New EU cookie law takes the biscuit

April 25, 2012

This morning, an estimated 90% of websites across the EU became illegal under EU law, thanks to an incredibly dumb piece of legislation requiring all websites to ask permission from visitors to store information about their visit on their computers in the form of a cookie. Even more incredible – the law also applies to every single website in the world that can be viewed from within an EU country. So that’s just about every single website on the internet – around 644 million sites at the last count – outlawed at a stroke. Here’s a short video from that explains the main features – and failings – of this bodged legislation.

The law was intended to protect user privacy, but in process of achieving this it has effectively dealt a hammer blow to businesses. Simply put, according to the IT guys virtually every website uses cookies. But to find out whether yours does or not, you’ll probably need to hire a web developer, who will then charge you to add an intrusive pop-up on your webpage which blocks the visitor from viewing your site until they have clicked on a link to explicitly give their permission for the use of any cookies that your site uses, or may use in the future.

So you have the expense of the additional web development work, the result of which is to erect a barrier across the front of your web presence that prevents the casual browser delving further into your site. All that money you spent on SEO? well that’s just toast now because the casual visitor arriving from a search engine will be prevented from seeing that content. Web browsers will once again be plagued by pop-ups and check boxes preventing easy traversing of data.

The effects on site traffic will be dramatic: It’s been reported that traffic on The Information Commissioner’s Office website dropped a staggering 90% when they implemented their EU compliant site.

Oh and did I mention? Failure to comply will result in a £500,000 fine. Yes, you did read that right.

It is difficult to imagine a more ill-conceived, unworkable and downright stupid law. If you want to have your say, you can sign the UK government petition to help get this ridiculous law reviewed

The (further) perils of Twitter for business

April 18, 2012

Very interesting article this morning on Real Business concerning the legal implications of Twitter use. In particular, what it could mean for users who Tweet about their employer.

We all know that you should be extremely careful about what you say online. One case highlighted in the article is of a civil servant who found herself the subject of an acutely embarrassing (and not exactly career-enhancing) expose in The Independent.

A member of staff at the Department of Transport had a disclaimer in her Twitter profile stating that the tweets were personal opinions and were not representative of her employer. This disclaimer did not stop The Independent from publishing her tweets (about her job, her feelings towards work and wider political issues such as describing a course leader as “mental” and posting links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste) in an article about her employer. She complained to the Press Complaints Commission, but they found that because tweets are public property this was not an invasion of her privacy.

The article is well worth a read – you can view it in its entirety here Five more legal issues to consider when using Twitter

Real Business – The secret to a successful brand: Keep it nurtured

April 3, 2012

Which is more likely to succeed: a great idea left to languish or a good idea skilfully and closely developed over time? The answer is that building a durable and profitable brand requires an exact blend of both nature and nurture, argues Robin Rowland, CEO of YO! Sushi in a great article in Real Business

Advertising agencies tell us that the character and tone of a brand, how it speaks to its audience and what it means to them, is all about first impressions.

This I do not necessarily dispute. Nonetheless, for those of us running a business in the long term and for a brand to succeed beyond the great initial idea, it must be nurtured over time. And this is all about the great people behind it. 

What happens when the advertising does not deliver in reality? A brand is only ever as good as the customer’s last experience and for that experience to "wow" every time the person delivering the brand has to be completely engaged in it. 

If you have not been able to fire up your staff with the enthusiasm, brand knowledge and sheer magic of it all, the brand will not succeed in the real world. This is felt particularly keenly in the hospitality business, where we rely upon our customer facing people to communicate the brand values that underpin our business.

People are also the biggest potential variable within the company. With different locations, people, managers and a higher-than-average rate of staff turnover in the restaurant sector, ensuring a consistent service and brand is the main challenge.

Communicating with every member of the team so they feel part of the whole is essential. There is little point carefully penning brand values, thoughts and ideas, developing them through focus groups and with expert consultancies, if they never make it out of the office and on to the floor.

It is often said that entrepreneurs who start a business with an innovative idea may not always be the best people to take the business to the next stage. And while most people focus on the need for different management skills, when you operate a big brand it is just as important to secure "brand-nurturing" skills.

This is about the ability to grow a brand beyond the inspirational first stage while at the same time preserving the essence and spirit which made it a great idea in the first place. 

This doesn’t stop just because the company becomes bigger and more successful. As brands grow, the nurturing must continue. An essential part of Howard Schultz’s remarkable turnaround at Starbucks was his focus on creating brand value by supporting those working in the business to deliver every detail of it.

His core philosophy is to "take care of our associates so they will take care of the guests…executing even the smallest detail to perfection is the difference between a great guest experience and a failure."

As a restaurateur for virtually my entire career, perhaps it is easier for me to make the connection between people and brand, but I believe that is a sound principle to follow whatever industry you are in. When it comes to fostering the brand it is about making sure that everything you do is real, genuine, believable and distinctive, from the boardroom to the grass roots.

There’s little doubt that nature triumphed with the acorn, but try to rest in its shade on a sunny day and you’ll really appreciate the importance of nurture.

Robin Rowland is CEO of YO! Sushi, which in 2012 celebrates 15 years of serving Japan’s most famous delicacy in the UK.

Real Business – The secret to a successful brand: Keep it nurtured