In the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman the main protagonists Slade and Charlie played by Al Pacino and a young Chris O’Donnell form an unlikely bond breaching their significant age and life experience gap. Each ultimately learns from one another. It wasn’t always thus. In times gone by the young learnt from the old – the basis of modern universities was established on the basis of learning from a master. The modern day apprenticeship system still holds strictly to this concept. About the time of the VCR remote control (Google it if you are a Millennial) the pendulum moved ever so slightly to the younger generation as the early shoots of being ‘tech savvy’ started to emerge. Nowadays it is as though the younger generation, our Millennials and those coming up behind them, have the knowledge and the older generations seek their advice in some strange real life version of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Not experienced that feeling yet? Try queuing at the Apple shop to get some issue with your iphone sorted and you know exactly what I mean!
The digital/social media generation are becoming much more influential. No recent issue brought this into harsh relief more than the news I caught on Bloomberg that a single message on Twitter by celebrity Kylie Jenner of the Jenner-Kardashian clan helped erase US$1.5bn off the market value of the Snapchat parent company. She didn’t tweet out by saying she had looked at the Snapchat fundamentals and thought it is over-valued, or their downstream growth forecasts are exaggerated, or anything of that ilk. She in fact said:
‘sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me…ugh this is so sad.’
Bloomberg went on to write ‘Whether it’s the demands of her newfound motherhood, or the recent app redesign, the testament drew similar replies from her 24.5 million followers. Wall Street analysts too have begun to notice, citing recent user engagement trends noticed since the platform’s redesign.’
In other words this next-in line generation of leaders, celebrities and opinion formers are starting to impact on the market. When a random tweet by a person, whose only claim to fame is infamy (and oodles of social media followers – 24.5m), can shift the market it is maybe time those of us who have responsibility for investment portfolios, both big and small, wake up and take notice.
So I tried to do something very difficult – I tried to channel my inner Millennial. I asked Siri ‘how can I behave like a Millennial? Not surprising perhaps – and in typical Millennial style – Siri just flicked me to some random websites with features like ‘Don’t Act Your Age, Act Like a Millennial: 5 Lessons to Leverage’ Realising I might have to dig deeper I gathered my Apple products around me – my iphone, Apple watch, ipad, ipad Pro, Apple TV latest generation and Macbook looking for inspiration. Still nothing. Then it dawned on me – if I could take one of the worst performing shares in the portfolio I manage and look at the company, not through the eyes of a seasoned investor, but with beginner’s eyes – in other words using mindfulness -I might just be able to morph my thinking to that of a Millennial. That’s just what I did and the results were profound!
iSentia are a media analysis company. Remember the old Media Monitors? Well that is now iSentia. It has a current market cap of $241m (total number of shares by current share price). With headquarters in Sydney it has five offices in Australia, two in New Zealand, two in China, one in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Manilla, Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Min City, Seoul and Taipei. It was founded by Neville Jeffries in 1982, its background in the sale and publication of classified advertising and clipping services. Jeffries died in 2007 and it has grown pretty aggressively through acquisition ever since. At least seven I counted since 2006. Slipping out of Millennial mode for a second, any good business school course looking at M&A activity will tell you how difficult they are to manage and to derive true value from. Wesfarmers acquisition of Homebase in the UK, for example, (the subject of my previous blog) is testament to that fact. The share price of iSentia has fallen 50% in the last 12 months….enough said!
OK Millennial beanie now squarely back on. So what’s the first thing that greets me when I interface with iSentia through its shop window to the world – its webpage? Keep in the back of your mind that this is a media intelligence and data technology company. You might expect the bar to be set quite high. The David Jones Christmas window looks a tad better than your local newsagent for example. Same principle. Well prepared to be totally underwhelmed. The opening page that is meant to entice a ’click through’ and further engagement leaves me cold. I get no sense of connection here. The font looks like Arial and the logo looks like the work of a year four student just learning cut and paste for the first time. Not an auspicious start. I’m a tenacious Millennial (a rare breed!) so I push on. Oh before I do a lesson from old school marketing 101. The key factor here should be not what you do but why you do it. It’s called your proposition. It must be up front and centre. It’s simple stuff – get the eyeball owner to ask a very basic business question – how can iSentia help me? They haven’t worked this out yet. The homepage below is what you get. Not a USP in sight!
The ‘Our news’ is always a good place to click-through to. But wait there’s no news here. To get news updates I have to scroll to the bottom of the page below the fold in the website menu area to find a link called ‘newsroom’. It would appear that the latest real iSentia story relates to September 2017. Hey I’m a Millennial, we need to be fed more often than this. Surely something exciting has happened to the company (aside from its inglorious decline) since then?
Just a personal thing but I dislike photostock photos which headline web pages. What you don’t have enough money to bring a photographer in to do a real job? Surely a company involved in media would get this more than most? Also why do I see this same person pretty much headlining the top of every tab page? It’s as though the budget for stock photos wasn’t big enough to get different pictures. If iSentia is trying to present a multi-national look and feel there is no sense of the diversity of their workforce. Big oversight. OK let’s dive down into Australia. Not very promising…the font’s changed and it has a completely different look….physician heal thyself! It looks like internet 1.0 in here. Uninspiring and cluttered. Still no USP. More of the same ‘What We Do’, ‘Who We Are’ etc.
Ah… I see a ‘Careers’ tab. This might be interesting. When you are in the tech and media intelligence space you must compete hard for talent. I’m special so what can you do to entice me to commit to you? Not much if you look at the screen shot above. A strange blend of pictures from photostock to what looks like a somewhat awkward smartphone photo taken at the rear of a bus…let’s hope it doesn’t reverse or some of the top talent will need replacing. I’m assuming the tuxedo isn’t de rigueur for the office either – not even for dress down Friday!
Ok last shot let’s go to where the big boys are (and I’m using the word boy advisedly) – the Boardroom. I’m a Millennial so I’ll admit I’m not there yet…perhaps in six to eight months… Four dudes and a woman. Font’s different again of course but the most striking thing is the Chairman’s photo is different from the others as though an afterthought. Doesn’t inspire confidence. You guys are in the media business where looks are everything. At least get a corporate look ffs. As for the C-suite read above but only more so. One last attempt to dredge some value here I might click the ESG Report for October 2016 under the Corporate Governance headline. Oh no that entire page and all its hyperlinks are broken. I feel an emoji coming on….
You could argue that iSentia is too busy getting on with business and turning around their ailing fortunes to spend money, time and effort on the store front. If Kylie Jenner has taught us anything it is we need to pay attention to style and detail. Millennials have their own way of looking at things and when they act the market can shift. It’s time to take off the beanie and loosen the top knot and settle back into my Boomer body…well almost. I’m not ready to give up the sneakers just yet – they are real comfortable. Rad man!