Tag Archives: hbs

Staying pure after selling out

This week’s HBS Working Knowledge newsletter starts off with an interesting proposition: what happens when a well-known socially responsible business is acquired by a multinational?  Professors James E. Austin and Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard discuss their recent research, which examines such acquisitions as Ben & Jerry’s by Unilever, Tom’s of Maine by Colgate and Stonyfield Farms by Dannon.  Their work suggests that it is possible for a company to stay true to its social mission after acquisition, presented in a working paper asking “Can the Virtuous Mouse and the Wealthy Elephant Live Happily Ever After?”  

The discussion touches on some great questions, including why the elephants would want to acquire mice with a conscience and why it could be a good deal for the mouse (they’re not selling out – they’re scaling up).

An excerpt is below, but it’s totally worth your time to read the entire (brief) HBS interview with Austin and Leonard:

Q: How can elephants protect the mouse’s social value and brand integrity?

A: The more effective large companies have recognized that preserving the social icon’s distinctive culture and business approach is essential to preserving its key success factors. Consequently, they retain a large degree of organizational independence so as to prevent “contamination” of the social technology.

This stands in contrast to the common approach in acquisitions to integrate and rationalize the assets into the new owner’s systems, structure, and culture. Some of the specific mechanisms used in successful mouse-elephant agreements include governance structures and processes that give the “mice” review and even veto power over actions by the “elephants” that might jeopardize those elements that are deemed essential to the social values underlying the brand’s integrity.

Retaining the social entrepreneur in the joint venture is highly desirable

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Personal Branding

Michael Jordan seems to me to be one of the forerunners in terms of thinking of himself as a brand and then licensing that brand and actively managing it.  He went beyond the traditional endorsement, and even seemed to take an active role in brand management across various endorsements and companies owned (e.g. when his gambling became a potential PR issue, he worked with Nike to market the “I am not a role model, I’m a professional athlete” message).  I may be completely off base with the above, but the point is that personal branding is now rather common, and I found HBS professor John Deighton’s study of author James Patterson to be a fascinating case study:

While he doesn’t enjoy the same name recognition, Patterson regularly outsells other “brand-name authors” such as Stephen King and Tom Clancy by simply publishing more books, averaging three titles each year with the occasional assistance of a coauthor…Whatever the genre (he has also published romance novels, science fiction, and children’s books), readers expect a “good read” from the James Patterson brand.

“Deep Metaphors” connect with people

Gerald and Lindsay Zaltman of HBS (yep, it’s HBS catchup day) wrote a book on marketing using deep metaphors: Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers. You can read an interview with them here, to get a better idea of what the book covers, and what they mean by “deep metaphors”:

Deep metaphors are basic frames or orientations we have toward the world around us. They are “deep” because they are largely unconscious and universal. They are “metaphors” because they recast everything we think about, hear, say, and do.

One example that they discuss is Coke’s highly successful “I’d like to teach the world to sing” campaign, which didn’t say much about Coke, but tapped into the deep metaphors of connection and social balance. The book apparently details 7 of the most commonly used deep metaphors across a variety of products.

If consumer goods are able to tap into these deep metaphors to improve sales, this information ought to be extremely useful to social sector organizations actually working to improve things like social balance. Perhaps the trick is to keep the message metaphorical, since “most thinking occurs without awareness”? Are we hurting ourselves by talking about literal benefits to society rather than speaking in metaphors? Is speaking to the unconscious more powerful than trying to raise consciousness?

Money CAN buy happiness…

…if it is given away.  At least according to research by HBS professor Michael I. Norton and colleagues Elizabeth W. Dunn and Lara B. Aknin, described in the journal Science.

How money is spent seems to influence personal happiness more than how much money is made.  Great news for charitable organizations, and perhaps a reason for the social entrepreneurs to rethink language about social impact investments as opposed to charitable gifts.

Conversation: The Future of Social Enterprise

Harvard Business School professors V. Kasturi Rangan and Susan McDonald are hosting a conversation based on their recent paper, The Future of Social Enterprise. Click here to read a summary of their findings and join in the conversation.

The questions posed center around social sector evolution and measuring ROI and social impact – the conversation started today and already has some interesting posts.  These web forum conversations generally only last a week or two, so check it out now in order to participate!

night guy vs. morning guy

In college, my friend Jesse and I often discussed the “night guy vs. morning guy” phenomenon. Night guy would say, “I can totally get by on four hours of sleep – let’s stay up.” Morning guy would curse night guy as he rushed to class late and tired.

A HBS Working Knowledge article documents and codifies this type of behavior and provides a link to the PDF of a working paper by Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman. Here’s a brief overview from the executive summary:

Rogers and Bazerman show through four experiments that people are more likely to choose what they believe they should choose when the choice will be implemented in the future rather than in the present, a tendency they call “future lock-in.” They also discuss directions for future research and applications for public policy, an arena in which citizens are often asked to consider binding policies that trade short-term interests for long-term benefits. Key concepts include:

  • Tension occurs between an individual’s immediate self-interest and the interests of all others, including his or her own “future self.” Individuals tend to think that their future selves will behave more virtuously than their present selves.
  • Four studies demonstrated the future lock-in effect, which describes a person’s increased willingness to choose and support a binding “should-choice” when it is to be implemented in the future rather than in the present.
  • Policymakers could leverage the benefits of future lock-in by advocating for reforms that would be decided upon in the present, but go into effect in the future. Future lock-in would encourage citizens to more heavily weight a policy’s abstract merits rather than its concrete costs.

The working paper presents several studies, including one on donation. They find that “the future lock-in effect… suggests changing the structure of the donation such that the prospective donor can commit now to donate in the future.”

This work obviously has implications for development professionals in nonprofits, and also brought to mind another HBS Working Knowledge article from July 2007 (thanks, Gmail, for making email archiving and search so simple!) which was, in fact, also co-authored by Rogers and Bazerman with Katy Milkman. It also chronicles the “want” vs. “should” cognitive dissonance, and study it in terms of grocery shopping and DVD rentals. You can read that article, an interview with Rogers and Milkman, here.