Martin Dimartino Marriott

Tag: rant

Honda’s not so ‘Green’

by Martin on Feb.12, 2010, under Articles by Martin, Blog

I don’t know how many others were in Honda’s most recent direct marketing campaign, but it struck me as incredible hypocrisy!

“Start with the small stuff, Honda”

Put it this way, there’s no way I’m in a position to buy a brand new car, and won’t be for some considerable time, yet Honda still deemed me an appropriate target for a significantly-sized mail-out telling me about their green initiatives and eco-friendly range of sensible cars.

Indeed I have been looking at cars recently, but second-hand, immature cars with big engines — no idea how Honda knew I was in the market for one, but they need to look at green marketing before they expend so much on green engineering!
The mail-out (pictured) was of substantial weight and quantity, and was made of quite a thick paper. Suffice to say, it’s of no use to me, and so will go straight into recycling (after ogling the Type-R!).

Honda direct marketing
My point?
Surely their endless investment in efficient engines is totally undermined if they are completely inept at targeting their direct marketing properly. All that waste paper and resources comes at huge carbon cost — more, I bet, than they can ever hope to offset with their ‘eco’ engines.

Something tells me that their ‘eco’ image is only skin-deep, and does not apply to their fundamental business processes.

Start with the small stuff, Honda, if you want to be a ‘green’ company.

I’m now going to recycle this.

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Derren Brown’s Interpretation of the Wisdom of Crowds

by Martin on Sep.15, 2009, under Articles by Martin, Blog

I like many was truly amazed by Derren Brown’s recent stunt where he supposedly (as later revealed) used an until now little-known concept known as the Wisdom of Crowds taken from the field of behavioural economics; something which I have recently taken interest in. This man is always amazing and I am aware that he never claims anything more than tricks and illusions.

Is he telling us everything?

Is he telling us everything?

Derren has clearly been reading his Surowiecki, and I was interested to see this concept being explained and being publicly demonstrated. I do love these crazy economic theories!
This one is the theory that if a sufficiently diverse and (crucially) independant group of people are asked to make decisions or guesses on problems, the average outcome will be more-or-less intellectually superior to an isolated individual, even an expert.
Even Derren’s initial explanation of the concept drew upon the example taken from the introduction of this book; the example of the average guess of a ‘guess the weight of the ox’ contest at a fayre in 1906. Scientist, Francis Galton conducted statistical tests on all the entries in order to determine the ‘collective wisdom’ of the crowd. Many of these punters were farmers and so could be considered relative ‘experts’ in this game. Of course, there were many others who were ‘ignorant’ and had no insider knowledge. As you’d now expect, after the ox was weighed, sure enough, the crowd as a collective guessed virtually perfectly.

Fine — that’s logical you may expect. Indeed, the Wisdom of Crowds does work; it’s the reason Google works so well, and can pull up the most relevant result first time, and it’s also why you find exactly what you want in stock at the supermarket.

All this sounds fine on the face of it — why can’t you use the wisdom of a crowd to predict lottery numbers? It works in other areas of our life. But my point here is that I think Brown has mis-applied this awesome economic dynamic and taken it out of context to suit his own ends. Without venturing into philosophy (about which my knowledge is almost exactly zero) essentially, I’m questioning the realist epistemological outlook of Mr Brown. What do I mean? Well the wisdom of crowds works well when there is a ‘truth out there’; a pre-existing answer which can be guessed, however [un]intelligently. The weight of the ox for example was not ‘random’ and the answer already existed.
How, then, can this be applied to a yet-to-be-determined sequence of numbers — there is no objective answer which can be tapped into in ANY way prior to the random drawing of the numbers. The weight of the ox had an objective truth, as does the optimal page-ranking sequence of Google, it still has an optimal state which could be known given the right methods.

Derren’s positions appears to be partially that of an empirical realist, that is, one which belives that complex reality can be understood, “but fails to recognise [the] enduring structures and generative mechanisms producing observable phonomena” (Bryman & Bell 2007:18), ie. Derren has failed to recognise that there are forces YET to decide the outcome of the numbers. They are totally independant of the mind of the crowd.

I feel the method employed by Derren is thus incompatiblewith the objective fact that the lottery balls remained un-knowable until the draw and remained subject to deterministic forces until such time; we are forced to conclude that he is not telling us everything and must have been up to something else.

For a start, even if his sample ‘crowd’ were impartial and not plants, they couldn’t have been totally objective and free in thought, because they were gathered multiple times and socialised with each other too much; a condition corrosive to pure independence and diversity of mind (Surowiecki 2005:38) where groups fall into ‘groupthink’ where they increasingly make decisions based on influence of each other and are thus LESS accurate.

Also, I was somewhat less confident in their being genuine at all! Their remarks at the end of the experiment were vague and seemed a little forced and detached. These people just weren’t convincing.
I don’t claim to know much about behavioural economics or philosophy for that matter and to be honest, this probably won’t make sense, but from what I know about the Wisdom of Crowds, this experiment just didn’t sit right. But he’s only an entertainer and an illusionist anyway, right!?

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The Predicament of the Music Industry – Can Spotify save it?

by Martin on Aug.08, 2009, under Articles by Martin, Blog

I was pleased to see an article in the Economist about Spotify and music downloads. I decided to leave a considered comment and I’m glad to see my comment is still top-rated of all the comments on said article.

The case of downloaded music making huge inroads to the profitability of the music industry is a clear case in point of what Levitt (1960) talked about decades ago in the now iconic ‘Marketing Myopia’ paper. This is my favourite paper of all time.
The music industry is a classic example of Levitt’s prophecy when he talked about ‘Myopia‘ of companies who become complacent with their dominant position.
They assume that they’ll always be in a growth market and then, inevitably, strategic drift occurs; and this has occurred profoundly with the music industry.

The new on-line environment has changed such that it no longer supports the delivery model of music.But these technological changes — and the subsequent changes in the paradigm of consumer consciousness — occur in most industries, and it’s up to all firms and industries to pre-empt this, even instigate it, one might say. Companies should not be thinking in terms of making and selling products to a static market, rather in terms of buying customers; ie. innovating and adjusting the product in line with the actual needs. Almost to make promotional marketing obsolete if you will (as per the topic of my most recent essay), but that’s another matter.
The business model of the music industry has caused complacency and has totally ignored (until too late) the huge trend of file-sharing. Of course music was going to go digital! Did the music industry think it was immune to the impending messiah of the internet?

The music industry is a case in point, and it hasn’t rolled with the punches; it’s still clinging relentlessly and noisily to the old delivery model without innovating its way out of it. And now look – it’s too late!

Sure, there’s been a much higher profile and availability of legal downloads now, but it’s all come too late and with too little added-value; after all, they’re now competing with the pricing model of ‘free’.
A whole generation of music-fans have now grown up on the assumption that music is commodity and only very recently have legal downloads become widespread and more accessible. Commoditisation is something which again can threaten most products, especially those which are easily transferred and replicated digitally, like MUSIC!

Spotify is certainly one way the music industry can give the consumers what they want, while still monetising their product, but as was said in the Economist article, it’s only part of the solution.
If we go back to what Levitt said 50 years ago in that paper, companies need to seek to bring about their own obsolescence essentially, otherwise competitors will do it for you, and you’re done for!
“…there is no guarantee against product obsolescence. If a company’s own research does not make it obsolete, another’s will”.
Did the music industry always just assume it wouldn’t come under threat, and that their product would never become a commodity? Dream on.

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Cheese-flavoured Analogue…what’s this?!

by Martin on Apr.29, 2009, under Articles by Martin, Blog

I purchased a frozen pizza recetly…for £1! A San Marco margherita which, upon cooking, noticed that one of the ingredients caught my attention. The front of the box said “Analogue Cheese” – even pizzas don’t have proper cheese on nowadays! Before I commited to actually eating this mystery substance, I had to find out what this stuff was. It seems that it’s a kind of artificial cheese made from vegetable fat and milk ‘by-product’ which apparently has functional advantages over the genuine article as well as some types of analogue being suitable for vegans and vegetarians. No doubt it’s cheaper too, suggesting why it was only a quid.cheese analogue
It wasn’t too nice as a result! It seems that Sainsbury’s and Asda are selling these too, en masse on the isle ends, and now I know why it’s for such a low price. EU food labelling requirements do actually dictate that “cheese analogue” be clearly stated, which means it’s my fault I guess.
It’s the first time I’ve come across such fake cheese and it’s the last time I buy a cheap pizza from an unknown brand. When you buy a pizza, check the ingredients to make sure it’s actually got cheese on it.

Digital cheese anyone?

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