Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, September 04, 2021

Something I’ve been rolling around my mind for the past week or so:

When it comes to the outlying demographics of society — the very young, teens, and the elderly — their behaviors are very much informed and defined by the dominant population group, i.e. those of median age. Whether they rebel (youngsters) or react (oldsters), they’re doing so in response to the actions and attitudes of the “great middle”. In essence, those fringe generations are the byproducts of their times.

Can’t say I’ve fully thought this theory out. Obviously it applies mainly to the U.S., maybe not as much to other parts of the world (for instance, the Middle East is about 40 percent young people, while the ranks of the elderly are swelling in Japan, etc.). But I think I’m onto something.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/04/2021 07:46:20 PM
Category: Society
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Thursday, September 03, 2021

Odds are you’ve walked out of the supermarket or drugstore lately with a veritable kite-tail of a paper receipt, laden with everything from coupons to product-recall announcements. Length is key now that the proof-of-purchase has become a point-of-sale direct marketing piece.

Not without some grousing, from both customers and merchants:

The purchase of a pack of gum from a Duane Reade Inc. store in New York generated a foot-long receipt. Single-item buys made recently at RadioShack Corp. stores around the country each yielded 19 inches of paper. The purchase of a Hula Hoop at a Chicago Kmart produced a receipt two-and-a-half feet long.

Receipts for a family of four’s weekly grocery haul can run to three-feet long. CVS cashiers sometimes jokingly ask customers if they would like shopping bags to tote their receipts. Many retailers’ receipts are half an inch longer because of lines urging shoppers to keep their receipts…

Nobody tracks receipt lengths, but retailers, consultants and makers of receipt printers all agree the tallies have gotten longer. Burt Flickinger III, a retailing consultant with Strategic Resource Group Inc. in New York, said store managers and retail executives recently have been complaining about running out of receipt paper and having printers break down more often.

It is absurd, and yet I can see how effective it is. The price-scans that go into the register ideally conjure up a relevant coupon for that customer — for instance, a family buying the week’s supply of catfood should get a coupon for kitty litter at checkout. The conversion rates have to be sky-high when the paper offers are being placed directly into the consumers’ palms, right when they’re already in shopping mode. That certainly beats out direct mail or print/online advertising, which has to vie for your attention.

I admit this works on me, and I’m one of those people who can’t be bothered with traditional clip-and-save coupons. I’ll actually pay attention to the receipt-delivered offer — coupon, online survey invitation, etc. — instead of idly tossing it. I don’t always go for it, but it’s got me looking, and that’s half the battle.

Of course, size matters — in the opposite direction. The longer the sales slip is, the more likely it is to repel customers and get tossed instantly. Instead of jam-packing everything they can onto the paper record, stores need to be judicious in what they promote in this channel. Instead of going long, the goal should be the keep the receipts at a reasonable length, with relevant messaging.

But retailing overkill is overwhelming, so merchants will continue to push the long-tail of the tape. Might was well include a universal coupon for a kite purchase, so people can get actual good use out of that excess ribbon.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/03/2021 11:06:12 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business
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swiss missLibya is about to assume its year-long turn at holding the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly, and Moammar Gadhafi is kicking things off in grand style: He’s proposing abolishing Switzerland.

He first mentioned his idea at the G8 summit in Italy in July. “Switzerland is a world mafia and not a state,” he said.

“It is formed of an Italian community that should return to Italy, another German community that should return to Germany, and a third French community that should return to France.”

Did Daffy Gadhafi just now find out about this demographic breakdown? It’s been there for quite a few centuries. Most of the rest of us are fairly neutral on the subject. Besides, I’ve never heard of any Helvetic-accented mobsters, shaking down ski lodges for protection money…

I believe Benito Mussolini proposed the same thing, back when he was running things from Rome. He actually lived in the Alpine confederation for a time, so I assume he was using fascist-expansionist rhetoric to mask feelings of homesickness. Maybe Gadhafi harbors a similar longing?

Or, as I suspect, this is just one more instance of the Libyan strongman trying to impress his not-so-secret crush, Condoleeza Rice.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/03/2021 09:01:54 AM
Category: History, Political, True Crime
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Wednesday, September 02, 2021

One year ago, Google launched the Chrome browser. At the time, I figured it was ultimately a pointless challenge to Microsoft, because without a commitment from computer manufacturers to preload it, Chrome would come no closer to supplanting Internet Explorer than Firefox has.

It did take a year, but now Google has found that critical hardware home: Sony is bundling Chrome as the default browser on its Vaio line of computers.

Granted, it’s a small footprint:

It’s not clear how much this particular deal with Sony can help improve Google’s standing. Sony’s PC business is too small to be counted on lists by industry research groups IDC and Gartner Inc. of the top five computer makers by unit shipments. The company doesn’t disclose breakdown of sales figures, but said that it expects to sell 6.2 million PCs globally in the fiscal year through March 2010.

But it’s a foothold, and one that Mozilla’s Firefox has never achieved, despite years of a head-start over Chrome. If IE ever gets banished as the mainstream Web gateway for most online users, this will be the first step.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/02/2021 11:47:47 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Tech
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Building off those body-decay anti-smoking ads from a few years back, New York City is applying the gross-out warning to sugar-packed soft drinks, in the form of a too-detailed visual representation of human fat.

The ads — which cost about $277,000 to develop over three fiscal years, including money for creative work and focus groups — will run in 1,500 subway cars for three months. (The $90,000 cost of the subway advertisement comes through a private donor, the Fund for Public Health in New York.)

Cathy Nonas, a dietitian who directs physical activity and nutrition programs at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which developed the ad, said that officials concluded, after conducting focus groups, that a graphic, in-your-face approach worked…

“We had to make sure it looked like real human fat,” said Ms. Nonas, of the health department. “We did want those little blood vessels and things like that.”

“Pouring on the pounds” and “don’t drink yourself fat” provide the textual subtlety to counterbalance those cascading globs of sugar-spawned lard. Mentally hitting the straphanger high and low, I suppose.

High time that Gotham lashed out at the sugarwater scourge. I’m sure these tactics will be just as effective in stamping out sweetener-spiked beverages as they were in eliminating ciggies — because you can’t find anyone lighting up in New York anymore, right?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/02/2021 08:50:40 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food, New Yorkin', Society
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Tuesday, September 01, 2021

I suppose a natural, surface reaction to Disney’s proposed $4-billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment is the assumption that the Mickey Mouse’s renowned brand of G-rated content would supplant the harder-edged fare of Spider-Man and the X-Men.

I expect the layman to make noises to that effect. But to such an extent that Disney’s CEO actually has to address it formally?

Internally, [Bob] Iger says he began to think of Marvel stories using “real bullets”, while Disney uses “fake bullets.” His team became convinced that while there are obvious ways in which the Marvel Universe will spill into Disney’s, the brands are going to remain distinct.

“Not everything we do has to be Disney-branded, although that’s the priority.” And while it will make sense to have Spider-Man join the ranks of Mickey and Goofy among “walk around characters” at its theme parks, Iger noted, “you wouldn’t have the Punisher character walking around one of your parks.” At the same time, he added: “This is not going to be about Disney sanitizing Marvel in any way.”

I can’t believe anyone with any business sense at all thinks that the specific content wells would prevent a business deal. Disney would have no more reason to “sanitize” Marvel’s comic book storylines or basic character profiles than, say, a coffeeshop chain would have to “convert” a soft-drink line it wants to acquire into all-coffee flavors. Corporate transactions involve pairing-up complementary lines of business and (usually) preserving the strengths that originally brought them together. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

Specifically for Disney, a look at its ownership of Miramax Films should inform anyone about how R-rated media can co-exist with the Mouse House’s child-oriented bread and butter. Of course, it went through some perceptional growing pains in that regard when it launched its original non-Walt movie imprint, Touchstone Pictures, in the early ’80s.

I guess that’s a testament to how deep Disney’s family-friendly branding runs: People assume that image is immutable, mergers and acquisitions aside. That’s been a strength for the company for decades, but can also be a double-edged sword.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/01/2021 01:23:36 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Media, Pop Culture
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Declining birthrates in industrialized countries is old news. So is the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to raise a middle-class kid in America, which undoubtedly contributes to the lack of baby-making mass-production.

Leave it to Ben Stein to complete this reproductive cost-analysis, with the curmudgeonly conclusion that child-rearing doesn’t make much economic sense among developed-world upper classes:

Look around you. The costs and benefits of having children in affluent America are wildly off kilter. Too much cost, too little reward. Often the cost-benefit analysis of children prints out “Get a German shorthaired pointer instead.”

Many people are doing that, and the birth rate is collapsing. But if we stop having enough children, because their value is so low relative to their cost, the society grinds down. It’s happening right now. The native-born upper middle class barely replace themselves in America, if they do at all. In a way we are committing suicide as a class, possibly in part because of the burdens of child rearing in modern life.

As usual, the hard-data ROI excludes the unquantifiable benefits of offspring, i.e. love, affection, nurturing, etc. If you insist on extracting fiscal results from that, look at the increasingly-common role reversal of children providing elder care for parents (either personally or by funding such). Taking into account longer and longer lifespans, I’d guess that today’s child-raising investment includes a goodwill gesture for later-life in-kind services, which probably balances the ledger.

On top of that, it’s not like a class system can extinguish itself from lack of homegrown new recruits. American meritocracy ensures plenty of movement up the ladder from the lower classes — the very group that’s having more babies, thanks to the lesser resource expectations. “Class suicide” is a worry for only for the current placeholders in that class, i.e. Stein and other old guard. They may not like who they see moving into the slots vacated by that non-existent next generation of the existing privileged class, but that doesn’t mean those slots won’t get filled anyway.

Children make for the most volatile of stocks, anyway. Don’t count on a predictable return on investment. For that, the German shorthair pointer is the safer bet.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/01/2021 12:21:48 PM
Category: Business, Society
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