November 30, 2005 by Colin
Over at Flickr, the entire 1979 Sears Wish Book.
Remember the days when the Sears Wish Book used to be delivered in the mail? The only link between you and the holiday to come? The entire range of gifts available to you, wrapped in plastic?
And your mom always pointed out things like these cute cowboy/cowgirl outfits to your grandmother?
You’d fill out a form, send it off in late October, and wait until your package arrived at the local dry cleaner/Sears mail order outlet in late November.
Ahh. The bliss of delayed gratification. Even if it meant wearing Toughskins jeans for the next eleven months.
(By the way – have you noticed that the Sears mail order outlet is dying a quiet death? I’ve only seen in them in very rural areas over the past few years.)
November 30, 2005 by Colin
Here’s Jon Stewart’s take on it – and may I say, a better intro than anything I saw on Canadian network news last night.
November 30, 2005 by Colin
November 29, 2005 by Colin
Should companies stop concentrating on outsourcing and downsizing, and instead invest more heavily in social networking software to increase the productivity of their most innovative and valuable workers?
That’s what some McKinsey consultants seem to be arguing in “The next revolution in interactions,” from the new edition of the McKinsey Quarterly.
The article differentiates between work that is largely transactional – tasks that can be clearly identified and whose work load can be mapped out, like air transportation, retailing, utilities, and recreation workers – and work that is tacit – tasks that depend upon information sharing, communication and negotiation skills.
The authors argue that companies should concentrate upon increasing the productivity of their “tacit workers” if they want to establish a new competitive advantage in their industry – and this will require new priorities in IT investment.
“… new and emerging technologies will let companies extend the breadth and impact of tacit interactions. Loosely coupled systems are more likely than hard-coded systems and connections to be adapted successfully to the highly dynamic work of tacit employees. This point will be particularly critical, since tacit interactions will occur as much within companies as across them.
Broadband connectivity and novel applications (including collaborative software, multiple-source videoconferencing, and IP telephony) can facilitate, speed up, and progressively cut the cost of such interactions as collaboration among communities of interest and build consensus across great distances. Companies might then involve greater numbers of workers in these activities, reach rural consumers and suppliers more effectively, and connect with networks of people and specialized talent around the world …
Companies will also have to think differently about the way they prioritize their investments in technology. On the whole, such investments are now intended largely to boost the performance of transformational activities – manufacturing, construction, and so on – or of transactional ones. Companies invest far less to support tacit tasks …
So they must shift more of their IT dollars to tacit tools, even while they still try to get whatever additional (though declining) improvements can be had, in particular, from streamlining transactions. The performance spread between the most and least productive manufacturing companies is relatively narrow. The spread widens in transaction-based sectors – meaning that investments to improve performance in this area still make sense. But the variability of company-level performance is more than 50 percent greater in tacit-based sectors than in manufacturing-based ones … Tacit activities are now a green pasture for improvement.”
Could Technorati, SixApart – even Wikimedia – end up with multinational sales forces and channel partners – like SAP, SAS or Oracle?
Analysis like this, from recognized management and business authorities, is essential if social media is to evolve – to move beyond circular debates among early adopters and online enthusiasts and become an essential component of the business strategies considered by the decision-makers in your C-suite.
November 29, 2005 by Colin
“This means I won’t miss another beer commercial with hot chicks in thongs – ever!”
Christ. The news release from TIVO announcing their upcoming commercial search capability has more quotes from more people than a multi-level government funding announcement for a new children’s hospital in a rural area. I should know. I write those for a living.
The nub of the announcement? “TiVo subscribers, if they choose to use the search capability, will retain control over their viewing experience through the creation of a viewer contributed profile via the set-top box that will enable them to receive advertisements based on their interests.”
I will love to see the accumulated data for favourite searches – when they’re available. That information will kick a lot of television-dependent advertisers in the teeth. Some of those marketing folks will look like the Hanson Brothers after meeting up with Ogie Ogilthorpe. Actual permission-based information on advertising preferences? Fantastic!
Want to take a guess at possible favourite ads among the general television viewing audience? Beer ads. Foreign Beer ads. Soda pop ads with Diddy in them. Doritos ads with Ali Larter. Nike ads – but only if they start featuring hot Olympians again. Or the new members of the LPGA. Oh – and anything with Martha or Oprah.
And since we’re still talking about early adopters with PVRs here – any Apple ad.
Will there be an option for “ads with Jessica Alba in them”?
November 28, 2005 by Colin
Top Ten Signs your Christmas retail help’s gone bad:
10. The coffee club’s losing $26 a day.
9. The latest shipment included 40 packs of smokes.
8. Those Santa end of aisle displays? He’s now touching himself – inappropriately.
7. Somehow, the store cat is pregnant.
6. The greeter, dressed as an elf, is saying “How’d you like to be my Ho Ho Ho?”
5. Weekly staff potluck lunch is now a key party.
4. Someone’s charging for parking in the store lot.
3. The muzak now plays Liz Phair.
2. 7pm? That’s 85% off hour!
1. You’re guaranteeing early January delivery.
November 27, 2005 by Colin
The latest findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project confirm that rich young guys continue to dominate online sales, but that increasing numbers of internet users (with broadband) are selling online.
Oh – and despite the hype – Craigslist is not the only online classifieds site.
Results from Pew’s telephone survey indicated that:
“… those who sell things online come from all points on the demographic spectrum, but they are particularly likely to be male, in their 30s, relatively affluent and well-educated. They are also relatively intense users of the internet who have broadband connections and go online frequently.”
The release also notes that the top 5 classifieds sites in October, according to comScore Media, were:
Craigslist.org 8,236,000 unique visitors
Trader Publishing Company 7,468,000
Abracat Property 924,000
November 25, 2005 by Colin
This just in from a new NEBR paper on the economic effects of Wal-Mart on the retail sector:
“In the retail sector, on average, Wal-Mart stores reduce employment by two to four percent. There is some evidence that payrolls per worker also decline, by about 3.5 percent, but this conclusion is less robust. Either way, though, retail earnings fall. Overall, there is some evidence that Wal-Mart stores increase total employment on the order of two percent, although not all of the evidence supports this conclusion.
There is stronger evidence that total payrolls per person decline, by about five percent in the aggregate, implying that residents of local labor markets earn less following the opening of Wal-Mart stores. And in the South, where Wal-Mart stores are most prevalent and have been open the longest, the evidence indicates that Wal-Mart reduces retail employment, total employment, and total payrolls per person.”
Try looking at the maps and charts after page 35 for an epidemiological examination of the spread of Wal-Mart across the U.S.
November 25, 2005 by Colin
I found this 1.5″x2.6″ ad for an Ottawa “education-oriented sex shop” in the monthly listings for a a local indie theatre. Not only do I like the store name (there’s another in Halifax), but that rocketship logo has a rather blatant (and Freudian) sub-meaning. Not to mention that the rocketship seems to be escaping a big gaping maw of a Black Hole.
Childish titillation aside, this ad works. Even for its size, it displays a clear headline, makes the selling point (BIGGER store) and provides multiple points of contact. For $210 a month, the store’s reaching more than 3000 filmgoers who are likely in its identified target market – in terms of demographics as well as intellectual curiosity.
November 24, 2005 by Colin
- Hi Santa.Here at the family table, the whole gang is telling me to eat my parsnips and triple bean salad, because tomorrow is Black Friday. I need to build up my energy, they say, for twelve hours of Christmas shopping. The cute guy with the gray hair on CNN says it’s the busiest shopping day of the year.
I guess that’s why Mom is going in to work two hours early. And coming home five hours late. And only getting paid for one hour of overtime. Sometimes I think she’d like to work at a different big box general merchandise store.
Uncle Glen says I have to get up at 5, because he thinks I’ll give him an “edge” getting past all the people in line for the door crashers at Best Buy.
How have you and Mrs. Claus done it? Push back Christmas into November, I mean? Your elves have already set up your throne down by the mall – and I see the price of the 4 by 8 photo package has gone up again.
It also seems like you’ve set up quite a range of endorsement deals, because I see your picture on almost every flyer that comes with the morning paper. But is Discount Furniture Warehouse really necessary?
November 24, 2005 by Colin
Is the old school “black with two creams” coffee making a comeback? Looking at the expansion plans for Dunkin’ Donuts in the Big Apple, New York magazine plays up the contrasts between Starbucks and its downmarket competitor. Along the way, author Stephen Rodrick hits some points about:
“Imagine my surprise when I was met by not one, not two, but eight Dunkiní employees. There was the flack, the outside-agency flack, three executives, the franchise owner, his son, and someone to drive the trail vehicle. Soon, I was deluged by a shower of business cards, fair-trade beans, and Coffee Coolattas.”
Packaging, Design and Self Identity
“Unlike Starbucks, whose mermaid-logoed paper cups scream ďI am a person with some design sense and an environmentally raised consciousness,Ē Dunkiní serves its coffee in Styrofoam containers emblazoned with the companyís cheerful puffy-fonted pink-and-orange trademark. Viewed through an upmarket lens, Dunkinís cups suggest landfills and Gymboree classes. ďTheyíre fine in the car up to New Hampshire,Ē an Upper East Side publicist told me, ďbut not so much on Madison and 52nd.Ē
The Value-Added Menu
“Starbucksí cellophane-wrapped $6 sandwiches are a crime against commerce and fairness in pricing, but itís unlikely those products will kill you. I feel fairly confident, on the other hand, that Dunkinís new steak-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich is what the Grim Reaper packs in his lunch box.”
“Despite its aesthetically pleasing location and floor-to-ceiling windows, members of the ocho mumbled obscenities and rolled their eyes. Apparently, the promotional posters were not up-to-date.”
The Uselessness of Controlling the Message
“On my officially sanctioned guided tour with the Dunkiní boys, all the stops were spacious, airy locales, clearly chosen for their PR suitability. Alas, these turned out to be Dunkinís Potemkin Villages. Many of the other stores I visited had all the ambience of a Texaco outside El Paso, resplendent with interrogation-quality fluorescent lights and pee on the toilet seats.”
Oh – and Rodrick works in some commentary on the Dunkin’ Donut’s customer segmentation from John Moore of Brand Autopsy fame.
November 23, 2005 by Colin
McDonald’s rolled out their Arch Card gift card in style today, launching a major PR and marketing push for a product that’s been in some restaurants for months. The impact of the card on the corporation’s bottom line is immediately measurable:
The stock’s gone up 2.2%, to close at $33.71. That’s something you can email to the Board of Directors tonight. From the limo. Or the helipad.
The cards are being supported by a huge promotional campaign:
“McDonald’s will give away $22 million in promotional Arch Cards starting Tuesday to make a splash, including 5 million $1 cards handed out to Southwest Airlines customers at 61 U.S. airports through Dec. 13 and on board Southwest flights from Dec. 14-28.
Customers at McDonald’s restaurants can receive a $1 Arch Card from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, while the cards last, with the purchase of Chicken Selects strips or a Premium Chicken Sandwich.” (AP/Chicago Sun-Times)
Does that mean McDos* has customer segmentation data that indicates Southwest fliers are also hamburger afficionados?
Or did they just notice that a lot of the people shown flying Southwest on A&E’s Airline seemed to be the fast food, low taste preference type of consumer?
*(McDos is a french nickname for the burger chain)
November 23, 2005 by Colin
Two tidbits from the Auditor General’s report on the use of public opinion research in Government of Canada management reporting:
“… The cost of contracted public opinion research projects in 2003Ė04, including both quantitative and qualitative research (for example, focus groups), was $25.4 million; between $11 million and $15 million of this amount was spent on 388 quantitative research projects (that is, surveys) …”
” … We estimated that the number of Canadians contacted for federally commissioned public opinion surveys has potentially reached over one million Canadians annually.”
Let’s put that in perspective: there are about 33 million Canadians.
November 22, 2005 by Colin
There’s a shop in my building’s retail mall, they jumped on the Christmas bandwagon last week. Garlands, wreaths, Chicken Little advent calendars. You know – things that keep in the Christian spirit and encourage a lighter pocketbook.
There were probably two triggers for the store reno: the seasonal promo package arrived from head office, and the building’s landlord had already decorated the common areas of the mall by November 2nd.
Chatting to the manager, I pointed out one of the most irritating promotions in the store (other than the muzak): a four foot statue of Jolly Old Saint Nick, red suit and all. At his feet is a red button: you press it, and he starts to sing Tinpan Alley Christmas classics, all the while dancing some sort of demonic and robotic Chubby Checker twist.
The statue, I believe, was programmed and choreographed by Harold Wormser, the youngest of the Tri-Lams from “Revenge of the Nerds.”
“I bet you’ll take the batteries out of THAT in a week,” I said.
“Actually, we only turn it on during peak hours … To set the spirit, you know …” she replied.
And thus a compromise was struck, a compromise that allowed a velvet jacketed, left-footed crooner to work his seasonal magic … without fear of violent retribution from the store’s employees.
November 21, 2005 by Colin
“Where De Women At” – that’s the head on a sidebar about the paucity of female executives in Canada’s top 500 companies. Found it in a recent edition of Canadian Business magazine.
Awfully close to a quote from the Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles, isn’t it? This one?
Yeah. That was a male editor, 30 to 45, who wrote that.