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Dr. Kjell Nordström is known globally for his unorthodox approach to business and his belief that traditional technologies and institutions are being subverted and overturned…and that it only is people who embrace these changes, and create visionary and flexible business models, who will thrive in the new century.

To get a sense of what Dr. Nordstrom will tell attendees at the annual Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Marketechnics conference in San Diego, scheduled for January 30-February 1, MNB engaged him in an exclusive e-interview.

MNB: In reading about you and the description of your presentation, a recurring theme is the need to abandon copycat, imitative thinking in order to succeed in a 21st century environment. In speaking to a supermarket conference, you are addressing an industry that has, over the years, thrived on being mainstream and traditional. Can so-called “mass marketing” adopt a “free your mind” approach and still have mass appeal?

Kjell Nordström: Mass anything is today in most industries NOT the way forward. Personalisation and individualisation is the new normal. For business it is becoming a must. The automobile industry show the way forward: A personalised mass approach.

MNB: In many ways, unconventional marketing often is viewed within the supermarket industry as necessarily being upscale; that imagination in mid-market or down-market retailing is suspect. How does the industry get past this misconception (assuming, of course, you think it is a misconception)?

Kjell Nordström: The move away from this misconception we just have to look at the world of today. We live in the age of abnormality. Abnormal is the new normal. It is a double economy, a binomial society, a polarised world of wealth and poverty, opportunity and misery, luxury and low cost. All at the same time!! Changes in technologies, institutions and values are pushing us into a world of Karaoke Capitalism where variations and innovations are the alternatives on offer - capital and competence versus chance, opportunities versus responsibilities, liberty versus duty, individual splendor versus loneliness. It is the anti-thesis of mass!!

MNB: Some retailers (and, I suppose, other businesses) tend to mistake technology for innovation, confusing tactics with strategy. Is this a common mistake, and how do you get businesses to change their approach?

Kjell Nordström: Technology - Any technology is necessary but NOT sufficient for success. It is a little bit like restrooms (toilets), you have to have them... but it is rarely a competitive advantage.

MNB: Is bottom-line-driven management consistent with "creating capitalism with character"? How do you approach this from a management and cultural perspective?

Kjell Nordström: Capitalism with character per definition requires something IN ADDITION to the bottom-line logic. A strong defined owner with equally strong ideas helps!!

MNB: Where do you shop for food, and why do you choose that location?

Kjell Nordström: I shop the bulky basic stuff at any of the low price/low cost outlets. The things that makes the real difference in life - good wine, fresh fish, French cheese et I shop at a nearby high price/high quality top service kind of outlet. The shopping is in a way an integrated part of the meal!

Kjell Nordström is scheduled to speak at FMI’s Marketechnics conference on Tuesday, January 31, from 8-9 a.m.
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