Target Informs Father of his Daughter’s Pregnancy

It’s not news to us that some companies gain large amounts of information about their customers by tracking their purchases—but how far is too far? Not too long ago, Target’s customer purchase tracking system informed a father of his daughter’s pregnancy, which he had been unaware of.

Target gathers information about its customers by using Management Information Systems that assign every customer a Guest ID, tied to the customer’s credit card/name/email, in order to then track and store information about their purchases and demographics. These IT systems can then filter through the data and identify trends and patterns, as well as predict future purchases (based on customer’s previous purchases). Target ended up sending coupons to this female customer who happened to be pregnant, which were received by her father.

This depicts a large concern many customers face with giving away personal information when purchasing goods (for example, through the use of their credit cards). Some may consider the information useless and brush it off, but others are uncomfortable with government and different companies having such large amounts of their personal information. The main point here is that use of MIS has greatly increased companies’ knowledge about their consumers, which then brings in ethical issues concerning intrusion of privacy. Personally, I think customers are afraid because they don’t know what is done or can be done with the information. However, it seems obvious that companies are only using this information to increase profits, which should be harmless to us customers.

Target Tells Man Daughter is Pregnant Before She Does, News

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Carbon Offsetting for a Clear Conscience (Response to Tim Martiniak’s Blogpost)

Tim’s blogpost discussed the emergence of a new industry focused on offsetting emissions into the environment. He brought up Offsetters, a company based on reducing greenhouse gases around the globe. Offsetters provides an opportunity for companies to buy their services, financing projects focused on environmental sustainability. Tim’s post explained how companies basically neutralized their carbon emission as investing enough money to counterbalance their pollution (reduce as much as their create).

After conducting additional research, I found an interesting advertised service. Tim’s post focused on companies being able to offset their emission, but Offsetters also provides opportunities for individuals to reduce their everyday emission. With CoolDrivePass (a car emission calculator), you can calculate your car’s annual emissions and then offset for carbon neutral driving.

In my opinion, this is a really neat idea. Companies are often not as willing to make an effort to reduce greenhouse gases emissions as are individuals. It is a lot simpler for someone to decide they want to help the environmental sustainability movement or just do their part in improving their environment. This also encourages people to be more aware about their planets and the ways in which they pollute. Overall, I think this business has a lot of potential for growth.

Tim Martiniak’s Blogpost: Carbon Offsetting for a Clear Conscience 

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YSL Logo Change Agitates Customers

A recent rumor has been spreading that the world-renowned Yves Saint Laurent brand might be replacing its classic YSL logo in the near future. Not surprisingly, this has alerted many fashion fanatics, who fear that the logo might soon vanish from the market. In response, they are snatching up all they can get while it is still being sold.

One major consequence is that items bearing the logo would then go up in value. Because the fashion industry often prefers vintage and classic items as opposed to newer merchandise, YSL branded items are sure to become worth more.

This depicts a great example of brand positioning. Yves Saint Laurent is perceived as a luxurious, traditional, and high quality brand. As YSL begins to target younger customers through its new products it will need to adopt new marketing techniques. One of these is the replacement of the old YSL logo for the new Saint Laurent Paris logo. This way, YSL is expanding its target market. The merchandise bearing the older logo will be perceived as more traditional and classic, targeting the middle aged and older customers, while the new logo will be perceived as fresh and modern, targeting the younger population. Personally, I think YSL has found a great way to make its products even more valuable and popular. 

What is the Deal with Yves Saint Laurent’s Logo?, Bloomberg Businessweek

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Employee Engagement Racket: Further Analysis (Response to Nikita Joshi’s Blog)

In her post, Nikita brought up the theory of Employee Engagement. In general, this is a Human Resources theory about employee management, which uses things like annual surveys to gain information about employees. The goal is to get a sense of employee’s happiness within the company. Most questions revolve around company goals and employee satisfaction with the company.

As Nikita explained, the main problem here is that these surveys are not a useful evaluation of employee opinions and knowledge. Answers may be biased due to incentive for employees to retain jobs, or just because different types of employees have different personal reasons for working for the company. Incentives are not aligned, which is the main reason why the surveys are often useless of ineffective.

In answer to some of Nikita’s questions: in my opinion, these surveys are very irrelevant because they do not reflect the actual situations and their contexts. Information needed would be much more easily attained through one on one questioning of the employees, using personalized questions custom to the company. Depending on what feedback the employer might be looking for, upfront approaches or inquiries are usually much more successful. Personally, I think that frequent inquiry is the most effective way to gain business related information about employees.

Nikita Joshi’s Post: The Employee Engagement Racket


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The Power of Social Enterprises (Response to Blogpost on Bloomerg’s Management Blog)

Although social enterprises are believed to be the key to solving sustainability challenges, they may not be as effective as we think. Gib Bulloch, Executive Director of Accenture Development Partnerships, proposes an alternate theory: realistically, large changes will come not from social entrepreneurs but rather from existing large-scale corporations.

Most social enterprises are relatively small organization—having between five to ten people. Although their contribution is important, they may not be able to induce as much change as a massive corporation would. Bulloch argues that even a small change in a huge corporation could account for much more than a relatively large change in a smaller social enterprise. The main problem is that large corporations have very different goals from social enterprises and therefore will usually not focus on invoking change related to sustainability issues. However, once a small change is made, for example a 40% reduction in a IKEA’s yearly water use, a huge impact follows (IKEA’s water usage is so high that even a 10% reduction would have a great effect).

I think that scale is in fact as aspect that is missing from social enterprises, but having said that, smaller start-up companies are usually much more able to leverage societal change, giving them an advantage over large businesses. Social enterprises have a much greater social focus and have the ability to pinpoint some much more complex social problems than, say, environmental sustainability.

 Unleashing the Power of Social Enterprise, Gib Bulloch, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Management Blog

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Smart Glass: A New Approach to Environmental Sustainability

The market for environmentally efficient technology is growing rapidly. One product in particular, smart glass, is becoming available for the every day customer’s home. Smart glass is basically a special king of glass that has electrically switchable glass or glazing. The glass’ light transmission properties and changed when voltage is applied—in other words you can control how see through you want your windows to be.

Smart glass is also used in glasses, which is a lot more common. But recently, it has been available in larger formats, giving customers the ability to use it as windows for their house, either on walls, doors, or skylights. Users can then pre-determine what shade they would like the window to be. Smart glass is environmentally efficient because it can save costs for heating, air-conditioning, and lighting as well as avoiding the cost of installing motorized light screen/blinds/curtains.

The aspect I liked the most about smart glass is that it can be adjusted through an iPhone app. You simply drag a dot up and down a scale and this will transmit to the glass, making it more or less transparent. I think smart glass is a great example of how innovations are becoming more and more environmentally focus. It reflects how our generation is becoming more aware of our global environmental sustainability problem.

Smart Glass: Saving Heat & Energy with Tech, Bloomberg Businessweek

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PinPointing: A New Brand of Pinterest?

As a frequent user of Pinterest, the mention of a possible shopping aid caught my attention. Zappos is currently test-driving a new companion tool called PinPointing, to be used jointly with Pinterest. The concept is simple: PinPointing will recommend differing Zappos products to the user as they Pin boards on Pinterest.

The idea bring presented has definite potential—it is true that when using Pinterest, it is very difficult to shop a certain product because its sources are not often clear. PinPointing bases its recommendations on specific images, which has been seen before, so the major features here are that it is a tool made specifically for Pinterest users. Zappos’ basic idea is good, but the tool needs refining—recommendations are often broad. Being able to target what the user is specifically looking for and then providing a range of options would be much more effective than having only one or two of the ten recommendations match the customer’s needs.

If the tool is refined however, it could quickly become very popular. There is evident demand for a Pinterest shopping tool. PinPointing’s brand association with Pinterest is already a huge plus. Benefits are clear: quicker and easier shopping from Pinterest inspirations and finds. PinPointing just needs to redefine or maybe emphasize the features it offers so that it can be better marketed to the users.

Source– Test Drive: Zappos introduces PinPointing, a Pinterest Shopping Companion Tool -The New York Times

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Australia’s New Cigarette Laws

Australia has recently tightened its policies towards the selling of tobacco. The reason? The current regulations do not create a large enough impact. Even after banning almost all enticing or pleasing aspects of the packs, the government has gone one step further by obligating certain criteria. Among these include government standard images and health warnings that must cover a certain percentage of the packs.

This depicts the power of advertising— by enforcing stricter packaging laws the government is hoping to even further reduce smoking and improve public health. With the use of shocking and graphic images, the packages become aesthetically unpleasant which should increase the consumer’s incentives to stop smoking.

One of the main goals here is to remove specification. By setting standards that require all packages to be uniform, distinction between brands is greatly reduced and advertising has a much smaller impact. This should help especially with the younger customers, who seem to be the ones most influenced by packaging.

The new packaging is effective because it changes the value proposition of the cigarettes in the consumer’s minds—instead of seeing them as a cool, popular, and almost luxurious product that provides a certain pleasure and satisfaction, it is instead portrayed as a detrimental and dangerous health risk.

Personally, I think that Australia is doing the right thing in informing its customers as to what they are buying. This way, they can form an informed decision based on actual facts as opposed to brand appeal.


Source: Australia’s Gross-Out Cigarette Warnings -Bloomberg Businessweek

Additional Information: 

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Freshpet: A New Kind of Pet Food

Based in Secaucus, New Jersey, Freshpet offers quality refrigerated pet food for its customers. Pets may choose from a selection of all natural and minimally processed meals ranging from meats to fishes, having managed to create it’s own niche within the pet food industry.

As many Americans are becoming increasingly concerned with the care of their pets, CEO Richard Thompson saw an opportunity for growth. By being one of the first to provide fresh, refrigerated pet food, Freshpet has hit a key point of difference. This has allowed them to reposition themselves in consumer’s minds as the leading company in refrigerated pet foods, as opposed to just another pet food companies. Due to this effective brand positioning, their growth has increased. But along with the new niche comes new challenges: packaging and distribution have proved to be more difficult. Freshpet must provide coolers and electricity where it is necessary. One good thing about this however is that it could increase the barriers to entry—producing fresh food is a much different process than producing normal food, and not many companies will be willing to provide for their own distribution systems and specialized production.

Personally, I think Freshpet has found the perfect opportunity for growth. Americans are continuously raising the standard of living for their pets, and more luxurious pet products are sure to attract in customers. Freshpet has definitely found a creative way to differentiate themselves from their past competitors.

Source– Heating Up a New Category: Refrigerated Pet FoodsBloomberg Businessweek

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NBC’s Paralympic Undercoverage

As the Paralympic Games came to a close last week, attention was brought to NBC Sports Network’s rather limited coverage of the event. In all, NBC broadcasted a mere total of 5.5 hours of the games. It is not realistic to expect full coverage of the Paralympics simply due to the relatively smaller profit margins from 2 weeks of Paralympics broadcasting versus 2 weeks of NBC’s usual prime time programs, which are evidently preferred by their viewers. But still, complaints arose towards NBC’s under coverage of the games, as some critics believe that the Paralympics might not be popular among viewers simply because they have yet to be exposed to it.

The main ethical issue here is that the possible airing times of the Paralympics is mostly a concern of NBC’s prioritizing their personal benefits (and neglecting others’ values of the importance of the Paralympic games). NBC can either guarantee habitual profits by airing prime time shows with high popularity, or it can take the risk of increasing Paralympic coverage in hopes that their viewers will get hooked and ratings will increase. By opting for the safer option, NBC may lose an opportunity for popular broadcasting/higher ratings (which could potentially increase profits) and risks the threat of losing critical business partners due to lack of satisfaction from the limited broadcasts.

Source: NBC Wasn’t Alone in Passing on the Paralympics — Bloomberg Businessweek

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