Monthly Archives: May 2008

Political Brand Management – Going Negative

I generally tend to keep politics out of this blog, but I just read an interesting piece entitled “How Negative Advertising Works (and When It Doesn’t)” by John Quelch was included in this week’s issue of HBS Working Knowledge.  Since my comment on the article will likely be edited shortened (brevity is not my forte), I’m including it here with a couple of links to materials mentioned in my comment (because I can’t pass up a chance to plug my favorite author):

I think that the key here is this :

“Unlike politicians, companies hardly ever run negative ads. Pepsi ads don’t tear down Coke; they build the brand image of Pepsi. Why? Because a tit-for-tat war of words would turn off consumers of both brands. And sales growth, not just market share, is what puts money in shareholders’ pockets.”

David Foster Wallace wrote an essay included in “Consider the Lobster” that is about to be reissued as a book called “McCain’s Promise” in which he talked at length about the impetus for political incumbents to go negative – going negative effectively turns off voters, shrinking the potential voter pool and favoring the candidate with a strong brand and deep coffers. Since new voters generally support the ‘outsider’ candidate, going negative usually starts with the incumbent, putting the challenger in a lose/lose (look weak by not fighting back, or fight back and open yourself up to charges of having gone negative yourself).

Thus generally creating the ‘better of two evils’ situation in which people choose not to vote as a form of protest.  Which generally favors the incumbent, and allows even more money and effort to be spent on getting the party faithful out to the polls, because the undecided have been neutralized/disenfranchised/exhausted by the negative tedium of the campaign.  Which explains why the far right and far left hold so much sway in the political process despite most Americans self-identifying as moderate – most Americans also don’t vote, and those that can be counted on to vote are at the poles (pun half-intended).

As Professor Quelch notes, Coke and Pepsi would prefer to grow the market, not shrink it in order to destroy competitors and gain market share.  Even the Pepsi Challenge must have been somewhat welcomed by Coke, as its underlying message was “drink cola and find the one you like.”

One final sidenote – the Democratic primary this year is particularly interesting, as the ‘outsider’ candidate with less name/brand recognition has become the candidate with much deeper pockets.

L3C in VT – blending non-profit goals and for-profit structure

An interesting post from yesterday on npEnterprise – Vermont has passed a bill to allow incorporation as a “low-profit liability company,” or L3C.  This is basically an LLC (limited liability company) that is allowed to accept PRI’s (Program Related Investments, often from foundations) traditionally limited to nonprofits.

In other words, this is a new business structure that recognizes the blended value proposition of a double bottom line that incorporates both social and financial goals.  Legislation has also been introduced here in NC, and is apparently awaiting action in the House Finance Committee.

Check out Americans for Community Development’s website for more details on how an L3C works and the current legislative status.  Or read the original post with additional links below:

Thu May 22, 2008 9:58 am (PDT)

Vermont recently passed a lot of bill regarding L3C’s, which allows
organizations to incorporate into “low-profit liability companies.”

If you would like additional info on the concept, Heather Peeler (Managing
Director of Community Wealth Ventures) wrote an article last year that outlines
the purpose of L3C’s.

The bill was championed by a group called Americans for Community Development.
Check them out here:

Becky Eisen
Social Franchise Ventures, LLC.

Some additional information: Vermont Legislature passed
our L3C bill and the Governor of Vermont signed it, so it’s now in the books.

Aspen Institute’s FIELD on Microfinance and Social Enterprise

Just learned of this nifty resource from the NP-Enterprise listserv: a new article called “Social Enterprise and MicroEnterprise: Understanding the Connection” posted at the Aspen Institute’s FIELD homepage (a program of the Aspen Institute focused on microenterprise as an anti-poverty strategy).  It’s a great brief on the basics of social enterprise, social purpose businesses, and micorenterprise.

Also on the homepage are links to a webinar on how microenterprises are using social enterprise to increase sustainability (free registration required, 90 min – unfortunately not able to be downloaded and saved, and I haven’t had time to listen to it in full yet) and a recent FIELD forum (their newsletter) focused on social enterprise.  Both of these resources include a case study of Mountain BizWorks, a project right here in North Carolina (up in Asheville) that I was previously unaware of.  Great reading!

RecycleBank on CNN

Just saw an interesting short news story on RecycleBank, which I hadn’t heard of before.  They motivate people to recycle by offering incentives from big corporate partners like Coke and Kraft.  Cities pay RecycleBank with money saved from landfill overuse fees, and the founder claims that most cities that implement the program have seen increases in recycling of over 100%.

A very interesting model for social entrepreneurship, and definitely seems to be scalable.  Seems that they’re currently located primarily in the northeastern US, but I’m guessing that the CNN story will help them scale out more quickly.  I’m very curious as to whether the customers (actually, I guess they should be called “end users,” as the customers paying for the service are the cities) have found the rewards program to be actually valuable.

I’m also really curious as to how the revenue works and the costs of the scanning equipment being retrofitted to the trucks (particularly upkeep/repair costs), but I’m sure that those things are trade secrets that won’t be revealed anytime soon.  Very interesting model, though, and the type of thing that I’d love to write a case study for!

Amtrak = Ride in Style. Really?!?

Only in the nonprofit sector could you get an email that in all seriousness suggests riding Amtrak as a way to get to a professional conference “in style.”  Can you believe:

Are you thinking about coming to the Nonprofit Congress National Meeting, but aren’t sure whether you can afford a flight? Do you want to avoid the hassle of driving and paying a premium for gas? Then get on the train!

Amtrak offers plenty of trains to Washington, DC, a comfortable atmosphere (including outlets to plug in your laptop or other electronic devices on many trains), and now, a 10% discount to Nonprofit Congress National Meeting attendees!

Reminds me of the postcard I received from my friend Adam as he traveled via train shortly after college graduation.  It was an Amtrak-branded postcard, and pictured the train going through a beautifully wooded mountain.  On the back, Adam wrote: “Amtrak destroys yet another one of America’s scenic treasures.”

Note to the organizers: if you’re looking to convince those of us who have to pay for this out of pocket to attend (i.e. our employers won’t pay for it), then consider holding the event over a weekend, rather than Monday-Thursday.  If our employers see the value in this enough to give us time to attend, they’ll generally pay for our travel.  And don’t insult those of us who do need to pinch pennies by telling us that Amtrak = riding in style.  I’ve had to ride Amtrak many times, and I’d never describe the trip as “going in style.”

McKinsey on Microfinance

I know – this blog is in danger of becoming a McKinsey advertisement.  However, when they keep putting out so much good stuff, I can’t help it!  Today there are 5 articles on microfinance/microcredit and banking services for the bottom of the pyramid.  Three of these are premium (paid subscribers only) articles which are only guest passed for current subscribers to the free version for a limited time.  So get reading!

Direct from the e-mail:

The McKinsey Quarterly

Special collection: The biggest market on Earth
In one country, as part of a ubiquitous custom called “five–six” lending, poor people borrow five pesos from informal lenders and repay six, usually within a week. The annual interest rate works out at roughly 13,000 percent.

This is hardly the only place where low-income people suffer from a lack of choices and information. Their options have been limited because legitimate companies have been reluctant to enter the markets that serve them.

These articles from the archive show that large and reputable financial and retail businesses are now finding ways to do so profitably.

A grassroots approach to emerging-market consumers
November 2006

Extending financial services to Latin America’s poor
March 2007

The following three premium articles are available to nonpremium members for a limited time through this e-mail.

Financing Latin America’s low-income consumers (Guest passed until May 16)
March 2007

The CEO as CIO: An interview with the head of India’s top private bank (Guest passed until May 16)
March 2007

Succeeding in Latin American banking: An interview with Banco Itaú’s CEO (Guest passed until May 16)
November 2006

McKinsey on Strategy – First Quarter Newsletter

I think I’ve mentioned before that I find the McKinsey Quarterly’s free resources available by signing up for their newsletter to be top notch.  This quarter’s entries for top strategy articles are no exception.  The descriptions below are taken directly from the e-mail newsletter.  I’ve deleted the ones that are only available to premium (paid) subscribers.  I’ve only read the climate change and Brad Bird/Pixar ones so far, but both were excellent.

Business strategies for climate change
April 2008
The value at stake is huge. The winners will be companies that reposition themselves to take advantage of a low-carbon future.

Dissecting global trends: An example from Italy
March 2008
Executives should examine the impact of trends on subindustries, segments, categories, and micromarkets before placing their bets.

The promise of prediction markets: A roundtable
April 2008
Prediction markets draw together information dispersed across the company, but they face organizational and legal challenges.

Innovation lessons from Pixar: An interview with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird
April 2008
His approach to fostering creativity among animators holds powerful lessons for any executive hoping to nurture innovation in teams and organizations.