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Sharing knowledge Marcelino Elosua’s global learning business has innovated as technology has moved on – but its core goal has remained constant, finds Ben Walker

The secret was wrapped up inside an olive. Before he founded his LID Publishing empire, Marcelino Elosua spearheaded the eponymous family food company. “We grew it into the number one olive oil bottler in the world,” he recalls. “We were very successful at selling its health benefits.” Elosua faced a battle with sellers of polyunsaturated fats – chiefly seed oils and the spreads that are based upon them. His competitors’ message was simple – ‘our fats are the most effective at reducing cholesterol’. “But there are two kinds of cholesterol,” says Elosua. “These are now known as good and bad cholesterol – because of us. Polyunsaturates reduce all cholesterol. But olive oil reduces the bad cholesterol and not the good. We considered that to be a powerful marketing message – that olive oil was the only fat that reduces the bad cholesterol without reducing the good cholesterol. We owned the story – and we built the good image of olive oil, which at that time was hidden by the seed oil producers.” Today, olive oil is recognized worldwide as the ultimate healthy fat, contributing to long life expectancies in countries where it features heavily in the diet (Italians and Spaniards enjoy some of the longest lives in the world). The experience taught Elosua a lesson for life. “It was a huge learning about PR,” he says, “about how important it is to build an image based on wellresearched facts.” Following a hostile takeover, Elosua left the food business and applied his core learning to publishing. His first book was a dictionary of terms for his alma mater Stanford, for whom he was then chair of the alumni association. “The dean of the business school told me that Spain was one of the few countries where Stanford suffered a high rejection rate – Spanish people who were Dialogue Q4 2018

admitted by both Harvard and Stanford were choosing Harvard. I said it was because of image and profile – Stanford was simply not as well-known in Spain. The dean asked me, ‘Well what can we do about that?’ We suggested a Stanford dictionary, aimed at Spanish people but based on the knowledge coming out of the United States. If you create a book for a person or organization that has a lot of value – in this case defining new business terms – you improve the image of that client by positioning them as a knowledge leader. You are helping them share their ideas with the world. Again, it is about building an image based around clear facts.” The innovation worked: LID is now among the biggest publishers of business dictionaries in the world.

There is no point stopping work at 60 or 65 if you are still in good shape and can do things

B E N WA L K E R What drove you to switch from the food sector to the business publishing space? M A RC E L I NO E LO SUA I think we devote

too much time and public life to the words of politicians and journalists, but too little time to businesspeople and their ideas. I think we should show respect to people who have built important companies and I wanted to give a voice to people who want to create new thinking. We are not in the business of finding good ideas and turning them into books; we are in the business of finding good thinkers and having them say their good ideas. And we do this over time, not just once. So it is very important that we do

good PR – not just selling the book but disseminating those ideas, developing new ideas and new examples, and doing a second book two or three years down the road. BW How have the ways you convey those ideas changed since you founded LID 25 years ago? M E The core concept is exactly the

same, it is the formats that have changed. In our London office we have been very innovative with LID Radio and podcasts; whereas in Madrid we offer e-learning. E-books have been an important development, but they are still embryonic, the equivalent of blackand-white cinema. If you had asked theatregoers at the time what they thought of such films, many of them would have told you they were boring compared to the colour and vigour of a stage play. The e-book is very basic –it is just a printed book in black-and-white, in a digital format. BW Do you expect such e-books to endure? M E No. The next generation of books

won’t be downloaded at all, they will be read on the cloud, and people will use tools to interact with the books, customize them, comment upon them and discuss them with other readers. People will still enjoy printed books, just as they still today enjoy printed photography. But, like MiniDisc and VHS, downloaded e-books will die out – they are obsolete technology. BW More recently, you founded the autonomous learning platform BlueBottleBiz. Your businesses share a common theme. Why is ongoing education and self-improvement so close to your heart? M E Technology is changing at a rapid

rate. It’s impossible for a university

Dialogue Q4, 2018  

The footloose world

Dialogue Q4, 2018  

The footloose world