Less is More: Soda Pops as a “Cheap Treat”

The Wall Street Journal: “In some ways, the soda industry is returning to its early 20th century roots, when bottles were typically about 6 ounces and pop was a treat saved for a special occasion. It wasn’t until 1976 that 7-Eleven Inc. launched the 32-ounce Big Gulp at its convenience stores.”

“Now, once again, American soda drinkers ‘want to consume less but they still enjoy their favorite brands,’ said Marty Ellen, Dr Pepper’s chief financial officer. Dr Pepper is rolling out 7.5-ounce cans nationally this year, replacing 8-ounce cans it launched as an alternative to 12-ounce cans. Each 7.5-ounce can holds about 95 calories, compared with 150 calories for a 12-ounce can.”

This works out well for soda companies, which have stemmed losses by charging more for less: “At a Publix supermarket in Atlanta recently, a 12-pack of 12-ounce Coke cans was priced at $5.29, or 3.67 cents per ounce. An 8-pack of 7.5-ounce cans was priced at $3.99, or 6.65 cents per ounce.”

Mr. Ellen says the higher cost per-ounce aligns with consumer behavior because soda is still a “cheap treat.”

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Loyalty & The Late Adopter

Those who are slower to adopt new products or services tend to be more loyal to their choices, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Typically, a late adopter is “a person who buys a product or service after half of a population has done so. Late adopters tend to share certain characteristics: They are skeptical of marketing and tend to point out differences between advertised claims and the actual product. They often value a product’s core attributes, ignoring the bells and whistles intended to upsell the latest model. They may not try something new until weeks, months or even years after the crowd has moved on.”

“It takes a long time to change late adopters, but once they’ve done all that research, and once they are convinced about a product, they are going to stay for a long time,” says Sara Jahanmir of the Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon.

Late adopters are also believed to have “important things to tell companies about the role new products should play. Because they tend to be highly critical, late adopters can be useful to companies perfecting their wares … By listening to late adopters of the old version of a product, developers can create a new version that is quicker to be adopted.”

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“Brave” Browser Offers Users Ad Revenues

Christian Science Monitor: “Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla Corporation and creator of JavaScript, is launching a new startup – Brave, a browser with a less-than-intuitive solution: block ads by default. The browser will automatically block disruptive ads on the Web and replace them with safer, less intrusive ones. The browser will also reward users with a cut of the advertising profits and a choice to support their favorite websites … the main goal of the browser is to give users control over their advertising experience and more control over how they support their favorite websites.”

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Co-Creation Is The New Museology

Hyperallergic: “In plain terms, across the field, in museums, art institutions, performance forums, and even historical societies, the visitor’s experience is now being personalized. This means that not only is the visit marked by enhanced, interactive, and ‘dialogic’ engagement, but also there is an institutional recognition of the visitor as an independent maker of meaning who uses the museum in a variety of ways to fulfill particular, individual needs and desires.”

“Three key means of accomplishing this is first, recognizing visitors’ capacity to make meaning for themselves; two, partnering with them to discover what they personally want from the museum; and lastly, mobilizing the museum’s resources to meet these needs. These tasks can be met by, among other things, new curatorial strategies through which museums partner with visitors to develop activities and events: co-curation projects, and crowdsourcing exhibition content.”

“Visitors are no longer passive receptacles for the curator’s knowledge, but rather active, engaged participants.”

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Madison Avenue & Modern Medicine

From a New York Times review of Remaking The American Patient by Nancy Tomes: “Patients actually morphed into consumers long before health insurance and the Internet were invented, even before the turn of the 20th century … It was back in the 1920s that doctors’ offices first loaded up with machinery in order to impress patients with ‘new and improved’ medical care.”

“The first timesaving questionnaire for patients to complete in the waiting room was introduced in 1949 … Drugs have been enthusiastically hawked from the dawn of advertising. In fact, the drug industry pioneered the use of many of the most aggressive tools, like national ad campaigns, direct-mail ads, product placements and infomercials … Doctors were already complaining in the 1920s that patients just wanted drugs, not good advice. In the 1950s, the American Medical Association warned that doctors should learn to negotiate with a pickier generation of consumers.”

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Is The Deck Stacked Against Disruptive Innovation?

The Wall Street Journal: “Anshu Sharma, a venture capitalist at Storm Ventures, thinks he knows why so many companies that should have all the resources and brainpower required to build the next big thing so often fail to do so. He calls his thesis the ‘stack theory’ … the mistaken belief that” building something new is a simple matter of “moving up the stack.”

The “stack” is a “layer cake of technology, one level of abstraction sitting atop the next that ultimately delivers a product or service to the user.” IBM, for example, “moved up the stack from making things that compute to selling the services that computation enables … Google tried to move up the stack from search to social networking.” Apple apparently hopes to move up the stack to make electric cars.

According to Mr. Sharma, failure to move up the stack happen when the company lacks empathy for its customers and doesn’t understand its customers’ wants or needs. It’s generally easier to move down the stack (e.g., Tesla builds its own batteries because it knows its own requirements). Uber would be more likely to succeed at building its own cars than General Motors would be at creating a ride-sharing service. That’s because “Uber has the advantage of knowing exactly what it needs in a vehicle for such a service.”

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Tech Startup Life Can Be Brutish and Short

The Economist: “Software firms are supposed to be a paradise for ‘talent.’ Not only are their workers fabulously paid, but they are showered with perks as well … However, a career as a software developer or engineer comes with no guarantee of job satisfaction. A survey last year of 5,000 such workers at both tech and non-tech firms by TinyPulse … found that many of them feel alienated, trapped, under-appreciated and otherwise discombobulated.”

“Only 19% of tech employees said they were happy in their jobs and only 17% said they felt valued in their work … 36% of techies felt they had a clear career path compared with 50% of workers in areas such as marketing and finance; 28% of techies said they understand their companies’ vision compared with 43% of non-techies.”

“Tech firms that offer lavish perks to their staff do not do so out of the goodness of their hearts. They offer them because they expect people to work so hard that they will not have time for such mundane things as buying lunch or popping to the dry-cleaners … The tech industry offers fabulous rewards for a fortunate few … But the industry is also rife with disappointments: endless toil that produces meagre returns; and dreams of reinventing the world that turn into just another tough and insecure job.”

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Deep Work: Finding Focus in a Distracted World

The Wall Street Journal: A new book attacks the trend toward open offices and embraces the virtues of focused thought. In “Deep Work,” Cal Newport “acknowledges the good intentions behind open offices: They are meant to encourage serendipity and teamwork. But he argues that burdening workers with perpetual distractions constitutes ‘an absurd attack on concentration’ that creates ‘an environment that thwarts attempts to think seriously.'”

The antidote is to expand “your capacity for ‘deep work,’ ruthlessly weeding out distractions and regularly carving out stretches of time to sharpen abilities … Most corporate workers, Mr. Newport argues, don’t have clear feedback about how to spend their time. As a result, employees use ‘busyness as a proxy for productivity.'”

“This presents an opening for people who are willing to tame these distractions … Such individuals cut down anything that could be outsourced ‘to a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training,’ and create rituals of delving into ‘the wildly important goal’ of their trade … No job is excused as too mundane for his approach, even in industries that value, say, rapid customer-service responses.”

“You don’t need a rarified job,” Mr. Newport writes. “You instead need a rarified approach to your work.”

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Why Aren’t Wearables Well Worn?

In The New York Times, Nick Bilton offers several reasons why so much wearable technology has not worn so well. “First, almost all of them require a smartphone to be fully operational … a wearable becomes yet another gadget that we need to lug around. There’s also the fact that most of these devices are quite ugly … Then there’s the unpleasant fact that the technology just doesn’t seem ready … But the biggest issue may be the price … consumers just can’t justify buying a smartwatch that costs nearly as much as a smartphone.”

Geoffrey A. Fowler, writing in The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile extols the virtues of the Mio, which uses a metric called Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI), which tracks heart patterns rather than foot movement. “Mio’s hardware isn’t as elegant as others on the market, but PAI is the best example yet of how wearables can turn data into tailored, actionable advice, and hopefully longer lives,” Geoffrey writes.

“Unlike step counting, where you start over each morning at zero, PAI runs on a rolling weekly tally … Everyone’s PAI is a little different, by design. The formula takes into account your age, gender, resting heart rate, max heart rate and other unique signals. It’s personal Big Data,” Geoffrey writes.

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Volvo Promises a Death-Proof Car by 2020

Christian Science Monitor: “Volvo says its “vehicles will be death-proof by 2020, making good on industry promises that autonomous vehicles are not just cool, but life-saving … Volvo’s 2020 plans will bring together sensor technology like adaptive cruise control, which can work in stop-and-go commuter traffic; it’s already an option in its XC90 SUV, which won the North American Truck of the Year award and a Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.”

“The company’s supposedly death-defying cars will also use sensing and alerting technology to let drivers know when it senses the car is going off the road, turning into oncoming traffic, or about to hit a cyclist or large animal — and if that doesn’t work, they’ll put on the brakes automatically. The vehicles will even keep an eye out for sleepy or distracted drivers, sounding a warning if erratic driving suggests someone’s nodding off behind the wheel.”

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