Welcome to Nathanael’s blog! Sharing thoughts, personal news and other stories.

Surprised to learn today that Al Capone actually died as a free man at age 48 (at Alcatraz)

Don’t shoot in the middle. 

We are all aware that the middle class is rapidly disappearing. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This phenomenon doesn’t affect demographics only. The disappearance of the “middle” is pervasive among business industries as well. This is changing how we need to approach the marketing and commercialization of new products and services in the future. 

If you look at the current landscape in several economic sectors, you rapidly realize the disappearance of “middle price” offerings. If they continue to exist, they are usually not very successful anymore. Let’s take airlines for example. Today, most airline companies compete over price at the bottom of the scale (think about Southwest or Ryanair in Europe). Others have a different positioning and try to offer premium services at a much higher price (think about Etihad or even how private plane companies are growing as a segment overall). Airlines that play in the mid-price range are getting squeezed (that’s one of the reason why there is all those mergers and less and less of these mid-range companies in this market). 

The same is true for an ever growing number of industries. You can think about the food sector (premium organic vs. cheap industrial), housing market (expensive in the center, cheap in the suburbs), computers and so many more. Most industries are going through this change and this not only limited to one region. The entire world is experiencing the same phenomenon at different speed.

This trend is affecting how you should position and develop your future offerings in the marketplace. You should be much more specific rather than generalist. You can decide to develop a product which will offer the minimum required features and compete over price or go for the premium route and offer something at a relatively high price (the luxury market was one of the only industries which sustained reasonable growth during the 2008-2013 crisis for example). If you try to offer something mid-range, you are taking the risk to target an irrelevant need in the market as consumers’ habits have shifted with this new distribution of wealth. You also running the risk of not creating enough “division” for people to really care about what you are offering. It is generally not a bad idea to create a sense of cleavage for your product. Some with love it (Apple fans), some will hate it (Android fans), but no one will be indifferent. 

Even in the automobile industry where today cars can be found at every price point, you can bet that in the future, competition and the market will shift to the extremes and move further away from the middle. They will always be middle range cars but their importance in the marketing mix should get reduced considerably. 

So next time you think about developing a new product or service, try to avoid the middle. By not aiming the center of the target, you might actually hit your target…

The importance of instant gratification in the consumer business. 

Over the years, I have remarked that one useful attribute to a successful consumer offering is the capacity for a product or service to offer an immediate gratification or benefit to its users. In general, people don’t like to “invest” time doing something in order to achieve a specific result down the line. Consumers want to use products and services which are simple and which results and benefits are immediate. 

Obviously, in some cases this generalization won’t apply. When what you offering targets something that consumers “must do”, then the instant gratification is not a relevant attribute anymore to forecast demand and usage as options are limited. Think about an accounting software for a small company for example. This service is a must have for the business owner even if its benefits could only be perceived over the long-term (having well-presented books). 

What is interesting is that in general only the “must dos” break the rule. Even for products and services that help us do something more efficiently or have a real utility, instant gratification and simplicity are usually key for their usage and mass adoption over the long-term. This is one of the reason why even if most of the population is fully aware that exercising is important for health, less than 20% of people regularly practice a sport. The health rewards of sport are not immediate as you need to be consistent to really gain its benefits. It requires effort and discipline (two very dangerous words when you are trying to sell something to consumers). 

The bright side of this phenomenon is that you will always have a number of people in a population who will be ready to make efforts and invest their time in the present for results in the future. This is why so many markets such as the diet market can exist and be sustainable even if they don’t offer instant gratification. Still, those products and services will never be adopted in mass such as cars or even social media (in both these cases, you don’t need to do much efforts and you can get an instant gratification from buying or participating). 

The markets which need the education, involvement and commitment of their consumers will also usually take much more time to get to a reasonable size. It took 25 years for the treadmill to really take off and its appeal is still “limited”. Prevention or selling future benefits is a tough marketing strategy if it doesn’t come with a dose of gamification or “entertainment” attached to it. 

When creating or developing a product or service, always think about the amount of efforts and commitment which will be necessary from consumers to get the benefits of what you are offering. The more efforts and time are required, the riskier is your venture. 

The Transamerica #Pyramid (at San Francisco)

Watched “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

Great movie. The film is not only fun, it also depicts relatively well the ups and downs of Wall Street by exploring subjects such as greed and excess.

Winston Churchill

A striking difference between the U.S. and French political culture.

By now, you might have heard that the current French President, Francois Hollande, has been caught having an affair with a French actress in Paris.

What is interesting is that no media or political parties in France are currently asking the French President to resign for this. In the contrary, a large part of the political landscape expresses “outrage” towards the publication which exposed the affair in the first place claiming that it had interfered with the private life of the President. 

In the U.S., this situation would be unthinkable. Citizens would ask for explanations, politicians would have to immediately appear in a press conference and political parties would enter in a bitter fight. In most cases, the politician involved in the scandal would need to resign.

A striking difference in culture, don’t you think?

Release of the new 2.0 CogniFit Brain Fitness app for iPhone.

Very happy to announce that the CogniFit team has launched today a totally new version of our Brain Fitness app. The app has been redesigned from the ground up for iOS 7 and comes with many new features to offer the most effective brain training experience.

You can read more about this release on the CogniFit’s blog and you can download the new Brain Fitness iPhone app on the iTunes Store today for free.

Restaurants in a flat world are mostly the same.

In today’s world, most of the restaurants you end up going to are mostly offering you the same kind of dish and taste. It’s maybe time to kick start more innovation in the restaurant business and offer more variety.

Like many people, I love to eat, go out for dinner and try new restaurants. I just feel that too many places I visit always serve you mostly of the same.

We can divide the restaurant business in 4 tiers. You have the fast food type such as McDonald’s or even its healthy equivalents which offer a cheap and quick option to eat. Usually, you go there knowing exactly what you are going to eat. These different chains do a good job in differentiating their offerings and specializing in one type of food (burgers, Chinese, pizza…).

The second tier is the multitude of single-owned restaurants you can find around the block such as the mid-level Italian or the restaurant chains which are a little but more upscale than our first tier (such as California Pizza Kitchen). Here, you will take more time to eat, spend a little bit more money, have a good meal but you are not expecting something special. You just go to eat.

The third tier is the more upscale restaurant. This is the type of restaurants where you take a date, have a business lunch or where couple of friends want to have a good and trendy dinner on the weekend. The prices are much higher, the decoration is more refined and every of these restaurants try to create a different concept to lure in consumers. You usually eat well or even very well depending of the spot.

The last tier is the gastronomic or Michelin stars restaurant type. There you usually don’t go very often, only for special occasions as the restaurants are prohibitively expensive and the meals are too special to just have a regular meal. You need to dress up, etc…there are not many gastronomic restaurants around.

Most people eat most of the time in the middle tiers (in the restaurants around the block or in the slightly more upscale restaurants). And here is my problem: in most of these restaurants, you end up eating exactly the same dish. Yes, the menus and presentation are slightly different from place to place but in reality you will eat the same recipes. For example, most Indian restaurants will serve you the same Chicken Tikka Masala, most Chinese will offer you the same dim-sums, most Japanese will offer the same tuna tartar and edamame. I could go on and on. It’s mostly the same.

For sure, restaurants are always trying to improve their menu in order to maximize their sales and make sure they offer a menu which is suitable to their consumers’ target. Nothing is done in a well-managed restaurant only for the sake of taste. For example, if many weight-conscious people come to a particular place, the restaurant will make sure to offer a large varieties of soups and salads or other light dishes. But what about creating a different experience? Offering unique dishes?

Obviously, there are a some restaurants who come with very creative dishes in their particular category (I am excluding here the gastronomic restaurants which are always looking to create unique combinations). Still, in the vast majority, they just replicate what seems to work for other venues. Decoration and marketing might be different but at the end, you won’t remember specifically a single dish that you have there. It’s “just” good or very good which is clearly important but overall the experience is the same.

So when can we start to have restaurateurs take a different, more startup kind of mentality and offer us at every corner a truly different experience? Probably this can never happen as it would be too costly and risky to experiment new tastes for each new restaurant but I believe that in the future, we will see much more innovations in this business as consumers are increasingly seeking new experiences above anything else.

Miami #Heat vs. Toronto Raptors with King James (at American Airlines Arena)