Monthly Archives: September 2013

Headlines And Half Empty

Part of how we approach business – and life, for that matter – is the spin we choose to put on things.  Some of how we make up our own minds is from the words others use to describe things.  For example, if I won the lottery, the headline might be “Man Wins Lottery, Set For Life.”  The headline could also be “Man Hit With Enormous Unexpected Tax Bill, Owes Millions.”  Far fetched?1379508733538

Let’s take how a single publication handled the reporting of one piece of information in two different articles.  I should state upfront that I have no issue with either of these headlines nor with the articles.  I’m using them to illustrate a point.  The publication is MediaPost, and I read almost a dozen of their newsletters each day – they provide great information.  The story was a study Nielsen did on viewers using Twitter while they’re watching TV.  You can read Nielsen’s own release on the topic by clicking through on this link.  You might be able to tell from the graphic how Nielsen portrayed their findings.

On to the two articles.  One was headlined “Tweeting Doesn’t Spike During Commercials” while the other stated “TV Viewers Use Twitter During Ads.” Same study, same publication, same day.  A quick glance at the headlines might make you think that viewers don’t break away during commercial breaks; the other might lead you to believe the opposite.  One article says

Good news for TV programmers: TV viewers use Twitter during their TV programming — showing lots of engagement, according to analysts. The bad news? Many are also tweeting during commercials.

while the other says

The takeaway is that viewers using Twitter as a second-screen platform are tweeting consistently throughout the airtime for programming and ads alike. TV advertisers might still prefer that viewers’ attention was fixed on the larger screen during breaks, but it’s not as if they signal the start of a tweeting blitz. All airtime is tweet time.

My point is that we always need to dig a little deeper into the facts before we draw conclusions and we should always get to the source material when we can.  In this case, the Nielsen study.  In other cases a sales report, a deal memo, or other things about which we often learn from others who will bring their own point of view as they report the “facts.”   Needless to say, the principle applies outside of the business world as well.

Make sense?

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Fooled Again

Foodie Friday! The subject today isn’t actually food itself but the places in which it’s served. You probably how competitive the restaurant space is – just think about how hard it is for you to decide where to go eat when you go out. Which cuisine? How far to go? Is this new place any good? We’ve all been there.
More often than not these days, people turn to review sites such as Yelp for information.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not news to any of us that some of the reviews on Yelp (and other review sites) are fake. Great ones may have been posted by the restaurant, bad ones could come from a competitor. Yelp has an algorithm that is supposed to spot and eliminate those issues to a great extent.  The folks at Harvard B-School released a study about it.  What they found is interesting but not terribly surprising:

First, roughly 16 percent of restaurant reviews on Yelp are identified as fraudulent, and tend to be more extreme (favorable or unfavorable) than other reviews. Second, a restaurant is more likely to commit review fraud when its reputation is weak, i.e., when it has few reviews, or it has recently received bad reviews. Third, chain restaurants – which benefit  less from Yelp – are also less likely to commit review fraud. Fourth, when restaurants face increased competition, they become more likely to leave unfavorable reviews for competitors. Taken in aggregate, these findings highlight the extent of review fraud and suggest that a business’s decision to commit review fraud respond to competition and reputation incentives rather than simply the restaurant’s ethics.

They looked at 316,415 reviews of 3,625 restaurants so it’s not a small study. That said, this doesn’t even address an individual who had a nice meal with good service but maybe had a run in with another customer and decides to blame the restaurant with an inaccurate review – I’d call that just as fake as the others.

The NY Attorney General cracked down on businesses that were writing fake reviews.  It’s a problem for anyone who relies on the internet for research.  So don’t.


Yes.  I wrote that.  Instead, use the web to find out about available options and use trusted sites with paid, professional reviewers.  Then put down the device and ask a friend or coworker or family member.  There’s an expression in computing – GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.  That’s what many review sites are like despite their best efforts (and I mean that they try to weed out fake stuff sincerely).  Some of it is the blind leading the rest of us – who knows how educated and daring the palates are of most amateurs?  A bunch of it is fraud.  The problem is we don’t know which is which.

Or maybe we just need not to be afraid to be “wrong” about the choices we make and go and enjoy an evening out with someone?

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What’s In A Name Brand?

How difficult would it be for me to get you to change the brands you use in a number of household categories?


(Photo credit: coolmikeol)

Would it be hard for me to get you to drop a national or name brand in favor of a store brand?  You know what I mean – Market Pantry (Target), Great Value (Walmart), and Kirkland Signature (Costco) are all brands with which you might be familiar.  They’re generally less expensive although not always – Trader Joe’s and 365 Organic (Whole Foods) are pretty pricey.  The quality is generally very good – as good or better, according to this piece from Consumer Reports.

Why do I bring this up (and it isn’t even Foodie Friday!)?  Because a lot of effort and money goes into branding, mostly spent by the national brands, one would think that there is some sort of clear distinction in consumers’ minds between quality, cost, and the value of those brands.  Not so much:

While more than half of shoppers (54 percent) named quality as their top priority when shopping for everyday products, less than a third said that name brands are better quality or more reliable than private label. However, 56 percent of shoppers have the perception that name brand packaging is more attractive than private label.

That’s from a study conducted by The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research.  They also found that:

  • Only 29 percent of the survey’s respondents feel strongly that national brands are of better quality, down from 36 percent last year and 43 percent in 2010
  • When asked what types of private label household goods shoppers are okay buying, 66 percent of respondents listed over-the-counter medicine at the top of the list with milk as a close second with 61 percent
  • The least purchased private label category in the study is pet food, with only 18 percent of shoppers saying they would be okay purchasing this as private label
  • Millennials (18-24) are 13 percent more likely than the general population to be increasing their private label brand purchases. Shoppers aged 65 and older are 33 percent more likely to be upping their private label purchases.

It’s way too easy to write this off as a manifestation of the economic times.  Higher prices no longer mean better quality nor does having a national brand name.  It will be interesting to watch how the national brands handle this.  Coupons can reduce the pricing differential but that doesn’t immediately change the preferences of a consumer who now has seen that there isn’t a difference in quality.  National brands can probably do a better job of consumer engagement as well as in partnering with other national brands.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Are you using more store brands?  How can a national brand win you back?

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