Category: Business and Society

A recent Boston Globe headline reads: “Marketing to millennials can be a tough sell.” The article relates the differing approaches of Campell’s, Lindt USA, and GE when it comes to marketing to Millennials, highlighting a general skepticism and indifference toward advertising in the target demographic:

For instance, marketing materials for GE’s Artistry series of low-end appliances featuring retro design touches, due out this fall, says it focuses on “the needs of today’s generation of millennials and their desire to uniquely express themselves.”

Lindt USA recently introduced a line of chocolates — they include Berry Affair and Coconut Love flavors — that are wrapped in vibrant packaging and are being promoted through social media.

And packaging for Campbell’s Go Soup, which comes in microwavable pouches with ingredients such as chickpeas, quinoa, and smoked Gouda, features photos of young people with thought bubbles. The sayings include cutesy snippets like “Make your momma proud” and “What’s kickin’?”

The idea is to hook millennials now and remain connected with them as they progress to bigger and more expensive products.

But marketing specialists and consumers like Volain question the effectiveness of that approach.

“My immediate reaction to targeted marketing is to picture a bunch of people sitting around in a room saying, ‘How can we get these people to buy these products?’” [Anna] Volain [a millennial] said.

While I am sympathetic to Volain’s sentiment here, I think something deeper is at work. There is an erroneous anthropological assumption that people of a particular, generic group must be homogeneous enough that all one needs to do is figure out the perfect calculus for appealing to their sensibilities, and they will be hooked on a brand for life. In particular, I think the problem is ultimately a Marxist error: assuming that one can perfectly categorize a whole group of people and then act on their behalf. (more…)

Wizard of Id - Minimum WageThe protests organized by labor organizations to advocate for an increase in the minimum wage have garnered attention, most recently from the NYT, which editorialized in favor of such moves. Over at Think Christian, I weigh in with an attempt to provide some more of the complex context behind the moral evaluation of such mandates.

In the piece, I’m really less interested in the plight of current-minimum wage workers relative to those who might become minimum-wage workers with an increase, those who are currently priced-out of labor markets because of minimum-wage legislation, and those who will be priced out with an increase.

Earlier this week, Joseph Sunde discussed the issue with an eye towards the price of labor: “Prices are not play things.” I largely agree with Joseph about the significance of the price associated with various kinds of labor. The signal that minimum-wage workers should be receiving is that their work is not that specialized or valuable in the marketplace. You can rage against the values of the marketplace all you like, but that’s what the prices signal.
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This case has been made that government attempts to manage economies through regulation, laws, and taxes discourage entrepreneurs entering into the marketplace. I recently asked Michael, a young entrepreneur in his 20s, what were some of his fears about being a entrepreneur in America. We’re not using his full name to protect his identity but this is what he had to say:

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Entrepreneurs aren’t just born. Like any other endeavor, there are natural talents involved, but building a business takes an incredible amount of work and knowledge. It’s one thing to have an idea; it’s something else to figure out financing, girls in trainingmarketing, advertising, manufacturing….

At Verily magazine, Krizia Liquido tells of a program aimed at high school girls to help them learn necessary skills for entrepreneurial success. “Entrepreneurs in Training,” a 10-day intensive workshop, takes place at Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies in New York. (more…)

AApretzelsWhen walking through an airport or shopping mall the aroma hits me before I even see the store. If happiness had a scent I suspect it would smell like Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels. From the first whiff my knees go weak and my brain tells me that I will never know joy again if I pass up this salted, buttery, baked goodness. They are so good that I fully expect St. Peter hands them out at the Pearly Gates.

While I’ve long loved Auntie Anne’s, I never knew the inspiring story of it’s founder. Anne Beiler, a former “black-car Amish” tells Fortune Magazine how virtue and trust helped her become a successful entrepreneur. (She expanded her baked good empire with a loan from a Mennonite chicken farmer who “loved what we wanted to do, and he gave us $1.5 million on a handshake.”)

Beiler says Auntie Anne’s is a modern-day business miracle that never should have happened.

I had no formal education, capital, or business plan. But we practiced what I call the three small P’s. We started with a purpose — counseling and helping people. We had a product that supported our purpose. Then we got the people to do it. The three small P’s, in that order, result in the big P — profit. If you stay true to your values and purpose, you will get to profit.

Here’s her advice for running a business:

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Photo Credit: youngdoo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: youngdoo via Compfight cc

In this week’s commentary, “Made to Trade,” I explore the natural dispositions that human beings have to produce, exchange, consume, and distribute material goods.

If you’ve ever noticed that a sandwich made by someone else tastes better than one you make yourself, you’ll know what I’m getting at: “Recognizing the satisfaction that comes from such a gift of service from another person illustrates an other-directed disposition that is a deep and constitutive part of human nature.”

There is a gracious foundation for giving and receiving, whether in the form of gifts and distributions or in exchange. As Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate, “Gratuitousness is present in our lives in many different forms, which often go unrecognized because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension.”

Sometimes I think the ideas of gift and exchange can be too radically distinguished. Benedict describes a gift as something that “by its nature goes beyond merit, its rule is that of superabundance.” The relationship between love and justice, or between charity and merit, is complex and difficult to hold in proper balance. Emphasis of one at the expense of the other leads to errors of antinomianism or legalism.

What is clear, however, is the gracious foundation of all of our economics activities derive from God’s providential ordering. We give, receive, “truck, barter, and exchange,” as a manifestation of the constitutive sociality of our human nature, created in God’s image, male and female.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
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bernardusJonathan Merritt reports on a decision made by the parent company that produces Samuel Adams beer, Boston Beer Company, to redact “by their Creator” from an Independence Day ad featuring the Declaration of Independence. As Merritt writes, “We have arrived at a time in our history where some people are so offended by even the idea of God that they can’t bear to speak God’s name or quote someone else speaking God’s name. Worse yet, they have to delete God’s name from the Declaration of Independence to make a point.”

My friend Will Hinton rightly identifies the company’s defense of its decision for the fig leaf that it is:

“We adhere to an advertising code, established by the Beer Institute – a beer industry trade organization – that states, ‘Beer advertising and marketing materials should not include religion or religious themes’,” according to a statement provided by a Boston Beer Company spokeswoman. “We agree with that, and we follow these guidelines and approach our marketing with the utmost responsibility.”

As Will points out, brewing has a rich religious history, and many of the most popular specialty brews are branded with religious themes. Here are those produced by members of the Beer Institute he highlights: Bell’s Christmas Ale; Ommegang Abbey Ale; Marin Brewing Co. Witty Monk; Marin Brewing Co. Altar Boy; New Belgian Abbey Ale; New Belgian Lips of Faith. It is true that there is such a code and that point 7 reads as the spokeswoman declares. Right after point 6, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not contain graphic nudity,” comes point 7, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes.”

Some will blame market forces for Sam Adams’ decision to secularize its commercial messaging. But that doesn’t really add up. The most natural thing to avoid controversy would be to leave the text of the Declaration intact, especially when linking the text thematically to the person of Sam Adams. To redact the text as the commercial does is to, as the backlash makes clear, runs the risk of alienating a huge swath of potential customers.

There’s something other than economic caution going on here, and Merritt puts his finger on it.

This is less about a decision to avoid controversy for fear of alienating a consumer base than it is an expression of a corporate culture that embraces a radical secularism and is tone deaf to the point of editing one of our nation’s most significant documents. It has more to do with a secular political and social sensibility than it does with economic savvy.

In such a radical separation of faith from public life, Sam Adams the beer company has done something that Sam Adams himself would never have stood for.

As Sam Adams put it himself in 1776, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds his subjects assuming that freedom of thought, and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.”

Here’s the ad in question:

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
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Wes Selke thought he might be called to seminary. Instead, he wound up in business school. That doesn’t mean he’s any less filled with a sense of mission and purpose.hub ventures

An article in Christianity Today has Selke discussing his desire as a Christian to invest in social entrepreneurship and how his faith and his work life intertwine. As co-founder of Hub Ventures, Selke seeks to help entrepreneurs get off to a solid start through a 12-week, intensive training course. He also sees his work as worship:

Selke is an investor who views his work as a form of worship. But worship isn’t just where you might expect. For some, a mall can be a modern temple, complete with iconography and rituals, a false faith of consumerism directed at shaping people’s desires. For Selke, worship is embracing capital as a means of achieving human flourishing, an outpouring of his talents in finance and his faith in God.

“The market is a great servant but a horrible master,” says Selke, paraphrasing 20th-century missiologist Lesslie Newbigin. “Our culture tends to become slaves to the market and greed, when in reality the market should be our servant in attaining the best allocation of goods and services.”

Selke believes that by investing in entrepreneurial ventures, he can do good in the world and practice stewardship by creating profit.

“Impact investing is a holistic view of profits, the planet, and people. It’s the stewardship of resources,” Selke says. “Christians thinking about ways to leverage their resources are called to make sure their capital is doing good.”

Read “Faith in the Free Market” at Christianity Today.

 

FAULKNERCourtesy today’s edition of Prufrock, a fine daily newsletter edited by Micah Mattix, comes this classic resignation letter from William Faulkner, onetime postmaster at the University of Mississippi:

[October, 1924]

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

(Signed)

As the economist Walter Williams once observed, in the market system you don’t have to love your neighbors, you just have to serve them, even if they happen to take the form of an “itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.” That, apparently, was something that Faulkner just couldn’t tolerate.

Once upon a time, America was a country where a young adult would jump at an opportunity to learn new skills so that he or she could increase their options later. They were grateful. Those days are over thanks to a new ruling against unpaid internships. Thanks to an America that fertilizes Millennial narcissism in new ways, combined with the federal government undermining how employers develop their employees with minimum wage laws, everyone is worse off in the long run. Someone should have talked to Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman about this because these former interns sued Fox Searchlight Pictures for an unpaid internship where they “performed basic administrative work such as organizing filing cabinets, tracking purchase orders, making copies, drafting cover letters and running errands,” according to the Associated Press. A federal judge ruled in favor of Glatt and Footman.

Instead of these two young men being thankful for simply having an opportunity to have access to skills learned and the network of contacts they would make during their short stay, they decided to sue because they were not being paid for doing the same work as the hired employees. What Glatt and Footman seem to be unaware of is that if they had applied for those jobs outright they probably would not have been hired. So they should be thankful that they were given a spot to view operations from the inside at all. Where’s the rub? These young people believe that they are entitled to be compensated for work for an advertised “unpaid” internship. (more…)