The British among you will have heard this expression. Essentially ‘chav’ has become a word that even my 72 year old mother uses. As the web site says: ‘chav’ (slang) – a young person, often without a high level of education, who follows a particular fashion; Chavs usually wear designer labels including the chav favorite ‘Burberry’, and if they are girls, very short skirts, large hoop earrings and stilettos. Chavs see branded baseball caps as a status symbol and wear them at every opportunity. Normally found hanging around shopping centres.

So what is so interesting about this expression and why should anyone in, or connected to, Silicon Valley care? Well, I was struck when in the UK that Burberry is already having to defend itself against the ‘chav’ status. It seems young people that had been flocking to own a piece of clothing with Burberry tartan are now unstitching the tartan from items they own and they certainly won’t be buying anything new that attaches them to the brand. All of this shows how quickly brands can be built and then destroyed. In this instance this is not some natural disaster, this is someone, somewhere taking the brand down. What if Apple’s products were suddenly deemed chav? Would the iPod suddenly be hidden from view and would Creative’s Zen replace it? I noticed on one of the sites that people were already identifying certain cell phones as Chav. Of course it could be said that all that’s happening here is that the natural order of fashion is taking its course and that Burberry which came (back) onto the scene from nowhere is now about to go back into obscurity (at least in the UK). The shocking aspect is how fast it’s happening and the role the Internet is playing. For example there are now dozens of web sites such as the rather down market that even offers suggestions for those looking for chav baby names (or perhaps the chance for people to make sure the name they are about to choose isn’t chav).

Of course the whole ‘chav’ concept has yet to make its way across the Atlantic. But when it does I can just imagine what the consumer marketers will make of it. Until then you can go on buying Burberry… If you really want to.

Will we do things differently this time?

Google has been credited with putting the fire back in to the IPO market again. Indeed the San Jose Mercury News recently described last year as being split in to two eras – BG and AG… Before Google and After Google. Such was the impact of the Google IPO that it has put IPOs and more importantly tech IPOs back on the map. The Merc’s article went on to say that Nationally, last year’s IPO crop was the largest since 2000, just before the painful bursting of the Internet stock bubble. More than 230 companies in a wide array of industries took the IPO plunge, raising a total of $44.5 billion, typically used to build their businesses, cash out insiders or pay down debt. That was nearly triple 2003’s 81 deals, not counting some top-performing deals out of China in 2004, such as job-search company 51Job, online game company Shanda Interactive Entertainment and telecom company China Netcom.

The rush of IPOs is perhaps not that surprising given that the number of startups didn’t decline as much as the stock market and the need for capital from public markets didn’t vanish. So at some point all that pent up demand had to be fulfilled. Whether this last does of course remain to be seen.

The piece that interests me is whether the resurgence of the IPOs will change the way people deal with benefits such IPOs bring. In the boom years people rode their companies stock to the moon and most then clung on as they hurtled back to earth. I’ve noted a few people quietly leaving Google lately (A Google employee with 10,000 options priced at $30 will have made a cool $1.6m profit at today’s stock price). Not all IPOs have been as succesful as Google’s but will the recovery of IPOs mean that this time people are simply going to cash out and get out as soon as some value has been built? I suspect many will do this, especially those who lost their paper millionaire status in the crash. After all when the market was always going up we all knew we’d be mad to sell. When things crashed???

So what will this mean? Well if it does act out as I suggest then we’ll see a very unstable market. We’ll see people getting out as soon as stocks float and hit any of the projected prices analysts are forecasting. Is there a way around this? Well of course we could all become practical and take a more analytical view of the world and hold on to the stock we are sure will continue to rise.

Now if only we knew for certain which one that was….

2005 is already over

I was unfortunate enough to be ill on Monday. This was not the after effects of too much celebration over the New Year but rather a stomach bug that confined me to my bed for 24 hours. During my vaguely awake moments I surfed through the news channels on TV as my wife and children passed messages under the door – messages like: “are you hungry?” and “hello daddy, are you alive?” I didn’t respond to any of these in a bid to see if any of them would dare open the door.

During my day-time TV surfing I was relieved to learn that 2005 was essentially all over from a financial perspective. The stock watchers on CNN and CNBC both made confident calls on what would happen to the market overall for the full year and cited many notable economists to back their perspectives. Of course I’m not going to share these predictions for the simple reason that they were total BS. Even the reporter on CNBC giving the predictions admitted that when they did the same piece a year ago they’d made a hash of it. So it occurred to me, why do this piece if you know it’s garbage? The answer is of course that we all want to know what will happen in the future and we want someone with authority to tell us so we can tell others. And of course when we meet our friends and say “according to CNN the stock market is going to see a rise of x% this year,” we’ll sound like we know what we’re talking about. But then again, if we’d actually watched the piece we’d know that they used so many caveats in their reports that they could have said the market was going to do anything.

All of which poses a question in my mind. Is the media just trying to fulfill the role we want it to in our lives or does it have a serious agenda? Surely we don’t want flakey content just to support interesting issues so we ca sound intelligent to our friends and colleagues? OK, I’m being silly here I know. Of course the media is trying to respond to our wishes, after all it’s a business and businesses do want their customers want (most of the time). I just thought I’d raise the flag at the start of a New Year and remind us all that the media could do so much more. Instead of meaningless star gazing and speculation the media could do real analysis of events so we learn. If they did that more then perhaps Donald Trump would be forced to go back to being a businessman instead of a TV personality and instead of the Apprentice we’d get some real TV.

Happy New Year!