Wednesday, October 20, 2010 this a joke?

Ok so I'm not an apple person. I like some of their functional and aesthetic aspects, but you won't see me lining up to buy the new iPhone (now with more square edges!). I don't understand the Apple people who seem to not care that they have, rather literally, given Steve Jobs and co. carte blanche to charge any price they please on their products. Why? Because people keep buying the products at any price!

Normally I say live and let live, but if you don't think Apple are abusing your consumer brand loyalty, then the MacBook Air should (hopefully) force you to see the light. Full details can be found at CNN but here's the short version. The new MacBook will cost users a whopping $999 (at its cheapest and smallest). Your return on investment? A tiny laptop that has a massive (!).....64 gigabytes of space! How about a DVD reader? Nope! Will millions line up to buy it on opening day (despite alreasy owning superior, cheaper machines)? Absolutely! Meanwhile the lads at Apple are laughing at the fact that they pulled the same trick on consumers yet again.

Apple Exec: "What will we charge next Steve?"
Steve Jobs: "Who cares, people will buy it".
Apple Exec: "Won't they get wisen up to this trick?"
Steve Jobs: "Seemingly not"

Now I understand the supposed technological justifications for the price. Great battery life, weight, and flash storage. Downloading updates via the Web makes sense, but not being able to watch basic DVDs? And only 64 GB of space? This is criminal.

Though I'm sure many would (will) disagree with me, at the end of the day, if you want to spend $1000 of you hard earned (?) money, go ahead.

Would love to hear some views on this.

Think about it.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Can't type on a touch screen? Me neither...

Ok so I can, but I don't like it. I like to actually feel the keys I'm typing on. What's more is I just find it plain annoying. Seems like I'm not the only one.

The folks over at Disney Research are coming up with something to take care of this problem. The Tesla Touch Screen seems to be paving the way for a whole new type of touch screen interface. Anyways, just though I'd share in case anyone agrees with me about how annoying it is to use touch keypads.


P.S. Anyone else find it comical that anything vaguely associated with electricity has the name Tesla thrown in? I wonder what ole Nikola would think!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Life surrounds us

It's been too long since I've posted anything here. For that I feel annoyed at myself, and yet it is thus all the more rewarding to be posting again.

To begin my blog anew, a quote I feel encourages us to embrace that which we hold dear.

- Manuel

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Socio-Cultural Issues: Democratization in the Middle East

The big players in Western politics commonly espouse the values of spreading democracy in the Middle East. After all, why wouldn't they? Democracy represents the views of the majority and as such is fairest....right? Let's assume that for this post, this makes perfect sense (at least in theory). If it makes sense, then doesn't it also stand to reason that the peoples of the Middle Eastern region would demand and fight for democracy? It's a hot topic in politics and as such I want to shed some light on some of the factors stunting the spread of democracy in certain parts of the globe. Namely: geo-political interests and internal economics.

Politics: Former US president George W. (dub-ya) Bush began "his second term...with a promise to the people of the United States and the world -- vowing to promote democracy both at home and abroad." (CNN). Hmm....that didn't really pan out. And whilst it is very fun to hop on the anti-Bush bandwagon, it's only fair to point out that he was not the only Western leader to go on about the spread of democracy. So what's the problem? Why can the most powerful and wealthy nations in the world not succeed in a task that appeals to 'common sense'? Hmm....either democracy is a paradigm that simply cannot function in a Middle Eastern setting (as per Huntington's 'Clash of Civilizations') or....could the spread of democracy be a false promise? Scholars like Norton (in Fawcett) argue that Western countries do not genuinely wish to promote democracy due to the possible instability and subsequent conflict this could create. In simple terms our leaders reckon that given proper democracy countries in the Middle East would elect extremists into power which of course is against Western goals; both in the sense that this could cause international conflict and simultaneously jeopardize long-standing economic assets (eg cutting off oil supplies like in 1973). This brings me to the next point of economics.

Economics: There are a few things to consider here, and whilst international interests play a large role I'm just going to focus on the existing internal barriers to effective democratization. It's no secret that in many regions women are subverted in society. Often they are not allowed to work. Ergo, countries which find themselves in these situations essentially cut their work force in half. The lack of a large work force can concordantly mean that it is impossible for a strong middle class to arise in society. The issue with this is that wealthy middle classes are the only economically powerful enough and numerically large enough capable of standing up to the government by means vis-a-vis taxation. The old edict goes 'no taxation without representation'. Well unfortunately it works both ways. In most Middle Eastern countries there is no taxation. Instead we find rentier states whereby the country pays its citizens an amount of money which comes from oil revenues (for a more detailed definition see SEMP). Thus 'no representation without taxation' comes into play and the masses find themselves with no voice in governments who feel they owe their people next to nothing. Thus the populace have no facilitated means of standing up for what they believe in (whether it is democracy or something else - but this is not the point here) and demanding it.

They are but a few theories. Knock 'em, support 'em or add a different view. As always, food for thought.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Socio-Cultural Issues: Excessive Drinking in Ireland

Thought people might find this BBC Article interesting.

A particularly difficult social issue in Ireland is the excessive drinking habits that Irish culture instils and propagates amongst the youth. Believe it or not, one of the major reasons for Irish binge drinking habits can be traced back to the Irish 'church rule' culture that dominated the minds and hearts of the peoples here for centuries. It's not an argument I will get into here but if interested I recommend the works of noted Irish sociologist Tom Inglis.

Despite numerous attempts the government to curb this facet of society (like raising alcohol taxes, 'shock factor' television ads [NB: this is an English ad but the message is still the same]) I don't think many would argue that binge drinking has decreased in any significant proportion any time recently. An unfortunate but concurrent side effect is that deaths due to drink driving are relatively common. Now the name of my blog is Ireland via Chile, so it would be unfair of me not to compare with my home country. Drink driving is also a very relevant problem back home, but in contrast to Ireland, the mortality rate isn't as high and as such it is not as high up on the social agenda.

The points I wish to make here are of a analytical and observational approach respectively.

1. In relation to the socio-cultural aspect of binge drinking - I can see no way of changing this without a complete overhaul of Irish values and norms. All the way from the top of the top of societal leaders to the most 'average joe' and the bottom rings of society. I had an argument once with an Irish person where they a) laughed about the fact that their leader (then Bertie Ahern) had once been photographed coming out of a pub visibly intoxicated and b) would not accept that Chile's president (Michelle Bachelet) does not occasionally get drunk in her spare time. The attitude that it's ok for people in powerful positions to drink excessively (Ahern is still viewed as a 'man of the people' and this just further endeared him to many - though not all) is frankly absurd, and I won't get into why as I deem these reasons to be fairly self evident.

2. The second point - deaths on the road. Why here more than some other places? Infrastructure is my best argument. At best, it's difficult to navigate Irish roads when sober, in the day time, with no traffic. Many countries have based their road infrastructure on the Roman chess board model (in other words it's a grid) and I think this really contributes to road safety (not only in relation to drink driving) as it minimizes confusion whilst maximizing flow of traffic.

Can a drinking problem be solved by any forceful means like the Australians are trying this weekend (refer to the BBC article above)? Or does the discourse of daily lives have to, unequivocally, change? As always; food for thought.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Short essay on 'Consumer Behaviour'

The different theories on learning, personality and motivation and their effects on consumer behaviour and subsequent adoption in marketing strategy. Enjoy:

When it comes to the different elements that can affect consumer behaviour, we can notice influences from a wide range of academic backgrounds; from marketing management to sociology and psychology. As such we need to look at all these different disciplines in the light of their unique takes on issues such as personality, motivation and learning. In this essay, we will look at the different theories put forward by Freud, Maslow, Herzberg and Bourdieu. Subsequently, we shall compare and contrast the different theories in order to provide us with a comprehensive view of which ideology has the strongest argument. Due to the fact that these thinkers come from varied backgrounds (psychology and sociology), we will be able to formulate a well rounded argument regarding the different factors that can influence consumer behaviour. Once we have done this, we can begin to look at the implications that these theories have in relation to the formulation of marketing strategy. Lastly, we will conclude that marketers need to be aware of all of these different elements, and should only proceed forwards in developing strategies within a specific empirical framework (attained through intensive market research) in order to maximise the effectiveness of their current marketing practices.

We begin with Freud, whose theories are widely discussed and still hold relevance to this day; this is not without reason. For Freud, our motivations come mainly from unconscious desires, and as such, we may not always understand or even realise the extent to which these desires affect us (Kotler et al., 2009: 238). As a result of this, we become influenced by a wide variety of stimuli (which we don’t always notice and aren’t always the focus of the marketing – e.g. the size of a product). However, one could argue that oversimplifies the role of the consumer, who often times is extremely fastidious about the most minute detail of the product he/she wishes to purchase. On the other hand, Herzberg viewed levels of motivation as being a consequence of the existence (or lack thereof) of satisfying features (satisfiers). Though Herzberg was more concerned with how to motivate workers, his work (1966) provides us with an insight into the logic behind motivation (as a general concept). We, as consumers, will not be content to purchase something simply because there is nothing about it that dissatisfies us. There have to be elements that satisfy other standards as well as the lack of dissatisfiers. However, the problem with Herzberg’s views are that it makes too much of an assumption insofar as it postulates that people will automatically be motivated simply due to presence of certain prerequisite conditions (i.e. the presence of satisfiers in the workplace does not automatically mean worker productivity will increase). Furthermore, we can safely assume that not every individual responds the same way to different stimuli (and therefore what may be a satisfier for one may be irksome for another).

For Maslow, our drives are far more instinctual in nature. He based his argument on the logic that we, as human beings will, in different situations, react according to what we need in life. In his original paper Maslow laid out the different human ‘needs’ in a specific, ranked structure (1943: 370 – 396), now commonly known as the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. If we follow Maslow’s argument, we can see that the we, as consumers, are not influenced by subconscious (or even conscious) stimuli, but rather by deep-rooted desires linked to where we are (financially, socially, personally) in life. This is limited in scope though as it overlooks the fact that we often make impulse buys, and sometimes for things we cannot afford/do not need. In other words, we can argue that Maslow’s hierarchy is slightly oversimplified and therefore can be (potentially) limited. Gratton notes this, in discussing Maslow, when she says we should be “concerned with the oversimplification involved in speaking of a ‘need level’ in a holistic manner.” (1980: 474). Despite some of the generalizations of Maslow’s theory, it unquestionably has some valid points, and we can see these reflected in Bourdieu’s views on ‘habitus’ in his seminal work ‘Distinction’ (1984). For Bourdieu, habitus is (essentially) the world we live in as influenced by a variety of social, financial, political and personal factors. If Maslow’s hierarchy works off the logic that we buy what we ‘need’ as decided by external factors, then we can deduce that this will influence the consuming behaviours of people from different social backgrounds (as they need different things - as shown by Gratton in her work). Therefore we can immediately draw similarities between Maslow and Bourdieu insofar as their works imply that consumer behaviour is (at different levels) driven by external (and sometimes unchangeable) influences. Furthermore, Bourdieu’s work is extremely useful as you can use his analysis to understand motivation (socio-economic factors), personality and perception (the ‘habitus’ we are born into shapes these) at virtually any class/group level.

It would be erroneous to assume that concepts as complex as personality and perception have only one root cause or definition. Like motivation, we can see that different theorists have a veritable plethora of views on these next two topics. Lindsay and Norman (1977) describe perception as being the process by which we interpret, analyse and organise stimuli (what they call ‘sensation’) in order to experience the world within a meaningful context. Kotler et al. provide a similar definition to Lindsay and Norman’s in the words of Berelson and Steiner. It states that “Perception is the process by which we select, organise and interpret information inputs to create a meaningful picture of the world.” (2009: 239). Kotler et al. delve in deeper and explain that perception is a multi-faceted concept and the way we perceive stimuli is based on selective attention (screening out certain stimuli), selective distortion (tendency to interpret information in ways that suit our preconceptions) and selective retention (retaining information which supports our attitudes and beliefs) (2009: 239-240). If we analyse the implications of what this means we could argue that consumers tend to purchase things based on: what we choose to pay attention to, that reinforce our preconceptions and reflect our personal beliefs. Thus as a marketer, being able to target a specific market segment is about effectively mapping out how that segment perceive their needs and then supplying them. Furthermore, we can argue that the manner in which we choose to screen out certain stimuli and not others can be attributed to issues such as our needs (e.g. Maslow’s hierarchy) or our socio-economic standing (e.g. Bourdieu’s habitus). The final cognitive process we have to look at is learning (which will give us more insight into consumer behaviour as well as tying into motivation and perception). Once again we turn to Kotler et al. who define learning as including “changes in our behaviour arising from experience.” (2009: 240). Certain theories put forward such as ‘Information Processing Theory’ (I.P.T.), view human learning as analogous to how a computer learns, by inputting, processing, and outputting information. However, if we view learning as an ongoing experiential approach we can see that it is intrinsically linked with the other two key cognitive processes; learning affects perception which affects motivation which affects future learning, and so on and so forth. Thus we are working off the belief that viewing learning from a behavioural perspective (rather than I.P.T.) is a more beneficial approach for marketers.

Knowing the different psychological perspectives affecting consumer behaviour is a crucial factor that any marketer should be aware of when attempting to devise a marketing strategy. Kotler at al. suggest several different means of gaining this crucial information (2009: 260). The first is the ‘introspective method’ which involves the marketer considering how they would act in a given situation. The obvious problem with this is that sometimes they lack the experience or external conditions necessary to glean necessary, relevant information (e.g. a wealthy marketer might find it difficult to adequately emulate the situation and needs of a person with much less disposable income). The ‘retrospective method’ involves interviewing people who have recently bought a given product or service and asking them to retell the process that led to the ultimate purchase, but just as any information gained from interviews, it is subject to bias, inaccurate retelling and potentially imperfect information. The ‘prospective method’ involves asking customers to think aloud about the purchasing process before they’ve bought the product/service while the ‘prescriptive method’ asks consumers to describe how they would ideally like to purchase a product. A huge problem with all but the ‘introspective method’ is that they are dependent on both man power (e.g. availability of staff/volunteers) to track down consumers and carry out the interviews, and the accurateness/honesty of the interviewees.

Thus far we have discussed the different perspectives put forward by the likes of Freud, Herzberg, Maslow, Bourdieu and Kotler on the subjects of the psychological processes of motivation, perception and learning. As we went we studied what implications each of these different processes can have in affecting the overall process of consumer behaviour. Further to this we reviewed some of the more common methods used by marketers in order to gain key data regarding the mindsets and habits of consumers before devising their marketing strategies. With all of this information, what can we conclude? Firstly, it is crucial to understand that marketers absolutely must take into account the experiential aspect (of the consumer) regarding purchasing and consuming. Holbrook and Hirschman put it succinctly we they say “Abandoning the information processing is undesirable, but supplementing and enriching it with an admixture of the experiential perspective could be extremely fruitful.” (1982: 138). Furthermore the marketing team need to re-evaluate their strategic marketing plan in order to reflect the motivations of the consumer (this should be done in a theoretical framework and for this Maslow and Bourdieu would be the best options). The best way to do this is to implement the ‘prescriptive’ and ‘introspective’ methods laid out by Kotler et al. as this gives the researcher an idea of what is going through the consumer’s mind. However, as we already mentioned, this takes a lot of time and man power. Furthermore, to gain any real insight into the consumer behaviour patterns of large groups (such as socio-economic groups) these techniques would have to be widespread and dozens (potentially hundreds or more) of people would have to be interviewed (which again, can often be virtually impossible in practical terms). Following on from this, it is possible to revamp the tactical marketing plan in accordance with the new findings implemented in the strategic plan. A concise and effective study into specific, market based consumer behaviour will allow for the possibility of successfully developing new marketing strategies.

• Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

• Herzberg, F. (1966) Work and the Nature of Man. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

• Holbrook, M.B. & Hirschman, E.C. (1982) ‘The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feelings, and Fun’. The Journal of Consumer Research, 9(2): 132 – 140.

• Gratton, L.C. (1980) ‘Analysis of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy with Three Social Class Groups’. Social Indicators Research, 7(1/4): 463 – 476.

• Kotler, P., Keller, K., Brady, M., Goodman, M. & Hansen, T. (2009) Marketing Management. London: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

• Lindsay, P. & Norman, D. (1977) Human Information Processing: An Introduction to Psychology. New York: Academic Press.

• Maslow, A. (1943) ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’. Psychological Review, 50(4): 370 – 396.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gillette: Time for Damage Control?

If you live in Ireland, you most likely know all about Thierry Henry's little 'incident' the other night. For those of you who don't, have a look at the following video:

Die-hard footballs fans and Irish patriots are FURIOUS about this, and rightly so. This handball esentially cost Ireland the chance to qualify for the South Africa World Cup 2010 (by means of a penalty shoot out) after a grueling 90 something minutes, 1 great goal and an overall huge effort from the Irish side.

Now you may also know that Thierry Henry is one of the three (clean shaven) faces of Gillette for men. To many, that may not make much of a difference when it comes to their choice of shaving products. But you have to remember, the beautiful game has a strong effect on people, and a world cup only comes around every 4 years. Because of this, I think Gillette needs to implement some damage control, and quick. A quick glance around the internet will show you that a large amount of people (Irish and non-Irish alike) are claiming they will boycott Gillette products whislt Henry is still endorsing them.

That's just my opinion anyways, and food for thought for all you people. Sound off in the comments about what you think Gillette should do (if anything at all).

EDIT: I've just seen a group on Facebook entitled 'Boycott Gillette until they drop Henry'. Fri. Nov 20th 18:25 - 505 members and growing.

EDIT: Fri. Nov 20th 21:43 - Group up to 675 people!