Start Up Blog

The evolution of luxury

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 26, 2013

Like most human experiences or endeavours they live in a state of flux. They evolve. I’ve been thinking alot lately about the concept of luxury. And while luxury is a relative concept based on location, wealth, opportunity and many other factors, it seems to me as though technology is the most influential factor in its evolution. Most luxuries are temporal and may exit the fray based on technological advances or shifts in social behaviour.

The industrial revolution introduced a lot of luxuries, and invented a particularly well off middle class. Innovations which made life more comfortable would arrive and make their way down the social and economic ladder as civilization forged ahead. But as you’ll see, most luxuries have a limited lifespan with such a status. While some non-luxuries become luxuries as we evolve in other areas.

A non exhaustive list of the evolution of luxury:

  • Settlement: Becoming masters of our domain to the point where we didn’t need to be a species of nomads.
  • Excess food: Learning how to grow plants, trap & breed animals.
  • Agriculture: New efficient farming methods allowed people to exit food preparation as a way of life.
  • Piece labour: Getting paid by how efficient we became. The factory and the industrial revolution.
  • Industrialised homes: Heating, cooling, indoor kitchens, plumbing, refrigeration, washing machines.
  • Annual leave: 40 hour work weeks, salaries and paid leave from work, weekends.
  • Cars: Private motorised travel.
  • Air travel & holidays: Still being further democratised to this day.
  • Conspicuous consumption: Hello 1980’s, competing with the Joneses.
  • Fashion: Clothing beyond both needs, and functionality.
  • Premium food & widgets: Imported artisinal gelato and $100 electric toothbrushes.
  • Information: Anyone with access to the web today has more information on hand than the US President just 10 years ago.
  • Time: A core luxury today, due to humans inability to admonish the superfluous.
  • Privacy: An emerging luxury as we allow government infiltration and lack the presence of mind to think before we publish.

Of course you can think of luxuries which belong on this list, you can see how non luxuries have become luxuries as technology changes lifestyle. We can also guess some which might appear on the list in the coming years. So why am I telling you this?

It’s a realy clue into what might be important for entrepreneurs. Within the new luxury realms (physical or social) lie a number of startup ideas which will change the world and make people rich (for lack of a better word) in the process. The only question is, what might be tomorrows luxury in your community and how can you deliver it to them to make their life better? Or even better widen the distribution of something only the fortunate few currently have access to.


Monday thought starters

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 9, 2013

Today I was fortunate enough to be in the company of a few global thought leaders on life hacking and inventing money. Some of the ideas that were shared I hadn’t heard before, and others I knew and forgot (Which means I didn’t really know it). In any case, what better way than to start off the week by sharing a few of them here:

  • When someone asks you how you can repay them after teaching them something of value – this is a good answer: Teach as many people as you can what I taught you.
  • Wisdom is knowledge performed.
  • ‘Do Power’ is the key not Will Power.
  • In a developed economy, the amount of people who succeed is directly proportional to the amount who give up.
  • Most people are not smarter than you / me / us, they simply do more than you / me / us.
  • With a strong enough ‘why’ humans can do the most amazing things. The ‘why’ usually fails before anything else.
  • TV can also be known as an E.I.R – or an Electronic Income Reducer. Watching lots of un-educational TV is a wealth hazard.
  • All children are successful. But as they grow older they are taught to stop trying, stop failing, stop experimenting and stop having fun. This is why learning declines with age – it is not related to the body or the brains capacity to grow with age.
  • What most marketers learn to do is ‘bottle the concept’. What they sell is often not the product but the ephemeral nature of what it represents.
  • The more you go Pfff, the more life goes Pfff.
  • We shouldn’t lead the way, we need to lead the why.
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is now the 4th most read book in history. Worth a read if you haven’t yet.


Beers, Blokes & Business – Podcast

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 7, 2013

Podcasting is back baby – and this time it’s bigger than ever. It seems as though after an initial flurry in the early web 2.0 era that people have rediscovered podcasting. Quite possible driven by quicker 3g downloads, smart phones and bigger data limits? – who knows. Let’s face it we can’t always give our eyeballs up while we are busy, but our ears can take in some vital information while working, exercising and doing pretty much anything.

Beers Blokes Business - logo

Well some local Melbourne Startup Techie Business nerds have got together to share some insights once a week based on our own little journeys. We like to call it Beers Blokes & Business. A simple format really. We get together on a monday night, one of the blokes buys an interesting beer, we crack one open, he tells us why he chose it, and then we get into the business topic of the day. But it is always full strength banter.

The suspects are usual and include:

Sean Callanan (the founding father)

babyface Josh Rowe

Jim Stewart

James Noble

Luke McCormack

Steve Vallas

Scott Kilmartin

You can click on this link to follow the ‘blokes’ on twitter and see more about our backgrounds. Each podcast includes 3 or 4 of the blokes depending on who is available that night.

So far we have published three of our podcasts and have hit the global top 100 for business podcasts on iTunes. So, the world is voting and they are feeling the banter. The really refreshing element is that it is not a mutual love fest and we all keep each other grounded with some classic sledging.

The three podcasts topics so far are:

#BBB 1. Self Learning – which was inspired by the tweet below:

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 12.58.03 PM

#BBB 2.  Build your network -

#BBB 3. Manage that side project -

They typically go for 40 mins in 2 x 20 minute parts. Idea for the commute or while exercising or in the gym. So be sure to add it to your podcast list on itunes here >>> click here for #BBB goodness. Actually the description on iTunes is pretty funny but I can’t take credit for it.

So have a listen and be sure to let me know what you think, and if you have any topic ideas leave them in the comment.



Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 26, 2013

It’s not that difficult to be an expert on yesterday. The way it was done. The story of who won and why, or even the implementation of the known formula that works (worked?). Experts on yesterday have the rational and believable viewpoint. They can support their position on that pesky little thing called evidence. Of course evidence is always historical. We tend to find experts on yesterday in senior positions in organisations and they tend to proliferate and thrive in legacy industries. Places where protecting revenue is more important than growing it.

Ironically there is no such thing as an expert on tomorrow. There can only be viewpoints on possibilities and the willingness to experiment with those possibilities. What this means, is that the ideas presented by the tomorrow guy are often met with doubt and even derision. I guess we should expect this because most of what they predict simply wont happen. Statistically the tomorrow crew will be wrong more times than they are right. But within those ten crazy ideas they present one of them is usually what eventuates. And this is the time when what works quickly becomes what worked. Just ask Kodak management.

One thing I know for sure, is that experts on yesterday rarely invent tomorrow, and in times of significant change it pays to have a couple of tomorrow guys in your corner.


The evolution of marketing

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 20, 2013

I was asked by a respected colleague from the technology world this question: What is marketing? Mind you, this is a guy who is involved in, and gets marketing. As anyone who works in marketing knows, this is a difficult question to answer. But when I provided some thought on the question, I found that my answer is now longer than it used to be. Hence, I thought I would share it here.

I’ve broken it up into 3 parts. The first in order to provide a baseline definition and context.

General simplified thought: The development, distribution and promotion of products and services to suit a specific audience in order to achieve business objectives.

Unlike what many lay people believe it is neither about selling or advertising, and is much more about business management in totality. Or even more simply, marketing is a fancy word for business.

Marketing Then: The tools of marketing which flowed naturally from this were known as the 4 P’s.

  • Product – Solution
  • Price – Value equation
  • Place – Access
  • Promotion – Communication

Historically the job of the marketer has been to strategically organise the 4P’s of marketing (the marketing mix) in order to deliver a sustained commercial outcome between the brand and the audience. But it does feel like this is just not enough…. especially not when all of the factors we deal with are being disrupted via technological revolution.

Marketing Now: If we want to be a great marketer in 2013 then I feel like there is much more to it today. With the process being non-linear all the forces interact more strongly. Our interests need to be broader than that of the marketer from 1950-2000. I feel there are 4 areas we need to be interested in. And only when we are interested in these areas, will we have the intellectual arsenal to develop an effective marketing mix, regardless of which industry we are involved in.

Anthropology: A genuine interest in and study of modern day human movement and historical evolution. The ability to understand and spot patterns based on changing macro behaviour. Being able to see the movement of the collective sentience.

Technology: A solid understanding of where technology is taking us in the medium term. Not just understanding how to use what has already arrived, but knowing what is coming next. Knowing the implications of disposable technology, ambient computing and internet everywhere. Believing in this and integrating it into everything you market. In an age of exponential change there is no choice.

Finance: A solid understanding of what makes industries and the economy function. A financial brand which goes beyond COGS (Cost of goods sold) and marketing budget parameters. We need to be adept in raising capital, investing and ratio analysis…. all forms of finance are integral in what A grade marketers need to know.

Commerce: A true understanding in the art of connections. The why and how do certain parties transact with each other. How are they connecting now, and how will they connect tomorrow. It goes beyond distribution points and pricing models. It digs deep into need scopes and relative utility. It’s the real side of human interaction where commerce facilitates life goals and money is just the way we keep track of who is doing what.

A lot of this might sound meta physical, and it is. But like all forms of evolution, new layers get added – and these four elements are the layers which will define how the successful entrepreneurs and business people of tomorrow need to think.


Who is your competition?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 17, 2013

If we ask any well know brand who their major competitors are the answers are reasonably predictable. It’s those brands who have that other part of the market share pie. This is what we all got taught during marketing class, and it made sense in the AC Nielsen TV ratings market share industrial era. The problem is that it makes a lot less sense as we transition to the digital age. An age where incumbents are constantly being exposed on the flanks, rather than by direct competitors. If we went back and asked a number of industrial world businesses who their main competitors were, the story becomes much clearer:

Kodak: At first it was Fuji & Agfa, closely followed by Cannon and Nikon…. but really in the end their nemesis came from a different planet. The planet of Apple, Google, Instagram and Facebook. What is Facebook really other than a Kodak moment 2.0?

Encyclopedia Britannica: Clearly World Book and later Encarta, the CD ROM based delivery by Microsoft. But in the end it was you and me who provided more accurate data on the subject of ‘everything’ as we populated both Google and Wikipedia. We turned out to be more accurate, more timely and we came at everyone’s favourite price – free!

Free to Air Television: First became very worried about movie rental stores (VHS, DVD) followed by cable TV. While now their real worry is the other screens in the home as Netflix, Youtube and Pirate Bay eat their lunch.

There are of course an unlimited number of examples with the same story.

But the lessons in a period of technological transition are two fold.

Incumbents: If your company or brand is in a battle defending revenue and market share from industry players, you’re focusing on the wrong area.

Entrepreneurs: If you’re aiming to disrupt an industry that has intense and focused market share battles, you’re focusing on the right area.

Startup Blog says: In times of transition, it pays to look to the sides instead of straight ahead.


Seinfeld Today = Digital Training

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 14, 2013

I’m totally in love with Modern Seinfeld on Twitter (@seinfeldtoday). Each day I tune into the stream hoping for some more tweets which serve up 140 more characters of Seinfeld goodness. For the uninitiated, Modern Seinfeld is an ‘unofficial’ tweet stream in which each tweet is the synopsis for a fictional modern day Seinfeld episode. It really is the stuff of genius.

Seinfeld Today - on Twitter

But it has another possibly unintended benefit. It’s also a short cut to an understanding of the world we live in. For anyone who has been asleep for the past 15 years, and missed out on the revolution, then all they need to do is tune into this twitter feed. 397 tweet reads later and they’ll be all over digital pop culture. Check out these doozies below as examples:

Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 5.52.54 PMScreen shot 2013-05-13 at 5.53.56 PMScreen shot 2013-05-13 at 5.54.47 PM

The other cool thing, is that the real Jerry hasn’t done anything ridiculous like asking them to take it down due to copyright infringement. Which is exactly what we’d expect from many old world media owners.


Worlds colliding

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 15, 2013

In 2013 I think we can all agree that there is no digital. There is only life. We all now move seamlessly between our digital and analogue selves. The transition is unnoticeable and omnipresent. It’s a surprise that most marketers and even some tech startups fail to realize this.

Key hint: If you have an on-line strategy something is wrong. The strategy is the strategy.

The increasing number of layers and channels is just another example of our world increasing in complexity and contextual differentiators. Something that will only continue on its current trajectory. And it is not just about retailers getting their digi-on. It’s also about those who live on line understanding how they can enter the physically world – it’s still where we humans live!

The advertisement below inspired this post. A  great example of a few hallmarks in advertising:

  • Humour when relevant
  • Customer centric strategy
  • Real world integration

Sadly most Australian retailers are still yet to realise we operate in a new world.


A 2 way revolution

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 21, 2013

Industrial and bricks and mortar businesses are overcome by their need to ‘get on line’. Guess what? Digital and startup businesses need to ‘get off line’. It turns out that this revolution is a two way street. The new eco system is wide, and we ignore either side at our peril.

Here’s a fun example of the digital getting physical:


Being friends with breakfast cereal is over

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 18, 2013

Attracting and serving fans has been a past time of brands for the past few years on Facebook. To the point where the accumulation itself became the objective. And while I keep looking for the cracks to appear in Facebook it seems to be able to continue to grow despite its huge size. Maybe the barriers to exit the service are too high for consumers to leave? Maybe the FOMO and connectedness matters too much? But one thing I am sure of is how I feel about it personally, and from a marketing perspective.

It made sense at first: After the 50 years of the top down TV industrial complex – a period when we got told and sold, it was novel to have a direct connection with the brands. To be able to talk to the big brands in town felt good. For once our opinion was more than a letter or ‘non caring’ customer service 1800 agent. I mean they had to care, it was all on display for everyone to see. A poor response from any brand would result in a digital lynch mob attack. Finally we had the respect we deserved as the supporters of the brands. It was the connection we always wanted. It seemed to make sense for both parties. So we all connected in every way we could – and filled our digital dance card.

Then we discovered we didn’t have much in common: Both us and the brands struggled with our new found direct connection, our co-operative digital love affair. We’d read each others stuff, try and be loyal to each other and support the give and take element in this new world. We even designed new products together, made advertisements for each other and really embraced the new tools we were afforded. But it got kinda boring. I mean how many conversations can we have about breakfast cereal, tomato sauce and canned tuna? So the brands took their lessons and got wise. They realised that they had to live a layer outside of what they sold in order to create value beyond what they actually sold. They realised they had become a resource and knowledge bank in related realms to thrive in a social world. So cereal became about diet and health. Frozen meals became about a life well lived and what’s on in the city and dish washing liquid became about tricks and tips around the house. The campaigns and related brand pages sprouted like mushrooms And all this worked out pretty well…..for a while.

Until it became a spam fest: At first, we got useful information and respected and rewarded brands in the process. So brands did what brands do. More of what works, and copied those who did it first and best. The great likenomics battle of 2010 and beyond…. Until everyone’s feed was so full of junk – it became like the letter box we have no joy in opening – A letter box just filled with flyers, bills and credit card offers. The dance floor wss too full, the music was too loud. In a social media marketing sense it is the equivalent of 3am and we all just want to get some sleep already. We are over it. I don’t think I am exaggerating here, it is probably how most of us feel right now. And I haven’t even touched on all the people we said ‘yes’ to on facebook, who we haven’t seen since grade school. Like I said, it was interesting and novel at the start, but it is very difficult to care for the babies of someone you have seen in decades.

So now I’m done: Yes, there are some brands I love. Some whose products and services really matter to me. But it is certain that none of these brands ever find their way into my shopping trolly, are my finance provider or power my home. Yes, non of them are boring products from the industrial era. The only brands I play with and want to converse with are those I spend my spare time with. That’s my current definition of where I draw the line on being ‘friends’ with a corporation. And I really think it’s over for most brands trying to make their way in the social sphere – even though the numbers and analysis on brand engagement on social forums probably don’t show it yet.

Yes, brands need social: It is foolish to think that brands shouldn’t be in social media, or use the tools. It is the first place we’ll go to find them – their facebook page, or find their twitter handle. And you can be certain we’ll want an answer within seconds. It is the new call centre and probably alot of other things as well. What it isn’t, and wont ever be, is part of peoples social life. I’m betting people will gravitate back to saving that for other humans.

It’s in our make up: There only so many relationships we can have in life. Whether they are people or personified brands, we are genetically programmed to only be able to manage so many interactions. Dunbars number is the simplest way to explain this phenomenon. It’s a basic safety mechanism that ensures stability and safety, and it’s what will drive us back to a limited number of social interactions (physical & virtual).

Brands need to know where they belong: The key element to all this is knowing where we belong in peoples lives. I’m far more likely to interact with a brand that I invest my spare time with. The brands that play in my passion space. The other brands I am happy to purchase, need to understand that they are associates, micro interactions, whom I do not have time for or want dealings with outside of what they thing they actually deliver.

It’s time everyone (brands & people) realised where they belong, and took a human approach to our connections. If everyone tries to maximise social connections simply because the gates have been opened, we’ll end up with closed doors and reduced potential for trust with the connections we actually want to have.



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