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brand partners

After a Two-Year Courtship, Facebook Buys WhatsApp to Connect the World

Posted by Sheila Shayon on February 20, 2014 10:57 AM

In its largest acquisition to date, Facebook announced Wednesday that it will buy mobile messaging juggernaut WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, a massive landgrab that will cement Facebook's international growth plans. 

Widely used in Europe, India and elsewhere for sending text, images, audio and video messages over the internet for free, WhatsApp has 450 million active users, and adds nearly 1 million new users everyday that send over 50 billion messages daily. And while Facebook may rule the messaging roost in the US and Canada, WhatsApp was too far ahead of the international game for Facebook to even consider trying to play catch-up. 

With a youthful user-base that is snapping up mobile technology across emerging markets in Asia, South America and Africa, it's a safe bet to say that most of them will be using a Facebook-owned app in the future despite their growing habits to eschew mainstream social networks like Facebook itself. 

The huge move is indicative of Facebook's coming of age, the New York Times notes: "The company intends to acquire or build a family of applications instead of simply buttressing its core social network."Continue reading...

china

Coming Off a Record Year, Hong Kong's Disneyland Looks to Expand Offerings

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 18, 2014 12:52 PM

Hong Kong Disneyland wasn’t an immediate hit when it opened back in 2005, but things appear to have taken a turn for the better for the theme park. It doubled its net profits last year while setting a new attendance record, Variety reports, and it now plans to open a third hotel.

The park, a joint venture 52 percent owned by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and 48 percent owned by a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., brought in $31.2 million in the financial year that ended in September 2013. Attendance was up to 7.4 million, a 10 percent jump over the previous year, and more importantly, spending per head increased by 6 percent. 

“Steady growth was registered across the three main sources of guests from the local community, mainland China and international markets, with the latter two accounting for about two-thirds of total guests,” said Andrew Kam, HKDL managing director.

The park's hotel occupancy rates have been consistently over 90 percent over the last three years, giving the park confidence to open up a new, 750-room hotel in 2017 that will have an exotic locations theme. The new accomodations will bring the park's room number up to 1,750.Continue reading...

brand roadmaps

Despite Gains, Apple Not "Innovative" Enough for Challenging Mobile Market

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 28, 2014 06:39 PM

If the reaction to Apple's latest earnings call says anything, it's that the personal-tech bar has been set astronomically high

After setting new quarterly sales records for iPhone and iPad in Q1 2014, and clocking sales figures of over $57.5 billion, Apple's stock proceded to fall almost 9 percent in after-hours trading on Monday. 

While the report was generally positive compared to 'normal' standards, it apparently wasn't positive enough for investors, who said sales of the company's flagship iPhones fell short of expectations, despite the fact that the company sold 51 million iPhone5S and 5C models in Q3, up from 47.8 million a year earlier. With the first-time, simultaneous launch of the smartphones in the US, Western Europe and China markets, analysts were hoping to see around 57 million handsets sold. 

And then there's that word again, "innovation." The charge to innovate, which has followed the brand around for nearly the last two years as it seemingly trudged through a product slump, has come up again, with anaylsts claiming that the reigning Best Global Brand must innovate again to get investors excited and to regain consumer mindshare.Continue reading...

traveling brands

United Plans to Boost Performance, Profitability with—You Guessed It—More Fees

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 20, 2013 05:46 PM

United Airlines has had a rough go of it lately, especially since it merged with Continental Airlines back in 2010. "These past few years, in many ways, have felt like we've been managing a merger and not an airline...and now we get to manage an airline," United Chief Executive Jeff Smisek admitted, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The airline has become a bit of a punch line for its policies and slip-ups, including boarding passengers with window seats first to its ranking as the least satisfying major airline on the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index. And the fees, oh the fees. 

So the airline has announced plans to both improve its profitability and performance, USA Today reports. Of course, part of the plan is to add on more fees and “optimizing” the ones it already has. The airline figurs it can make an extra $700 million annually that way resulting in “$3.5 billion in ancillary revenue by 2017.” Those extra charges could be for such things as “priority boarding, roomier seats, and/or less-stringent rebooking rules,” according to the Chicago Tribune. That doesn’t exactly sound like it will help those satisfaction ratings, though.Continue reading...

auto motive

Infiniti Finally Turns To China, Japan in Quest for Bigger Piece of Premium Market

Posted by Dale Buss on November 19, 2013 03:57 PM

When Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn recruited Johan de Nysschen to head the Infiniti brand last year, he wanted his new recruit to accomplish much the same for Nissan's luxury brand as de Nysschen had done in turning around the fortunes of Audi in the US market. Only Ghosn wanted it done on a global basis.

Some of the results of de Nysschen's disruptive new strategy have become evident now, as Infiniti newly targets both China and its home country of Japan as it attempts to achieve Ghosn's target of 10 percent of the world premium market by 2020.

In China, de Nysschen told Bloomberg, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and his old employer, Audi, "have become so successful that they've become almost a little bit ubiquitous. They're everywhere. And this is where we see a big opportunity with this new emerging premium consumer, to offer them an alternative, reinvent the notion of exclusivity."Continue reading...

car talk

GM Shuffles Its Cards Overseas In Hopes of Finding Balance in Europe, Asia

Posted by Dale Buss on November 18, 2013 04:57 PM

For decades, the "old" General Motors lived uncomfortably with the evident overlap between its Buick and Oldsmobile brands in the US market, a counterproductive overlap that encompassed product segments, dealers and, of course, many customers. But it took the company until just before the 2009 bailout to finally end the brand confusion by vanquishing Oldsmobile.

GM faces a similar conflict in Europe between the Chevrolet and Opel brands, and CEO Dan Akerson has said, "Something has to change" about the arrangement. What isn't clear at this point is exactly what will change. But the whole problem is pretty consequential for the company.

Opel is to GM in Europe what Chevrolet is to GM in the United States: the big, bellwether, crucial brand for the company in that market. That remains the case despite the woes of the European auto industry that have affected every company, brand and segment, and would seem to favor a further incursion by budget-priced Chevrolet. But Opel outsells Chevy five-to-one there despite GM's efforts to grab a significant foothold for Chevrolet over the last several years, including shared Opel and Chevy showrooms and some similar product lines.Continue reading...

retail watch

Here Comes COS: H&M Readies to Introduce Upscale, Artsy Sibling to US

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 15, 2013 03:42 PM

Swedish retail giant Hennes & Mauritz is gunning for its “coolly-minimal younger sibling,” COS, to make big a splash in the US market after building up quite a fanbase in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The brand will make its debut in the spring, joining fast-fashion phenom H&M. 

But the higher-priced, more artsy brand has no intention of settling for second place. According to H&M's head of business, Marie Honda, the high-fashion brand has the potential to be huge. After testing the waters earlier this month with a NYC pop-up shop at Opening Ceremony, the upscale, minimalist and cosmopolitan COS brand will target US ities "that have an international feel," Honda told Women's Wear Daily

Come spring 2014, the brand plans to launch US e-commerce and open its first store in April in NYC's Soho neighborhood. 

It’s a strategic shift for H&M, which launched in the US market as a trendy and cheaper alternative to Gap, Zara and Forever 21, and for whom American stores deliver the most revenue after Germany.Continue reading...

corporate citizenship

Unilever, Ferrero Seek Sustainable Palm Oil Sources

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 15, 2013 10:54 AM

As palm oil production continues and demand grows, the most vulnerable tropical habitats worldwide are systemically being destroyed. But after an outcry from consumers and activists, some of the biggest consumers of palm oil are making it their business to implement more sustainable production. 

The 2013 edition of WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard ranks Ecover, Ferrero, IKEA, REWE, United Biscuits and Unilever as the leaders in the uptake of sustainable efforts.

Earlier this week, Unilever made a transformative move by announcing that all of the palm oil it buys—about 1.3 million tons a year for use in Dove soap, TRESemmé and Flora margarine, among others—will come from traceable sources by the end of 2014, allowing the world’s biggest user of palm oil to guarantee that the oil is coming from environmentally safe and legal suppliers.

The Anglo-Dutch CPG giant has crossed swords with environmental activists for sourcing the oil from plantations involved in mass deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia, but the brand has vowed to consciously source its product in the future. "The first step in this whole journey is to know where the stuff is coming from," Marc Engel, Unilever's chief procurement officer, told the Wall Street Journal.Continue reading...

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