• Millennials' guide to dealing with cash

    "Lifehacks for your wallet" via Forbes Magazine.

    As the woman in this video points out, everyone is tired of being told to forego the latte in favor of investing in one's retirement savings plan. This "Lifehacks for your wallet" video offers a few other suggestions to trick oneself into saving money.

    In the end, however, personal finance is about making choices...and one of the most defining choices is whether one is willing to trade off short term pleasures in favor of long term gains. 

    SourceMillennials and Money: How Banks are Missing the Mark--video insertion page 3, by Maggie McGrath, as part of an article by by Shama Hyder, Forbes Magazine, February 25, 2015.

    Follow up

    • List three suggestions from the short video that might help you spend less money week to week.
    • What are you actually willing to do to meet your long term financial goals?

  • Net neutrality: a HUGE victory for most businesses and individuals

    History of Net Neutrality by The Verge

    After more than a year of intense lobbying, the FCC has made it official: "Common carrier" rules (from a 1934 law) do apply to internet service providers, and the medium cannot be manipulated to serve the interests of a few. Nor can access be restricted so that the internet service providers can control who gets to use the internet--or who gets to use high quality fast internet. "Title II" legal underpinnings seem to ensure that this will be a solid, sustainable ruling in favor of free speech and a level playing field for businesses small and large...even though the vote was 3-2. 

    The decision came about because the FCC, instead of making a decision based on short term interests of big-bucks lobbyists, made a long-term decision. The FCC thought through the not-immediately-apparent possible consequences of allowing internet service providers to squeeze out users it didn't want. It decided to treat the internet the same way it had treated telephone operations when it was a landline-only situation: the infrastructure had to be available for use by individuals and businesses alike, small and large. 

    Here are several reasons why this decision was a huge victory:

    • It matters because of free expression and free speech: platforms like Twitter, Wikipedia, Wordpress, and Tumblr could have been shut down and censored if this protection was not in place. Slowed-down streaming function could thwart online educational platforms and commerce like Etsy and crowd funding like Kickstarter.
    • This wasn't just a defensive move...it was an offensive mission to protect a freedom (a much harder task): Winning over the FCC on a Title II basis took a huge grass roots campaign, as well as convincing the White House and influential members of Congress. It took 3 moves:
      1) Convincing the FCC to include the possibility of applying Title II in its draft rule, issued last May.
      2) Advancing the "Title II Hybrid theory" last summer--laying the groundwork for convincing the FCC that Title II could be part of the solution to the internet usage debate.
      3) Getting a decision entirely based on Title II logic: that the internet was a common carrier and the infrastructure it represented had to be shared fairly.
    • Even businesses that would benefit from this decision did not join the fight, because the fight was against the major phone and cable companies: even big businesses did not want them for enemies--particularly if they were going to control access to the internet.
    • The debate started out along party lines, but this changed: Republicans realized that most of their constituents (party members and small businesses) wanted a free internet too--for values-based as well as practical reasons. Keeping the non-partisan aspects of this issue alive in a period of polarized politics was quite an undertaking. 
    • The FCC Chairman himself, Tom Wheeler, had to be convinced to change his mind. According to Marvin Ammori in a Forbes article, this was "like convincing Darth Vader to turn away from the dark side of the force." 

    The political forces that coalesced to bring about this decision may be forgotten by all but political scientists in the future, but every social marketer, every small business, every shopper and everyone with an opinion will benefit from the decision in the years to come. 

    Source: "Ten Reasons the Net Neutrality Victory is Bigger than the SOPA win," by Marvin Ammori, Forbes Magazine, February 25, 2015.

    Follow up:

    • What are the arguments against net neutrality?
    • What were the major historical events involving net neutrality over the last few decades (check out the video)?
  • Asia's most powerful businesswomen

    Forbes Asia Magazine has highlighted "50 Power Businesswomen" in their March 2015 issue. These women represent entrepreneurs, CEOs and other executives. Many are Chinese, but women from Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia, Singapore, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Myanmar are also on the list.

    Twelve women in particular were singled out as "women to watch" in Asian businesses:

    • Isha Ambani, Director of Reliance Jio Infocomm/Reliance Ventures (Retail), India; double major at Yale University
    • Jocelyn Kum, Executive Director of M&L Group (Hotels), Singapore; Accounting major at Monash University in Australia
    • Xin Li, Deputy Chairman of Christie's Asia (Auctioneers), Hong Kong; educated at Beijing Sport University
    • Caroline Link, President of B. Grimm Real Estate (Energy and Real Estate), Thailand, graduate of European Business School in Madrid
    • Liu Hanyu, Founder and CEO of Yidianer.com, (online art gallery, China; Interface Design major at Beijing’s Tsinghua University
    • Jean Liu, President, Didi Dache (taxi-hailing app), China; Computer Science major at both Peking University and a masters at Harvard
    • Radhika Piramal, Managing Director, VIP Industries (luggage), India; graduated from Oxford with an MBA from Harvard
    • Ameera Shah, Managing Director, Promoter and CEO, Metropolis Healthcare (diagnostic and related healthcare), India; Business Management major at the University of Texas, Austin
    • Samina Vaziralli, Head of Strategic Projects, Cipla New Ventures (pharma), India; Business Communications major, University of Mumbai; MSc from London School of Economics
    • Petrea Vela, Co-Managing Director, New Zealand Bloodstock (fishing, racing, bloodstock auctioneer), New Zealand; Law degree from London School of Economics
    • Mercy Wu, Vice Chairman/President, Eslite Group/Eslite Spectrum (conglomerate), Taiwan; studied in the United Kingdom
    • Ruth Yeoh, Executive Director/Director, YTL Singapore/YTL-SV Carbon (conglomerate), Singapore; Architectural studies major at University of Nottingham, U.K.; MSc in management from Cass Business School, London.

    Follow up:

    • Read the list in the original document. What is intriguing about the career paths or hobbies of these women? Whose path resonates with your interests or goals?
    • What qualities, attributes, or actions seem to be a common thread among these women? Would this also be true of successful American women? Would this also be true of men?
  • Yahoo! Soon to be a takeover target?

    photo from money.cnn.com--Marissa Meyer, CEO, addressing company shareholders in 2014. 

    What makes a company a good takeover target? In the mergers and acquisitions business, there are a few things that stand out:

    • depressed share price or overall affordability
    • a lot of cash (that can be used by new owner)
    • additional distribution or purchasing channels that complement the new buyer's business
    • poor management

    It looks to some industry observers that Yahoo! may soon be a target for purchase by another entity. (This would occur after it completes its divestiture of its Alibaba stake.) Of the attributes mentioned above, Yahoo's overall affordability and its large amount of cash would be indicators that it is an attractive target. Yahoo! has been managed with focus and competence by Marissa Mayer, its CEO. But it does not have products or assets that would seem to complement any its competitors. 

    Who would want to buy Yahoo?

    According to observers writing for New York Times' Dealbook, "One possibility may be SoftBank of Japan, which is already tied to Yahoo through the American company’s 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan."

    SoftBank of Japan is a Japanese telecommunications and internet conglomerate that has a controlling interest in Yahoo Japan.

    Sources: "Morning Agenda: Yahoo as Takeover Target," by Sydney Ember, NYT Dealbook, January 29, 2015.

    Yahoo! Answers

    Follow up

    • What Yahoo products do you use? Apps? Search engine? Information? What is your opinion of the brand? 
    • What are the pros and cons of a few number of search engines in competition? Have you noticed a change in your search engine experience over the last few years? What is the major factor in any of those changes?
  • Big Banks: the resilient dinosaurs

    Banks have been said by some to be the "dinosaurs in a digital age." They are old-school institutions, mired in procedures and financial habits that preceded the computer age. Modern customers expect very different performance from their banks. 

    Of course a consulting firm like Accenture would see opportunities in the middle of all of this operational disruption.  Mobile banking, security, faster loan processing--all of these are possible with access to accurate information in a secure and trustworthy environment. The folks at Accenture see “very real opportunities for banks that can get ahead of their competitors, provided they make the proactive investments needed to build the business.” As you can see from the chart above, they predict that the highest performing banks will be doing better than they were before the financial crisis of 2008. 

    As the saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Banks have a tremendous amount to data to manage--they always have had to deal with a lot of precise detail. The computerization of all this data--plus the ability to extract information and meaning from the data--gives savvy banks willing to evolve into information management entities new opportunities. The easier banks make things for customers, the more dependent on their services the customers will become...and then the easier it will be to sell additional services. 

    Many of us complain about our banks...but how many of us are willing to change banks?

    Sources: "Evolution, not extinction: ending the myth of big bank dinosaurs," by Wayne Busch, Accenture Banking Blog, February 18, 2015. 
    Accenture's Banking 2020

    Follow up:

    • What are some other financial analyst's views about the future of banking?
    • What do you see as the most disruptive force in banking, particularly online banking? What recent events suggest that a different scenario awaits the banking industry? How can the possible problems be addressed?
    • Do you see yourself in a banking career? Why or why not?

  • Pesticide ban creates ethical and economic discord

    chart from U.S. Geological Survey maps via  Wikipedia  

    Because herbicides are plant poisons, individuals and governments have concern about their use.The second-most popular herbicide in the United States (see chart above) is atrazine, a water-soluble killer of broadleaf weeds and grasses. It is used on the majority of corn, sorghum and sugar cane grown in the U.S.

    The product is made by Syngenta, a Swiss company. It has been banned in Europe (including Switzerland) since 2004, because of the danger to the water supply. Run-off persists from several months to four years in some soils--maybe longer if it gets into the water table. This run-off results in concentrations of the chemical poison that exceed what are considered "safe" levels by European authorities and by the EPA. Users and proponents of atrazine claim that no such concentration occurs...and Syngenta's website asserts that there is no European ban on the chemical. 

    These assertions contradict each other:

    "It is not banned,” claimed Ann Bryan, a spokeswoman for the company, in an email, though she acknowledged that “countries in the E.U. (European Union) currently do not use atrazine.”

    "The use of atrazine as a herbicide/pesticide is banned in the E.U.,” said Mikko Vaananen, a spokesman for the European Chemicals Agency, in an email, adding that it was still allowed as an intermediate substance used in industry to create new chemicals. European Union government documents also use the term “banned.”

    If E. U. countries have banned the used of atrazine, how does the company Syngenta justify saying it is not banned?

    It may be that they are using a kind of ethical relativism with respect to the companies in the U.S. to whom Syngenta  is marketing. In European countries, a new chemical can be banned if its manufacturer cannot prove its safety--the responsibility for proving safety lies with the company.   In the United States, regulators have the responsibility of proving a substance is UNSAFE before it can be banned. The company does not have to prove a product is safe. Because EPA regulators have not banned this product it could be considered "not banned" from the ethical relativistic viewpoint of the U.S.--even if it is banned in Europe.

    If you are having trouble understanding this logic--I don't believe it either. At least 82 pesticides are restricted in Europe but are unrestricted for use in the U.S. using this double standard.

    Who are U.S. and European regulators trying to protect? Are their values different? What is held to be of value, and thereby worth protecting?

    Is it dollars?

    • Dollars in profit to the company producing the disputed chemical?
    • Dollars in profit to the farmers using the pesticide?
    • Dollars saved by consumers who can buy a cheaper product?

    Is it health?

    • Health of those who live in areas where the water table is tainted with concentrations of the run-off pesticide?
    • Health of the soil on which the pesticides are used, affecting future generations of farmers and food consumers?
    • Health of the farmworkers who may be exposed to concentrations of the chemical that are not anticipated by lab tests?

    Several business issues arise from a case like this:

    • Values associated with the decision
    • Ethics of falsely advertising the product with respect to its allowed use
    • Free trade--"buyer beware" vs. regulation
    • Sustainability of practices over the long term (both for business success and environmental costing)

    Talks will continue on this and similar issues.

    Follow up

    • What other chemicals or products are produced in a country that bans their use, but are marketed elsewhere?
    • What are the ethical principles that can be applied to help make decisions about what to do when different issues are valued by different stakeholders?
  • Bitcoin auction by U.S.A Fed? Really?

    What is Bitcoin? via YouTube

    What is Bitcoin? What underpins it? How does it really work?
    Bitcoin is an internet currency. Most of us are oblivious to this secondary currency, but the United States Marshals Service announced on Wednesday that it would auction 50,000 Bitcoins, worth nearly $12 million, These Bitcoins were taken from the seizure associated with Silk Road (a notorious drug site).

    Source: "U.S. Announces Third Bitcoin Auction," by Sidney Ember, NYT Dealbook, February 18,2015. 

    Follow up:

    • What is "silk road"? What business attributes contribute to its existence?
    • How can a currency without a nationality exist? What are the pros and cons? 
  • Compound interest: you need to know this!

    pretty boring but instructive video about compounded interest....YouTube

    The whole idea of saving for the future is based on the Time Value of Money. 

    Understanding compounded and simple interest is key to understanding all investments.  But one additional issue is this: if unscrupulous brokers are kicking back fees to the brokerage, any investment can so south--or at least earn way less than predicted. Compound interest is a key calculation to do and consider in any investment situation. 

    The linked article asks this question:

    Would you rather get:
    A: $10,000 a day for 30 days or
    B: get a penny that doubled in value every day for the same 30 days?

    Let's cut to the chase:  

    Option A yields $20,000 after 2 days.....but $300,000 after a month.

    Option B yields two cents after 2 days...but more than $5 million after a month. 

    Wanna extrapolate this out for 40 years of working life?

    Seriously. Invest NOW. While you are young.

    : "The magic and misery of compounding," by Tracey Samuelson, Marketplace, American Public Media, February 23, 2015. 

    Follow up

    • How much are you willing to save each month? At 5% per year (.0041667 per month times your investment), compounded monthly, how much would that be worth when you retire (say, at 65)? 
    • If you don't want to pick an amount, use $60. Anyone can save $2 a day, somehow. If you are 22 right now, figure out how much money you'd have at age 65, given that very conservative 5% interest rate.  YOWZA! You are a rich person! 
  • Tesla in China: not a sure thing

                           YouTube: Elon Musk says Tesla sales in China are unexpectedly weak...

    When there is a brand new industry, how does a visionary entrepreneur predict sales? 

    Elon Musk, the entrepreneur responsible for SpaceX and Tesla, is a visionary with respect to electric cars. His Tesla models improve their mileage range every year, and are soon going to be ready for mass marketing. Still, in the global economy, it is important to be able to crack the Chinese market. 

    But the newly rich Chinese consumers are demanding--and even the most forgiving customer expects a car to be able to actually RUN. And electric cars need to be charged to be able to run. 

    Here is the problem: Chinese electric infrastructure cannot provide electric house current calibrated to match the Tesla vehicle's charging requirements. Special adaptations to house current must be made to enable charging--and customers who have forked over the equivalent of $104,000 for a Tesla, are not necessarily aware that they also have to adapt their house electricity to match the vehicles charging specifications. 

    Searching for charging stations is a challenge...but it is also an opportunity, because the social-media-savvy Chinese spread their complaints--and get help--in a short time via various social media channels. 

    Still, China is a big place and adequate charging stations are few and far between. No one likes to be inconvenienced--least of all the nouveau-riche

    Tesla has built, or plans to build over 800 "super"-charging stations (1 hour charge) spread out over 70 cities. This only begins to solve the charging problem. Most Chinese--even the rich--live in multi-unit high rises--not a single family house with a garage and a controllable electricity feed. This makes charging tough. In addition, the Chinese government's subsidy to electric car owners does not extend to Tesla, which is foreign-made. 

    So...Tesla may be a hot ticket among the US eco-gliterati, but it is a much tougher sell in China. 

    Source: "Lurching Start for Tesla in China," by Dan Levin, NYT International Business, February 10, 2015.

    Follow up

    • What are the business issues for Tesla in China? How are they different from the issues in the United States? Be sure to read the link to the Chinese nouveau riche...
    • What issues are the SAME for Chinese and American electric car owners? How can this be addressed?
    • What are the issues for Tesla stockholders (a different stakeholder group other than the customers)?

  • Major merger for restaurant suppliers in limbo

    Sysco and US Foods merger in YouTube video from The Street

    Is the latest planned buyout of US Foods by Sysco a trade-infringing anti-competitive violation of major anti-trust laws?

    Or is it just a savvy acquisition affecting only a quarter of the food market? 

    It turns out there is a reason that business majors are required to take statistics...and that one of the major critical thinking portions of that course is "how to lie with statistics."

    Here is how Sysco wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to view its acquisition of US Foods:
    Look at the total wholesale purchases of the restaurant industry, and see that our combined new company is only a quarter of the industry. No fair trade problem.

    Here is another way to look at the same merger:
    Sysco and US Foods cater to "broad line" restaurants--non-gourmet mom-and-pop-shops and chain restaurants. Who cares what the napkins look like? Who cares that the mayo comes in 5 gallon tubs? This is not the "local foods" and "artisan meats" market--this is fast and fast-casual foods. The merger of Sysco and US Foods means that Sysco will control 75% of this broad line market

    The FTC has blocked the merger. More will be revealed...

    Source: "Sysco Swallows up second biggest food company,"  by Tim Fitzsimmons, Marketplace American Public Media, February 20, 2015

    Follow up:

    • Why does it matter what percent of an industry is controlled by one company?
    • Who does it matter to?
    • What is the simple statistics issue here? What are the possible denominators that can be used to calculate market share? Why is one more reasonable than another? (Assume that Sysco and its subsidiaries is in the numerator). 

  • 15 year old European Entrepreneur sets the bar

    15-year old Jordan Casey from Ireland being interviewed [from the article linked below]; photo by Carlos Lujan, NYT

    Does a 15 year old entrepreneur from Ireland inspire you... or make you lose hope for your own career? What's interesting is: there is a parallel between adolescent enthusiasm and entrepreneurial energy. Jordan Casey seems to have wrangled the good parts of adolescent optimism and capacity for work. He started a software development company and currently has the these products: a video game (develop when he was 9: Alien Ball vs. Humans) and two business apps-- one for teachers, one for event organizers.of opportunities for youth employment by others. He started employing himself when he was 9: his first game was Alien Ball vs. Humans.

    His plans do not include college--but do include developing more apps. He feels that the internet can teach him more than college classes can. 

    Source: "Europe's Young Entrepreneurs," by Raphael Minder, International New York Times, January 30, 2015. 

    Follow up:

    • Does a 15 year old entrepreneur from Ireland inspire you or make you lose hope for your own career?
    • Does Casey Jordan have a long term business plan?  If you were his business consultant, what would you advise?
  • Zero-Waste Restaurateur and Florist

    Joost Bakker, as florist, in a meat locker with a beef carcass stuffed with stargazer lilies. Photo by Earl Carter in the NYT Style Magazine.

    Joost Bakker, 4th generation flower grower transplanted from the Netherlands to Australia, is a relentless recycler. His efforts inspired the town of Melbourne to fund his development of a restaurant in the middle of town that was zero-waste ("Greenhouse by Joost"). He has also opened a trendy soup haven (Brothl) that lends itself even more perfectly to his "closed loop" philosophy. He creates a nutrient-dense fertilizer from all food waste. 

    Source: "The Trash Collector," by David Prior, The New York Times Style Magazine, February 13, 2015. 

    Follow up:

    • How do you pronounce "Joost Bakker" (read the article!) 
    • List 5 ways in which Bakker "closes the loop" and recycles waste, or otherwise uses resources efficiently. 
    • What ways do you recycle or contain waste? What is the volume of landfill waste that you generate each week?
  • Financial entrepreneurs be warned

    photo of Stephen A. Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group; photo by Newscom via Bloomberg News

    It may seem self-serving for a billionaire head of the Blackstone Group to be telling a bunch of Harvard Business School students not to become a financial entrepreneur (that is, not to become the Blackstone Group's competition).  But his advice was based on his observations of other young financial professionals on Wall Street, and his venue was Harvard's 21st Annual Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference

    Here is the pattern he described to them: Harvard Business School grads join a hedge fund or private equity firm, and make a lot of money in a few years...while seeing their investment houses make a lot more money. They figure that they know what they are doing (smartest guys in the room), and that they have the client contacts--why not make money on their own?

    Schwarzman says that he has seen NO young financial entrepreneurs succeed. He sees this high-level finance business as requiring years of "apprenticeship." When he started the Blackstone Group with Peter G. Peterson (his boss at Lehman Brothers), Schwarzman had more than a decade of experience (which included negotiating the sale of Lehman Brothers to American Express), and Peterson had 20 MORE years of experience than he had--years that had been spent making contacts. Blackstone now manages $290.4 billion in assets. 

    Says Schwarzman: 

    "Doing a me-too business, because it’s you — the only person who cares about that is you. The market doesn’t care if it’s you. The market is pretty much being served. You better have something that the world doesn’t have, because even then you might screw it up through your own ineptitude and inexperience.”

    Not much encouragement there at the top of the wealth-management business...

    Source: "Blackstone’s Chief Has a Warning for Wall Street’s Entrepreneurs," by William Alden, New York Times, February 2, 2015.

    Follow up:

    • What are major factors to consider if an financial entrepreneur wants to start a business, according to Schwarzman?
    • What does Schwarzman have to say about work-life balance?
    • Are you motivated to be an entrepreneur in a high-stakes field? Who are your role models? 
  • Manufacturing a McRib

    McDonalds has experienced reduced market share, due to the rise of "fast-casual" dining like Chipotle. In addition, they have a lot of baggage associated with their foods, such as beef tallow in oil where vegetarian french fries were cooked, and pink slime as a ground meat product.  McDonald's is countering this questionable history by repositioning themselves in the marketplace. Part of this includes answering questions about their food in a series of FAQ videos. One of them--about a particularly mysterious product, the McRib--is linked above. 

    The marketing aspects of the video show a modern, clean facility, and a nicely scripted "former skeptic" about the McRib. In addition, the video makes makes the production process clear. All three major production process costs are in evidence:

    • Materials (raw pork, with spices and additives),
    • Direct Labor, and
    • Factory Overhead (lots of stainless steel machines, conveyor belts, and production processes leading from raw materials through Work in Process to Finished goods). 

    SourceYouTube video produced by McDonalds

    Follow up

    • Does this video answer any questions you had about what is in a McRib? How does it succeed, and where, if anywhere, does it fail?
    • What other FAQ's about their foods does McDonalds address? Which are the most successful? 
    • How do you evaluate this campaign? What are some positive outcomes? Are there any unforeseen consequences?

  • Not lovin' it--when an ad campaign goes wrong

    from You Tube; aired on the Super Bowl, 2015.

    The upbeat images from the McDonald's "pay with lovin'" campaign seemed innocent at first.  People in the ads seemed happy to get a free meal for the price of a song or a silly dance. Participating locations gave out 100 free meals--triggered randomly at the cash register--between the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day.

    But this ad campaign created problems for individuals who are handicapped, or who are shy, or have social anxiety, or are on the autism spectrum--many with invisible handicaps. For these folks, being asked to perform in public is not a positive experience. It is also not a minor inconvenience. It can be traumatic. Publicly humiliating.

    Cashiers are probably not adequately trained as acting coaches or reality TV directors to help the less-willing customers endure this surprise demand for performance art.

    "Unforeseen consequences" are always a possibility when something new is undertaken.  

    Source: "McDonalds creates worst marketing campaign in history of marketing," by Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, February 5, 2015. 

    Follow up

    • What are some of the other unforeseen consequences of an ad campaign like this? Are there legal issues? Are people more likely or less likely to go to McDonalds during this ad campaign?
    • What do you think the "best case scenario" imagined by the marketing team was? Did it materialize? 

  • Girl Scout Cookie marketing adapts to changing times

    San Francisco's station KRON 4 news  reporting...

    Girl Scouts are thinking outside of the box. Their major fund-raising project--Girl Scout Cookies--represent a mature, established product in an arena where innovation is the most likely predictor of product growth and success. So some Girl Scout troops are taking a fresh marketing and distribution approach to maintain and increase sales.

    Last year, Girl Scout Danielle Lei made headlines in San Francisco for selling 117 boxes of cookies in two hours...by placing her sales stand right outside of a medical marijuana dispensary. This placement was most likely based on research that linked the craving for sweet carbohydrates to marijuana smoking. Her sales results were very effective.

    This year, a new marketing locations seems to have happened by accident--a girl scout mom was working out at a gym, where she parked her van prominently in front of others coming and going:

    from The Consumerist

    Source: "CRUELEST GIRL SCOUTS EVER PARK COOKIE VAN OUTSIDE GYM ," by Kristin Hunt, The Thrillist, February 4, 2015.

    Follow up:

    • Do you think there should be limits on where Girl Scouts can market their products? Why or why not?
    • If you were a marketing consultant for Girl Scout Cookies, what advise would you give the organization about their product? What would your ideal campaign look like?
    • Keep in mind the current way Girl Scout Cookies are marketed, distributed and sold. This is unusual for the industry. Please list the pros and cons of this strategy. What are the dangers of changing it?
  • Sharing-economy jobs or a scamming-economy nightmare

    from Germany, but in English, via YouTube

    The sharing economy sounds like a good idea--ecological, an efficient use of resources, flexible. Those wanting to supplement their income have a way to do it--using assets they already have control of.

    Here is the fantasy about the sharing economy:

    Here are some of the sharing economy realities:

    • Airbnb, Uber and Lyft are in a legal limbo--business assets and personal assets are taxed and insured differently
    • It is hard to scrabble together a full time income from sharing economy jobs
    • With a real job, you have a performance review yearly, but with Uber, you get a performance review every time you work
    • Lack of benefits, and lack of documentation to prove a source of income, so it is difficult to get a loan or mortgage based on that income
    • Airbnb is causing rental rates to rise in San Francisco, where people who use Airbnb to "help make ends meet" are willing to pay higher rents.

    from CBS, August 2014, via YouTube

    Source: "Why Work is Turning Into a Nightmare," by Robert Reich, NYT and Alternet.com, February 3, 2015

    The scamming economy http://dickdestiny.com/blog1/?p=18810

    Follow up:

    • What are your personal experiences with the sharing economy? List the pros and cons.
    • Think about the larger economy, long term. In what ways could this business model be used and abused by unscrupulous corporations with their eye on the bottom line?
  • Nightcrawler: Business communication cautionary tale

    If you have the intestinal fortitude to watch the movie, Nightcrawler, you will hear more business communication techniques in two hours than you are likely to experience in a semester-long college course. These include:

    • direct and effective negotiations
    • how to network
    • how to close a deal
    • how to manage employees to maximize their utility to the business
    • how to set boundaries
    • how to keep one's cool when a colleague is angry

    Unfortunately, the protagonist, Louis Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhal, may very well be a sociopath or psychopath. Louis Bloom will do anything to make his business a success. He is self taught--an online business course is the basis for his business strategy. At the beginning of the movie, he is hunting for a "foot in the door" to some business enterprise where he can grow. When he finds a business that is a good fit with his skill set--hunting down graphic footage for local news--he uses every technique in the book to make his business thrive.

    That said, I could barely watch the movie. I haven't watched TV news since my kids were born (26 years), so seeing what amounted to a newsreel of gory headlines was tough. But as a Business professor, it was fascinating to see the concepts talked about in textbooks put into practice with point A to point B precision.

    Source: I saw the movie

    Follow up:

  • Cost-benefit of Super Bowl ads

    one person's 10 best (not aligned with the New Yorker article linked below) from YouTube

    Companies advertise to increase sales. So the business principle of cost/benefit should apply, right? So why would a company choose to pay the very high cost of a Super Bowl ad ($4.5 million for 30 seconds) rather than spending the same amount of cash to advertise in directed markets over a period of time?

    This is a great question.  Super Bowl advertising has a high risk/reward component. If the ad is considered bad (in poor taste, like one ad this year from Nationwide), it could backfire in the short term (but maybe not with everyone). If the ad is considered "great," it might get multiple views over time on YouTube or Hulu. The cost-per-minute would decrease, and, when analyzed compared to sales increases, might seem more worthwhile. 

    According to the New Yorker article, the best Super Bowl ads of 2015 were:

    • the Squarespace ad, starring Jeff Bridges, chanting
    • The Mophie ad, complete with strange "post-apocalyptic" image
    • The T-Mobile ad, starring Kim Kardashian with a sense of humor ("everyone's" favorite)
    • the Loctite ad, for Superglue

    The worst ads?

    • Mercedes (glorifies cheating; too cute)
    • Nationwide (a child dies)
    • Carnival Cruises (lack of respect for former president John F. Kennedy)

    And the ad they hated, (though they also thought it might have been one of the best): the Budweiser ad. A puppy was involved.

    I really liked that one, but I also liked Nationwide's OTHER ad, starring "invisible" Mindy Kaling. Like Kim Kardashian in the T-Mobile ad, the ad works because the protagonist makes fun of her persona. Another ad--I won't tell you what it is for; it would spoil the punch line--is also incredibly powerful.

    Source: "The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads of 2015," by Ian Crouch, The New Yorker, February 1, 2015.

    Follow up:

    • Quick: What was the product associated with the ad tag line "Be more human"? Of the ten ads in the video at the head of this post, how many advertised products can you name without looking? Why did you remember those products in particular? What does that say about the effectiveness of the ads?
    • What is your reaction to the deceased-child Nationwide ad? There has been a lot of short-term bad press. Will it help or hurt Nationwide in the long run? Does the Mindy Kaling ad balance it out? Give your reasons.
    • Did you become aware of any new products in any of the Super Bowl ads? Comment on the Super Bowl effect on new products vs. known products (e.g. Wix)
    • What ad do YOU think had the highest benefit, compared to its cost?
  • Who is a whistle-blower? Why does it matter?

    From wordwatch.com

    Whistle-blowers have historically had a bad rap...since the time of Antigone, where even being the messenger delivering unwanted news could get you in trouble. Few whistle-blowers are as self-satisfied as the little girl in the cartoon above--and if they are, that satisfaction is often short-lived, because whistle-blowing is so tough--especially when the issue of who is a whistle-blower is being hashed out in the courts. 

    What is whistle-blowing?  One basic definition, as a starting point, is:

    from DCmediagroup.us

    Both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and the Dodd-Frank Act give rights to whistleblowers. This is because there is a public benefit to uncovering corporate corruption that affects financial markets. In Dodd-Frank, particularly, there are both anti-retaliation clauses and financial bonuses for reporting fraudulent and/or questionable practices.

    As usual, however, the devil is in the details.

    One question that has arisen is: Does a whistle-blower have to report first to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to be protected? Or, following SOX, can the whistle-blower go first to the audit committee and Board of the corporation in which the wrongdoing occurs (rather than the SEC)--and still be able to get the additional protections under Dodd-Frank?

    It remains ambiguous as to whether Dodd-Frank applies when the reports are made in-house; court cases have disagreed. How ironic that two laws that (in substance) support whistle-blowers would end up contradicting each other in court cases! Because the statute of limitations is longer (six years rather than 180 days) and remedies under Dodd-Frank are more lucrative to the whistleblower (and his or her attornies), Dodd-Frank application is deemed more dangerous by corporations.

    So, the litigation continues, but the environment seems to be changing, in favor of supporting whistle-blowing activity. This is probably a good thing, because a whistle-blower needs all the help they can get. Check out these excuses for not speaking up:

    from the Project On Government Oversight

    Let's hope the supports of Dodd-Frank prevail in the courts.


    Source:  "Who Is a Whistle-Blower? The Courts Weigh In," by Peter Ginsberg, Dealbook, The New York Times, January 5, 2015.

    Follow up:

    • Have you ever "spoken truth to power" or made public any kind of wrongdoing in an institutional setting? What were the results?
    • What are some of the pejorative words used to describe whistle-blowers? How can court rulings and monetary rewards change the perception of these actions?