Philz Coffee: All You Need Is The Secret Ingredient

Business Insider: San Francisco-base Philz Coffee “has the cash to fuel an expansion and a key ingredient to become the next Blue Bottle: individuality. It looks nothing like a cookie-cutter coffee chain. At Philz, a diverse set of customers sit around mismatched pieces of furniture and drink coffee brewed one cup at time. Employees are encouraged to express their personality through interactions with customers … The venture-backed coffee chain started from humble beginnings. Phil, who was born in Palestine and grew up in the Bay Area, ran a corner bodega in a gritty neighborhood.”

“Today, the original Philz location on 24th Street still looks like someone’s grandma’s house. Couches sink like they’ve been lived in, and floor-to-ceiling murals spark creativity … Unlike coffee chains that offer only light, medium, and dark roasts, Philz boasts more than 20 vibrant blends with names like Canopy of Heaven, Philharmonic, and Sooo Good. You won’t find any lattes or over-the-top blended drinks — like you might find at Starbucks — on the menu. But flavor descriptions like “cardamom, maple, earth” or “toast, berry, vanilla” have customers drooling.”

“Baristas brew one cup at a time using a pour-over method, which allows them to make each drink exactly how the customer likes it … Two to three minutes later, a barista calls the customer by name and invites them to take a sip. Baristas say they’re happy to remake the drink until the guest is 100% satisfied … According to a Philz employee, the secret ingredient in every cup is ‘love’ … The company aims to have more than 50 locations across four major metropolitan markets by early next year. There are shops in Colorado and Boston in the pipeline.”

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Delta CEO: Technology Builds Relationships

Business Insider: “Some airlines see technology as a potential money maker by turning their planes into flying e-commerce platforms with hundreds of captive customers. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said he isn’t interested in going down that route. Instead, he wants technology to help his airline better understand and interact with its customers. In turn, improving the flying experience and strengthening Delta’s core business.”

He explains: “We are in the business of building relationships and our technology allows us to build intimate relationships with 180 million customers a year and you can only do that through technology.”

“Bastian’s big tech goal in 2018 is what he calls ‘building a single view of the customer.’ That means unifying all of Delta’s various customer databases to create a more holistic view of and a better understanding of the people who fly with the airline.” He comments: “The real opportunity for us is to get a better view of who you are so that we can better serve you. We can get you what you need before you even realize you need it and be able to better take care of your needs not just from a sales standpoint, but more importantly, from an experience standpoint.”

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KitKat: Just Plain Weird in Japan

Los Angeles Times: “Two years ago, KitKat’s marketing manager in Japan won an internal corporate award. His prize: a golden trophy shaped like one of the iconic chocolate bars. Today, the manager, Ryoji Maki, doesn’t remember why he won the award. But he’s immensely proud of what it inspired. ‘That’s how I came up with creating a gold leaf-covered KitKat,’ he said. Before long, the chocolate wafer bars were on sale in Tokyo for about $18. ‘They were like an edible golden trophy’.”

“Maki’s creation joined a long, and ever growing, list of distinctive, fun or just plain weird KitKats found only in Japan. The country is a KitKat-lover’s paradise, with so many unique varieties — an estimated 300 — that some travelers visit Japan just to try them. Many flavors are alien to the American palate, and they go far beyond Japanese staples — such as sake, wasabi and green tea — and into uncharted territory: ‘French salt,’ ‘college tater’ and ‘Muscat of Alexandria’.”

“The candy with the European pedigree went on to conquer Japan thanks to constant invention — blueberry cheesecake, cherry blossom and melon — and a linguistic coincidence that makes KitKats here a harbinger of good luck … the chocolate bar’s English name is a cognate — it sounds like kitto kattsu, which means ‘you will surely win,’ a sort of good luck blessing. Nestle leveraged the association into huge sales.”

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AI Machines as Managers

The Wall Street Journal: “There is evidence computers may be better suited to some managerial tasks than people are. Humans are susceptible to cognitive traps like confirmation bias. People using intuition tend to make poor decisions but rate their performance more highly, according to a 2015 University of New England analysis of psychological studies. And in an increasingly quantitative business world, managers are asked to deliver more data-driven decisions—precisely the sort at which machines excel.”

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, comments: “What managers do mostly is identify potential, build teams, assign tasks, measure performance and provide feedback. Generally speaking, humans aren’t very good at these tasks. Someday, we might not need managers anymore.”

“Companies that make and use workforce-management software … say machines are no substitute for human judgment and ability to manage interpersonal relations. Instead, they say their software speeds up administrative work and uses data to help human managers improve decisions they previously made only by drawing upon gut instinct and experience … Sue Siegel, GE’s chief innovation officer, said she wouldn’t rule out one day working for a machine.” She comments: “If the robot has personality and a sense of humor and can understand the human condition, hey, who knows?”

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How Amazon Picks Deals of the Day

The Wall Street Journal: “Such is Amazon’s holiday selling might that winning a slot in one of Amazon’s short-term promotions can not only propel a merchant to a higher ranking but also trigger a windfall of sales for the rest of the season, third-party sellers say. In addition, those chosen say the promotions improve their odds of showing up in consumer search results on the site. Third-party sellers sold more than 140 million items on Amazon.com over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year, according to Amazon.”

“Amazon’s deal of the day selections hinge on two important factors—whether it thinks an item will be a hot seller and whether the discount is deep enough. Amazon also takes into account the number of units the seller is willing to offer and customer reviews, among other factors … A sales surge will influence Amazon’s algorithmic suggestions to consumers. Recommendations might include items frequently purchased together or purchased by customers looking at the similar items.”

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Some Retailers Try Simplified Pricing

The Wall Street Journal: “Retailers have a gift for discount-obsessed holiday shoppers: simpler pricing … Kohl’s has been testing a ‘Your Price’ feature that shows the final price after all discounts … For example, a Disney Princess Palace, regularly priced at $79.99, was on sale on Kohl’s website earlier this month for $54.99 and eligible for an extra 25% off. The “Your Price” was $41.24.”

“Like Kohl’s, Penney this year started showing online shoppers the sale price net of all discounts on the product page and increasingly has been advertising sales with final dollar amounts, rather than percentage discounts … The retailer also has been posting ‘sale conversion charts,’ intended to help shoppers figure out prices … Christine Dunne, of the Bronx, N.Y., said she noticed the changes at the Penney store near her home.” She comments: “It makes shopping so much easier. In the past, I’d get to the register and realize the price I’d calculated in my head was wrong.”

“Not all retailers have simplified their pricing, and marketing experts say that is by design. ‘Multiple mental deductions based on promotions can result in consumers perceiving that their costs are lower than they actually are, which can increase spending,’ said Cynthia Cryder, an associate professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis.”

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Fingerlings: Too Much Monkey Business?

The New York Times: The Fingerling is “a five-inch monkey that grips your finger with its legs and arms, as it babbles, blows kisses and blinks its eyes. Cradle a Fingerling in your hand and it drifts off to sleep. Press the Fingerling’s head and it passes gas. Created by the Canadian company WowWee, the Fingerling has been anointed one of this year’s hot toys for the holidays, a designation that most toymakers only dream of achieving.”

“How the Fingerling reached this tipping point — when suddenly millions of children cannot do without a $15 farting monkey — is the story of a promising idea’s going viral on social media, a large retailer’s savvy pricing strategy and the science of managing scarcity … This past week, Fingerlings were out of stock on Walmart’s website, while parents complained that they had been snookered into buying counterfeits … WowWee says it did not intentionally create the shortage. But whether by design or happenstance, there is no question that scarcity fuels a toy’s mystique.”

“WowWee had originally planned on selling the Fingerling for $20, but the giant retailer was insistent: About $15 was the magic number … When Fingerlings hit stores across the United States in August, Maya Vallee-Wagner, 7, was overcome with emotion … Her father … shot a video of his daughter’s reaction in the toy aisle of a local Target and sent it to WowWee … (which) posted it on the company’s Facebook page, and it went viral … The video was a marketing coup, just as WowWee was launching its social media push — an effort that in many ways resembled the rollout of a Hollywood movie. Gone are the days when a toy company could simply blitz Saturday morning cartoons with ads.”

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A Factory for All The Cheese in China

The Wall Street Journal: “Halfway through his meal at the new Cheesecake Factory in Hong Kong, which opened earlier this year, Ken Wu knew he had to come up with a survival plan to get through the rest of dinner.The amount of food—including nachos, pasta, a pork chop, pizza and fried dishes—was overwhelming.”

“‘Feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese…I know it’s called The Cheesecake Factory but never could we have imagined how much cheese was in everything!’ said Una Wong, who dined with Mr. Wu,” who “likened the sensation to Sichuan peppercorn, the numbing and spicy flavoring used in Western China that obliterates the taste of anything else.”

“First-timers to the chain say they were attracted by photos posted by online reviewers and tales of American excess relayed by friends and family abroad. After the meal, however, their enthusiasm sometimes diminishes. Mr. Wu … offered this verdict: ‘I don’t think I can have cheese for another three months, at least’.”

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Dyson Goes to School on Innovation & Shopping

The Wall Street Journal: “This fall, James Dyson launched the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology in Malmesbury, England, where his company is based. Students—there are currently 33, with plans to grow to around 200—are paid to work for the company three days a week. Two days a week they go to classes on Dyson’s corporate campus, in subjects such as electronics and mechanical engineering. (The company covers tuition.) Students work toward a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of Warwick, whose professors teach the classes.”

About innovation, Dyson comments: “You can’t ask your customers to tell you what to do next. They don’t know. That’s our job.”

Dyson also “is opening his company’s first stores in the U.S. One opened Nov. 30 in San Francisco and the second, on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, will open Dec. 14 … It’s ‘an odd thing to do when so many people are buying things online,’ Mr. Dyson says. ‘You might say it’s counterculture to go rent a very expensive premises on Fifth Avenue, but we’re doing it almost precisely because of that.’ Mr. Dyson says that he wants to use the space to demonstrate how his products work and to learn how consumers interact with them. ‘It’s very difficult online and certainly in a normal store to explain what we’re doing’.”

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Heisman Triumphs With Artisanal Trophy

The New York Times: “The Heisman is gritty verisimilitude. It depicts an athlete in action, dynamically stiff-arming an unseen opponent. It is the color of a scuffed shoe sole, and its chiseled features — deep-set eyes, wrinkled trousers, one bulging calf muscle — are beautiful but not pretty. So byzantine are its details and so idiosyncratic its coloring that each individual statuette feels unique. In fact, each is, even though the Heisman remains instantly recognizable and its manufacturer takes no creative license … ‘No two are exactly the same,’ said Jack Nortz, the director of sculpting for MTM Recognition, the company that produces them.”

“Suitably for a new statue designed to look old, the process of making a Heisman is both normalized and artisanal. The ancient Egyptians would have known how to make a Heisman: The lost-wax casting method has been used to fashion bronze sculptures for roughly six millenniums.”

“Not only is this year’s Heisman slightly different from last year’s, it is more different from those of a generation ago … Before 2005, the back shoe had bumps on it to depict laces while the front shoe did not. Mr. Nortz added some grooves to the top of the right foot. MTM Recognition also standardized the trophy’s dimensions after staff members noticed that past trophies’ outstretched right arms departed the body at different angles. That arm has always been cast separately from the body.”

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