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Ben Kunz
Works at Mediassociates. Planner. Bloomberg Businessweek columnist. Likes dogs. Passed the Turing test.
Attended University of Vermont
Lives in Connecticut
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Ben Kunz

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  Would space aliens be artificial intelligence? This is an intriguing question posed by Len Kendall, based on our earlier premise that biology tends to evolve into complexity that eventually ...
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Seriously? I skimmed it.

It's hard to separate skiffy wet dreaming from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Some have way too much time. They are far from mastering earthly life for themselves and yet, they ponder about irrelevant other worldly life.



Bizarro.
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Amazing how robot designs are leaving behind our biologically evolved forms. This flying/rolling robot works better than arms, legs or wings.
 
HyTAQ Robot (Hybrid Terrestrial and Aerial Quadrotor)
 

Not bad
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I visited Sandy Hook today, and this little girl made me feel better.
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Anger is a natural step in grieving, but at some point you have to move on to acceptance.
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Hi aliens. Welcome to Earth. We have tons of resources but can't figure out how to share them so resort to fighting each other over two different strategies to either (a) compete with no concern for others or (b) force sharing with others and (c) can't figure out which strategy is better so if one of us disagrees we say to them (d) you were born on another spot perhaps that light over there in Kenya which (e) matters to us because we've drawn invisible lines over the planet calling some spots (f) countries based on a personal allegiance of (g) where we came out of our mothers' wombs. So ... what ... you're leaving already? We haven't even talked religion.
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Cool post. It really is. I disagree with some things but at its core we have 'invisible lines' because different people think differently. We have disagreements and agreements. We are the same and different at the same time. This is why we have naturally grouped into different regions.
Still I really like your observations. 
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Ben Kunz

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It strikes me that anticipating someone's needs is not only nearly impossible, but it has little utility in commerce. Here's the story why.

http://www.thoughtgadgets.com/why-netflix-walked-away-from-personalization/
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Nice post. Remind me of the quote attributed to Henry Ford (but not, actually, said by him): “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
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A riff on group dynamics that could save your next meeting
Decisions are difficult in business because hierarchies and org structures, however well thought out, culminate in small groups trying to reach consensus on difficult issues. Funny thing is, the strongest influencer in a meeting is usually not the most senior manager. Often, an unexpected player steers the decision to a biased, wrong-headed conclusion. This is the danger of "propinquity."

Propinquity means "nearness in relationship," and was outlined by management consultant David Hillson in a 2009 paper "How Groups Make Risky Decisions." Hillson suggested that if the risk of an issue being debated by a decision group is very close to one individual, that person will become a vocal force as influential as a top officer.

Don't make it blue!

To see how propinquity works, imagine a group of managers convening to decide which color to paint a new office. Participants include:

- Sally, a senior manager who formerly led a paint department
- Frank, a mid-level manager with expertise in interior color design
- Tom, a junior manager ... who as a child was frequently locked in a small blue room for "time outs"

As the color committee begins to discuss choices, Tom proclaims, "Blue is a horrible choice, it's too babyish. We can't include it." The other participants, swayed by Tom's strong opinion, agree. Blue is off the table.

What happened? Tom -- unbeknownst to others, and perhaps unknown to him -- had high propinquity to the color choice. His passion swayed the group, beyond the opinion of the other members who had more expertise.

Hillson suggests this type of group-member bias is important to recognize, because studies show that participants in decisions with high propinquity skyrocket in influence -- rivaling or surpassing that of individuals with high power. This results sub-optimally in the group decision really being made by one person, who of course does not have access to all the data for the most rational execution.

It's a bad choice, but I saved my bonus

Color choices are a silly example, but propinquity often arises in important business decisions. Imagine holding a team meeting deciding to:

- Develop a new service that could drive new revenue ... but that might reduce the bonus for one manager who works in a competing department.
- Launch a communications campaign that could generate positive PR ... but that conflicts with the power of an internal manager.
- Merge with a new organization that could triple annual profits ... but undercut the power of the current team leaders.

It's not hard to envision someone in each scenario above making strong points to nix the best decision for the organization.

Business history is littered with examples of decisions missed based on individual, or business unit, fears. IBM could have owned Microsoft's early operating system, but dismissed it because its fortunes were tied to mainframe computers. Microsoft could have launched cloud-based apps before Google, but doing so might have cannibalized its PC software division. Kodak could have led the digital camera market, but doing so would have threatened its old film business. Clayton M. Christensen defined this macro-business illogic in his book "The Innovator's Dilemma," in which radical innovation can lead to enormous future profits ... but is often blocked if seen as threatening to existing business groups. Entire businesses can make suboptimal decisions if they have too much propinquity, or nearness, to the risk.

In simple terms, propinquity inflates perceived risk

Boil it down and if a decision has a potential outcome that affects us personally, we often over-emphasize the risk ... and end up not making any decision at all. Propinquity creates a type of "risk inflation," where the peril may not be large to the overall organization, but challenges our current reward structure.

The solution is to self-regulate, to step beyond the shell of our personal rewards or fears to really evaluate how the decision may benefit or harm the organization as a whole. A good test is to ask two simple questions: If we do ____, where will our organization be one year from now? Is that a better place? And if it is, then leave your propinquity by the door.
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V ery smart
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Chevron's use of global warming for bold branding
Mention climate change and you get hot responses from some conservatives who believe the risk is falsified, earth's temperatures are not rising, satellite data is fudged and human-made CO2 and methane don't absorb heat from the sun. Some liberals leap far the other way, accusing energy giants such as ExxonMobil of disinformation campaigns bent on disguising facts about global warming.

Chevron has its own strategy: cut through the denial and talk straight about the issue.

Punch "global warming" into Google and the third sponsored ad you'll see is from Chevron, inviting you to a webpage describing how it is concerned about global warming and working to build cleaner energy solutions. On its landing page, Chevron pulls no punches:

"At Chevron, we recognize and share the concerns of governments and the public about climate change. The use of fossil fuels to meet the world's energy needs is a contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs)—mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane—in the Earth's atmosphere. There is a widespread view that this increase is leading to climate change, with adverse effects on the environment."

This is a bold statement from an energy giant with a $209 billion market cap. Why is Chevron pushing such statements to the world? Well, first it could be a lure to investors -- if half the population does believe that scientists can count and earth's temperatures are rising, those investors are more likely to place funds in a company they believe may do something about it. Chevron could also see that energy will change, and be positioning itself for leadership in emerging markets for wind, solar, thermal, fracking, cleaner coal, carbon recapture, or other new technologies that might someday give oil a run for its money. (Chevron has run such brave ads as "It's Time Oil Companies Get Behind the Development of Renewable Energy.")

And of course running ads inside Google searches for "global warming" means you'll only be talking to people hunting for the issue, in essence partitioning off environmentalists with their own communication stream. But I don't think that's it. Chevron's main tagline is now "The Power of Human Energy: Finding Newer, Cleaner Ways to Power the World." ExxonMobil by comparison says "Taking On the World's Toughest Energy Challenges." Chevron is becoming the 7Up to ExxonMobil's big cola. It's a crisp, clean, different alternative. It's focused on the multi-billion-dollar emerging renewable energy market. At least for branding, that's a warm story.
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A warm story indeed if it realizes the commitment it's actually making. Is Chevron lobbying for clean energy, renewables or the smart grid? 
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Why I'm headed to Newtown
Our office is located 8 miles west of Newtown, and since I live to the east, I drive by it every morning and night. I took this photo tonight on the way home. The Newtown exit was closed off, by police I suspect, perhaps to keep tourists away or to only let in locals who know the second path home not marked with a large green sign. 

We're moving our entire agency there in two months to the little subsection called Sandy Hook, about half a mile from the location of the school shooting today. You may not see it on the news but Sandy Hook is a quaint, tiny hamlet, a New England village so small that you blow through it before realizing it's over. We debated the move, partly because the town is so small, but fell in love with a massive old redbrick factory, home of the first vulcanized rubber next to a beautiful river-mill-waterfall and state park, and the design of the huge mill seemed perfect for a growing agency. (Screw you, NYC agency egotists, we can mountain bike after work outside the front door!) We're inking the paperwork on the real estate deal this week and, then, suddenly the hamlet is in the news, site of a psychotic lightning that seems to lash out at random bits of America every three years or so.

It's surreal when a bit of your local life catches fire, and the pain that seems so distant suddenly reaches your own heart. We'll continue with the move, Newtown, because we want you to be known as more than an adjective for someone else's stupidity. Here's to printing the new business cards.
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That event is so awful
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This is fascinating..Thanks for sharing
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Tis the season for fake savings
Savings is such a marketing game. Nothing is ever 30% or 40% off, and yet consumers respond in droves when retailers announced "savings" or "discounts." About 30 years ago behavioral economist Richard Thaler wrote the landmark papers on pricing psychology, with one beautiful premise: People are really bad at judging value so always need a reference point. If marketers control that reference point, they can also control how people feel about value.

Consider something 50% off. A reference point pushes your brain to make a snap decision on whether you're getting a good deal or not. If you see a dress on sale, marked down from $140 to $70 -- 50% off! -- you immediately feel good, as if this bit of clothing were a bargain. What you are really considering is spending $70 on a bunch of stitched silk, but the clever marketers have set a high reference point -- the $140 starting price that never really existed -- to get your juices flowing.

Here are four ways marketers manipulate your price sensibilities:

1. Artificially high reference prices. If you find a leather coat priced at $300, marked down from $500 -- you get $200 in savings! Nope. $500 never existed. The $200 in savings is fiction. $300 is actually leaving your wallet to go to the retailer, champ. But you just can't help believing it, can you?

2. Price obscurity. That box of candy at the movie theater costs $5.00, but ooh, it's such a strange, big size, in a box and not bag no less. Must be a good deal! Nope. The reason you never seen those strange candy-box shapes anywhere else is movie theaters are obscuring the fact that $5.00 box of candy has just a little more in it than the bag you get for a fraction of the cost at a drugstore.

3. Price bundling. If you've ever seen a TV spot featuring a bunch of acne medicine and skin scream and a special battery-powered forehead scrubber, you're looking at a bundle of stuff cleverly designed to make discerning the value of the actual products impossible. Omaha Steaks is the king at this; for $89.99 you can order a bundle of steaks that come with burgers and pork chops and hot dogs and mashed potatoes and gee, all that feels like a deal. If you actually broke down the price of each component vs. your local grocery store, you'd realize Omaha is cleverly charging a premium price for each item.

4. Decoy prices. Decoys are products set at high prices that drive you to buy another product at a different prices. Realtors do this when they show you a house that needs a new roof, right before they show you the home they really want to sell you. Apple does this by pushing iPods and iPhones with different price points; if you don't want the most costly version, the "cheaper" one seems a bargain. The decoy is meant to turn you off, so you swing over to the next product that will turn you on.

This pricing irrationality is driven by our ancestral instincts, which help us make snap decisions on value. If you were in the wilderness, you'd only get a quick second to decide if the berries are nutritious or poisonous, or if that snake will bite you. For tens of thousands of years, we've had to use fast references from the world around us to discern what helps us survive and not die. Because we survived in clans, if another human told you this berry was better than that one, you'd go ahead and take a bite.

All of which explains the long lines at the mall.
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Genial. Gracias por compartir. Que bueno verte por aquí de nuevo.
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Making advertising work.
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  • Mediassociates. Planner. Bloomberg Businessweek columnist. Likes dogs. Passed the Turing test.
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Vermont
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Ad guy, father, chin-upper. You found me.
Introduction
Ben is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising strategy / media planning shop. He also writes columns on advertising technology for Bloomberg Businessweek, Digiday and the blog www.thoughtgadgets.com. Adweek named Ben one of the most interesting people on Twitter, which is hard to believe given how boring this bio is. Ben has been quoted in Advertising Age, Adweek, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Atlantic, All Things D, MSNBC, and Bob Garfield's book on the future of advertising, "The Chaos Scenario." He is a former consultant for Peppers & Rogers Group, a CRM management consulting firm.

Reach him at benk@mediassociates.com, @benkunz, or 203 506 7269.
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I once wrote a marketing plan for a chocolate factory. It was good.
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  • University of Vermont
    English & Economics
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Ben Kunz's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
Incredible restaurant, moderately priced. Juicy steaks. The cranberry chicken is a local favorite. Nice atmosphere. I planned a surprise party for my wife recently and the staff helped pull it off cleverly. Great time.
Public - 7 months ago
reviewed 7 months ago
This is a superb bike shop, especially if you need real advice on equipment. The owner (a woman whose name escapes me, former racer) spent hours with my wife and I, first helping my wife get her bike fitted and then giving us tons of advice on tires and equipment. We're in our fourth year of cycling and still learning, and her knowledge was welcome. There was no sales pressure -- although we ended up spending a lot, and like most high-end stores, the goods are not cheap. Highly recommend it. We drive an hour to go here vs. other stores closer to our home.
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Public - 7 months ago
reviewed 7 months ago
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