The Paradox of Choice...

Yesterday I saw two demonstrations of  Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice in action. This is one of the most useful books about decision making that I have found, and is a must read for anyone in marketing. Jeff Bussgang asked why everyone still uses 4 year vesting schedules at startups when, in the current economy, exits usually take longer. For those that don’t speak VC – employees at startups get shares of the company, usually granted in 25% chunks at the first four anniversary dates – to encourage them to stay four years and get all their shares. (Shameless plug – if you want to learn more about how to speak VC, check out the Marketing Over Coffee interview with Jeff that will be posted the first week in June) It’s a good argument, but as you can see from the post it has generated many comments – and this goes right to the Paradox of Choice. The more alternatives someone faces when making a decision, the less likely they will make a decision. This is most easily demonstrated at a store I go to during the summer in Northern Michigan. They sell different kinds of jam and jellies, and they have about a dozen of them out to taste test, and that’s a problem. If there were two out you would like one better than the other, and maybe buy it. An Economist can mathematically represent this, they use a unit called Utils (rhymes with noodles) to measure the benefit of making a purchase. Bob really likes Jelly A, buying it gives him +5 utils, he does not like Jelly B, buying it would not give him any utils. 5 utils beats the 4 util cost of giving up the $7 to buy...

All About the Gear

I’ve decided to get an iPad, a few people in the office have them and I’m impressed with both the screen and the Kindle App. I bought a Sony PSP so I could watch movies while traveling without booting up my laptop, it had a bigger screen than the iPod touch and could also run Skype. The iPad screen is even better, and the fact that I can leave behind my Kindle, PSP and iPod when I travel makes it a good upgrade. To fund my gear addiction I’ve got the PSP lot up on eBay and I’ve also decided to unload my spare Logitech Presenter. I was looking into getting a new Microsoft Trackball, I’ve found it to be much better than a mouse, and learned that they have stopped making them. As a result, new ones are going for up to $400 on Amazon. I remembered hearing that Logitech stopped making the presenter I use (a wireless controller to advance slides while you are presenting), so I checked the pricing on that. Same deal, it’s up over $200 (I bought my spare at a Circuit City that was going under for $35). This presenter is considered the gold standard by many, it has a timer that vibrates when you get to 5 minutes and 1 minute remaining, it has a laser pointer, and it’s smaller than the new model. Apparently the new one also has the “blackout screen” button too close to the advance slide buttons. Those are the latest tales from the gear bag, anything interesting on your...

Do You Know Anyone Serving in Iraq or Afghanistan?...

On Sunday I will be running the Run to Home Base, a 9 km road race that will finish at Home Plate in Fenway Park. As part of this race I raised $1,000 for a fund run by the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General Hospital to benefit soliders with traumatic brain injuries and/or post traumatic stress syndrome. For a huge change of pace I am not hitting you up for money. Thanks to the listeners of Marketing Over Coffee (and my family – thanks John and Helen), I’ve hit the goal so that I don’t have to pay any more than the entry fee out of my own pocket. But as a valued reader of this blog, you can still help out, and help someone you know. During the race volunteers will be making care packages for service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are saying they will have far more care packages than recipient names. They’ll probably all be sent regardless, but, if you know anyone serving there send me their information and they will be sent one of these care packages. It would be best if I get the info before Tuesday, you can email me at john at them$how dot c0m ($=s), or friend me up on twitter @johnjwall and DM me. I’ll also have to post some pics of the official Marketing Over Coffee race...

Friday Entertainment

This is pretty much what our home was like when my brother and I were teenagers. It’s at about a 3 Stooges level, so I found it quite...

Ruled by Price

Seth Godin had a post today about Becoming the Bus Company, a list of common behaviors that are exhibited by organizations well on the road to trading commodities as opposed to providing a remarkable service. It makes me wonder if all companies that fail to innovate are doomed to walk this path after their glory begins to fade? It seems like a vicious cycle – as competition gets fierce, customers use online tools or purchasing departments to always get the lowest price. As a result the companies focus on trimming every penny and things start to suffer. In turn, morale slowly fades as everyone gets crushed under the bureaucracy. Companies like Southwest and Virgin, built around a vision (reminding me that they have their “Why” in order), remain above the fray while everyone else teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. My big question is: Does anyone have an example of someone that pulled it back from the edge? The only thing I can think of is Apple with the return of Jobs. Even more interesting – has it ever happened from the bottom up, or is this limited to dynamic...

Headphone Update – Getting Better Sound Out of the iPod...

Long-time readers of this blog are well aware of my addiction to audio equipment (and in fact, my post talking about Bose vs. Shure vs. Sony still gets a ton of traffic). For some reason it’s always the product marketing guys that get me into new audio equipment. This time Bruce was showing me his iPod set up. For less than $30 you can get a converter that plugs into your iPod port that will give you something closer to a true Line Out. Hardcore audio people that use big expensive headphones are often disappointed at their portable player’s ability to really drive the headphones. By using a line out there are two benefits – being able to use a better quality amplifier than the one in the iPod (a “cleaner” sound, usually more bass that is tight, clearer highs and you can go louder overall), and some believe that bypassing the internal amplifier reduces some noise and gives you better battery life. I cannot attest to those, but I can say that while testing Bruce’s rig the sound is better. So, for less than $50 you get the line out dock (or LOD as they call it on the audiophile boards), and a portable amp that  is only slightly larger than the iPod Nano that had the round control on the front. It should be noted that headphone.com makes a killer portable amp which can be a huge upgrade if you are running a PC laptop, but it is a lot larger than the FiiO and takes 4 batteries. I went for the cheaper, more portable amp. I’ll post some pictures when the full geek gear shows up. I also picked up some bluetooth headphones and a BT adapter so I can use...