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Technological Change and the Watchmakers

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The global watch business is estimated to be worth around $22bn per year. It is still a big market, but the market leaders face some significant competitive threats from substitute products.

Can mechanical watchmakers compete effectively with the big smartphone brands? They need to find a way to do this soon unless their products are to be consigned to targeting a niche segment of older, wealthy customers.

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Small is Beautiful in the Fast-Changing Solar Power Industry

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We perhaps assume that the concept of economies of scale apply when it comes to the generation of "green" energy from solar panels. However, as this excellent video from The Economist explains, the fastest growth in solar panel generating capacity does not come from large solar farms in the desert. 

Instead, the utility industry is struggling to come to terms with the competitive threat from tens of thousands of small, individual installations which are able to sell their solar power into the energy grid. A great profile of a fast-growing industry and market that is making hay whilst the sun shines!

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The Three Little Pigs V The Big Bad Wolf. Who is the guilty party?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This was an interesting advert from The Guardian that can be used to introduce a lesson on exam technique and evaluation.

Before showing the 2 minute video, ask the class to evaluate whether or not the wolf from the fable was guilty. The answer is invariably one-sided and the wolf is painted as a mindless tormentor who blew down houses for fun.

Show the clip and then ask the class how the case was made against the little pigs. They should explain how the specifics of the case are examined and analysed (as is the misrepresented antagonist) and a range of quantitative and qualitative evidence is used. The “evaluation” makes a decision, gives the reason, considers the financial and social implications and examines the long term ramifications…. everything the students need to do to get top marks!

Hope it helps.

Strategies for Success in the UK Cinema Industry - Product Innovation

Sunday, January 19, 2014

In this six minute interview with The Economist, our good friend Tim Richards, CEO of Vue Cinemas, discusses the strategies the company has adopted as VUE has completed its massive investment in digital projection.

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Managing Risk - Lessons from the Horsemeat Scandal

Saturday, December 07, 2013

One year on from the horse meat scandal, what has changed in the UK food industry to eliminate the problems exposed by the scandal?

The horse meat scandal highlighted the complexity and length of the UK food chain. Some supermarkets have responded by promising to source from closer to home. Others have introduced new supply chain controls.

But can we now trust what is in our food? And how important is it to us as consumers?

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Strategic Choice - On What Should Japanese Camera Makers Focus?

Monday, October 28, 2013

A superb short video here from the business team at Reuters which highlights a strategic challenge facing camera manufacturers in Japan.

Top-end cameras for professional use are almost all Japanese - Japan made 81% of all digital cameras in 2012.

However, the emergence of high quality photography features on smartphones has slowed down demand for mid-range digital cameras.

Camera makers are moving away from compact digital cameras and moving towards the high-end market segments where sales might be lower but profit margins are higher.

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Is Big Better? Economies of Sail

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

This might just be the best example of economies of scale to use with students.

Maersk, the Danish giant shipping line company, has just launched the biggest container ship ever made.

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Nokia: Elop Raises the White Flag and Sells to Microsoft

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

It's all over for Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and his 32,000 employees in the core of Nokia - their mobile phones (handset) business. After several years of struggling to turn the business around in the face of intensive competition from Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei and others, Elop has decided the best option is to sell the business to Microsoft.

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Retailing in the UK - Peston Goes Shopping

Monday, September 02, 2013

This looks like a must-watch and must-record series from Robert Peston. Robert's new three-part series takes us behind the scenes of some of Britain's most successful retailers and also explores their history, heritage and organisational culture. Robert Peston Goes Shopping is on at 9 p.m. on Monday nights starting 2 September. Fantastic

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Profit v Principles: The Rise of Corporate Social Responsibility

Saturday, July 06, 2013

This 5 minute video from the excellent Andrew Hill of the FT should be required viewing for every advanced business student.  

With an increasing number of companies refocusing their priorities beyond profit and towards the welfare of their suppliers, employees and the planet, Andrew Hill, management editor of the FT, asks what the repercussions are for business. Superb.

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Are Premium, Differentiated Products the Answer to Compete Against Mass Production?

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A great example here of a European manufacturing business that is attempting to compete based on product differentiation compared with the cost leadership approach adopted by competitors relying on mass production techniques.

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Emerging Markets Strategy - JCB Exploits the International Opportunity

Monday, May 13, 2013

Students looking for a great example of how a UK business can transform its fortunes by focusing on the opportunities in emerging markets need look no further than JCB.

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Sustainability & Productivity: CEO of Procter and Gamble Makes the Link

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

This is a really useful two-minute video snippet of a conference presentation by Procter & Gamble's CEO Bob McDonald. 

He explains that the aim of Procter & Gamble is to move to a zero waste production environment. He makes a clear link between sustainability and productivity. If P&G's factories can operate more efficiently with substantially reduced waste, then it ought to be a win-win arrangement for both shareholders and society stakeholders.

P&G is a multinational manufacturer of a diverse portfolio of product ranges including personal care, household cleaning, laundry detergents, prescription drugs and disposable nappies.

read more...»

Innovation: Will eBikes Power Ahead?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Pedal power has been around for a while. But are turbo-charged eBikes the way forward?  The specifications of electric bikes are impressive - but will the price put potential customers off?

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Business Location: Entrepreneurs Get Creative with Where to Locate their Businesses

A terrific video here from Jonathan Moules, the Enterprise Editor of the FT, which showcases some creative choices of business location in London.

This would make a great stimulus piece for a lesson on startup business location - what are the attractions of some of the unusual locations featured?

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Strategy: Profiting from the Smartphone Revolution

Monday, April 29, 2013

Consumers around the world are falling in love with mobile devices, notably smartphones and tablets. However, as this excellent short FT video explains, many businesses (including leading brands) are struggling to adapt to the migration of consumers from desktops and laptops to mobile devices.

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Strategy: Ikea Diversifies into Hotels

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let's face it. Nearly all of us associate Ikea with flatpack, affordable furniture. The Ikea brand has become a global success and, as we reported on the business blog recently, the Ikea format is well-positioned to achieve further success in key emerging markets.

However, Ikea's business portfolio is not just about furniture retailing.

In March 2013, Ikea announced that it is to partner with Marriott International to open a chain of three-star hotels. The chosen brand name for this joint venture between Marriott and Ikea is Moxy Hotels.

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Starbucks - Up Close and Personal with Howard Schultz

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lots of great information from Schultz here and insights into his business strategy. Many insights too into Schultz's personal background and his views on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

Put simply, this interview has everything! Organisational culture; entrepreneurship; CSR; emerging markets; retrenchment; ethics.

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Strategy: eBay bets on Mobile Payments and PayPal

Another fascinating interview with a tech CEO here. Some great insights into how technological change is providing opportunities for his business.

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Luxury Cars and Emerging Markets = a Winning Product

A simply stunning video here from the FT which is perfect for students wishing to gather some evidence on industries, firms and brands that have thrived despite the prolonged economic downturn in developed economies.

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Is there a Business Opportunity from Your Digital Afterlife?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What happens when we pop our digital clogs?

I'd like to think that my collection of Tweets and Blogs might be acquired by the British Museum and placed in a special room that you could all visit. My collection of fascinating photos on Facebook are surely destined to become a national treasure - possibly.

Or possibly not.

But what happens to everything you do online once you've passed to a different kind of social network in the cloud?

There are an increasing number of businesses who spot an opportunity here. And now Google has decided that it has the ability to offer services to help people manage their "Digital Afterlife".

read more...»

Strategy in a time of austerity & poverty - three retailers tell their story

The effect of the economic downturn on small retailers, and how they are adapting, is explored in the powerful video below from the FT.

First up is a bespoke tailor trying to survive in a poor area that has been significantly affected by government spending cuts to welfare payments.

In the same location is a retailer of sporting goods. His business has changed dramatically in recent years, with demand much less predictable. Cash flow management has become much harder, so he has responded by cutting stocks and repositioning his retail product range. Can he survive against the likes of Sports Direct?

Finally, we see the effect on a furniture retailer of the emergence of pawnbrokers and other loan shops. 

For these retailers, costs are rising but sales are falling. The future for these high street retailers looks bleak. Can they survive? And if so, how?

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Behind the scenes of how the world’s best pianos are made - the Steinway factory

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I love this behind the scenes look at the manufacturing process involved in the making of Steinway pianos. It's a great example of adding value through the production process and illustrates how a (very) highly skilled workforce can provide a competitive advantage, particularly in a premium niche market.

According to Steinway:

"Since 1853, Steinway pianos have set an uncompromising standard for sound, touch, beauty, and investment value. Handcrafting each Steinway requires up to one full year – creating an instrument of rare quality and global renown. Not surprisingly, Steinway remains the choice of 9 out of 10 concert artists, and countless pianists, composers, and performers around the world."

You can see why in this video:

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Is New Leadership Making a Difference at Yahoo?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

At times, it seems that Yahoo has had more CEOs than Chelsea FC have had managers. Yahoo has tried several times to change strategic direction through new leadership but has struggled to compete with Google in search engine and email.

However the appointment of former Google director Marissa Mayer appears to be working. Yahoo's share price has risen 30% since her appointment and for the first time in four years, Yahoo's revenues are now growing.

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Elop Stops Paying Dividends as Part of Nokia’s Turnaround Strategy

Friday, January 25, 2013

You might have read that blog entry a recently where we tried to make the case for a business cutting the amounts paid to shareholders in dividends in order to conserve cash and/or invest in projects.

Well it looks like Stephen Elop must read the Business Studies blog (thanks Stephen) because that's exactly what he and the Nokia board have just decided to do!

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A Niche Market in Which the Market Leader is Well Protected

Friday, January 18, 2013

In a way it's a shame that the market-leading business featured in this video needs to exist. But it does and for good reason - many customers are looking for the protection provided by the firm's products. A great story of a successful firm in a classic niche market, where the added value is all about "protection" and in which customers are prepared to pay a premium for their lives being saved...

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Leadership & Strategy at Amazon - Be Obsessed with Customers and Think Long-term

Friday, January 11, 2013

This short video interview with founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is business studies gold dust. 

Jeff Bezos was recently named Fortune Magazine Business Person of the Year for 2012. Here he talks about his long-term strategy for Amazon. Bezos has always maintained that the success of Amazon is based on long-term thinking, recognising that not every innovation or invention will work.

Bezos defines the success of Amazon as being based on the following cultures and beliefs:

  • Start with the customer - Amazon's goal is to be the most customer-obsessed business in the world
  • Have a willingness to invent
  • Think long-term: allow 5,6,7 years before you expect to see financial returns on investment (Bezos is dismissive of short-term payback criteria)
  • Be inspired by what competitors do, but don't be afraid of them ("your margin is my opportunity")

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Retrenchment Strategy - Are Things Looking Better for Nokia and Stephen Elop

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Do I sense a few green shoots emerging from Finland - the home of Nokia which recently lost its position as the world's largest maker of mobile phones (a position it had held for 14 years).

Readers of the business blog will be familiar with the story of Nokia in recent times. The arrival of a new CEO Stephen Elop and his famous "burning platform" speech which set out this new strategic direction for Nokia. We've documented the resulting strategy of retrenchment which led to the loss of 000's of jobs at Nokia around the world and Elop's decision to enter into a strategic partnership with Microsoft as he chose Windows 8 as the mobile operating system ("ecosystem") for Nokia's new range of smartphones.

2012 was a pretty bad year for Nokia in total. However, there is is some evidence that the launch of the Lumia smartphones may have heralded a change in fortunes for the business. The Guardian reports here about very strong sales for the Lumia phone over the crucial Christmas trading period. And in the short video interview with Stephen Elop below, you can sense the emergence of a quiet confidence that things might be getting better.

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Innovation - Behind the Scenes at the Airbus Wing Factory

Have you ever looked out of your aircraft window and stared at the wing and thought: "I hope that doesn't fall off"? No? Well I have and I'm always reassured that the wing was probably made in a high quality factory in the UK.

Here's a chance to take a look behind the scenes of the wings being made by Airbus in the UK. A fantastic video here from the FT's Peter Marsh who kindly joined us for the recent tutor2u Global Economy CPD day.

Peter (well worth following on Twtter) visits the wing factory of Airbus/EADS at Broughton in north Wales. There he learns how the factory works on a process of continuous innovation in technology, and he assesses the impact on skills and jobs across the UK.

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Leadership - To be Exceptionally Effective, a Leader Needs CASE

The Harvard Business Review provides some excellent resources on the role of strategic leadership and I was taken by this short video on the HBR Channel in which Gareth Jones from the London Business School considers what is required for "exceptional leadership".

Gareth Jones explains that there has been a general decline in trust in leaders - including business leaders.  He goes to provide a definition of leadership and then outline the four attributes which he believes followers want from their exceptional leaders: These four are:

  • Community
  • Authenticity
  • Significance
  • Excitement

or CASE if you are looking for a simple acronym with which to remember the attributes!

read more...»

Sony’s New Super Smartphone - A Premium Product, But Can It Compete with Apple & Samsung?

Sony is one of our favourite case study businesses and fantastic source of research insights for A2 students wanting to improve their understanding of business strategy. So we were pleased to spot this short video from the FT which evaluates the potential success of Sony's new smartphone - a so-called "super smartphone". Given that Sony only has a single digit market share in the smart phone market, can this new product provide Sony with something which will compete with Apple and Samsung?

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Is the iPad inspired iPotty a viable business idea?

I love the annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show). Coming at the start of each calendar year, CES is a showcase for some major new product launches by global players like Sony as well as by smaller, niche manufacturers of consumer products. T

For example, take this new product: the iPotty.  The Daily Mail has this description of the product which seeks to forge a creative link between a popular electronic item (the iPad) and a core need for parents - help with potty training.

Parents of toddlers will know that their offspring can spend a surprisingly long time "on the pot" waiting for some relevant output. So does it make sense to provide the little ones with some mental stimulation at the same time?

Priced at £25, the iPotty clearer doesn't come with an iPad. But will it take off?  Of is this just another product innovation that proves to be a flush in the pan?

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Big Data - How Product Design & Innovation Needs to Work in Harmony

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A fantastic video here from the team at the FT who explain the link between Big Data and the crucial role of design and innovation in creating products and services that people want. 

Companies are battling to cope with an avalanche of valuable information as big data becomes fundamental to their business models. Ravi Mattu, the FT's business life editor, reports on how important good design is to getting consumers to give up their data and the benefits the numbers can bring.

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Hard HRM v Soft HRM - Mark’s Tough Approach is Bad News for Joe

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Many of you will have met Mark Mitchell & Joe Corcoran - two of the fantastic Business & Economics team at Greenhead College. In addition to their outstanding work at Greenhead, Joe & Mark are part of the innovative TBBLE team and also help us deliver the student revision workshops.

Well, it seems that Joe might not have been performing quite as well at work as he thinks. Joe's innovative use of lego in the business classroom, BGT buzzers and option dice? Apparently its not what the newly hard-line HRM strategy at college might require. Joe's in for some disappointing news as he arrives for his annual performance appraisal from boss Mark. There are some attractive rewards for the staff who have performed best, but where is Joe in the performance league table?

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Leadership - Insights into the Role of the CEO from BBC CEO Guru

Friday, November 23, 2012

This looks like a really useful series of short videos from the BBC which explore some of the challenges facing CEO's.  The series covers:

What it takes to be a chief executive

Why stressed out CEOs are bad for business

The challenges of change at the top

How CEOs deal with pressure

Leadership succession planning

Understanding the Growth and Changing Nature of the Digital Society

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This is pretty fundamental stuff, but essential background to an understanding of how digital technologies are changing the external environment facing businesses. 

The increasing use of modern network technologies is changing people's daily social and economic lives. Today, anyone and everyone can engage interactively in digital spaces. This animated video from the research team at Deutsche Bank explains the major shifts in the use of digital technology which are helping to cultivate a more collaborative digital society. The implications for businesses are pretty profound, not the least in relation to innovation and the open sourcing of technologies and ideas.

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Exporting - a Case Study in How to Do It

Why and how should UK firms expand into international markets?  Exporting provides a significant opportunity for UK firms to reduce dependency on demand from domestic markets. But exporting isn't straightforward and it carries risks if not implemented properly. 

This short video features a UK business that has embraced the export opportunity. Selling overseas has made British skincare firm Eve Taylor stronger - their MD explains how.

Admittedly it's a bit of an advert for Barclays Bank (who made the video) but there are still some really useful insights for students. 

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Culture & Long-term Business Success - Keeping It in the Family Japanese Style

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From Father to Son. Long-term, generational succession is seen as key to the stability and success of businesses in Japan. This fascinating video from the BBC explains how the use of adoption has enabled Japanese businesses to maintain the process of succession.

A whole industry has evolved providing potential adoptees to businesses who are looking for suitable candidates to take on the family business ownership.

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The Big Business of Bonuses - UK Analysis

Bonus payments play an increasing role in the remuneration of employees in the UK.  This video from the ONS provides an overview or, and analysis of, trends in the payment of bonuses. Data is displayed across different time periods and the incidence of bonuses between different sectors is also considered.

Lots of useful discussion points from the video, even if the method of delivery in the video is a little formal!

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Business Regulation - Changes to The Costs of Firing Staff

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A great example here of a change in the nature of government regulation of business activity - this time focusing on the costs and procedures that firms experience when they want to fire someone. This excellent 2 minute video from the BBC's Hugh Pym  explains how the maximum compensation workers can win for unfair dismissal will be cut, in proposals announced by the the Business Secretary Vince Cable. Cable has also announced the use of settlement agreements, where staff agree to leave with a pay-off but no option of a tribunal.

The UK Government is under great pressure from a variety of pressure groups and business organisations to reduce what is perceived as a burden of regulation and legislation that may inhibit business growth. These laws and regulations are commonly referred to as "red tape" and students ought to be able to see how the reduction of red tape might enable a business more freedom in its decision-making.

However, on the other hand, what might be seen as "red tape" to a business owner could also be viewed as essential protection for stakeholders such as employees (in this case), customers etc.

Big Business in the Firing Line - The Occupy Movement One Year On

Quite a lot of coverage in the media today looking back at the first year of the Occupy Movement - a series of protests that started in Wall Street NYC and spread widely in certain developed economies. The Occupy campaign has changed and evolved during the year and has certainly attracted much less media attention in recent months. So has it worked? Is Occupy a significant external influence on the actions of big business? This BBC video provides a useful, brief retrospective on Occupy.

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Be Your Own Boss - Episode 1: Commentary & Observations

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Entrepreneur Richard Reed looks for the next generation of start-up superstars, setting aside up to a million pounds to invest in three of the big ideas pitched by 500 hopefuls. Episode 1 of the excellent Be Your Own Boss was shown on BBC Three  and well worth recording to use as part of any unit on entrepreneurship and enterprise.

500 people have been given £100 each by Richard Reed. That's a very speculative investment of £50,000 by Reed to gain some insights into potential business ideas that might start to generate a return on the risk he's already taken.

What do you think of some of the business ideas featured

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Poundland Investigated Channel 4 Dispatches

This edition of Channel 4's Dispatches programme looks like it will be well worth a watch - and even better, recording. Could be packed full with business studies discussion and learning opportunities.

Monday 17 September 2012 at 8pm is the screening date/time for this programme which investigates the business of booming discount retailer Dispatches.

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Customer reactions to the new iPhone 5 - did anything change?

Friday, September 14, 2012

This hilarious video clip perhaps proves just how strong Apple's reputation for product innovation is. The new iPhone 5 has been launched but is not yet available. So how will consumers respond when given an opportunity to hold and test it for the first time?  There's only one catch - the phone they are given to examine is the iPhone 4s.  Fascinating results...

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Sources of Finance for Startups - the Crowdfunding Phenomenon

Friday, August 24, 2012

The banks still refuse to lend. Venture capital (by and large) won’t touch startup finance with a bargepole. So should startups look to source the finance they need from complete strangers? The answer for many might now be yes - through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a fast-growing approach to raising finance for business startups. This BBC article and video provides a great example of crowdfunding in action and also some data on the rise of crowdfunding in the UK.

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The UK economics puzzle - rising employment but falling GDP

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Here’s a conundrum. Why is employment in the UK economy rising (and unemployment falling) at a time when the economy is still shrinking?

The number of people out of work fell by 46,000 to 2.56 million in the three months to June 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). But in the same period the UK’s national output is supposed to have shrunk by 0.7% - so what is behind the puzzling statistics?

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Business Studies at the Movies - Cut Out the Middleman!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Laurel Hardy Fish

A good starter idea for enterprise - starting a business - cutting out the middle man.

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Motivation, Culture and Productivity - the Google Way

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A big hat tip to Bill Bethell for spotting this fascinating insight here in this new BBC video about how Google organises the workplace to encourage innovation and productivity. Packed full with superb business studies insights…

A cracking business lesson video on my favourite product - Jaffa Cakes!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Wow - oh wow. They’ve only gone and made a video to explain how Jaffa cakes are made. Best of all - the video is packed full with little business studies nuggetts, as well as a really useful supporting article in the Telegraph!

read more...»

Marketing analysis: the UK supermarket battleground

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Once again the BBC have posted up a clip that clearly and concisely (in two and a half minutes) neatly sums up the marketing challenges faced by the main UK supermarket chains: store locations, types of store, products, promotions, target markets … and prices.

On that point, there’s also more detailed news published recently about Waitrose matching Tesco prices, getting marketing mileage out of the John Lewis ‘never knowingly undersold’ pledge.

read more...»

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