Business in The Age of Skepticism – A Linking Mess for 02/21/14

Selling stuff in an age of skepticism – The Economist

This article from The Economist opens with a funny observation by the late British novelist Kingsley Amis, who as a skeptic of advertising was ahead of his time. Today, we live in an age of mass skepticism, and the landscape for marketers is as fraught as ever. Havas Media, a marketing agency, has done a series of worldwide surveys that indicate that people care less and less about brands. Its surveys revealed that a majority of people in Europe and America would not care if 92% of existing brands vanished. Of course, there is still the worship of brands (think Apple products), but lately advertisers have had to work harder. According to this piece, they have four avenues: acknowledge the skepticism; drown the skepticism with humor; disarm the skepticism with honesty; and make the case that buying your product will do good – like heal the planet or help the poor.

Walmart racks up $1 million in sales every 66 seconds – The Economist

Go to this link to see how some of the world’s biggest corporate rivalries – most of them American, such as Apple vs. Google and Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo –net out when it comes to sales and profits. Then click on the interactive chart, which will show the firms racing to $1 million in sales (my headline gave the winner away). In looking at the beverage giants, Coca-Cola does less in sales than PepsiCo but its margins are nearly twice those of its arch rival. A couple more interesting Coca-Cola facts I came across recently: a single share bought in 1919 is now worth over $10 million, and the company sells 75 million drinks an hour.

Are you an “influencer” at work? – The Wall Street Journal (may require registration)

Ever since I heard there was a popular book called “Never Eat Alone” (written in 2005 by Keith Ferrazzi, a guy I never want to meet), which promotes the idea that corporate climbers need to spend every spare moment networking in order to reach maximum career success, I have rebelled. Wait, that’s not exactly right. I had always rebelled against the concept of networking, and when I heard it had gone so far as to invade lunch and dinner (breakfast?), I was able to let go some of my guilt for being so remiss in this area. Because meeting people for lunch or dinner simply to spread my face around sounds torturous and also a bit disingenuous. And I love eating alone. Anyway, on to the article. This Wall Street Journal piece is about office “influencers” – employees who are the most well-connected and trusted by their peers – and how companies are taking advantage of their effect on morale, new initiatives, and so on. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems, and (which calls their top networkers “chatterati”) plumb data from Facebook-like corporate networks to unearth their top influencers. I guess there are some good things about this; I just can’t think of any.