Consumer Sovereignty


Mainstream economics uses some simple starting points; it believes that they are the best possible. First is that agents have more wants than they can attain, so that they feel scarcity; in fact, for practical purposes, wants are assumed to be endless. Second, third and fourth are that agents are self-interested, rational, and the best judges of their own well-being. These four assumptions are indeed usually good starting points, rather than starting by assuming that agents are completely fulfilled, altruistic, irrational, and not well-placed to evaluate their own situation. They are not equally good as finishing points. Sometimes good arguments exist for not accepting them.

An assumption that agents are the best judges of their own well being is less questionable for businesspeople and corporations, given the resources they have for analysis. Debate focuses more on consumers. The phrase consumer sovereignty is sometimes read descriptively, to mean that consumers are sovereign, in that procedures are induced via profit-seeking and competition  to provide what consumers want. Sometimes it is read normatively, to mean that consumers should be sovereign, their wishes should prevail concerning what is good for them. The normative claim can rest on three different bases: that consumers do make good choices; that the alternative stance is worse – to use someone else’s judgments and estimates of what is good for a person and how good it is; or quite differently, that people have the right to make their own choices and mistakes.

Consumers will not make good choices automatically and unconditionally. Our wants are not simple; for example, some are wants to not to have other wants (such as the desire to smoke or a compulsion to gamble). Establishing a mature balance between wants involves skills. Choice is also unlikely to bring satisfaction if taken on the basis of weak information. Markets often do not provide consumers with full and reliable information, for it is hard to exclude people from information and therefore to ensure payment for it, so its market supply is weakened. Instead, in a commerce-dominated society, one of the main types of information that adults get will be images that say the good life is obtained through high consumption of commodities; there is too little counteracting public information.

The issue of consumer sovereignty goes beyond whether choices are good for the chooser. Other people are affected. Some wants may thus be unacceptable, notably wants that bring harm to others, including even wants to harm others. Mainstream economists have unfortunately often taken a don’t-want-to-know approach to ethics in which they confuse acceptance of all wants with a value-neutral stance.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Knowledge Management Strategy


What does it mean for an organization to have a knowledge management strategy? If we think of a corporation as an individual, then a corporation’s knowledge management strategy may be likened to individuals’ strategy to obtain an education and to apply their knowledge and learning to advance their career. If an individual’s education consisted of nothing more than acquiring information (as was largely the case some 50 years ago) he or she would be woefully unprepared to deal with today’s rapidly changing business environment. By the same token, if an organization’s knowledge management strategy focused solely on information flow, it would also be unable to deal with the challenges of doing business in the knowledge era.

Developing a knowledge management involves four basic steps:

  1. Dialogue, discuss, debate and define your objectives;
  2. Formulate a strategy;
  3. Devise the tactics; and
  4. Then act.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Truth Map


Truth map is an audit process designed to get to the bottom of an organization’s challenges, opportunities and concerns. It requires the involvement of a cross-section of individuals from right across the whole organization, as well as other relevant parties such as customers and suppliers. At the most simple level, it involves asking a lot of people a lot of questions—but that is only the beginning.

It is not what truth map is that makes it special but the reasons why it is being undertaken and the spirit in which it is carried out that are important.

You may use truth map in two different situations, firstly as part of truth and reconciliation in business, and secondly as the first stage of a standard message mapping exercise.

A truth map covers the same ground in either situation but covers it in different ways and for slightly different reasons.

  • Use as part of a standard message mapping exercise (e.g., to assist a group of committed, enthusiastic individuals), the emphasis is on getting to the truth about future opportunities and challenges.
  • Use as part of truth and reconciliation in business, the emphasis is on getting to the truth of past conflicts, reconciling differences and healing resentments before an organization is even able to move on and address the future. In this type of situation, significant effort must be applied to bring the different parties to the table before dialogue and debate can even start to take place.

In both these situations the actual mechanics are much the same. Both situations require methodical, systematic but sympathetic questioning.

In the interests of objectivity, the presence of an independent adjudicator can be highly beneficial or even essential.

Truth map allows everyone to be heard, it airs people’s grievances and, when done well, even the most hardened objectors can move from being on the outside peeing in, to being on the inside peeing out.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Public Policy


Public policy is a plan of action undertaken by government officials to achieve some broad purpose affecting a substantial segment of a nation’s citizens. It is also is what a government chooses to do or not to do. Governments generally do not choose to act unless a substantial segment of the public is affected and some public purpose is to be achieved. This is the essence of the concepts of governments acting in the public interest.

The role of government is extensive in most modern economies. Although there are vigorous debates about the size and specific actions of government, there is broad agreement that government has some appropriate role to play in modern life. As the world’s population increases, individual nations have more citizens whose needs have to be met and whose interests and concerns have to be reconciled into reasonable plans of action. These are the rules that government, whatever its specific form, plays in the modern world. Public policy, while differing in each nation, is the basic set of goals, plans, and actions that each national government follows in achieving its purpose.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Primitive Organizations


Primitive organizations exhibit all the classic features of any start-up. Energy and anticipation are usually high and the right startup can almost run on pure adrenalin.

Primitive organizations naturally perform the things that other types of organizations have to work hard to achieve. Formal structure and communication is not yet necessary, as enthusiasm and team spirit can carry the organization along.

In the early stages most primitive organizations manage to operate under one working culture and build effective internal and external relationships. This state of affairs can’t last, however, as primitive organizations are naturally transient. When the initial honeymoon period passes, the culture of the organization will change of its own accord.

All that is up for debate is how much it will change, how fast it will change and whether that change will be managed or if nature will be allowed to take its own course.

As is the case with all organizations, primitive organizations face the choice of managing their culture from the word go, or leaving it to chance. Unfortunately too many organizations rely on the natural spirit associated with being a primitive startup and de-prioritize cultural investment, choosing to concentrate on what they see as operational necessities.

To a point this is understandable, but this attitude reflects some common misconceptions.

  • An organization’s honeymoon period or primitive stage can be incredibly short, which catches a lot of organizations out – and once the damage is done, it’s done. Remedial work is always harder and significantly more draining and time-consuming than positive effort.
  • Proactive cultural and relationship management right from the start can be achieved at minimal cost in terms of time and money, and will deliver benefit for years to come. It is worth remembering that managing a working culture does not mean over-engineering it: in fact, it should mean quite the opposite. Good practice from day one is what creates long-term amazing relationships and long-term success.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Message Content in Marketing Communications


Message content deals with what is said in a message and how it is said. There are five common content topics that have great relevance for marketing practitioners: 1) fear appeals; 2) the use of humor; 3) the role of music; 4) sex appeals; and 5) subliminal messages. Advertisers, salespersons, public relations spokespersons, and other marketing communicators use all of these message styles to varying degrees in hopes of gaining attention, achieving impact, and ultimately producing sales.

Fear Appeals: Companies sometimes use fear appeals in attempting to motivate customers to action. The underlying logic when using fear appeals is that fear will stimulate audience involvement with a message and thereby promote acceptance of message arguments. The appeals may take the form of social disapproval or physical danger aside from the basic ethical issue of whether fear should be used at all, the fundamental issue for marketing communicators is determining how intense the fear presentation should be. Numerous fear-appeal studies have been performed by psychologists and marketing researchers, but the fact remains that there still is no consensus on the “optimum” level of fear. Some Neither extremely strong nor very weak fear appeals are maximally effective. It seems that appeals at a somewhat moderate level of fear are best.

Humor: Politicians, actors and actresses, after-dinner speakers, professors, and indeed all of us at one time or another use humor to create a desired reaction. Salespeople and advertisers also turn to humor in the hopes of achieving various communication objectives. Whether humor is effective and what kinds of humor are most successful are matters of some debate among marketing communications practitioners and scholars.

Despite the frequent use of humor in advertising, relatively little is known in a definitive scientific sense about its effects on customer behavior. However there are some generalizations:

  • Humorous messages attract attention.
  • Humor can inhibit consumers’ understanding of the intended meaning of a message.
  • Because humor is a pleasant form of distraction, it can produce an increase in persuasion by effectively “disarming” receivers’ natural selective perception and reducing their tendencies toward counter arguing with persuasive selling claims.
  • Humor tends to enhance source credibility, thereby improving the persuasive impact of an ad message.
  • A humorous context may increase liking for the source and create a positive mood, thereby enhancing the persuasive effect of the message.
  • To the extent that a humorous context functions as a positive reinforce, a persuasive communication placed in such a context may be more effective.
  • The effects of humor can differ due to differences in audience characteristics. Advertisers must use humor carefully since consumers display a variety of tastes in what is humorous and what is not.

Music: celebrated musicians, as well as, non-vocal accompaniment and unknown vocalists are used extensively in promoting everything. Music performs useful communication functions such as attracting attention, putting consumers in a positive mood, and making them more respective to message arguments. Although music’s role in marketing is an increasingly understand subject, a few recent studies have begun to demonstrate the roles that music performs. Music is an unconditional stimulus in an effort to influence experimental subjects’ preference.

Sex Appeals: Sex appeals in advertising are often explicit. The use of explicit sex was unthinkable just a few years ago, it now represents part of a new trend toward more sexually explicit advertising. Sexual explicitness is prevalent and overt in some countries. Whether such advertising is effective and under what conditions it may be effective remain largely unexplored issues. Complicating the matter is the fact that sex in advertising actually takes two forms: nudity and suggestiveness. It is uncertain which form is more effective. There are several potential roles. First, sexual material in advertising acts as an initial attentional lure and also holds attention for a longer period, given that the models are attractive or the scene is pleasant. This is called the “stopping power” role of sex. A second potential role is to enhance recall. Sexual content or symbolism will enhance recall only if it is appropriate to the product category and the creative advertising execution. Sexual appeals produce significantly better recall only if the advertising execution has an appropriate relationship with the advertised product. A third role performed by sexual content in advertising is to evoke emotional response such as feelings of attraction or even lust.

Subliminal Messages: the word subliminal refers to the presentation of stimuli at a rate or level that is below the conscious threshold of awareness. Stimuli that cannot be perceived by the conscious senses may nonetheless be perceived subconsciously. This possibility has generated considerable concern from advertising critics and has fostered much speculation from researchers.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Inflation and Disinflation


Fiscal policy is related to inflation, which occurs when the prices of goods and services rise steadily throughout the economy. Although many factors (such as increases in the prices of imported goods) contribute to inflation, government borrowing is major factor. When the government borrows great sums of money to bolster the economy, the total amount of money circulating tends to increase. With more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services, inflation increases too.

Theoretically, the government is supposed to pay back its debt during inflationary times, thereby taking some of the excess money out of the economy and slowing inflation to moderate level. This system worked throughout 1950s and 1960s, but during the 1970s, inflation kept building. By the end of the decade, prices were increasing by almost 14 percent a year.

Inflation of this magnitude brings an unproductive mind-set. People become motivated to buy “before the prices goes up,” even if they have to borrow money to do it. With greater competition for available money, interest rates increase to a level that makes business borrowing riskier and business expansion slower. Businesses and individuals alike begin spending on short-term items instead of investing in things like new factories and children’s education, which are more valuable to the nation’s economy in the long run.

Because of the peculiar psychology that accompanies high inflation, slowing it has always been difficult. In addition, the causes of inflation are complex, and the remedies can be painful. Nevertheless, several factors conspired to bring about a period of disinflation, a moderation in the inflation rate, during the 1980s.

Whether inflation will remain under control is debatable. The country is still vulnerable to outside shock. Bad weather could jack up food prices, and political upheavals could limit the supply and boost the price of vital raw materials. Also, government efforts to stimulate the economy could rekindle inflation. When the economy slumps, the government is inclined to increase the money supply, which tends to drive prices up.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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