My first experience, for nearly two years, of rush hour commuting into London, co-incided with Sir Peter Hendy stating that "London Public Transport Will Cause Riots If It Doesn't Improve". (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/09/22/london-public-transport_n_5859770.html) So what had gone so wrong? Or had I just forgotten how bad it was getting? As you can imagine, I approached my early morning journey with some trepidation.
I decided to walk to the train station, rather than fight my way onto a bus already laden heavy with school children. Rioting with school children thus neatly avoided!
My time waiting for the train was spent wondering whether I would get a seat near the window, to provide some ventilation on a particularly muggy September morning. In the end I was already too late for a seat and had to stand for the entire journey. As we left each subsequent station, the train got fuller and fuller, and the temperature began to rise accordingly. I once read that each person emits the same heat as a light bulb while travelling on a train, but the man opposite me was certainly emitting more than this, after the girl in-between us accidentally spilt coffee all over his newspaper and grey trousers! This little incident didn't cause a riot either thankfully, but it did serve to remind me about the time I once sneezed a trail of snot onto the overcoat of a man sitting next to me - luckily he took it very well in the circumstances, although I had to get off at the next station to avoid further embarrassment, even though it wasn't my stop!
So, as the train steadily filled up, I tried to work out what was different and why a riot was being predicted. I noticed that there were more bearded men than before, that people still dressed in drab grey outfits, that nobody communicated other than to shout out things that station staff used to say, "can you all move down a bit please". And then it struck me! There was just more people per se! And these people were still all travelling en-masse at the same time of the day. So what about those "soft" demand management tools, such as encouraging businesses to stagger hours of working? What about the predicted rise of people working from home? After all, hadn't these measures worked so well for the 2012 Games?
I travelled home at 15:30, had a choice of seats, had room to balance my tablet, coffee and newspaper and as a result, had no stress, compared to my morning commute.
So my suggestion? Well it's radical, but still "soft" and involves the use of one of the founding members of the marketing mix 4 P's - price! Until fares are adjusted significantly to make the differential between peak and inter-peak travel a real option, I think people will continue to fight it out for a seat (or a standing space). You can increase capacity ("hard" measure) and that will make a difference in the short-term, but I firmly believe that a more radical approach is required, to get people to change their travel behaviour. People may then be rioting at their businesses, fighting to get them to change their working hours so they can change their travel times, rather than rioting on the transport system. So, I also predict a riot, but hopefully one that starts to solve the problem and change the way people behave!
A local (my Dad) standing outside "Something & Son - Amusefood. Fish, chips and mushy peas - staple meal of Folkestone's amusement arcades. This experiment places the whole cycle of production, cooking, eating and recycling waste on one school site". Folkestone Triennial 2014. 30th August - 2 November.
I left Folkestone in 1981, but have been back regularly to visit family ever since. My most recent visit, however, was to experience the Folkestone Triennial, now in its' third season. Folkestone like many other seaside towns has been struggling since the Victorian days to re-establish an identity. The loss of domestic tourists ripped the heart out of many towns like Folkestone, and it has taken a long time for most of them to re-act to the drop in tourism income and the inevitable and sad rise in unemployment. Folkestone looked like it would benefit from the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, but apart from job creation, not to be overlooked, the tunnel merely established Folkestone as the place that millions of people passed through (a bit like me when visiting my family). There was also the loss of an area of countryside to contend with, a lovely area where I used to play freely as a child. Again the high speed rail link promises to bring more wealth to the seaside town, especially with the drift of people leaving London for cheaper housing, albeit with fast commutes back to the capital for employment. But at least they will be spending some of their cash in Folkestone.
But what of the identity of Folkestone? What of the vision for the town? What is its' USP? (unique selling point) in marketing jargon. Well that's where the Triennial comes in, as part, as I understand it, of a master-plan led by the former Saga chief Rodger De Haan. Now there is a reason to visit Folkestone again, to appreciate and debate art. But that is only the start of it. Like re-branding a product or indeed person (after all isn't that what the popular culture of celebrity TV show is all about) it is vital that the target market (sorry more marketing jargon) get to see and sample the new offering and in doing so the opportunity to see the bigger picture. In the case of Folkestone, the Triennial opens the door for people to see the wider potential of the town, as it embarks on a major regeneration programme, with art and culture at its' centre - not forgetting references to the past e.g. good old fish and chips! It must be working as people such as Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin and Mark Sargeant are now part of the Folkestone message, there are reviews in the London Evening Standard about the triennial and the trendy new restaurants, such as Rock Salt. Even people at my golf club, back in Surrey, are aware of the gold buried in the sand as part of the Triennial.
So while the locals look a bit confused about some of the art pieces, and some even debate the point of it all, I say well done to the organisers of the Triennial and to Roger De Haan for sticking to a master plan - great art, great town plan and fantastic marketing. Lookout here comes Folkestone!
While travelling recently through South East Asia, what struck me most in countries like Laos and Cambodia, was that while the poverty and lack of wealth was clear to see, you could nearly always get a good WiFi reception. This was true if you were in a small city like Phnom Penh and even a tiny village off the Mekong River. This is not always the case in developed countries and certainly not true of London. Try, for instance, maintaining a link while travelling on public transport. The minute you go underground, you lose the signal on the Tube, there is very little Wifi on buses and mainline trains. The only place you can get a decent signal, other than in the offices or public buildings, are the coffee shops, but you have to wait for one of the many students to finish their never ending bottles of water, before you can get a seat to plonk down your flat white and iPad!
So this got me thinking, with the announcement earlier this week, that Apple is finally getting into wearable tech, with the launch of the Apple Watch some time in 2015. How ironic that the Apple Watch will probably work best in countries like Laos, where the locals can least afford them! Although, I wonder how long will it be before you can buy a fake Apple Watch in the stalls of many of the markets in South East Asia?
Meanwhile, back in London, everyone (including me) will be eager to be seen to be wearing the new tech, while dashing into coffee shops to check their messages!
I have been thinking about doing a blog for so long that I had almost got to the point where I thought that I was too late and that blogging was something that people used to do. So what changed my mind? Well I was listening to one of the excellent monthly webinars run by #CIM entitled "B2B Content Marketing" and both speakers were championing the use of blogging as key to building an online presence. Google search now rewards original and new content. Gone are the days of just repeatedly inserting the same keywords on your website and other digital channels to achieve SEO kudos.
According to whatever statistics you believe, blogging is here to stay. For instance there have already been 2.5 million blogs today (17:00 BST) and the number is growing. Perhaps most impressively companies that blog have more inbound than others.
Wikipedia states that the term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The "we" later being dropped. So while it has taken me nearly 17 years to catch up* here I am with my first weblog or should I say blog! I'll let you know in a later blog if I can pick up any trends for #pamah as a result of my entry into this mass communication channel.
*I did once try to create a blog for a group of middle-aged golfers but I guess I was before my time with this market segment!