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Demographics Awry

Posted on December 24, 2014

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I received a lovely purse in a shipment from Neiman Marcus this month. Apparently, by ordering enough men’s grooming items (excuse: restocking two homes and a travel kit!) a promotional giveaway – including purse and women’s fragrance samples – was triggered. A few weeks prior, I received a complimentary tie from a menswear boutique of a color and pattern that I would neither purchase nor commonly wear. This from a company where I have an extensive order history of conservative wardrobe items. The simple thought doesn’t count with promotions. Orders over $100 get this random thing. Buy two, get a third you don’t need. Here, you can have this close-out item no one wants for free. To have a real impact, you have to think beyond basic…

I’ll Have the Usual

Posted on December 15, 2014

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Driving south this weekend for a few months around Atlanta (at what I like to call the ‘legacy property’), we stopped at a fast food restaurant for a quick bite. The patron in front of us in line confidently customized every item in his order – take two toppings off this, add extra ingredients to that, more sauce here, less there, etc. I wondered how many variations he had experienced before reaching his perfect meal. No doubt he was a power user, and he likely finds nothing unusual in his behavior. I’m convinced modern advertising serves primarily as a reinforcement mechanism for high-volume consumer behavior. It looks like everyone is doing it, and we continually redefine what is normal. Eccentricities spread to the point of…

Greedy Consumers

Posted on November 30, 2014

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The chairman of Alibaba landed in headlines this month after blaming greedy consumers for the prevalence of counterfeit goods on the internet. He could just as well blame greedy consumers for the prevalence of goods on the internet or credit consumers’ insatiable desires for the substantial growth of Alibaba. When households – particularly lower income households – access and spend money as quickly as it becomes available and purchase branded products at a higher rate than necessary, this really shouldn’t be a surprise. *

Notes from India

Posted on November 30, 2014

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In my current line of work, India is often associated with a lower cost labor supply. I know random statistics related to this: for each person’s work sent offshore, the receiving location often staffs 1.3 to 1.7 people to do the work until processes are stabilized. Ratios can reach as high as 1 sending FTE to 2.1 receiving FTE before process improvement occurs. If not properly managed, total costs can increase in an outsourced environment even as individual compensation decreases. These questions never come up at trivia night. Fortunately I picked up a few more anecdotes on my visit to Bangalore, India this month: Infrastructure mismatch – Components of the environment rarely develop at the same pace. Traffic congestion results. The ebbing and flowing…

Competence

Posted on November 15, 2014

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“I asked a psychiatrist named Robin Skynner, with whom I wrote a couple of books, how many people in his profession he thought really knew what they were doing. He said about 10 percent. So for the next few years, every time I met somebody I thought was particularly sharp, I asked them the same question. The highest estimate I got was 20 percent. That explained so much. I spent so many years worrying about executives and critics, but once you realize that very few of them know what they’re talking about, everything is simplified.” –John Cleese *