ideas from Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts

Monday, 18 June, 2012

Saatchi & Saatchi‘s Kevin Roberts on Ideas as the Currency of the Future (speech delivered to Wharton students)

Saatchi & Saatchi CEO – Kevin Roberts – Manage Innovation

Kevin Roberts speech (CEO Worldwide Saatchi and Saatchi) – International University in Geneva

Kevin has sometimes used variations of the UBC neurologist Donald Calne quote (emphasis added),

The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.

Terence Winter, creator of Boardwalk Empire, one-on-one interview at #banff2012

Saturday, 16 June, 2012

Terence Winter, Creator, Writer, Exec producer of HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire

Here is my one-on-one interview with Terence Winter, creator, writer, executive producer of HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire. Also don’t forget to watch Terence’s masterclass (video) at Banff 2012.

Note: In the interview, Terence recommends Syd Field‘s classic “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” (first published in 1979).

Here is the official Banff session description.

Boardwalk Empire – Masterclass with Terence Winter
A few short years after his tenure on The Sopranos ended, Terence Winter brought the gangster genre roaring back with Boardwalk Empire, a sweeping epic set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City. Along with Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, series Creator Winter deftly weaves fact and fiction to pull back the curtain on the worlds of both crime and politics. Join Winter as he discusses what it takes to create and produce an award-winning period drama.
What was the creative process of adapting an episodic series from a novel?
What are the challenges and limitations of integrating real-life figures with fictional characters?
What is it like collaborating with Martin Scorsese, one of the true masters of cinema?
What are the creative limitations and benefits to producing a period drama?”

Masterclass with Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter at #banff2012

Saturday, 16 June, 2012

Terence Winter, Creator, Writer, Exec producer of HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire

It was my great pleasure to attend the masterclass with Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter @ Banff 2012. Have a watch of the insightful masterclass with Terence. Also don’t forget to watch my one-on-one video interview with Terence.

From 2012 Banff’s session description:

Boardwalk Empire – Masterclass with Terence Winter
A few short years after his tenure on The Sopranos ended, Terence Winter brought the gangster genre roaring back with Boardwalk Empire, a sweeping epic set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City. Along with Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, series Creator Winter deftly weaves fact and fiction to pull back the curtain on the worlds of both crime and politics. Join Winter as he discusses what it takes to create and produce an award-winning period drama.

* What was the creative process of adapting an episodic series from a novel?
* What are the challenges and limitations of integrating real-life figures with fictional characters?
* What is it like collaborating with Martin Scorsese, one of the true masters of cinema?
* What are the creative limitations and benefits to producing a period drama?”

Help Name KRNV’s Webcast

Friday, 8 June, 2012

I fired up my creative engine, greased my design fingers, and even turned on my magical camera to create a few submissions to try to help +Melissa Carlson name KRNV’s new webcast. Check out my video and design pix.

Kempton’s Trying to help Melissa name KRNV’s Webcast

OK, you actually don’t need graphics (even I’ve a few :), you definitely don’t need a video (even I love mine :), all you need is a better name in words! Give it a try, it is good fun and you can win some prizes!

Here is Melissa‘s “Help Name Our Webcast!

P.S. One of my current ideas that I like best so far.

Lovemark0 - G+ News in 4D

P.S. Did I tell you I love working with Melissa and other participants like myself in the Google+ Hangout. You see, the first show is 9/10/12 (in three months!) and I am already calling it my Lovemark!

Do Hello Kitty and SpongeBob create instant Lovemarks for Heinz?

Monday, 5 March, 2012

Heinz Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty and SpongeBob are loved by many and easily qualified as Lovemarks. Now, I am curious of the commercial benefits of licensing the images of Hello Kitty and SpongeBob to put on pasta products. May be all Heinz wants is to put their late coming products stand out a little from a large field of competitors and that benefit alone is worth the price of the licensing fees. What do you think?

Are Hello Kitty and SpongeBob creating instant Lovemarks for Heinz?

Heinz Sponge Bob

Sadly @googlenexus challenge shows Google Galaxy Nexus has Logic but lacks LOVE in its DNA – Challenge #1 solution explained

Sunday, 13 November, 2011

Androids' message

Because I am looking to buy a new phone, I was initially excited by the @googlenexus challenge: 10 chances in 10 days to win a Galaxy Nexus and even retweeted it. [HT MS] I thought it was a cool way to generate buzz for the new Galaxy Nexus. But then my excitement quickly faded once I saw and then struggled for hours with challenge #1 (see above message). Which lead me to think about the problem with this promotional challenge #1. See later this post for my challenge #1 solution explanation.

Logic or Love?

In the Galaxy Nexus Oct 19th launch video, a presenter wondered out loud and wished that Galaxy Nexus is more LOVED! Unfortunately @googlenexus challenge #1 clearly showed, to me, Google Galaxy Nexus has Logic but lacks LOVE in DNA. How so?

If Galaxy Nexus is to be loved, it can’t just cater to the geeks (or super geeks)! Should a promotional campaign be enjoyable and solvable by your average Grace & Gary? Or should the challenged be fun and solvable only by super geeks? To be honest, who the heck had any idea what the beep this picture mean? I was pissed off enough that I tweeted with the #fail tag and used “stupid” to describe 99.9% of us fans,

Is @googlenexus too smart for its own good? Why make its first #GalaxyNexus Challenge so hard that 99.99% of its fans look stupid? #fail

Hey @googlenexus We are just happy fans trying to have fun & win a $500 #GalaxyNexus phone right? This is not a job app for #google ? #fail

You see, the challenge was hard enough that Google had to post a hint! Given the hint, I looked up the Flag semaphore and soon realized there can be many combinatorial variations and one can’t really solve the problem easily without spending a ton of time or even writing a computer program!

One such non sensible interpretations of the symbols I came up with is,

(1,2) to indicate number, then “689 944” then (1,3) to indicate letters, then “PICO ALIE CHILAM

Challenge #1 solution explained

What I managed to do was only to verify someone’s answer! For beep sake, the challenge shouldn’t be this hard that it frustrated 99.9% of people who tried to give it a shot!

#GalaxyNexus is well-traveled, coming to @googlenexus from What did J Cook call Hawaii

Process to verify solution:

Converting pictures to Symbols (from left to right)

(note: top flag is the position 1, then clockwise count from 2 to 8 to convert all flag positions)

Symbol #1 (1,2,3,5,6,6,7,8); Symbol #2 (1,1,5,5,6,8); Symbol #3 (1,3)

Symbol #4 (1,5,6,7,7,8,8,8); Symbol #5 (2,2,5,5,6,6,6,8); Symbol #6 (2,3,5,5,6,6,6,6,6,7,8,8)


What did J Cook call Hawaii

WHAT – W (2,3) H (6,7) A (5,6) T (8,1) [Sources of confusions: (5,6) can also stand for the number 1, also (1,2) can also stand for an instruction for “Numerals”]

DID – D (5,1) I (6,8) D (5,1) [Sources of confusions: All these combinations can also stand for numbers.]

J (1,3)  [Source of confusion: This time, (1,3) also stand to indication coming are Letters!]

COOK (  (5,8) (7,8) (7,8) (1,6) )

CALL ( (5,8) (5,6) (6,2) (6,2) )

HAIWAII ( (6,7) (5,6) (2,3) (5,6) (6,8) (6,8) )

Challenge #2 – Any more love?

Well, challenge #2 has now been posted,

* “Challenge 2: Make something geeky & edible. Include #deliciousness & @googlenexus in your submission

* “Challenge 2 entries evaluated on creativity, originality & use of humor. Rules: Can’t wait to see what you concoct!

At least contestants will be judged on their “creativity, originality & use of humor” but the challenge itself stills want entries to be “geeky“!

iPhone vs. Google Nexus

I think it is safe to say iPhone is loved my many people. People don’t LOVE things logically! And I just can’t imagine Apple will be insane enough to try a contest like challenge #1. Sadly, the @googlenexus challenge #1 shows Google Galaxy Nexus seems to be unable or unwilling to broaden its appeal to the general public. If you are not a geek (actually they mean super geek), we are not interested in catering to you or have you interested in our new phone!

It is hard to inject LOVE into Google’s DNA when it is so much built on logic and calculations.

Kevin Roberts, CEO worldwide Saatchi & Saatchi keynotes nextMEDIA Toronto 2011

Thursday, 11 August, 2011

Kevin Roberts, CEO worldwide Saatchi & Saatchi at nextMEDIA Toronto 2011

I’ve been reading Kevin Roberts‘s ideas for years and even created Kevin’s Wikipedia page. So it is wonderful to see Kevin is coming to Canada to share his insights. The following is from the nextMEDIA Toronto 2011 (Dec 5 – 6) press release. If you are in Toronto during that time, register to attend.

CEO worldwide for creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Kevin Roberts is a marketing pioneer with a heart for nostalgia and has been bringing popular brands to market and straight into consumers’hearts since the early 1970s. Roberts has worked with large-scale international clients such as Carlsberg, TMobile, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Sony Ericsson, JCPenney, Toyota and VISA Europe among others.

Roberts is the author of a number of best-selling books, including Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, in which he describes the emotional connections we create with the brands we’ve grown tolove.

So, here’s the real question: How does your brand achieve Lovemark status? Well, fear not, Roberts is heading to nextMEDIA Toronto this year to help you solve that very problem.

Named one of the top ten ideas of the decade in 2010 by advertising and marketing news website AdAge, Lovemarks transcend brands, leaving their iconic symbols emblazoned in the hearts and memories of consumers worldwide.

Join Kevin Roberts at nextMEDIA Toronto 2011 for an informative keynote session about hisLovemarks theory, offering crucial insight into the future of marketing and an analysis of the way we identify with our favourite brands.”

TV as a business – 2020 Vision

Sunday, 7 August, 2011

2020-Vision pix 01 - Gary Carter, COO, FremantleMedia

I’ve attended the last six consecutive annual Banff World TV/Media Festival as a project pitcher, reporter and also to keep track of the lastest advance in ideas and technologies. So I don’t watch TV passively. I try to watch TV as a money making business.

2020-Vision pix 02 - Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi

My insightful blog friend Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi, who is featured in the 2020 Vision documentary series, was kind to share the doc series in his article “2020Vision“. And it is always wonderful to watch the most insightful Gary Carter, COO, FrementleMedia (who I had the pleasure to hear and met in person twice at Banff).

I’ve gathered here the six-part doc with info for you to watch. Check out the Think TV 2020 Vision site for more info.

Episode 1: “In the first episode of our six-part documentary series on the “Future of TV” our visionaries discuss how television viewing is migrating across multiple screens.

Episode 2: “In the second episode of our six-part documentary series on the “Future of TV” we investigate the power of audiences and the impact they are having on broadcasters and advertisers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lego at Chinook (and Canadian Mega Brands/Bloks)

Wednesday, 13 July, 2011

Lego at Chinook - pix 08

I wish I had more time to study Lego as a business, but since it is a private business, my incentive to read though Lego’s years of annual reports are somewhat reduced. :) If I were to judge Lego by people’s interest in playing with them in the middle of the Chinook shopping mall last Saturday, it looks like people’s love affair with Lego haven’t finished at all. It was really cool to see this father and his two sons spent a lovely afternoon building this Lego project!

November 2005

I enjoy Lego as a kid, but since Nov 2005, I have been thinking more like a legal minded business consultant. Well, what happened in Nov 2005? As some readers may remember, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Lego’s “monopoly on the bricks is over” in Nov 2005 and Canadian MEGA Brands (maker of the MEGA BLOKS construction toys) can freely make their bricks to work with Lego’s.

What surprised me is a quick look/research (spending 5 minutes) seem to indicate the privately held Lego is still making good profit based on its lastest 2009 annual report.

Whereas the stock prices of Mega Brands, a high of $552 on Dec 30, 2005 down to $9.42 at the close of July 13, 2011, plus a quick glance of Mega Brands’ 2010 annual report, indicates Read the rest of this entry »

Quote I Love: ideas are the currency of the future

Thursday, 7 July, 2011

ideas are the currency of the future” – Kevin Roberts

I’ve loved this quote for such a long time that I don’t remember exactly how many years (since the 90s?). I even printed it on an earlier version of my business cards (with credit to Kevin, of course)! So I can’t believe I am just adding it to my list of Quotes I Love now!

Also check out ‘s blog KRConnect for his latest ideas & thinking, including his “Lovemarks“.

Business Strategy: Apple, with its Final Cut Pro X, lets Adobe & Avid refight their Battles of Waterloo #fail

Friday, 1 July, 2011

Apple Adobe Avid refight Battles of Waterloo - pix 1

People don’t usually win by betting against Apple as Apple has shown the world so many great products in recent years. But I am going to join a critical Oscar editor and take my chance and bet my $1 against Apple. I say Apple may have materially damaged its Final Cut Pro brand/lovemark by giving Adobe and Avid some meaningful chances into retake some of the long lost market share. Assuming Adobe and Avid have good products and execute their plans well.

In fact, I am willing to go out on a limb and say Apple is giving “losers” Adobe and Avid new chances to refight their Battles of Waterloo in the field of video editing software. In the battlefield, your opponents are usually not too kind in letting you fight again and learn from your previous mistakes.

I think Apple has very much underestimated the influence of professional editors on prosumers and new beginning editors. For me, I remember years ago one of the reasons I took Final Cut Pro seriously and bought into it was because of FCP was being highly regarded and used by the professionals.

OK, NBA players have been locked out, but imagine if a brand of basketball shoes have been founded to restrict certain shots/moves by NBA players thus making them unable play their best games, will you still buy the shoes?

As my friend like to say, the following is my brand of poison/observations. Readers beware.

1) Adobe SWITCH Campaign

Apple Adobe Avid refight Battles of Waterloo - pix 2

Adobe is smart and quick to launch a Premiere SWITCH campaign (note: press release here50% off Production Premium or Adobe Premiere Pro “if you own Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer with offer code SWITCH. Offer ends September 30, 2011”) making its Production Premium software costing $850 and Adobe Premiere Pro software costing $400 respectively after discount. [HT Apple Insider] Update: See also PC World review of software.

2) Full function Production Premium group of softwares at significant discount

The Production Premium software has quite a number of useful & powerful softwares and can be a good fit for professional/prosumer FCP7 users. Given Apple‘s willingness to give up its professional users, it makes sense for professional to buy and learn it for risk mitigation/management purpose. Of course, at $850, it is a bit out of reach for people who can only afford the FCPX $299 prices.

3) Adobe Premiere Pro on SWITCH discount at $400. Why $400?

Now moving on to Adobe Premiere Pro, if Adobe is smarter, they should just lower its price to $299 to match the FCPX price for new purchase!

We are talking about business strategy to regain long lost market share! A market that has been dominated by Apple Final Cut Pro for a long time. I don’t understand why Adobe Read the rest of this entry »

Apple Latest PR Disaster – Final Cut Pro X is Not a Professional Application

Tuesday, 28 June, 2011

July 2nd update: New article, “Business Strategy: Apple, with its Final Cut Pro X, lets Adobe & Avid refight their Battles of Waterloo #fail


It is puzzling and amazing to see Apple seems to have created a massive PR disaster for itself and there is even a group of professional Final Cut Pro users created a petition – “Final Cut Pro X is Not a Professional Application”. And according to AppleInsider report, “Dissatisfied Final Cut Pro X customers receive refunds from Apple“.

More news,

* CNNMoney, “600 filmmakers sign complaint about Final Cut Pro X

* ZDNet, “What does Final Cut Pro X teach enterprise vendors?

* WaPo, “Apple Final Cut Pro X: 600 filmmakers say nothing ‘pro’ about it

* SlashFilm, “Final Cut Pro X: Did Apple Just Walk Away From the Professional Video Editing Market?

*  CNet, Petition seeks to bring back old Final Cut Pro

If shows again even Apple (a Lovemark to many people, not to me anymore since July 2010) isn’t immune to complains from seriously unhappy customers if it doesn’t deliver the goods as expected.

What happen to a Lovemark when the love was lost?

Thursday, 9 June, 2011


First of all, I’ve been a long time admirer and reader of Kevin Roberts‘ ideas in advertising, branding, and marketing, all in all, safe to say I’m a big fan of Kevin. Recently, I found it very cool that Kevin’s idea of Lovemark has gained acceptance in business schools that even my neighbour’s university marketing class is teaching the concept of Lovemark! It puts a big smile on my face to think that I was responsible in creating the first Wikipedia entry for Lovemark when Kevin’s book first came out in 2006 (yes, time flies and that was 5 years ago)!

Love Lost

Back to the reason for writing this article. I want to bring up the important question of “What happen to a Lovemark when the love was lost?

Part of me understand why Kevin hasn’t talked much about love lost in the two Lovemark books or in his writing. After all, it is more engaging & positive to focus on the good and inspiring. Also, it is probably bad business to talk about “love lost” when trying to sell to clients.

So I guess it is up to independent “practitioners” of Lovemarks, like myself, to try to point out that it can’t be all love all the time! As with any “meaningful love“, there has to be risk of love lost, or cases where love was actually lost. I think it is important for each of us, if not collectively, to keep a list of Lovemarks that are no longer loved.

In my list of admired companies, you will see Apple Computer and Lexus had been removed and are no longer on my list of Lovemarks. I know I will have more Lovemarks in the future, and I also realized that it is unrealistic to ignore love lost.

In memory of the love lost

Here is “Love Lost” by The Temper Trap.

Here is the lyrics of Love Lost. If you read it or listen to the song beyond the title, I think it actually contains a message of hope.

Our love was lost
But now we’ve found it
Our love was lost
And hope was gone Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Branson’s Virgin America

Wednesday, 13 April, 2011

I’ve deep admiration for Richard Branson and his Virgin Group is one of my admired companies and Lovemarks. After reading Bloomberg BusinessWeek “Will Richard Branson’s Virgin America Fly?“, I am interested to see how things will turn out at the end. Here is an excerpt,

“Virgin America does have at least part of one big asset: Branson. He is a legendary salesman with a special love of aviation—not only for the business, but for adventures like his attempted around-the-world balloon flights. To hear him talk, profits are almost secondary to his mission with Virgin America. “American carriers are all very much the same, and the people who run them do not think of the customers at all,” says Branson, sitting in the first row of one of the airline’s parked, white-and-red painted A320s. “It’s become a bus service.” As guests mingle on the tarmac under the bright Texas sky, the interior lights bathe the cabin in a deep magenta, meant to evoke dawn. “If everything is a joy, if you come onto a plane and the lighting is right, the seating is right, and the cabin crew is happy, you feel welcome,” Branson says. “It’s like you have come into somebody’s home.” Read the rest of this entry »

unLovemark: Bernard Callebaut the businessman and the two brands

Wednesday, 30 March, 2011

Love is more enjoyable and easier to write than heartbreak. And it is no expectation in writing about Lovemark and what I will coin as “unLovemark”. I will try to keep this one short.

I publicly wrote about my love of Bernard Callebaut chocolate in 2007 (and twice in passing in 2006). Since Bernard Callebaut the business entering receivership in 2010 and now Bernard Callebaut the chocolatier/businessman being found in contempt and ordered by court to pay $150,000 fine (see below for excerpt), I finally realized the heartbreak moment has arrived. If we are living in the real world where good and bad things sometime happen, then we have to also have “unLovemark” for fallen Lovemark. This is sad but sometimes life has sad moments.

Some background info

* Just before Christmas 2010, the court has concluded that Bernard Callebaut the businessman tried to launch his new brand Papa Chocolat using misappropriated bulk chocolate and moulds from his old company that was in receivership. Taking and using things that are not his personal property anymore. Unfortunately, I don’t know if  Papa Chocolat will have much chance of survival.

Bernard Callebaut the business is still in operation (by receiver Deloitte & Touche) but it is hard to imagine all these negative news about the founder and namesake of the company/brand are helping businesses or regaining the lost charm and love of the chocolate.


Here is an excerpt, “Bernard Callebaut ordered to pay $150,000 after being found in contempt – By Kim Guttormson, Calgary Herald March 24, 2011

CALGARY – The increasingly bitter fallout from Bernard Callebaut losing his chocolate company ended Thursday with a judicial rebuke and $150,000 in fines levied against the Calgary chocolate maker. Read the rest of this entry » CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh on Bloomberg

Thursday, 3 March, 2011 got on my radar after I learned it played an important role in helping Charlie Sheen regain his Twitter handle and got it “verified” quickly. Here is a video of Arnie Gullov-Singh, CEO of, speaking on Bloomberg. has a network of over a 1,000 celebrities on Facebook and Twitter. (more info in Arnie’s blog entry “Celebrity Endorsements In 5 Simple Steps“) And this Jan 2011 entry “Disclosure is Simple, Clear and Conspicuous” answered one of my main concerns, (emphasis added)

“You may have seen a number of headlines last week — primarily coming out of the UK — about advertisers going straight to celebrities to do paid endorsements in Twitter *without* clear disclosure.

Just a quick reminder that – as always – 100% of endorsements are fully disclosed in accordance with guidelines from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). [Kempton: I don’t know how up-to-date is this, but here are links to the FTC 5th Oct, 2009 press release and the FTC 2009 endorsement guide (PDF).]

When we launched in 2009, we established 100% disclosure as a best practice using #Ad, (Ad), or #Spon at the end of each endorsement, or a clear contextual statement such as “I am working with brand XYZ to promote product ABC.””

Looks like Arnie and his team are doing some cool stuff here, I am definitely going to keep an eye on them as I think they have an interesting business going here.

Some stats/quotes by Arnie in the Bloomberg interview:

* Last 12 months, did about 24,000 endorsements for about 150 brands.

* “Very effective way to advertise scalably in social media.”

* “Celebrities are really the new brands in social media.” [Kempton: Hmmm, interesting. Interesting way to see celebrities and brands.]

P.S. May be I am too quick to call, a company I read this morning for the first time, a Lovemark? But I think it is fun to take a little bit of risk once in a while because I do see lots of potential for Only time will tell if I am right.

P.P.S. As I wrote before, in case you are interested, here is a link to US Patent application 20090177532 “SELF SERVE ADVERTISING SYSTEM AND METHOD” filed Jan 7, 2009. I should really take a look if I can find some time.

Getting help from KitchenAid via Twitter

Thursday, 2 September, 2010

KitchenAid Porcelain Nonstick Cookwares 1/4

KitchenAid Porcelain Nonstick Cookwares 2/4

Note: Photos were taken when we bought these beautiful pans earlier this year. And yes, I know I am a geek that loves to cook. :)

Seriously, we love our KitchenAid appliances, I think I’ve become a better cook ! :) We started with a KitchenAid range and then bought a powerful blender. So when it came time to replace our worn out nonstick pans, we  went shopping around and finally decided to give KitchenAid pans a try.

Because of the lovely design and fire red, we felt in love with the KitchenAid Porcelain Nonstick Cookwares earlier this year and bought them. Unfortunately we ran into problems immediately when we started using them to cook and the problems, again unfortunately, haven’t gone away and in fact have gotten worst over time.

You see, the problems we have are with the pans bulging (seriously bulging) under heat. As I mentioned, we have a nice KitchenAid range. The range has a perfectly flat and easy to clean cooktop. But now, because the pans have bulged and have created a single point of contact instead of a flat bottom, the pans will literally spin on the cooktop. As a result, the bottom of our KitchenAid pans (see photos below) and the cooktop have been scratched. And I do feel a little bit worry/unsafe when I cook with the pans as I have to watch them carefully and don’t let them spin out of control.

Yesterday, I tried to get some help from the nice people from KitchenAid via thier twitter account. This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see them replied promptly. Wow, KitchenAid is listening, very cool.

To help explain the problems, I figured some photos for “show & tell” will help. And as a reporter/blogger, since I got the photos already and twitter is too short to explain things, I thought I might as well write this up as an article.

Dear KitchenAid, you’ve been a lovemark to me in my mind. I hope the nice people at KitchenAid can help me.

P.S. The cooktop has scratched and become quite rough and spilled food get to stick to them more.

The lovely big pan with glass cover (7 months later).

KitchenAid Porcelain Nonstick Cookwares - Pix 3/4

The smaller pan without cover.

KitchenAid Porcelain Nonstick Cookwares 4/4

Bernard Callebaut’s financial details

Tuesday, 10 August, 2010

3 lessons as chocolatier Bernard Callebaut enters receivership

From Calgary Herald “Bernard Callebaut determined to claw his way back from receivership” (emphasis added),

“Last Tuesday, Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut was placed in receivership by ATB Financial, which alleges in court documents it is owed roughly $3.9 million by the company. […]

Callebaut is candid about the issues. One crux is a $5-million land purchase west of Calgary made during the boom — a 78-hectare expanse Callebaut dreamed one day would house a factory and warehouse facility and would feature an organic dairy farm to round out his chocolate production.

He recently tried to sell that land, but was only offered $2 million.

The head office building on 1st Street by 13th Avenue S.E. was sold during the boom to raise capital, he says. It did that, but also saddled the company with an expensive lease signed with the new owner during the height of the market.

Then the economic downturn brought sliding sales. In June 2009, the company temporarily reduced its workforce to a skeleton crew. But Callebaut says when people saw the headlines, they believed the chocolaterie was closed, leading to an immediate 15 per cent drop in business.”

See also my previous article, “3 lessons as chocolatier Bernard Callebaut enters receivership“.

Oct 4th, 2010 Update: “Chocolatier Bernard Callebaut making final bid to regain company

Apr 11th, 2011 Update: “unLovemark: Bernard Callebaut the businessman and the two brands

3 lessons as chocolatier Bernard Callebaut enters receivership

Wednesday, 4 August, 2010

3 lessons as chocolatier Bernard Callebaut enters receivership

Dec 9th, 2010 Update: Bernard Callebaut returns to market as Papa Chocolat, Calgary Herald. I am not sure what to make of Papa Chocolat as I can’t quite see pass the failed business mess in “Bernard Callebaut”, the business.


Many people were shocked and saddened by the news that Calgary-based chocolatier Bernard Callebaut went into receivership yesterday. (CTV & CBC news with videos) The following are three possible lessons from this sad story.

Lesson 1 – Cash Flow:

Cash flow is one of the most important thing in keeping a business alive. Without a healthy cash flow, one cannot keep a business viable. Leo Donlevy at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business made a valid point (emphasis added),

“… it appears that growing the business got Callebaut into trouble.

“Many businesses … bought very expensive real estate assets and other assets when times were good,” Donlevy said. “And times went bad, and being the maker of a luxury product, sales probably went down and cash flow dried up, and [Callebaut] got in trouble with his lenders.

The important thing is to strike a balance on how much to borrow without hurting the viability of a business in the long run. Incidentally, for companies with solid businesses and steady cash flow, the current economic downturn can actually be a good time to renegotiate some long term loans to more favourable rates and terms. And this may also be a good time to establish credit facilities at reasonable rate for future needs when the economy inevitably gets back on its feet. The best time to get a credit line for your business is, paradoxically, when you don’t need the money.

The lessons here are: pay close attention to your cash flow, don’t over extend your borrowing, setup credit facilities/line of credit when you don’t need the money.

Lesson 2 – Investing:

I originally wanted to write a more in-depth article about two chocolate bonds including the Callebaut three series of Participating Notes. I went as far as requesting the term sheet for the Callebaut Notes so that I can review the notes for their investment quality. Unfortunately, because the Callebaut’s audited financial statements are not part of the investor package, I was unable to determine how good/bad Callebaut as a business so I wasn’t able to evaluate its notes.

The fact that the minimum offering for the Callebaut Notes was $3,500,000 with $3,150,000 going to debt repayment, $150,000 to working capital, and $350,000 to debt commissions, also raised some concern in my mind. In hindsight, it is clear why $3.15 million of the $3.5 million was planned for debt repayment.

The lesson here is you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t understand some investment opportunities and don’t feel comfortable enough in investing in them. Because sometime these “opportunities” may not be good investments at all.

Lesson 3 – Brand

Bernard Callebaut is a loved brand/Lovemark of mine. I wrote this in 2006, and here is an excerpt from a 2007 article,

My personal Lovemarks in chocolate are See’s Candies (my childhood favourite) and Bernard Callebaut by the award winning Belgium chocolatier (“a mischievous boy“) living and headquartered in Calgary. I once bought a small bag of Bernard Callebaut chocolate to share with my better half. Ah, when I got home, I think I only left one or two to her. I don’t think I mentioned there was a bag of them.

I don’t know how close I can or should compare Bernard Callebaut with See’s Candies, but I know See’s Candies has been an exceptionally good investment over the years for Warren Buffett. With Bernard Callebaut now in receivership and possibly available at a fire sale price, a really great investment deal may be available.

So if Bernard, the creditors, Deloitte, and potential investors can work out a reasonable deal for all, the Bernard Callebaut brand should survive. And it is very possible that a new owner and management team can turn the company around and keep the Bernard Callebaut brand going for years to come.

More news from: Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald

Crossed posted as an article.

Apple: removed from “Admired Companies”/Lovemarks list

Monday, 19 July, 2010

Sadly, I am removing Apple from my “Admired Companies”/Lovemarks list. I may still consider buying Apple products in the future but Apple is no longer on my “Admired Companies”/Lovemarks list list and it is definitely not a Lovemark to me anymore.


Removing Apple from list of Admired companies/Lovemarks

Watching Apple’s actions in the recent months (including its app store approval “policies” (note: reversing that one wrong decision didn’t make the fundamental problem go away) and licensing terms “iPhone developer EULA turns programmers into serfs” and “All Your Apps Are Belong to Apple: The iPhone Developer Program License Agreement“), and the final straw of Steve Jobs’ iPhone 4 press conference last Friday (16, July, 2010), I have removed Apple from my list of admired companies (or Lovemarks).


July 25 update: An insightful piece from Guardian “If Apple wants to be a major player it needs to start behaving like one – The iPhone 4 debacle reveals how much Apple has to learn about life at the top”.

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