Gays: a valuable proposition for business

According to scientists and experts, one out of ten individuals in the world is a homosexual. The statistics mean that worldwide, approximately 700.000.000 men and women are gay! This really invites for a second thought the next time someone calls the gay community ‘a minority’, doesn’t it? After all, SEVEN HUNDRED MILLION people are more than twice the whole population of the United States of America or almost four times the population of Brazil. Anyways.

Some people say that homosexuality is a new age’s phenomenon. Wrong! Modern-life did not make people suddenly become gay. Instead, it allowed them to finally identify themselves as such. This is the result of developments in society that led to new levels of social maturity – and these levels go as far as from black to white when comparing nations, though. The decriminalization of homosexual acts, gay civil rights and same-sex marriage are indeed things we can be proud to witness in our modern world. Oppositely, homosexual affection, gay households and same-sex couples are among us since always.

Political, social and religious views aside, this post is about gays – and the commercial opportunities within.

Initially, gays and lesbians were neither strategic objects nor targets for business. Suddenly, ‘tiny little rainbow flags’ started appearing hidden in marketing products in a way that the gay community could somehow decode the ‘gay-friendly message’ without ‘shocking’ the straight clientele. Lately, companies seem to have found out a gold mine within the gay community: “DINKS” (double income, no kids) – the way homosexual couples are nicknamed, is the reason for marketing managers to rejoice about them.

A recent research by marketagent.com and Pink Marketing conducted in Austria (which according to experts has a gay community of 800.000 people) conveys a series of interesting results:

The average monthly disposable income of a gay man is 822 euros, while the same for a straight male is 558 euros per month. Moreover, 57.3% of hetero couples have disposable income under 600 euros per month, while disposable income of 57.1% of same-sex couples is above 600 euros per month. In fact, almost one third of gay couples have disposable income above 1500 euros per month, and this is true for less than one fourth of hetero couples, the research shows.

The extra money plays an important role in their life-style. For instance, the research results show that homosexuals spend 43% more when going out, 82% more on vacations,  73% more on clothes and also 180% more with culture than heterosexuals.

Furthermore, consumption habits are affected as well. The research shows, for instance, that gay men prefer sparkling wine and champagne, while straight men favour beer as their favourite alcoholic drink. Jaguar, Smart and Mini are the favourite cars among gay men, whereas Porsche, Toyota and Audi are the favourite of straight ones. Results also show that gay men purchase more expensive cars and go more often on vacation than straight men.

Looking at the results of this research conducted in Austria, it is no wonder why the hidden ‘tiny little rainbow flags’ turned into well elaborated marketing efforts whose object and target is the gay community. The reason for that is simple: NOW people realize that there is some value in the gay world that is worth fighting for. Exceptions aside, this value is called ‘money’. And so it goes: where there is money, there is certainly many smiling faces looking forward to doing business out of it.

Opinions aside, this post’s main target is actually to bring the reader’s attention to the very interesting research mentioned above. Full details on the results can be found under this link.

3D Printing: Economies of Scale turning into Economies of Ideas

3D means a lot! One often reads that James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” was ‘the’ break-through into the 3D era. While it might have indeed started a ‘3D-revolution’ for both the whole entertainment industry and consumer markets, technologies that broke the barrier of the three-dimensional space (3D), such as Avatar’s ability to create 3D simulations on a 2D surface, are not new. The first 3D movies using color glasses released to the general public, for instance, can be traced back to as early as 1915.

As a ‘technofreak’ myself (!), I could not avoid the ‘wow effect’ when leaving the theatre after ‘Avatar’. Now, only a couple of months later, that ‘wow effect’ is an ‘oldie’. And the reason is the ‘hopefully-very-soon-to-be-on-my-desk’ 3D printing technology. Yes! You’ve read it right: 3D-printing! As much I consider myself pretty up-to-date on the latest technologies around, I was actually pretty surprise to get to know that 3D printing has been around since the early 1990’s. Only recently has the industry grown enough and prices have begun to drop, enabling this technology to get closer to us, consumers.

What is it?

The thought that computer printing is going 3D is pretty weird at first.  3D printing is a form of manufacturing technology able to transform 3D computer models into tangible objects. The ‘printing’ process consists of laying material (e.g.: plastic or metal) on a surface layer by layer. This gives the “print-out” not only the two flat dimensions as if printing on a common inkjet printer, but it adds a third dimension by the accumulation of succesive layers one on the top of the other.

Just like now we can choose between a black-and-white or color printer and between an inkjet or laser one, there are n models of 3D printers. Each uses a different types of material and outputs different printing qualities.

The Next Industrial Revolution

At the current stage, it might still be quite hard for us to capture the real impact of the 3D printing on our lives, but it certainly promisses a huge revolution in manufaturing. While nowdays business people rejoice with economies of scale, mass production might be a very costly alternative in the future. The idea is simple: Why purchase product k, designed somewhere in the US, whose pieces fly from n different cities around the globe to be finally assembled somwhere in China and then shipped back to wherever we are AND after all, get the ‘very same thing’ some other millions of people get – a standardized product? Well, the truth will, most probably, look somewhat like this:  I want product k so bad and I want it now – my way. No problem! Purchase product k‘s 3D-model online, download it, customize it – and print it!

3D printing does not only mean that the whole manufaturing process might become more personal and ever more customizable, it also means that the huge gap of time and space that currently exists between raw material and final consumer will be incredibly brought down to matters of minutes and “material cartridge” availability. In short, 3D printing will offer a cheaper and less risky path to the final consumer market.

Besides, 3D printing also encompasses huge steps in what we can call “green manufaturing”. Current manufaturing processes are the so-called subtractive manufacturing, that is, a whole portion of raw material is used to create product plus scrap. 3D printing, on the other hand, is additive, which means that exact amounts of raw material are used to create the final product, leaving no scrap behind.

Sample Applications

3D computer graphics, 3D modelling or 3D CAD (computer-aided design) are since long used by professionals such as engineers, architects, product and industrial designers, just to name a few. As wide as the applications go, the results of these applications combined with 3D printing have already started to be proved successful. Engineers and designers, for instance, have been using 3D printers for prototyping for at least a decade.

In an article by William M. Bulkeley published in the Wall Street Journal in August 2006 (Yes! 5 years ago!), he wrote:

” Toby Ringdahl, a computer-aided-design specialist at shoemaker Timberland Co., recently bought a color 3D printer from Z Corp. that allows footwear designers to see their constructions overnight rather than waiting a week for modeal-makers to carve them.”

Another example comes from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.. They use 3D printing in reconstructive surgeries involving facial prosthetics, such as noses an ears. Doctors use a 3D camera that creates a 3D map of the person’s face with the corresponding prosthetic. The mask is then printed and used as guide for the reconstructive surgery. Previously, doctors had to put plaster on the patient’s face to make the mask.

Repairing a broken product can be a painful adventure, can’t it? Well, with 3D printing, one can download the product’s broken part’s 3D model, print it and replace it.

The Future and the Inevitable Threat

While 3D printers are still limited to their sizes and cannot (still) replicate all types of parts that make up complex products, the trend indicates that portable 3D printers will be able to print all parts individually, which can be assembled aftwerwards. Once more quoting William M. Bulkeley:

“Some experts say within a few years hobbyists will have their own low-cost machines, many created by other 3D printers. Adrian Bowyer, a mechanical engineering lecturer at the University of Bath in England, says he is developing a 3D printer that, when connected to a PC, will be capable of recreating most of its own parts…”

Having laid down some highlights of 3D printing, what is is and what it can do, I hope I am not being too unsound when I say that today’s “economies of scale” will turn in tomorrow’s “economies of ideas” in manufacturing. The freedom one has today to exchange media via the internet will expand and add the ability to exchange products, or at least concepts/ideas of products and parts thereof.

Battles against the theft of intellectual property and copyrights started long ago. Today, piracy is a threat to writers and their books, singers and their music and movie-makers and their films, among others. Tomorrow, the same threat might apply to as many industries as those hit by the power of 3D printing technology – and their products. Ideas and USPs (unique selling propositions) will become ever more rapidly out-dated as we translate the real tangible world into bytes. I prefer not to go further  and rationalize on how I see the impact it all might have on the world’s economy, consumption and trade. Trying to understand it all ceteris paribus certainly leaves considerable room for error. As I am not going that far in the discussion, I am happy to close this post with a forward-looking consideration, which in fact goes back in the past to make its value. And that is: Money-making will always find its way through –  revolutionary or not, it will. Even Napster made it through by opening doors without closing its own.

Order and Progress: An Introduction on ‘Beyond GDP Matters’

When reading the economy section of any news portal, we often run into monthly, quarterly and yearly figures on ‘economic growth’. More often than not, these figures refer to measurements of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Such standards in the calculation method of ‘wealth’ (nominal values) and ‘growth’ (real changes) allow international comparisons and aggregations. GDP, a measurement of the value of a country’s production of goods and services, combines in a single figure what the news report as ‘growth’, ‘expansion’, ‘development’, ‘improvement’, ‘increase’, ‘progress’, ‘boost’, ‘success’, ‘rise’, ‘swell’, ‘advance’, among many others. In other words, GDP is the measure of a country’s economic prosperity, which is often used as an indicator of human development and well-being. And that is why GDP and the news that fill one’s heart with joy are in default.

In the website beyond-gdp.eu, an initiative of the European Commission, DG Environment and DG Eurostat, we find the following paragraph:

The limits of GDP are that it does not include a number of factors that determine the well-being of people, such as the value of non-market goods and services (e.g. natural resources), informal and unpaid activities and leisure. Also, GDP emphasises average income and in fact puts weight on the expenditures of the wealthy rather than focusing on similar income development of the poor. Finally, GDP focuses on short-term economic activities or flows, rather than the developments in the assets of natural, economic and social capital, which are important from a long-term sustainable development perspective.

While there are various methods for calculating GDP, all of them end up with the same cliché: They focus on quantity, not quality!
GDP reflects high levels of production while disconsidering the negative consequences it brings to society and environment. (Does it measure well-being?)
GDP includes financial products that increase household debts. (Does it measure wealth?)
GDP considers the rising expenditures on healthcare. (Does it measure welfare?)
GDP includes spending on items such as burglar alarms, safety-cameras and pollution-control equipment (Does it measure prosperity?)
GDP completely ignores the effects of distribution of income. (Does it measure common progress?)
GDP is a quarterly and annual measure. (Does it measure long-term sustainability?)

The topic raised on this post is not new. On the contrary, this is something very well known – since long. Along the years, a series of alternative indices have been created to approach the issue. Most of them tackle one of GDP’s default areas (while still ignoring others). Other approaches, like the HDI (Human Development Index – created by the UN in 1991(!!)) weigh a series of indicators (including GDP) and combine them in a single index. Economists still have not found a common ground from the variety of propositions. Even some supposed ‘Green GDP’ indices have been proposed! No matter what has been done, whether GDP should be improved or replaced is still topic for discussion. The fact is: at the end of the day, when the news report ‘growth’, we are being misled!

That politicians and officials want to look good, this is no revelation. The reason that motivated me to write this topic is the same that motivates me to keep hungrily seeking information: awareness, and the possibility to look at more than one of the many sides of a story. This post is far from being an in-depth look on the topic – it is only a personal call for attention and an introduction on ‘beyond GDP matters’. I do hope that the next time we read/hear/see the news reporting the latest ‘growth’ figures, we will be more critical and consider that these ’embelished’ figures are the basis for much of the monetary, trade and fiscal policies that will ultimately make a difference on our daily lives. After all, for those who follow my “brazilian mind”, ORDER comes first, then comes PROGRESS.*

*This refers to the caption ‘Order and Progress’ (Ordem e Progresso) written in on the brazilian flag.

A Multifaceted Collage on Environmental Matters: From Brazil, India and Austria

While I juggle readings from Austria, India and Brazil on my daily schedule, the cross-country analysis is inevitable. In this post, I share three pieces of articles from three different sources (and nationalities), which shall serve the reader as a composite insight on co-related topics, which differ most and above all, by its reporting point of view.

On March 8th, 2011, the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” published an article about the Austrian plant construction firm ANDRITZ AG, technology provider for the construction of the mega dam in Belo Monte, Northern Brazil (more precisely in the state of Pará, where I lived for 18 years). In this article, ANDRITZ replies to the critics of the Viennese Archdiocese on ANDRITZ’s participation in this project, which puts at stake the livelihood of 50,000 local people (estimates count that 250,000 other shall be indirectly affected as well), which altogether represent an unprecedented environmental impact. ANDRITZ justifies its participation stating that it is part of a consortium and it delivers only a ‘small part’ of the turbines and generators for the project.

On April 6th, 2011, the Brazilian website xinguvivo.com.br published an article on the official statement by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in which it makes a demand to the Brazilian government to (immediately) suspend the alreay in ‘advanced-stage’ process of licensing for the construction of the dam.

These two pieces of news caused me remember a ‘Newsweek’ article by Jeremy Kahn published on March 13th, 2011. Named ‘Why India might save the planet’, the article focuses on the Indian environmental minister Jairam Ramesh and his battle on India’s economic growth without the devastation of the environment.
The article talks about the $12-billion steel plant proposed by the South Korean steel conglomerate POSCO to be built in India, which after having been approved by the minister, caused mass protests by local tribal groups, who alleged the plant endangered their livelihoods due to its massive environmental impact. Following the protests, Ramesh suspended the project for further analysis, which led to a new green light as long as POSCO could manage to fall in line with 60 new conditions. These included that POSCO would be limited to just half of the original plant area, 2% of the project’s profits would be invested back on the local community and a quarter of the plant’s premisses would be preserved as green spaces.
In the interview given by Ramesh to ‘Newsweek’, he says: “The way to resolve the conflict between environment and development is to make the tradeoffs explicit”. He added: “The paradox of economic growth is that ecological devastation benefits one section of society only”. On the other hand, he continues: “On the environment, the track record of the Indian industry is not much to write home about”.
Besides the aforementioned review of the POSCO project, Ramesh also blocked Vedanta, a British conglomerate, from building a $1.7-billion bauxite mine, claiming it violated forest-protection laws. On this issue, he says:

If bauxite mining is going to destroy livelihoods, if bauxite mining is going to pollute water sources, if bauxite mining is going to lead to large-scale deforestation, it is better not to have that bauxite mining.

And the list of companies and projects getting a “no” from Ramesh is growing. ‘Livelihood environmentalism’ is what India needs, Ramesh says – a system that cares for bodies of water, forests and land on which the nation’s farmers, fishermen and tribal groups depend. These ecosystems are as essential to Indiaas its new factories and mines.

The growth-hungry BRIC countries might indeed be currently scoring high in economic growth. GDP, the most common indicator of growth, does not take the ‘environment factor’ into account, though. The surprises of not having this factor equated might come up at a certain point (but at what costs?)
As previously mentioned, this post is intented to provide some food for thought. This is not supposed to be taken as a complete panorama on any of the subjects discussed. Again, this is a collage of articles that sounded simply ‘interesting’ to the mind of a Brazilian guy, living in Austria and working for India. This shall serve as an insight for someone out there, too.

Death cloud and Celine Dion: Marketing and Media lessons from the catastrophes in Japan

The triple-catastrophe that stroke Japan earlier in March and the sequence of events that followed it apparently serve not only as a lesson on disaster management and nuclear policy for various different parties, but they also had their say on marketing and media.
Local Viennese newspapers talk about ‘death clouds’, ‘atomic panic’, ‘death reactor’ and ‘ an unstoppable core melt accident‘. On the television, a German reports on tsunami refugees while playing Celine Dion’s Titanic title song. It seems that the 9000+ km of distance between the ‘factual zone’ (Japan) and the reporting agents (Austria) serve as an incubator for the rapid transformation of ‘facts’ into ‘assumptions’.
While the real facts are enough to blow one’s mind out, the ‘could-be’ wave of information is heavily responsible for the ‘incubated hysteria’. As much as leaders insist there is no reason for panic, Geiger counters, a radiation measurement device, are sold out; potassium iodide pills, which prevents the absorption of radioactivity, have seen a gigantic increase in sales as people stock up and some even take them in. And again, we are 9000+ km away from the accident site. In a very interesting commentary by Manfred Perterer in the newspaper “Salzburger Nachrichten” on Saturday 19th, 2011, he writes: “The closer one gets to the site of the events, the more objective TV, radio, online and press services get.”
Having this all said, the consequence is an ‘unfortunate media-sponsored’ opportunity: fear marketing. And the reason is very simple: fear sells! There is nothing like fear-based appeals triggering customers’ imagination and revealing how terrible things ‘could be’ if he/she fails to follow the recommendation given by the seller. The truth is that fear-marketing surrounds us more often than we think. Different mindsets perceive things in different ways. For some people, the consequences of eating non-bio products can be as scary as not having the proper insurance in cases of trouble for others individuals. Both selling propositions can be ‘fear-driven’ at different levels for different customers.
The so-called ‘fear marketing’ appeals to the harm it prevents or removes as well as to the benefit it brings. In both cases, the goal is achieved by either purchasing the ‘product’ (condoms prevent AIDS) or by ‘avoiding the purchase’ (cigarettes kill). According to marketing specialist Martin Lindstrom (as quoted in an article by Marko Kananen from TheBeginner.eu on March 24th, 2011): “Fear will be one of the most important factors pushing the sales far into future. The effectiveness of fear is based on the neurological fact that the brain’s fear is more powerful than the brain’s reasoning circuitry.”
While marketers play with Maslow’s pyramid to get things sold at the costs of fear, the media’s reports on natural disasters such as the catastrophe in Japan deepen consumers’ deficiency of their most basic needs. Whether one can call it “fair-play” or not, this is just food for thought. The fact is that this ultimate madness has to be reasoned out. Sensationalists might make good use of Celine Dion’s hit to tell us what we have to feel. One has to be aware of his brain’s reasoning circuitry weakness, though. Recognizing this weakness and searching for quality factual media to help us make our own opinion might be a good way to avoid being stocked by the ‘death cloud’.

The Black-and-White Color Scheme in Product Packages

After graduating on ‘International Marketing & Management’ from Lauder Business School, Vienna, Austria, I realized I had spent considerable amount of time on something that ultimately proved my four years of studies/intership were worth something: my diploma thesis on “The Black-and-White Color Scheme in Product Packages: A Study of Visual Perception”.

My 133-page piece of work, result of a six-month research carried during late 2009 and early 2010 is just too valuable to be kept on my bookshelf only. If there is someone out there who has some interest in it, I will be more than glad to share the results of my work. Get in touch!
In the meantime, here is the abstract of my thesis:

The study presents an investigation about the use of colors in product packages. One of the elements responsible for the communication aspect of product packages at the point of sale, individual colors and color combinations are reviewed from the marketing perspective as key on-site consumers’ perception molding and influencing factors. Narrowed down to the specifics of one color scheme, the black-and-white, this research analyses the peculiarities of this so called ‘old-fashioned’ color scheme in comparison to other schemes. Its influence in consumers’ perception of quality and purchase choice is observed through an empirical research conducted via an online platform, whose results indicate instances where the black-and-white color scheme indeed achieves more positive evaluations leading to purchase behavior. Going from the cross-cultural spectrum of meanings and associations of colors to the implications of the use of black-and-white in product packages, this research’s outcome compiles significant knowledge on visual perception. Supported by observation, the lines of research are filled with diligent literature-based citations and expert opinions and supported by the results of observations.

A guide for marketing managers and package designers seeking scientific knowledge leading to concepts of product packages, which fully take up its marketing-oriented applications, and an in-depth study of the achromatic color scheme, that is, black and white in combination, this diploma thesis conclusions go from the insights about color perception’s socio-cultural attributes to the positive relations between consumers’ quality perception and final purchase decision.