these are being shared and an uncertainty as to how intellectual property fits into an open innovation environment.

On 29 November the British Library is hosting a half-day conference which looks at these challenges head on.  It is called ‘Open Innovation: The Challenges & Solutions’. We have brought together a great selection of experts and practitioners from organisations like 100% Open, Creative Barcode, Procter and Gamble and Quantum Innovation Centre to debate these issues.

More information and booking on the event, and you can follow the Open Innovation Project on Twitter at @OIProject


Effective Writing And Communications with Kimberly Davies and Steve Trister

15 September 2011

Kimberly_DavisYesterday I attended another of Kimberly DaviesMarketing Masters days. This time the topic was Effective Writing And Communications and featured guest speaker Steve Trister the creator of Performance Dynamite.

I not sure if Kimberly is a geographer at heart, but the four days I have attended have been located in south, east, north and now west London. I’m not sure where she will go next now we have covered all four compass points.

One of the consequences of moving to a new location each time, is that the rooms often have technical glitches with the sound or vision, or in yesterdays case, both.

Kimberly copes with these challenging starts to the day with an impressive level of  professionalism and humour.

steve_TristerKimberly spoke for most of the day and was excellent, however the highlight of the day for me was actor and business coach Steve Trister the from Performance Dynamite..

He walked to front of the room wearing a doctors mask and mumbled something to. That got our attention. He then asked us to name the number one disease in business. We came up with a range of suggestions, but failed to give the correct answer; Vomiticus Contentinaatum – otherwise known as puking content, or verbal diarrhoea.

I have to admit that working in one of the largest libraries in the world with over 150 million items in our collection, this is a disease I am all too well aware of falling prey to.

The cure to this disease is to make an emotional connection with your audience (of one or more). This of course is much easier to say than to do. So you need to prepare, by building the right mindset.

You need to tell yourself every day that you are already connected to your audience, then you need to mentally rehearse by visualising the event in advance (some of which will be scripted, and some not). This is similar to the way professional athletes prepare for a competition.

You need to be clear on the emotion you want to conjure up, be in state (or in the moment with no distractions), and to commit 100% to the performance.

Steve had investigated the famous research by Albert Mehrabian on non-verbal communication. He found the commonly quoted result, that clues from spoken words, from the voice tone, and from the facial expression, contribute 7 %, 38 %, and 55 % respectively to the total meaning, is wrong, as it it relates only to the communication of positive versus negative emotions.

Our voice is critical to how we communicate to our audience, changes in vocal emphasis (the stress we put on specific words) can completely change the meaning of what we saying. He asked how often do we take note of how we are actually speaking. He explained that our tongues are muscles, so we should exercise them using tongue twisters.

He also covered body language and the use of gestures, and how these can be used to reinforce or undermine our verbal messages. He said we should practice expressing our business activity in the form of charades. This made my mind boggle at how I could show the British Library through mime.

Steve illustrated each of these points with victims (sorry volunteers) from the audience, and guided them through. For the final example he had a professional photographer give an excellent and clear mime of his business.

Finally he said we should find an emotional story that will relate to your audience.

Needless to say Steve used all of these techniques during one of the most engaging and memorable presentations I have ever seen.

You can see a YouTube video of Steve in action, and an interview with Smarta.com.

Here are my notes from the rest of the excellent day:

Learn the 20 rules of communication that should never be broken

Kimberly’s no. 1 life lesson;
“You can reach anyone in the world with, seven phone calls or less, saying the right thing.”

Statistics show that 50% of marketing spend is wasted.

Led to the idea for Sarsaparilla – to detox your marketing – Marketing Purification

Definition of marketing
Anything that affects the perception of your company. From logos to staff behaviour.

You are exposed to 4,000 brands every day. So how does your business stand out?

Know your audience
–    Who is your target market?
–    Who is your idea client / decision maker?
–    What motivates them?
–    Profile (gender, age, health, wealth, culture, interests, position, salary, budget, etc)

Then put yourself into their shoes.
–    How can you make their life easier?
–    What is in it for them?

Then find your voice (written language).
–    Who would narrate your content?
–    Think of a character of personality best suited – perhaps Steven Fry for the British Library
–    Who would your audience relate to and want to hear? Admire? Look up to? Believe
–    Imagine their voice each time you create marketing content

Keywords
–    Ten words that best describe your business – For the Business & IP Centre: innovation, inventions, information, support, advice, help, entrepreneurs, business-startup,
–    One word that best describe your business – knowledge

Unique Selling Point
–    What truly makes your business unique – For the Business & IP Centre: The largest free collection of free market research and business information in the world, with expert guidance.

USP
–    You need to be the only…
–    Everyone says, great staff, customer service etc. That is not unique
–    Sarsaparilla – the only marketing purification agency
–    Try to be everything to everyone and you will be nothing to no one.

Misconceptions
–    Write down misconceptions about your company and industry
o    The British Library is a only accessible to senior academics and authors.
o    The British Library is a very big public library.
o    The British Library only has books.

Testimonials
–    Stronger to have others say it for you
–    One to address each misconception – a maximum of five
–    Keep them really short
–    Use white papers and case studies

Focus on the benefits for your customers
–    List them – information, advice, contacts, training
–    What problem can you solve?
–    How can you make their life easier? – a clearer view of what they need to do to start their business

Key Messages
–    What are the three key things you want people to remember about your business?
o    Business & IP Centre at the British Library at St Pancras central London
o    Free workshops and advice
o    Free access to market research and business information.

Branding
–    The trust people have in your company
–    Consistency – with the rest of your business
–    People will judge you from how you look

Professional photos
–    Stock photos are too common – better to use your own commissioned ones

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
–    You have two seconds to make an impression
–    8 year old level reading age for printed materials
–    Get straight to the point
–    Bulleted lists are good, with verbs to start
–    Every word competes

Formula for success and to avoid writers block
–    I’ve got all this information, now how do I organise it?
–    Reverse pyramid order – most important to least important
–    Start with the ‘lead’ – who, what, where, when, how

Navigate
–    Map out where you want them to go
–    Tell them what you want them to do

Incentives
–    Free downloads
–    Upgrades
–    Gifts
–    Discounts
–    Occasion
–    Expiration date
–    First 10 receive
–    Etc

Call to Action
–    Create urgency
–    Why should I stop what I’m doing and buy NOW?
–    Now or lose your audience

Ask questions – keep the dialogue going
–    Show a sincere interest
–    Surveys, feedback, phone
–    What questions would you want to know for market research?

Relevance
–    How can you connect your business to current news?
–    Have an opinion
–    Share your views – become an expert

The Elevator Pitch
–    What is it?
–    The most important tool
–    People decide whether to file or forget you
–    Get everyone in the company to memorise
–    Use it everywhere – keep it consistent – brochures, home page, flyers etc

The who, what, where, when and how of your business

I still think Sarsaparilla’s elevator pitch is the best I have come across;

50% of marketing is wasted. Sarsaparilla is a marketing consulting and training agency that specialises in marketing purification – the process of detoxing your marketing, protecting you from The Flash, Fluff, and Fakers, and helping you make more money with less.


SquidLondon brighten up a rainy autumn day

12 September 2011

emma-jayne_parkes_and_vivian_jaegerSomething of a surprise on my way home tonight to see a full-page advert for our Success Story SquidLondon in the Evening Standard.

Fashion graduates Emma-Jayne Parkes and Viviane Jaeger founded SquidLondon after being inspired by Jackson Pollock. They thought it would be cool to walk down the street, it starts to rain and your clothes turn into a walking Jackson Pollock.

Their first product, the Squidarella, is an umbrella that changes colour as it rains. Developing such an innovative product meant that intellectual property – protecting their ideas – was an essential topic to crack. The pair visited the Business & IP Centre to learn more about how intellectual property applied to them.

Squid have now moved to the bathroom with their latest product : ‘Miss Squidolette’ Shower Curtain!

Miss_Squidolette-Shower_Curtain


How to revive a brand

5 September 2011

On the way home from a recent road trip to Scotland, I made a ‘pit-stop’ at a McDonalds restaurant near Birmingham.

I’m not a regular customer at the ‘golden arches’, so was very surprised to discover a waterless urinal
with a sticker on it saying it saved 100,000 litres of water a year.

urinal

Copyright Sorven Media ltd

This is all part of McDonalds’ efforts to combat the negative press that has built up over the years. In particular the reaction to ‘McLibel’ case and reaction to the 1994 documentary film Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock.

McDonalds have created a website to allow you to Make up your own mind, which currently contains 24,000 questions and answers:

Your Questions
A dedicated Make Up Your Own Mind team from across McDonald’s is working hard to answer your questions. You can ask whatever you want, and we aim to answer even the toughest question within two weeks in an honest and straight-talking fashion. The ‘Questions & Answers’ can be searched either by keyword or by sub-sections – this should help you find the information you’re looking for.

The website also includes reports from their Quality Scouts.

What is a Quality Scout?
Quality Scouts are members of the general public from around the UK who are curious about McDonald’s business. They are not paid, and have no ties to the company. All they do is take an honest, behind the scenes look at McDonald’s and report back. And they’ll tell you exactly what they hear and see.

I have to say I am impressed by their efforts, but wonder what it will take to change public opinion.

Two examples spring to mind:

Fiat cars of the 1970’s, which became notorious for their rust problems.

In response they built the Tipo in the 1980’s (a car I owned), and gave it a fully galvanised body, giving it better rust protection than almost any other car on the market. However, it took many years for their ‘rust bucket’ reputation to disappear.

A more recent (if fictitious) example is from The Archers radio show where an outbreak of E. coli,  has resulted in regular customers deserting Ambridge Organics, despite having been given the all clear several weeks ago.


A Land Rover for all seasons

24 August 2011

The actual Defender that took us through the Serengeti

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am interested in niche products and markets. Previous examples include A cake slice with a musical difference and Luxury foods in terribly bad taste.

Driving to my parents house the other day, I notice an unusual garage by the side of the road in shape of a thatched house (The Thatched Garage). Even more surprising was the extent of the niche of their shiny objects filling the forecourt. Not just off road vehicles, or even just Land Rovers… they only sell the Defender model of Land Rover.

However, they have been doing very well thank you occupying this tiny niche for over twenty years.

Having recently spent two weeks on safari in Tanzania, I have new found admiration for the sturdiness and off-road capability of this particular product of the Land Rover factory. After hours of pummeling on corrugated and rocky roads, I fully expected the vehicle to start shaking itself to pieces. But our driver had spent ten years driving the same car, and explained that all it needed was a thorough service after each adventure to be as good as new.


History in an Hour – another of our Success Stories

15 August 2011

History-in-an-HourAfter my post Here’s one we helped earlier – Seasoned culinary courses, I’ve heard from another client of the Business & IP Centre who has gone on to great success.

Even better, History in an Hour is the brainchild of a librarian.

Rupert Colley had the idea ten years ago, but with the encouragement of his partner Annabel and help from the Business & IP Centre, he finally made a success of it.

The value of the idea has now been recognised by international publishing house Harper Collins, who recently purchased the e-book series from the Rupert.

Annabel kindly sent me a note saying;

“… had it not been for the Business & IP Centre, I wouldn’t have had the idea or the confidence to know where to start in registering a trademark for “In An Hour”, which meant that this became also an asset purchase, not just a straight multi-book licensing deal.”

Rupert also sent me a note to say they are having a summer sale. For the month of August 2011 only, the apps are 69p –  iBooks 49p – Nook 99c and Kindle 98p or less.

History-in-an-Hour-wide

HarperCollins Signs History in an Hour Ebook Series

In a major new acquisition HarperCollins has purchased the History in an Hour e-book series from the company founder and author Rupert Colley. The deal was set up by Scott Pack and the books will be published by Arabella Pike at HarperPress.

History in an Hour is a series of e-books and apps that summarise key areas of world history in digest form, with each title taking no more than sixty minutes to read. From World War Two to Black History, from American Civil War to the Reformation, History in an Hour titles have been a permanent fixture in the Apple bestseller lists since September 2010, often with 3 titles in the top ten or five in the top twenty. They recently came out on Kindle as well. The History in an Hour website and blog can be found at: http://www.historyinanhour.com

Scott Pack says: “When I saw these e-books topping the Apple iBooks charts I was intrigued as I was pretty sure they weren’t from a major publisher. I downloaded one and was really impressed, it did exactly as it promised. I was amazed to discover that they were all the work of a librarian from Enfield creating them in his spare room. I was determined to snap them up before anyone else did.”

Rupert Colley comments: “History is fascinating but it can also be daunting – huge books, a huge choice and endless websites. My aim with History In An Hour is to make it less daunting and more accessible whilst still providing a quality read. I want to offer readers a starting place in their historical reading; a platform on which to build. Now, with HarperPress, we can take it to a new level and spread the word – that History is exciting.”

HarperPress will launch the series on 4th August with six titles. A further seven will follow in October. All existing books will be rebranded and an ambitious programme to grow the series will include titles on the fall of the Roman Empire, the Gunpowder Plot, the Vietnam War, Castro and the Wars of the Roses, as well as an extension of the brand into other subject areas. More than one year on, History in an Hour is still topping the charts with World War Two in an Hour currently number 15.

Arabella Pike comments: ‘This is an incredibly exciting venture for HarperPress. In just over one year Rupert has, single-handed, created a superb brand offering great history for busy people – short, sharp, informative books to be read on a phone or e-reader perfect whilst enduring the daily commute to work. As a leading publisher of history, we intend to work with Rupert to build this pioneering series to publish some terrific titles, show how historical content can be refashioned to suit the digital age, and open up a whole new generation of readers to the delights of history.’

Launch titles:

  • World War Two
  • The Cold War
  • The Afghan Wars
  • The Reformation
  • Henry VIII’s Wives
  • Nazi Germany
  • October titles:
  • Black History
  • 1066
  • Hitler
  • Ancient Egypt
  • American Slavery
  • The American Civil War
  • The World Cup

Seeing red over the Red Shoes

12 August 2011

	AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by pixieclipxI’m no fashion expert, but there seems to be something about red shoes.

They feature in a typically grim Hans Christian Andersen fairly tale, in which a vain girl is punished by a pair of red shoes which refuse to stop dancing, even after she has her feet amputated.

This inspired one of my favourite films from the 1940’s by the great Powell and Pressburger, and more recently an album by singer songwriter Kate Bush.

Now they are featuring in a trademark dispute between two haute couture fashion houses, Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent. Christian Louboutin loses round one of red sole battle with Yves Saint Laurent.

Christian Louboutin’s whose shoes have a distinctive red sole, was suing Yves Saint Laurent for using the same colour on the bottom of its footwear.

US judge, Victor Marrero, has denied Louboutin’s request to block sales of  ‘copycat’ red soled shoes from YSL’s 2011 collection.

Marrero wrote in his ruling:

‘Because in the fashion industry colour serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.’

Mr Louboutin is seeking more than $1million damages for alleged infringement of his ‘Red Sole’ trademark, claiming that he was the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women’s shoes.

YSL hit back, with their court papers stating ‘Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz.’