Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

5 posts from August 2013

21 August 2013

Trendspotting in a Nutshell for Innovators to Laggards

A few weeks ago I attended a Business & IP Centre workshop by Cate Trotter of Insider Trends on ‘Spotting Trends and Opportunities’ during our ‘Cooking up Success’ series of events.

It was obvious from the beginning that the attendees were really on the cutting edge of the food business. During the icebreaker an attendee’s insight was that ‘food is trendy now and we want to be a slice of it!’

Cate helped us identify techniques for trendspotting as an essential strategic process that helps organisations and individuals anticipate change, plan more effectively, introduce more successful initiatives and spot niches in the market. Doing this means a business can focus on what to do next, make better decisions quickly which saves a lot of energy and money in the long run. 

Cate started by showing us a clip of a single person dancing at a festival but slowly…gradually…one by one… the dancer was joined by other people to form a mass gathering of something that they all enjoyed.  It was obvious from the clip that there may have been persons who didn’t want to participate or who may have needed that extra push or help to take part. 

Trend curve

Based on Rogers, E. (1962) Diffusion of innovations. Free Press, London, NY, USA. Source: Wikimedia

The moral of the story – trends takes a bit of passion from an innovator for it to move through the ‘Roger’s Innovation Curve’ from an innovator to laggards, gathering impetus to the mainstream where even the laggards eventually come on board. 

 For the food business we discussed innovators and early adopters who would go to the most obscure places to eat and sample new trends. Mostly, these persons are connectors and like to keep at the cutting edge of the industry and would attend foodie events from their social network or in their local area.  Cate reinforced that if you have your business cap on, you would use these experiences to gather information by observing, talking to people, brainstorming new initiatives and conduct informal market research for your next business idea or spotting the trend.  

Two practical exercises used were:

  •  The use of Google Trends to find out what people are taking about or what is ‘common knowledge’, for example cupcakes have far more hits than dosas
  • How to use trade and consumer magazines to find out what those ‘in the know’ are writing and talking about. Have a look at our popular Food Industry guide for resources available from us in the Centre.                    

Here are some tips for trends and opportunities spotting:

  • Know why you are spotting trends – the clearer you can be on what idea you’re looking for, the easier it will be to find it
  • Observe – trendspotting begins with an in-depth look at the various areas of influence such as new and old media, research, networking, scoping, everyday observations and problems highlighted
  • Connect the dots – after gathering the nuggets of information, make sense of it by connecting the dots with tags like Delicious, Freemind, Evernote or even Post-it-Notes on a wall or whiteboard.
  • Assess – investigate trends to assess the level of opportunity inherent in tools such as Google Trends & Keywords and Facebook Ads, which has how many people are interested.  Work out where they are in the Innovation Curve.
  • Ideate – Produce ideas that tap into the trend that you deem to have the most potential.  Identify and engage with the target group with the right balance of effort and reward that can help you have a more thorough understanding of the level of potential in each idea.
  • Test – Get feedback from the real world! Keep looking at your sales data, web analytics, press coverage for traction, monitor your social media or basically, speak to your customers.

In conclusion, we were reminded that trendspotting is something that should be continuous and you should formalise the process every 12 months or so to make sure that you are aware of all opportunities or risks ahead and the best position to take advantage or avoid them.

Find out when the next Insider Trends workshop takes place.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre

15 August 2013

China’s top 20 western brands

Yum KFC China logoLast week the BBC published a fascinating report on the progress US companies have made in the rapidly growing Chinese market for consumer goods and services. Western brands 'more popular' in China.

The number one brand in China is fast food chicken restaurant chain KFC from Yum! Brands. The Chinese market contributes about half of Yum! Brands' overall profits. The company has about 4,400 KFC units in about 850 cities in China. It first entered the market in 1987. But in banking and telecoms Chinese companies still dominate.

The BBC asked global brand research company Millward Brown to find the 20 most powerful foreign brands in China, the ones that have gone in and succeeded where many others have failed.

A discussion on the Today Programme between presenter John Humpries and Peter Walshe Global Director of Brands at Millward Brown, produced a great definition of what makes a succesful brand:

Peter Walshe
Products that are delivering great quality in a meaningful way to consumers, are the ones that are bought again and again, by those very discerning consumers.

John Humphries - The assumption has been that in the West, you can sell anything to anybody if the advertising is good enough, and the marketing is good enough.

Peter - I certainly wouldn’t agree with that at all. You can announce something , and providing your advertising clearly annunciates what it is that is special, good and interesting about that product or brand, people will listen, and they may well try it. But when they try it and it doesn’t live up to that promise, you’re in big trouble.

One of the reasons Omo is doing so well is that it has listened and adapted to its consumers locally. The way that you wash clothes is quite different in China, compared to some other markets. They have very carefully listened to consumers and created products that are relevant.


Here are some success tips from some of the top brands via Millward Brown:

Get in early
All of the brands have been pioneers in China, entering before 2000.

Understand your market
The Chinese market is changing quickly and many of the companies are learning to keep up.

Be bold
Having got in early, many of the companies are building on that advantage. Some of the numbers are staggering.

City strategy
Many of the brands that spoke to us stressed the importance of looking beyond the coastal cities of Shanghai and Beijing to the staggering growth and new consumers in cities across the country.

Build your team
Running a business in China is difficult to do from outside the country, and many of these multinationals tell us that their success is built on finding the best Chinese talent and joint venture partners.

Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:
Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:
Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:
Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:

14 August 2013

Innovating for Growth Branding Workshop - Maximising Your Brand

ABA_logoLast week I attended an Innovating for Growth (I4G) project workshop on Maximising Your Brand. It was presented by Alistair Bullen and Rory Muldoon from ABA | The Business Brand Agency, in a very chatty and informal style.

The idea was to introduce some of the key elements of branding, and to indicate how they will be able to help companies on the I4G program in one to one meetings.

After introducing ourselves and delivering our thirty second elevator pitch, Alistair and Rory  explained the difference between a corporate identity and building a brand.

They used the analogy of a car to explain the role of branding. Until you lift the bonnet you can’t fix the car, and until you know what the other cars are on the road are, you can’t start the race. Also you need to be clear on what kind of car you want to be.

The first stage for ABA is to get under the skin of the company - not straight into ‘fixing the logo’.

They asked us all to write down our ethos, and our competitors. This is what I put for the Business & IP Centre.

Ethos - To use our collection of business information to help start-ups and small companies

Competitors - Other libraries with business information (City Business Library), London Enterprise Agencies, University business support services.

Then they introduced the concept of how each companies Raw Ingredients feed into the Blend of Positioning, Personality and Brand architecture) which helps to define the Brand Essence.

Without working out what your Brand Essence is, you can’t progress successfully.

There are four vectors of your brand:

  1. Products and services - How people feel about the things you produce
  2. Environment - The way people feel when they enter your office
  3. Behaviour - The way that you answer the telephone
  4. Communication - How you speak to your audience




You should find out what your customers think about your service by asking them using a straw poll using Survey Monkey etc, but don’t be defensive about the results.

We then spent  some time reviewing a set of brand personalities to see which two or three most closely matched our brand essence. I chose Sage and Explorer for the Business & IP Centre.

Next we watched an interesting TED talk from Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action. He said great brands start with the Why, not the What. For example Apple aim to make products that challenge the status quo, they believe in thinking differently. Because of this they make great products.

You should always start with Why you exist, then follow with How you operate and then What you produce.

The why is always much more compelling than the what, so make sure you use it in all your brand communications.

We then looked at models of brand architecture:

  • Monolithic - a single name that is master on all products or services in a range - products are identified by alpha or numeric signifiers - e.g. BMW
  • Endorsed - individual brands supported by a corporate master - working in tandem e.g. Kellogg’s Cornflakes
  • Branded - product name is king e.g. Persil from Unilever

Alistair and Rory recommended a book called Fascinate - Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead.

Why are you captivated by some people but not by others? Why do you recall some brands yet forget the rest? In a distracted, overcrowded world, how do certain leaders, friends, and family members convince you to change your behavior? Fascination: the most powerful way to influence decision making. It’s more persuasive than marketing, advertising, or any other form of communication. And it all starts with seven universal triggers: Passion, Mystique, Prestige, Power, Rebellion, Alarm, and Trust.

TEDxAtlanta - Sally Hogshead - How to Fascinate


Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders by Adam Morgan.

I found the workshop challenging, but also engaging and fun, and I could hear the attendees animated discussions about their brand values as they left the session.

If you want to apply for £10,000 worth of bespoke advice and support for your business, have a look at our Innovating for Growth programme and see if you qualify. 

ERDF_logoInnovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. 




Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

02 August 2013

Cosmo Careers Masterclass


Attending the Cosmopolitan Careers Masterclass last night was a great example of why women make such great entrepreneurs despite the surprising statistic that still only 25% of UK businesses being female owned.

The panel of experts ranged from lingerie and sex toys to an all-female home improvement company and was chaired by Cosmpolitan Editor, Louise Court.  

Inspiration for businesses can come from anywhere as Jo Behari, founder of the all-female homeHomejanelogo improvement company, Home Jane demonstrates. She was frustrated at not being able to find decent tradesmen that she felt comfortable with in her home. To address this, she set up her own company and now has around 60 tradeswomen working for her.

One piece of advice that stood out from Jacqueline Gold, Chief Executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox, was to make sure that you do something really well before diversifying and expanding your product range.

MoboKanya King, founder of the MOBO Awards advised that sometimes you have to really trust your gut instinct. Despite being told by the BBC, journalists and pretty much everyone else that taking the MOBO’s out of London would never work, Kanya went ahead anyway and now cities across the world are bidding to host the event!  

When it comes to feedback, listening to your customers is one of the most important thingns you can do. Melissa Burton, founder of natural-sweet company Goody Good Stuff, still spends time at some of her retailers to speak to customers and get their feedback.

One of Shaa Wasmund’s, founder of Smarta, top tips was to make sure your business plan is flexible. It will change and should be a work in progress that you can update as and when you need to.

Each member of the panel said how great it was to work on something they’re truly passionate about and the flexibility of being their own boss but along with that comes the responsibility of employees as well the inability to ever completely switch off. It’s also important to understand that you will need to make sacrifices when starting out but this gets better as you grow.

Perhaps one of the things that women are a little bit better at than men is acknowledging the need for a support network that you can bounce ideas off and learn from.

Events such as the Cosmopolitan Career Masterclass are a great way to meet other like-minded individuals and to start to build a network. In fact, a good support network is something that our Innovating for Growth businesses always comment on and feeling like you’re not doing it alone.

Risks are inevitable in business but as Kanya said, making mistakes means that you learn very quickly. Especially when you are investing your time and money as the panel did. Remortgaging houses meant that money was spent wisely and a considerable amount of thought went into it.

And a final point from Jacqueline - people are the heart and soul of your business. Make sure you engage with your employees and choose the right people. You can teach people skills but not attitude.

What was truly inspirational about the speakers was the passion they displayed for their businesses and their willingness to take risks and make sacrifices in order to make it a success. Failure wasn’t an option for any of them.

One thing I would add to their brilliant advice is that if you have a great idea, doing the market research is essential to making it a success. The Centre provides free access to over £5 million worth of information that will help turn your idea into a reality.

Having been inspired by the panel, now all I need to do is work out what my great idea is!

Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

01 August 2013

Business success stories

One of the best things about working in the Business & IP Centre is seeing the passion people have for their businesses and how their confidence increases as they go along their journey.

I’m lucky enough to be involved in the filming of our success stories and it’s always really interesting to hear what they’ve found the most useful in the Centre as it varies so much.

I spoke to a great business yesterday who have a really innovative product in some big name retailers (video to come soon so watch this space!). For his business, the market research databases were invaluable and made all the difference to getting his business to market.

Webpage photoOne of my favourite comments is from Birgitte Lydum who set up Baby Beamers to create a pram cover for her daughter when she couldn’t find one. She sums up the sentiments of many entrepreneurs that I come across.


I basically did workshops in everything that surrounded being a small business because as a small business owner you have to put a different hat on pretty much every hour and do the different things because, you can’t, well I couldn’t afford to outsource anything so I had to do everything myself.”

It’s also amazing to see businesses who have come to a free initial Information Clinic and are now established and flourishing like Blueberry Hill Cakes who have also taken part in our Innovating for Growth programme for established businesses.

I’m always on the lookout for more stories about businesses who have used the Centre when starting out so if you think you fit the bill and would like to become one of our Success Stories, have a look at the website for more information about what we look for.

Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre