April 12, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Dan Nosowitz delved into the past and present of how car models are named:
- American car names have typically reflected current trends. In the 1930s and 1940s “the Zephyr”, “the Commander”, and, the retrospectively unfortunate “Dictator” were marketed.
- With the advent of the space race in the 70s and 80s Americans were buying “Comets”, “Meteors”, and “Satellites”.
- When Mercedes Benz entered the American market, it differentiated itself as a maker of luxury cars. Its habit of using alphanumeric code names (e.g., “Mercedes-Benz 770K”) began to be emulated by anyone trying to make high-end cars.
- The trend continues. Today the rich can choose among the Lexus LS500, Volvo S90, and Mercedes CLS550.
- Meanwhile most Americans will purchase a Honda Accord or Toyota Highlander.
- Using an alphanumeric code name for a vehicle keeps the focus on the fact that the car is a Mercedes Benz – the model is unimportant – helping to enhance the automaker’s brand.
- It also helps preserve the value of a car by mitigating the risk of anachronistic car names. Who, after 1939, would have wanted to purchase “The Dictator”?
Read more on Atlas Obscura.
April 11, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
All the additional safety features cars are coming with are perversely making them more expensive to insure wrote Christina Rogers and Leslie Scism:
- Accident prevention systems require advanced sensors, microprocessors and other hardware. If an accident takes place, they’re expensive to replace.
- These sensors are often located in places like the bumper or on external mirrors – areas most likely to get damaged in an accident.
- For example: it costs $166 to replace a normal side mirror on a 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML350, but $925 to replace one with anti-collision technology.
- Insurers are passing this cost on. When one buyer replaced a 2015 model of a car with a 2017 version he saw his insurance quote increase by 20%.
Read more on The Wall Street Journal
Via: Marginal Revolution
April 10, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Charisse Jones and Roger Yu looked into the conditions that allowed the now infamous Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner to be aired:
- The ad was made by Pepsi’s in house marketing team rather than a specialist agency. This strategy cut costs and speeds up production, but in-house employees are less likely to critique an ad.
- To cut costs the production team might also have skipped testing out the ad with focus groups.
- And like in many industries, advertising teams often lack diversity, meaning important racial perspectives get lost.
- That said, the amount of attention the ad has gotten might ultimately be a boost for Pepsi.
Read more on USA Today.
April 6, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
In the lead up to America’s previous Presidential election we covered betting markets where some punters thought that Trump’s chances were better than they looked at the time. Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara wrote that the former casino magnate, now President, continues to draw gamblers:
- In Dublin – where, unlike the United States, betting markets are legal, one company is looking to hire a full-time bookmaker just to deal with the rush of bets that people are making on Trump’s administration.
- Currently odds are 3:1 that Trump will be impeached this year. And 100:1 that he’ll commission his face to be added to Mount Rushmore.
- Odds that Mexico will pay for the border wall Trump promised are 25:1.
- The average bet on Trump is $25. Multiple millions of dollars’ worth of bets have been made.
- Trump is attracting 50 times more bets that Obama did at this point in his Presidency.
Read more on USA Today.
April 4, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
McDonald’s is planning to use fresh beef in its Quarter Pounder burgers in 2018. Chase Purdy wrote about why the rest of the fast food giants’ burgers are frozen:
- Frozen patties can be left in the warmer for up to 15 minutes after being prepared. Fresh patties must be served within just five minutes.
- McDonald’s makes 70% of its sales from drive-throughs, and preparing fresh patties in a timely manner during rush hour is difficult.
- The chain is a victim of its own success. It is so big that it would struggle to find a supplier that could provide fresh beef for all its burgers.
- But other chains such as Wendy’s and Five Guys have made it work.
Read more on Quartz.
April 3, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Noam Scheiber wrote about the use of behavioural economics by Uber and its peers:
- Uber borrowed a trick from Netflix where the next trip will queue up before the previous trip ends to encourage drivers to stay on the road.
- Similar to Netflix this means that it requires more effort to stop binge driving than to continue it.
- Male managers trying to direct drivers to areas of high potential demand sometimes pretend to be female, as drivers are more likely to listen.
- Humans tend to set goals and if a driver tries to sign off the app may display a message encouraging them to continue driving because they’re just “$10 away from making $330 in net earnings”.
- Uber awards Xbox like badges for accomplishments such as good customer service. They’re free for Uber to hand out, but anecdotal evidence indicates that they can be a big motivator.
- In the future Uber could use personalized targeting. If a driver receives consecutive bad reviews after a long shift they may encourage the driver to go home.
Read more about some of the other tactics used on The New York Times.
March 31, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
We’ve previously covered the idea that food has replaced music in culture. Tyler Cowen wrote a little about why this was:
- With streaming services we now access whatever music we want – fewer people listen to the same music, and it’s hard to build a social identity around it.
- Streaming also means that we no longer own our music making it difficult to let it define us.
- In the past music played a big role in political movements like civil rights and anti-war. Today Taylor Swift is assiduously non-political, and Kanye West’s endorsement of Donald Trump generated few headlines.
- Food has taken over. Instead of MTV you now have the Food Network. Talk among friends is often dominated by the latest restaurant.
- On the bright side this allows people with a diverse set of preferences to join the conversation. Come from abroad and you can talk with pride about your home cuisine.
- But food seems to be less important as a cultural touchstone to minority communities, creating further divides in society.
- And a good meal with perhaps a splash of wine induces lethargy rather than the drive for political action that music used to.
- With the exception of one commentator worried about an over-abundance of taco trucks, our conversation about food is mostly non-political and perhaps somewhat banal.
In fairness things may be changing. As we’ve previously covered brunch may be losing its allure to political activism.
Read Cowen’s entire article on Bloomberg.
March 30, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Alex Bellos, a blogger for The Guardian, polled people on their preferred number:
- People often pick numbers related to their birthdays or other key dates.
- Odd numbers are more popular than even ones
- Whole numbers are disliked. This might be because we round off to whole numbers and so we think they’re imprecise. If you want a favourite number it may as well be a number that stands for itself.
- Prime numbers are popular – people like to be unique.
- Eight is popular because in Chinese it sounds like “prosperity”. Four sounds like “death” and is disliked.
- Three is well regarded. Religion is filled with that number, so are stories like the Three Musketeers, and sentences like this normally feel more complete if they follow the rule of three.
- Seven is the most popular number. It is the only single digit number, other than one, that isn’t a multiple or a factor of any other. There are seven visible planets, seven days in a week, and seven deadly sins. Seven is luck in the casinos of Las Vegas.
- 110 is the world’s least favourite number.
Read more on Nautilus.
March 29, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Klaus Ulrich looked into the history of “Made in Germany”:
- In 1887 the British passed the Merchandise Marks Act which required foreigners to label their products as having been made in a foreign country.
- This was done because of a perception that Germany profited by selling cheap knock-offs of British wares.
- The hope was that by labelling products as foreign, British consumers would buy local and boost local industry.
- It backfired. The “Made in Germany” tag came to signify quality, and boosted demand for German manufacturing.
- German cars and heavy machinery continue to benefit from an association between German engineering and quality to this day.
Read more on DW.
March 28, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Rebecca Greenfield wrote about J&J’s latest product offering:
- About half of all senior business executives leave their new role within 18 months of getting promoted.
- For someone like a CEO, turnover can cost $1.8 billion in shareholder value.
- In that context J&J’s $100,000 a year program to help prevent burnout seems like a bargain.
- It involves an initial in-depth medical assessment followed by frequent check ins with three coaches. J&J likens it to the pool of medical experts that surround astronauts after splashdown.
- In the beginning J&J will take enrolled participants to the Mayo clinic for two and a half days for a examination that focuses on factors like metabolism and stamina.
- After that the three coaches – a dietician, a psychologist, and an executive coach – will conduct frequent in-person check ins. Sometimes at home to make sure enrolees have access to healthy food.
- They may also interview family and friends to identify potential future fracture points in the executive’s personal life.
- All in all executive coaching is a $1 billion industry in the United States.
Read more on Bloomberg.