Category Archives: Business

Ultra-Matum: Can the West Withstand Brigata Curva Sud-Style Globalisation?

Back in the more innocent days of the early 2000s, the person who would become Mediolana’s Creative Director & CSO (‘CD&CSO’) was enjoying a leisurely coffee (or at least a simulacrum of coffee) in a Cambridge Starbucks with a member of that relatively rare specimen: someone he knew from his own course. Much of the accompanying conversation is of historical interest only, but one explosive idea from that otherwise gentle discussion has stayed with our CD&CSO, namely the notion that just as Japan had successfully copied and then vastly improved upon mid-twentieth century Western industrialism, both Japan and Asian countries more generally could do this and more in the realm of cultural production.

In other words, the J.League – the top tier of Japan’s professional football pyramid, still a novelty but already viewed as wildly successful – was merely a harbinger of things to come. J.Movies, J.Novels and J.Design would all equal and then surpass their Western equivalents in terms of both technical and artistic merit; this was a process that was going to define the next hundred years.

In 2017, this process is not merely underway, but is attaining a depth and breadth that constantly surprises. As the excellent recent COPA90 mini-documentary These Asian Ultras Will Blow Your Mind illustrates, it is now the case that PSS Sleman, a second-tier football club in Indonesia – replete with its own ultras, the already-fabled and disproportionately female Brigata Curva Sud – can produce chants, choreography and devotion on a level that the more uncritically consumerist parts of Europe seem to have forgotten exist.

The big corollary of these developments is the burning, largely unspoken question of our times: can the Western world – particularly the United States – really handle multi-directional globalisation, a form of interaction which supplants the traditional core-periphery model with a more level playing field amongst partner-type entities?

At the time of writing, this question seems a rhetorical one. But erecting trade barriers at a time when – as richly evidenced by capital flows small and large – psychological barriers to commerce are coming down is not the answer of self-assured nations. Only by moving up the value chain can (semi-)monopolistic and lucrative positions be maintained. The alternative – decline at the hands of faster, hungrier competitors who can replicate cheaper than you can produce – is nothing but a prescription for more empty populism.

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Wake Up and Smell the Sustainable Coffee: Millennials Demand Cleaner Supply Chains!

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Fifty Shades of Spray: Three Licensing Lessons from the Perfume Range of Zlatan Ibrahimović

With the anterior cruciate ligament injury that he sustained during Manchester United’s ultimately victorious UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg against Belgian heavyweights Anderlecht possessing possibly career-ending properties, now is as good a time as any to consider what post-playing life might begin to look like for Zlatan Ibrahimović (‘Zlatan’, ‘Ibra’). The Swedish icon of Yugoslav descent will indubitably find himself in heavy demand within the world of football; however, whether he takes the familiar paths of management and/or punditry, or forges a yet more interesting second act – perhaps as a Trump-style, Corbyn-substance populist in politics – one thing will remain a constant in Zlatan’s life: licensing.

Ibrahimović has had an interesting collection of commercial partners from relatively early on in his career, but his status is such that in recent years he has transcended the usual celebrity endorsements of shampoos and chocolate bars, instead becoming the focus of a series of Zlatan-flavoured brands, perhaps most notably the Vitamin Well series of sports drinks – a product that he has not shied away from promoting relentlessly.

However, it is Ibrahimović’s latest venture – a line of fragrances concocted in collaboration with Montblanc perfumer Olivier Pescheux – that may turn out to be his most significant foray yet into the broader world of retail, not least because it highlights (and skilfully profits from) a number of societal transformations:

  1. The Reclassification of Football. For the overwhelming majority of its history (one or two key exceptional markets notwithstanding), soccer has been perceived as a largely working-class enterprise. The pitching of Ibrahimović’s perfumes at somewhere north of €50/50ml bottle confirms that the sport has definitively escaped these shackles.
  2. Football’s Feminisation. Ibra’s range of scents is divided neatly into two: the ‘Zlatan’ fragrance for men, and the ‘Supreme’ equivalent for women. The existence of the latter is no accident: football’s transmogrification into a markedly less violent sport from the early 1990s onwards has helped endear it to a new generation of women who are proud to wear a fashion brand co-created by a soccer player.
  3. Global Acceptance. The perfumes’ publicity material directly and prominently refers to Ibrahimović as a ‘world-renowned Swedish football player of Bosnian origin’; in a world where nationalism is gaining in political currency, realities such as this show up the limits of reactionary ideologies. Deepening globalisation is enabled by powerful borderless technologies which cannot be stopped by a wave of the legislative wand; it is essential for both individuals and organisations to contemplate the implications of this fact.

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Always Take the Weather With You: What Fanny Agostini Tells Us About Product Premiumisation #Business

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Contemporary economies are characterised by a super-abundance of goods and services, and in these attention-scarce environments, one of the biggest challenges faced by manufacturers and providers is the simple task of differentiation: making their offerings distinctive (and, into the bargain, augmenting their essential appeal to consumers).

It is at this point that we at Mediolana wish to insert the unlikely figure of Fanny Agostini. Agostini is a weather forecast presenter at the Paris-based news network BFM TV, and at first glance would not necessarily appear to be a font of corporate wisdom on how to navigate competitive markets. But this exacting task is precisely what she has accomplished.

Agostini operates in an industry – the supply of weather predictions – which is notoriously crowded. People can get their forecast fix from a vast range of sources: newspapers; weather-related smartphone apps; and countless radio, television and Internet outlets, all of which do not stint on informing their audiences of the likelihood or otherwise of sunshine and showers.

But notwithstanding these relentless rivals, Agostini – an alumnus of Paris media college STUDEC – has become not merely a celebrity in her native France (her weather forecasts attract a disproportionately high number of viewers), but a minor worldwide web sensation. And after some contemplation, we at Mediolana think that Ms Agostini’s rise to prominence is no accident, instead owing much to her adoption of the following three market differentiation mechanisms which can turn generic into magic:

  1. Aesthetics and Apparel. Part of the reason behind the BFM TV icon’s success is doubtless linked to the fact that she is very pleasant to look at. But in the image-defined world of television, this is not exactly a unique attribute. What is more unusual is Agostini’s wardrobe and make-up, which emphasise her understated chic while skilfully accentuating her svelte shape; a lot of thought has gone into elevating this brand element.
  2. Artistry. However, where Agostini really comes into her own is in the crafted enthusiasm with which she brings us the climate conditions to come. In particular, her arm movements – smooth, direct and focused – are something out of a ballet theatre as opposed to a Paris television studio. The enjoyment that she derives from her work is palpable – and infectious.
  3. Attention to Detail. At BFM TV, Agostini has partnered with a broadcasting team which spares no effort in the animation studios: their weather icons, notably those representing rain and snow, are amongst the best we have ever seen, and help bring to life a slot which is generally treated as a prosaic appendage to other programmes.

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Flat(Pack)-Earthers Cross Final Frontier: #IKEA Enters #India!

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Style + Substance: Mediolana’s Latest Legal Notice ‘Branded Instant Blogosphere Classic’!

Before the new year kicks off in earnest, a bit of housekeeping: Mediolana’s 2017 Legal Notice, exclusive to WordPress and crafted (largely) in classic realist, sans-serif typefaces. The bottom right-hand corner of this blog is – as ever – where’s it’s at!

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Reality Check: Migrant Workers’ Protest ‘Could Bring UK to a Screeching Halt!’

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