The Five Greatest Strategic Moves by Big Companies

A celebration of the most impressive marketing moments across the world

When it comes to doing successful business in the 21st century, there’s only one rule. When everyone else shuffles off to the right, you need to turn left. Innovation and choosing to take the risk is the key to making an impact and securing success in today’s business arena. It is those new companies with a stroke of strategic brilliance or those established brands that go down a fresh road when the one they’re on is growing a little dusty or overcrowded, that get people talking.

In celebration of marketing magic and embracing all that is adventurous about running a business, we’ve rounded up our top five strategic moves by companies who show that following your instincts really does pay off.


Nike: Just Do It


The Nike motto has become almost as globally renowned as its fitness clothing and footwear, but did you know that once upon a time the brand served only serious marathon runners? When the fitness craze and fitness fashion emerged in the late ‘80s, Nike seized on this opportunity to stride ahead of their competitors and become the go-to fitness brand for anyone and everyone who liked to exercise.

Their ‘Just Do It’ campaign increased sales from $800 million to $9.2 billion in a decade. The brief yet totally on-point wording struck a chord because it so cleverly sums up the often-ambivalent human relationship with exercise. The best marketing hits the right chords and emotions to elicit the desired response in their audience, and no one knows that better than the team at Nike.


Dove: Real Beauty



Tired of seeing the picture-perfect, unrealistically skinny models who had been airbrushed to perfection, Dove decided to turn the beauty ideal on its head and talk to their audience in a language everyone can understand: authenticity.

Their ‘Real Beauty’ campaign launched in 2004 and transformed the idea of beauty from something anxiety-inducing and unrealistic to a concept that spoke to women who want to embrace their beauty without feeling compelled to conform to stereotype.

Their campaign featured older women with grey hair, women with wrinkles, oversized women and ginger women with freckles to show that every single person is beautiful, and no one should be afraid to enjoy their own beauty. They also used hard statistics to back up their message and drive the point home – just 4% of women in the world think of themselves as beautiful.

The campaign worked. Their Real Beauty Sketches campaign was viewed more than 114 million times in 110 countries around the world. That’s some very beautiful results for an ambitious marketing campaign that really paid off.


Honda: Amaze


Sometimes it’s better to show rather than tell and nobody knows that better than the guys at Honda. Back in 2015 and to promote the launch of the Honda Amaze, Honda Cars India managed to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘the longest journey by a car in a single country.’

Their vehicle took a three-month journey starting in Jodhpur and winding its way across 23,800 kilometres and 400 towns traversing mountainous terrain, country roads and busy cities along the way.  Popular Indian author and public speaker Chetan Bhagat took the wheel with his footage of the journey playing a major role in driving attention towards the innovative campaign.

Radio station BIG FM supported the campaign along the way at its 30 stations around the country, inviting dealers into the studio and hosting live shows across Honda showrooms. When it comes to showing just how good your product can be, creating an epic journey and breaking world records is surely the way.


Budweiser: Whassup


If you were around in the ‘90s, you were surely one of those people who greeted friends with an overlong “whassuppppppp” for an overlong period of time. This campaign from Budweiser was absolutely flawless and shows the importance of marketing context as it tied perfectly into the pop culture style of the time.

The campaign was also based entirely on silly humour which is always going to go down a storm. It made major traction after appearing at the Super Bowl in 2000, spawning global parodies, winning a sweep of awards and cementing both the phrase and the brand as a major pop culture icon.

It was also groundbreaking in being one of the first examples of viral content as the brand offered the perfect digital alignment – the campaign directed viewers to the Budweiser website where they could learn how to say “Whassup” in more than 30 languages. Traffic levels went through the roof and the Budweiser team patted themselves on the back for a job well done.


Old Spice: The Man You Could Smell Like


Back in 2009, Old Spice took advantage of one of the golden marketing rules – campaign to those people who are buying on behalf of your target customer. With the wise recognition that women were making most body wash purchases on behalf of their man, they realised there was a need to speak directly to women but without alienating men and long-time Old Spice customers.

The result? A campaign that mocked the entire convention of advertising based on an entirely meta concept – a risk that paid off. When one actor tried a Don Juan take on the script, it broke the ice and got everyone laughing but it was Isaiah Mustafa who tried the smooth-talking version of the ad and won the spot.

The script opened with a handsome, muscled man announcing “hello ladies” and finished with him riding off into the sunset on the beach with the simple phrase “I’m on a horse.” Why? Because it made the team laugh.

It was the subsequent Twitter campaign that cemented its viral status with a slew of videos from Mr Mustafa who employed his “paragon of manliness” status to record responses to enthusiastic audience members including Ashton Kutcher. The campaigns were written in real-time so the creativity was pure.

Sometimes the greatest strategic ideas come at a time when you don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, good marketing is good marketing and these guys know exactly what that means.


Wind Levels More Than Double

Wind and temperatures up, day-ahead power prices down, exemptions for energy intensive industries

Power prices increased for the most part last week with the exception of day-ahead prices. This was due to higher temperatures, and wind power rising by 122%. As wind power has no fuel cost, next day and within-day power prices decreased. An increase in underlying commodity prices caused all other power prices to rise. Finally, the Government Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy announced big plans for large energy users that will reduce their electricity bills in 2018.





Gains Across the Market

Higher Power Prices, Weaker Wind and Capacity Market Announcements

A lack of wind generation last week had a big impact on the energy market, with nearly all wholesale power contracts rising in price. Wind and solar generation is cheap, so, when winds are low and the sun doesn’t shine, we have to use more expensive sources of energy. The other big talking point over the past week was the National Grid publishing updates about the next two Capacity Market auctions.



wind blows down power price

Wind Blows Down Power Prices

Higher wind levels, gains in seasonal power prices and emissions concerns

Last week’s weather delivered high winds, 73% more than the previous week, which drove down near-term power prices. Temperatures dropped at the same time, meaning there was less demand for energy in the form of air conditioning. This, coupled with the increase in wind power, saw next-day delivery contracts fall. We also assess how the closure of the Rough gas storage facility might affect the market, and hear the latest news from the Committee on Climate Change.



Sizzling Start to Summer

Higher temperatures, new power price high and the Queen’s speech

Summer weather conditions are usually great news for energy prices, as solar ramps up while demand turns down. Last week got so sizzling hot however, that we saw demand shoot upwards, as people switched on their air conditioning in an effort to cool down. The UK also saw the closure of their largest gas storage facility last week, which could have a big impact on seasonal energy contracts, particularly winter. The Queen’s speech provided some insight into what future energy policy might look like, with a plan to offer smart meters to every household and business by 2020 in the works. 



Peter Murphy speaks at the Version1 Expo Oct 2016

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Before the Revolution

While energy management is our forte, we remain first and foremost a technology company. There’s always a considerable amount of tech-talk over afternoon smoothies, and recently it turned to what technological advancement would have the biggest impact during our lifetime. One developer said it would be Artificial Intelligence, a marketeer suggested the Internet of Things, but we took to Twitter to find out what others thoughts.

A recent Twitter poll asked users to choose the form of disruptive tech that they believe will most change our lives the coming decades. Drumroll please…the Twittersphere has spoken, and Quantum Computing came top of the list! It’s been earmarked as one of the greatest breakthrough technologies of 2017. So what does it look like in reality and to future generations?

Super powered Computing

According to research by MIT, the first in line to gain a quantum speed boost will be the chemists, although not the guys that hand out your monthly prescriptions. Instead, efforts will be focused to “invent more practical superconductors and better batteries”. Efforts are ambitious, with Google announcing their plan to commercialise quantum computers in just five years. The aim is to charge for access to a lightning-fast type of cloud-hosted quantum computing, the likes of which we’ve never seen before!

But we can’t run before we can walk. Scientists continue to work on optimising operations for both cost and efficiency, with teams at Bristol University using quantum-enhanced machine learning tech to study the evolution of systems and ascertain the best direction for research to take.

New algorithms are being developed as you read this post, and hardware is growing more sophisticated by the minute. It’s all designed to create a new era for computing and super-powered machinery with the big guns Microsoft, Google and IBM already on board.

Barriers to Growth

The chemistry involved is exceptionally advanced but there have inevitably been some stumbling blocks and learning curves. Chemistry professors at Harvard are trying to simulate molecule and chemical reactions to aid research, yet the challenge remains of how to “perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules”.

This type of research has previously been used for drugs and industrial catalysts but it remains in the experimental stage for quantum computing. The qubit components (a qubit is a unit of quantum information) that make up quantum computers use mechanical processes to take computational shortcuts. Quite simply, conventional machine hardware is simply too limited to do the job.

If and when chemists discover how to mimic the simulations perfectly, this will speed up research by avoiding practical experiments, swerving dead ends and supporting key tech growth by, for example, identifying batteries to support grid-scale energy storage. The quantum computing revolution will also enable new forms of machine learning and improved diagnostics.

The Masters at Microsoft

Microsoft is definitely one to watch on the quantum landscape. They are studying a less “mature” form of quantum hardware than other big businesses, but their efforts are highly advanced. Their focus is on the fundamental premise to discover whether we can produce computers based on the ‘superposition’ – whereby electrons can be in multiple states at one time. This would render our current processes redundant and leave us reliant on qubits that store all information inside, without the need for a potentially unstable transfer process. By examining topological qubits as opposed to superconducting the qubit like other researchers, Microsoft seeks to identify a reliable, stable qubit to create a clear pattern of movement and scalable technology.

Their focus on machine learning has led Microsoft to identify a type of hybrid system whereby conventional and quantum computers work together to create simulation. This helps to aid crucial understanding of the complex quantum system and its chemical molecular structure.

This may well prove to be the most effective direction for research and pave the way towards superconductivity. It’s all about breaking down the smaller barriers and to make our way towards the bigger ones. This success in chemistry at a relatively early stage in our quantum understanding and development looks promising. Our Planet9 team are excited to see how the growth pattern of quantum computing, and will keep you posted on all the latest developments.

Smartening Up The Scillies 

Hitachi’s engineers must enjoy going to extremes. Hotfoot from its two-year engagement in Manchester’s CityVerve initiative, the company has announced plans to deploy an Internet of Things (IoT) platform in the Isles of Scilly. The objective is to demonstrate “how an individual community can build a replicable and scalable model to rapidly transition from being carbon intensive to […] low carbon.” 

The Scillies smart energy rollout will encompass novel heating technologies, battery storage, and electric vehicles, all to be provided by Hitachi and its partners, home energy services company PassivSystems and battery specialist Moixa, under the umbrella of a larger EU-funded ‘Smart Islands’ initiative.

Smart Islands certainly makes an interesting contrast with CityVerve. Where the Manchester plan took its cue from comms-centric initiatives in Amsterdam and Madrid, the Scillies version gets right down to brass tacks. The islanders have longstanding problems with energy poverty, access to potable water and sewerage. As an integral part of the initiative, Hitachi’s energy management technology is expected to contribute to a permanent solution. It’s an indication of just how far the ‘smart energy’ concept has come. 

The goals laid out the Smart Islands Energy Infrastructure Plan (EIP) are concrete and ambitious. By 2025, 40 percent of the islands’ energy is to come from renewable sources, 40 percent of vehicles are to be electric, and islanders’ energy bills are to be reduced by 40 percent. (The plan also calls for a 20 percent reduction in energy bills by 2020.) Given that these objectives are a good deal more compelling than island-wide free WiFi or such, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that the plans have not been universally popular with local government. Indeed, an earlier version of the EIP was rejected outright last year. 

A commitment to change

We should reflect on the ways that island life tends to reinforce the principle of accountability. The plan shows only 2,000 year-round electricity customers throughout the archipelago. £10m goes a long way in such a setting and, as one local councillor was heard to mutter in the course of a meeting, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  

But the same considerations which make a small community hesitate before taking on a multi-million-pound obligation may also serve to promote engagement. The EIP details both the islands’ reliance on an ageing subsea power cable and the recent failure of a 50kW solar PV project on the island of St. Martins. The lost opportunity represented by the latter was recognized and regretted by the entire population. 

The people of this remote corner of the UK have given the clearest possible signal of a commitment to new forms of energy management, but they’re likely to deliver a sharp rebuke to Hitachi if it doesn’t deliver on its promises. The Japanese giant will need to keep its eye on the ball. 

Here at Planet 9, we watch every move in the UK power game, especially when it comes to technology. Give us a ring to learn more. 

The Road Not Taken

Denmark just passed a smart energy milestone. Is the UK following?

It’s an ill wind, as they say. Recent stormy weather helped boost wind generation at sites across Europe. Denmark’s offshore farms reported a particularly good month, culminating in a 97GWh bonanza on February 22 when the electricity suppliers’ collective output exceeded the country’s total power requirement. Way to go!

When wind power advocates seek to persuade other European nations to follow Denmark’s example, they usually begin with an acknowledgment that the Danish project has benefitted from two important advantages. The country has a long exposed coastline with shallow offshore waters that are ideal for windfarming, and can boast a tradition of excellence in windmill engineering that is traceable to the 19th century polymath Poul la Cour.

While these considerations are undeniably important, we should also take into account other, more prosaic factors. For a clue as to what those might be, look to a rosy pronouncement on Denmark’s February milestone from Europe’s wind lobby. “It demonstrates … that renewables can truly be a solution to Europe’s needs,” said WindEurope spokesman Oliver Joy, going on to list less viscerally impressive results from other community members including Germany, Portugal… and, as we’ll see later, the UK.

Mr. Joy’s choice of examples is telling. Denmark’s consumers have long been accustomed to paying the highest electricity prices in the EU. Germany is a close runner-up, and Portugal, too, is ‘top five’. To put those rankings into perspective: Danish and German households pay around three times as much for their power as the bottom-of-the-table Bulgarians.

Blowing hot and cold

It’s dangerous to rely on generalizations, but we might suggest a correlation between high energy prices and a particular species of government high-mindedness. Thus, Germany’s painful energy bills are symptomatic of its struggles with a serious carbon addiction. The Danish case is similar, but more complex.

The Danish government has steadily pursued a renewables-heavy power mix since the early 1980s, spurred on both by green visions of self-sufficiency and anti-nuke sentiments. The February milestone was no flash in the pan. The country already generates around 45 percent of its electricity from the wind, and looks set to increase that proportion to 50 percent by 2020.

However, those impressive statistics came at a price. The Danish wind energy renaissance was built on the country’s Public Service Obligation (the clue is in the name). The PSO was a longstanding 11 percent government surcharge on energy bills. Until the levy was finally quashed by the European Commission in 2014, PSO revenues were used solely to finance green initiatives. The single largest beneficiary of this massive windfall was DONG Energy, formerly Dansk Olie og Naturgas, which used PSO income to fund its diversification from fossil fuels into renewables.

Viewed in these terms, the Danish outfit starts to bear an odd resemblance to France’s EDF. Both companies built their particular expertise — in wind and nuclear energy respectively — on decades of public subsidy. And both remain firmly under the control of their national governments.

Such musings return us to the last of Mr. Joy’s success stories, that of the UK. Do we belong among such exalted company? You might be surprised to learn that the UK surpassed Denmark in wind generation nearly a decade ago, and that we’ve since managed to build up the largest offshore generating capacity in the world… without government-sponsored price gouging.

Of course, our commitment to private enterprise also means that, unlike Denmark and France, Britain doesn’t actually own those resources. If the government has kept quiet about our wind power successes, perhaps it doesn’t want to dwell on the way that the UK’s liberalized energy regime benefits the state-controlled enterprises of other EU nations? Here at Planet 9, we keep a close eye on the energy markets of the UK and Europe, and we help our customers to benefit from what we see. Give us a ring to learn more.