ramblings of an aimless mind

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Posts Tagged ‘Business

Shopping for luurve…

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As I logged out of Yahoo mail this evening, I was served up with the Yahoo homepage, a corner of which was filled with the usual “Now Trending” list. My eyes flicked over the list and noticed something different. So out of the ordinary in fact, that it made a curious bugger like me actually click the link to find out.

It appears that ASDA (Wal Mart’s branch in the UK) has just launched a dating site. The tagline on the site is…wait for it…”Compare your baskets…find love”. I understand and appreciate that everyone and their uncle wants a piece of the mega business that is online dating, but “compare your baskets…find love”? That had me in absolute stitches.

After startling everyone around me, wiping away the tears and massaging my sides till the pain had died down, I got thinking about how ASDA can implement the dating site on the basis of shopping habits. It is none of my business, but it seemed a lot more interesting than trying to figure out how electrolytic solutions behave when in contact with semiconductors. So here is what I think…

A detailed listing of all purchased items would be extremely helpful. Can you imagine how useful it would be to know shopping habits before asking someone out? Someone who has never bought meat or alcohol will probably not look too kindly on an invitation to the sunday roast at a pub. Before asking “would you like to get a coffee?” it would be very useful to know what sort of coffee they usually drink. If it was one of the organic fair trade ones where a farmer in Colombia gets a house for each bag he sells, it is probably best to suggest a different beverage. If you usually read the Financial times and the Economist, it is probably best to stay away from the person who buys The Sun and Hello magazine, no matter how cute they look.

It is also imperative to have data on shopping habits available for the past 2-3 years at least, to help people separate the liars from the truthful. That way anyone claiming to “enjoy an occasional drink with friends” but buying five bottles of vodka every week will set the alarm bells ringing. Same goes for “athletic” people who buy size 68 trousers, people with “beautiful hair” who buy hair growth stimulants and “tall” women who buy six inch heels. The long term data storage is crucial to avoid rigging the system by doing one shop full of carrots and peas and organic green tea so as to appear extraordinary.

A section on books would be another important source of clues about potential success. A woman buying books titled “How to find your dream guy in 10 days” or “He may be fat and ugly, but he is yours” is probably going through a dry spell and may not resist an invitation for dinner too much. On the other hand, if the person who has caught your fancy has just bought books like “Why men are lying thieving cheating ba****ds” and “Self defence made easy: How to maim and cripple in three easy steps”, it may be advisable to delay approaching them for a while. Unfortunately, I have no clue what sort of clues women can get from men’s literary shopping though. A variation in the quantity of porn magazines perhaps(?)

Finally, they should integrate this system with the loyalty card scheme. That way when you hand over your loyalty card at the end of the shop, the cashier can tell you that your dream man/woman is now finishing their shop a couple of aisles down and maybe you should wander over. It would give a whole new meaning to “check out” counters.

It is possible that ASDA have stumbled onto something big. Every new idea draws some laughs the first time it is suggested. Now I will wait and watch with bated breath if this idea is a success or if it lands up being a “basket” case.

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Written by clueso

March 8, 2011 at 12:26 am

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Is greed good?

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Here is an NY Times article that describes the change in India since the liberalisation in the 1990s.

No one who remembers the India from the late 1980s will need the NY times or any other media to tell them that things have improved for a large section of society. This change is primarily driven by greed. Someone’s greed to have more money, more power, more fame or simply more contentment, which drives them to create companies, technologies, schools and charities that serve as conduits for benefits to trickle around to other people in society. Yet it is taken for granted and often, even vilified.

Michel Douglas is often quoted as saying “Greed is good” in the movie “Wall Street”. This quote has been used time and again to show the capitalist system to be made of immoral, money grabbing thugs. However, that quote is incomplete. The complete line is “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”, and the additional words make all the difference.

The difference they make is that the “greed” is not material greed any more, but is whatever that makes the practitioner feel good about themselves. Someone like Patrick Awuah will be “greedy” to setup an first rate educational facility in Africa and produce as many good graduates as he can. This makes him feel good because he is contributing to his home nation’s development and ensuring his children don’t lose touch with their roots. To satisfy his “greed”, he enlists people in the USA for financial aid. The Americans involved are also “greedy”, because they can save on their tax, and they too get the feel-good factor of furthering a noble cause.

I use the word “greed” in quotation marks, because it shows that efforts are driven by people wanting more of something, even if that something may not be material gain. We would do good to create an environment where people are allowed to pursue their “greed” with minimum hindrance. It may be the most elegant solution to a lot of our problems.


Update: I had an opportunity to watch “Wall Street” again and realised that this post too missed out most of Gekko’s speech in the movie. A complete transcript can be found here. It is like a 3-5 minutes lesson in the fundamentals of economics.

Written by clueso

January 23, 2011 at 1:42 am

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Is a diamond forever?

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I guess Twitter can be useful sometimes. From Dash’s twitter feed I found a very interesting article on the marketing strategy employed to sell the world diamonds.

It is an extremely long article, but worth spending time on. Especially when it read like this…

Since “young men buy over 90% of all engagement rings” it would be crucial to inculcate in them the idea that diamonds were a gift of love: the larger and finer the diamond, the greater the expression of love. Similarly, young women had to be encouraged to view diamonds as an integral part of any romantic courtship.

or like this…

The idea was to create prestigious “role models” for the poorer middle-class wage-earners. The advertising agency explained, in its 1948 strategy paper, “We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.'”

My reaction to thisarticle is mixed. On one hand, I bow in reverence to N.W. Ayer, the advertising agency in charge of this entire campaign. The skill and dexterity with which they have moulded, twisted and reshaped our perceptions of diamonds is masterly and worthy of  respect, even if it is grudgingly given.

The sad part is the knowledge the general population has been hoodwinked, make no mistakes about it. Through glamorous and aspirational pictures of celebrities, catchy slogans and well studied “emotive” advertising campaigns, the diamond trading companies have casually reached into our pockets and helped themselves to a wad of cash. Even more surprising is that publicising this knowledge will probably do nothing to put an end to us being hoodwinked. A bit strange no?

So many things in history are a triumph of the organised few over the undisciplined and fractured many. A very important fact of life.

Written by clueso

December 29, 2010 at 1:15 am

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Do we need management?

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I read an interesting article on Technology Review describing how a new company is trying to make predict the success of products by giving the people who directly work on it a pool of imaginary money and asking them bet on the success/failure of each project the company undertakes.

This was first tried in a videogame company where the software engineers bet on the success of all the current projects the company was working on. It is a longish article, but a surprising outcome was that the engineer’s predictions were dramatically more successful than those by the marketing department. Apparently, they also uncovered that as people moved up the hierarchy, their predictions were less accurate. Most amusing was the observation that companies are ignoring this new technique of prediction to protect their “awesome management”.

Here’s a thought. Technology now seems to be able to allow the frontline workers to identify the products most likely to be successful. It also allows them to discuss and float new ideas via social networking and wikis. Finally they are allowing them to sell (eBay. Barnes and Noble self publishing etc). In essence, it is allowing them to takeover the functions of the marketing, creative and sales departments. So will we see a massive number of companies driven completely by the frontline workers? I remember during my time as a software engineer how everyone used to complain about the “awesome management” who supposedly did nothing. Will engineers grasp the nettle and try to go it alone?

I also think that followers of the ideology who advocate ultimate power to the workers should sit up and take notice. It is a fantastic opportunity to adopt cutting edge technology to show how their ideology is feasible and workable.

on the whole, very thought provoking…

Written by clueso

December 10, 2010 at 12:02 am

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