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In the past, Hilton Worldwide, which has 4,200 hotels in 90 countries, used to look at individual consumers and decide who was a Hilton customer. It used that determination in its marketing: Hampton Inn people were targeted one way, while those who fit the profile of the Waldorf Astoria were approached in another. Then the company had an a-ha moment.

Faced with consumers who can search for information, form groups and publicly express their opinion through electronic media and social networking, goods producers and services providers will inevitably have to step down from their comfortable heights and start thinking in terms of coproduction with a customer who will become a prosumer.

A short distribution channel is defined either by direct sale from producer to consumer or by the indirect sale, provided that there is only one intermediary. Long confined to activist circles, this alternative model is now moving out of the margins. What are its prospects? Can it prove a game changer?

Which innovation strategy for consumer goods?

Business February 27th, 2014, Matthieu Perrier / Innovation Manager, ITW

Shrouded in the secrecy of marketing services, at the heart of the manufacturing industry, innovation has today established itself as the ultimate solution, illustrated by insolent successes despite a challenging environment. Sometimes defined as the encounter between an invention and a market segment, innovation seems to generate alternatives, growth drivers, and even crisis products that allow companies to bounce or to renew themselves. So how are the necessary opportunities to be found? Is there a recipe for large FMCG companies? A recipe? Certainly not. But some methods, yes. And also plenty of flawed strategies.

With its brand new millionaires and a booming middle class, China is a dream come true for major luxury brands. But it is fraught with pitfalls – and, from design to marketing, these command a revamping of many practices. In the line of fire comes a fundamental question: is the Chinese market going to overhaul our Western conception of luxury?

How can we fight drug counterfeiting?

Society July 4th, 2012, Franck Guarnieri & Eric Przyswa / Director of Crisis and Risk Research Center at Mines ParisTech ; consultant, associate researcher at Crisis and Risk Research Center

The problem of counterfeit drugs has emerged as an acute issue in the public debate over the last ten years. Both China's entry in the World Trade Organization and the growth of the Internet have deeply influenced the evolution of this problem. Meanwhile, the forms and issues at stake are not very well known. Today, the problem has grown to such a magnitude that it has become crucial to rethink our fight against drug counterfeiting.

Does the Internet empower consumers? Or does it make them more vulnerable to manipulation? While both statements might be correct, the balance tilts definitely toward the latter, says Joseph Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School. The advertising industry has launched one of history's most massive stealth efforts in social profiling. The result is an increase in intrusive practices that are eroding publishing ethics. Does the solution lie in greater self-regulation or more aggressive oversight by the government?

Companies like Amazon or Sprint are banking on customer lifetime value (CLV), a marketing formula based on the idea of spending money up front to gain customers whose loyalty will reap rewards over the long term. As many companies turn to subscription-based business models, CLV will become a larger issue.

The gap between the demands of markets and the ability of firms to meet those demands is costing firms profitability now and competitiveness in the future. Wharton School professor George S. Day and colleague David Reibstein talk about the growing flood of data, knowledge sharing technology, the socially networked and ever demanding consumer, and how some companies are successfully building their customer base.

Have you heard of Twollars yet? Maybe not, but by now you've probably heard of Facebook credits. Social networks are developing virtual currencies who could be used by hundreds of millions of consumers, with consequences whose scale we are just beginning to measure. Where will the cash flows derived from these transactions transit?

It was a mere dream ten years ago, an emerging market only three years ago. Today, the e-book is on the verge of transforming drastically the publishing industry. The arrival of e-readers has sent the demand through the roof and by 2015, within developed nations, digital media could represent 20% of the book market in value. The radical transformation of the value chain puts publishers under heavy stress with the arrival of new players.

Word of mouth used to be just that - what your friends told you about a book, a movie, or a restaurant. Today, we not only have friends to turn to for such information but also thousands of strangers, who are posting their opinions online and leading the rest of us this way or that. This new public reservoir of advice and first-hand experience is leading to a major shift in the relationship between consumers and commerce, creating new opportunities for some companies - and a fresh source of risk.

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