What makes a company successful?...

... delivering products and services that are relevant and create impact among consumers.

I combine my expertise as a Marketing executive in a Fortune 500 company and my passion as an investor to find the Companies that I think have "cracked the code" with consumers. Advertising does work. When I see a new product that fits relevant consumer trends, and that is supported with a campaign that I find particularly shrewd and innovative, I know that Company is potentially a great investment.

One of the great investors of all times, Peter Lynch, recommends to "buy what you know". You watch TV, go to the supermarket and walk around everyday. Observe... look around: what you see can make you money in the stock market. Now, let's be clear: a Company is not good just because it advertises. What we have to look for is great products supported with -and enhanced by- great advertising. The principle is simple: if something is good enough to draw your interest, it will be of interest to millions of persons just like you.

It is my goal to share with the reader my findings in the world of marketing which I think will turn into great returns for investors. Profit from it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Follow this Instinct

Wireless must be the one of the most dynamic markets you could find. It is unique because success really depends on perfectly combining the strengths of the participants in two different yet intimately related industries: the carriers and the cell phone makers. Their destinies are irremediably intertwined. Consumers drool over having the latest almighty gadget that allows them to not only make phone calls -talking is so yesterday!-, but most importantly, remain plugged into the world through text messaging, picture taking, Internet access, TV on the go and all sort of cool functions. This is the realm of the so called smartphones. They really are command centers for the life on the move. Yet, the gadget is only half of the story. In order to be able to actually enjoy all those neat functions, consumers also have to select a carrier that provides all the services needed to get their cool devices going. They soon find out that having a sophisticated command center does not come cheap. The cooler the gadget, the more functions it has, the more services are needed from a wireless carrier in order to take full advantage of it. And of course, the carriers are all too happy to sell them to you. The tab adds up: minutes for talking (boring!), internet packages that charge by Kb, a quarter per picture sent over the network, GPS service, etc. Consumers have little choice but to pay. Reluctantly, perhaps, but then, what is the point of having the greatest smartphone is you are not getting the services it is designed to provide? Surely enough, this rich profit potential pushes wireless carriers to go to great lengths to ensure that they gain exclusive access to the hottest and more sophisticated smartphones the electronics industry can provide, because when consumers fall in love with a phone, they will take their accounts to whichever wireless company offers it in exclusivity… or will they?

The feeble economic situation is making consumers reconsider their priorities. And as much as they love their gadgets, many are starting to question their wireless bill. It doesn’t help that it is actually hard to figure out how much you are going to pay for the month. In general, wireless carriers are particularly good at creating complicated packages that are difficult to understand. As a consumer, you have two choices: either you pay small fortunes for unlimited packages –individually by service- or you assume the risk of paying a small fortune anyway because you exceeded the 25 pictures quota of the plan you chose thinking it would be enough.

Until now.

One of the most exciting introductions in the wireless industry since the advent of the iPhone is the launch of Samsung’s (SSNLF) Instinct phone by no other than Sprint (S). The Instinct is an exciting smartphone, clearly designed as an iPhone killer. The dedicated Instinct website features some brilliant, poignant videos that make direct comparisons between several of Instinct’s advanced functions and the equivalent ones from iPhone. In each of the features, the technical superiority of Instinct is demonstrated in a very convincing way. The creative platform for the launch campaign is also a major success. Samsung and Sprint launched the Instinct with a strong multi-media advertising campaign mimicking the introduction of a major motion picture. It borrows from the excitement, the drama and the bigger-than-life stature that a major movie launch generates, and the production quality of the communications is top of the line. OK, we have the gadget. But, in my view, what completes this brilliant introduction is the service package Sprint offers with it. Dubbed “Simply Everything”, the plan is exactly that: every single service you need to fully enjoy your Instinct, unlimited, for just $99.99 per month. No more counting text messages, no more controlling minutes. Just one very affordable, easy to understand monthly price, and you are able to enjoy the advanced functions of the Instinct without guilt or uncertainty.

This is a very encouraging initiative for Sprint. It is the right combination of a great gadget with a great plan, introduced at a time when consumers are the most receptive to propositions that will allow them to preserve their lifestyle while still reducing their spend. From a marketing perspective, it is a very sound move, and at the right time. The company has lost half of its value over the last year, and it just looked like they were unable to get anything right. The grandiose launch of Instinct in combination with an aggressive and attractive plan like “Simply Everything” is in my view a strong signal that the company is finally getting in control of their business once again. With Sprint’s share price slightly above $8, this is an Instinct you might want to follow.

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