Schulich marketing guru comments on competitiveness

Alan Middleton, marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, was busy this week responding to media questions on a number of stories but he still had time to write his own column for the July 4 edition of Marketing Magazine.

In the last couple of months I have been in China, India, South Korea and the US on business, wrote Middleton, in the July 4 edition of Marketing Magazine. Sitting on those seemingly endless flights, the inflight movies and my assembled collection of books and magazines only kept me occupied for a portion of the time. For much of the rest of the time I contemplated how marketing might contribute to Canada’s success in an ever more globalized environment. I began to feel quite optimistic.

A large part of Canada’s wealth is still created in the resource sector: agriculture, forestry and oil, gas and minerals. In this we have some similarities to countries in the Middle East with their oil income, and mixed resource and industrial economies like Australia, Norway and Venezuela. Thanks to the brilliance of the original Auto Pact, Canada succeeded in making the transition to a more industrial economy. We are watching a similar pattern in areas like the United Arab Emirates as they use their oil wealth to build businesses in education, financial services, telecommunications and tourism.

Canada now has some pockets of excellence in addition to the resource sectors. I’ve mentioned autos. Financial services is also a candidate – not in venture capital but in what might be called the “safe and solid segment.” I have criticized this sector before for being too risk-averse, but finally I begin to see some hope that these organizations are beginning to take the world outside of Canada seriously. Special credit goes to Manulife, Scotiabank and Sunlife. Other pockets lie in some of IT/telecommunications (grab your Blackberry and don’t count Nortel out yet) and in what might be loosely defined as the “creative services” area: marketing communications, program production for film and TV, and the lively arts of the concert and theatre (be inspired by Cirque du Soleil). In these areas it is the education, skills and talent of our people which provide our competitive advantage.

But, we are not alone. In the last few decades there has been the success of Singapore, South Korea and the other Asian Tigers, along with the European Tiger, Ireland. Remember Lee Kuan Yew’s famous answer to the question of why Singapore had been so successful, that they were lucky enough to only have one natural resource: the talent of their people.

American Express Co. has turned to Mike Lazaridis, the low-profile Canadian behind the BlackBerry phenomenon, to help sell the US credit card company’s services, reported the National Post July 8. Lazaridis, the founder and co-chief executive of Research In Motion Ltd., appears in 30- and 60-second TV spots for Amex that hit Canadian airwaves yesterday. The silver-haired science enthusiast joins an elite club – Ellen DeGeneres, Robert DeNiro, Tiger Woods, among others – that have pitched for the company. “It says the BlackBerry has made it,” said Middleton. “The fact he was chosen means the BlackBerry is not just a brand name anymore. It is an icon. [The ad] says the BlackBerry is just as powerful with business people as the iPod is with the youth set.”

‘It’s about democracy,’ says Osgoode’s Hutchinson of O&Y stockholders’ vote

Minority unitholders at O&Y Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) upset the plans of some of the biggest players in the industry yesterday by voting down a $2-billion takeover bid for 20 marquee commercial properties, led by Brookfield Properties Corp, reported the Toronto Star July 8. “It’s like selling a million dollar house for $250,000,” said one unitholder of the bid from Brookfield. “It’s about a democracy not a boss-ocracy,” said Allan Hutchinson, law professor and associate dean at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School of the decision by the REIT unitholders. “People didn’t think they were getting value [from the deal] and they weren’t persuaded it was the right thing to do by the boss.” After the results were announced, O&Y chief executive Philip Reichmann said “The majority of the minority have spoken.”

‘Just trying to redefine what hip-hop is’

An interview with former York film & video student Kevin Brereton, known by his stage name k-os, that originally appeared in The Edmonton Journal on July 1, appeared in The Ottawa Citizen July 8. In the interview, k-os said he was trying to redefine hip-hop through his music videos. “It’s like I keep saying, you have to keep yourself grounded. I’m just trying to redefine what a role model is, what hip-hop is. A role model is a case study; there’s room to be flawed and make mistakes but the media changes that.”

Williams sisters headed to Rogers Cup

The Toronto Star reported on July 8 Tennis Canada’s announcement that Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams, and defending champion Amelie Mauresmo headline the singles draw for this year’s Rogers Cup. Also taking part in the tournament will be Justine Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters and Mary Pierce. Seventeen of the world’s top 20 players are entered, Tennis Canada said. The tournament runs from Aug. 13 to 21 at the Rexall Centre at York University.

Funny about dance…

The Daily News (Nanaimo) published a story July 8 about a two-day Clowning and Dancing Workshop taught by a professional dancing clown Grindl Kuchirka. Throughout her extensive career she has taught and performed as a dancer and clown in North America, Europe and Japan, appearing at festivals, theatres and on television. And now she’s teaching in Nanaimo. Her teaching credits include Passe Partout Studio and The Netherlands Clown School (Europe) as well as the Stratford Festival, Arts Umbrella, Claude Watson High School for the Performing Arts, York University and The Space (Canada).