Starbucks has received lot of negative publicity lately for not using fair trade coffee. According to consumer watchdog organicconsumers.org, only 3.7% of Starbucks coffee purchases annualy are Fair Trade Certified. This does not bode well for Starbucks suppliers who may hail from Costa Rica, Ethiopia or other developing countries etc. Of course, Starbucks contention is that requiring Fair Trade certification will make their coffee more expensive.

It appears that Starbucks’ new Ad campaign, “I am Starbucks” is aimed at deflecting this negative publicity and to promote a farmer-friendly image. Takers anyone? 🙂

The WSJ ran an article today (behind a pay wall) about how divvying up family’s belongings has the potential to ignite family feuds. These items in question are knickknacks that have sentimental value rather than monetary worth to the parties involved.

The article talks about apparently novel strategies to keep peace. Some notable ones:

Family Auctions: Silent auctions, either online or submitting bids to the estate planner. In one example, three siblings set up a private web based auction to bid for their late fathers personal property, including his vintage tie.

Round Robin Strategy: Heirs draw straws and whoever wins gets to pick out items in a particular room. Repeated for each room.

Rotating Possession: If more than one sibling covets an article, the possession of the article rotates every few years.

In all the above strategies, the common thread is a psychological attachment to the items. The solutions all conform to the rule that this attachment needs to be satisfied and ascribe a certain value (either emotional, financial or both) to these items. However, the attachment to these items itself is never questioned. We need to question the assumptions and the thought structure underlying this attachment. Relationships are nurtured not by drawing up elaborate strategies but by “letting go”.

Google Double Click

April 18, 2007

Microsoft and AT&T claim that the Doubleclick acquisition by Google violates Anti-trust provisions. As is apparent, this is quite ironic coming from players who themselves have a long anti-trust legacy.

I had pointed out a few months ago that Google could become dominant enough to attract attention in this vein. Here is the post.

The familiar Target Aisles in the front that carried $1 goods is an excellent hook for users. And a great way to dispose unsold inventory. However, Target has quietly introduced products that are at the $2.50 price point in the same aisles. The price tag is there, but its unlikely customers are noticing it. Many customers must be assuming that all products are at $1. A classic habitual response.
At least this is what happened to me and another shopper. A Hawaiian style straw hat looked like a very good buy at $1, only to realize later that it was priced at $2.50. Increasing the price point makes financial sense, but I wonder if customers will feel cheated if and when they find out that their purchase was not such a good bargain after all. There has to be some sort of visible delineation/marker between these products. At best, these aisles will lose their effectiveness as a purchase hook. At worst, its an easy way to lose customer trust. A bit at a time.

In the latest sign of the networks going the way of distributing current/recent content to online viedoe networks, CBS has announced that it will make available previously shown episodes of CSI, NCIS and others. The deals are interesting in that it covers several online players, both mature start-ups and those that are just taking off. The players are:

CNET – Text content + video

Brightcove – Youtube like model

Joost – in private beta (need an invite from a current user). While Youtube focuses on UGC, Joost seems to focus on syndicating content from TV networks.

Netvibes – Just made their US/”universal” debut after making their name on their hometurf in France. This deal will fit very nicely with Netvibes strategy of providing as many feeds as possible to users.

Sling Media – It will be interesting to see how Sling will use CBS content, since the Slingbox out in the market now is essentially to enable “location shifting”.

Comcast – Online video play for a cable company?

Veoh Networks

I was trying to get some traffic stats and I went to Compete.com to get it. The links on the home page were not working and so I decided to register. They asked me some prickly questions:

  • Salary
  • Gender
  • Year of Birth

I was a bit unnerved about being asked for these tidbits, but since I wanted the data, I continued with the registeration. After the registeration, I checked my account options. It turned out that they decided to sign me up for their newsletters, without asking for my permission.

So they are follwing an auto opt-in strategy. I had to take myself off their emails.

While start-ups need traffic, I think its unethical to sign-up users on email lists without asking their permission. When a company adopts this approach, it runs the risk of getting caught by spam blockers. Its much easier to press the “report spam” button (in Gmail for example) than it is to unsubscribe. Overall, an unhealthy approach to increasing traffic.