Friday, October 29, 2010

When Banks pay it forward

Like most of us, my in-person connection with the bank is a twice yearly visit. The rest of the time, I have pretty much accepted bank machinery to deal with financial needs. Bank machines, On-Line, Phone. Rarely do I talk to a real person at a real bricks and mortar location.

Except for the other day. My twice yearly in-person visit. As I finished up with the teller, she handed my a colorful brochure. "It's called the feel good ripple!", she said. "You take this, and pass it on to the next person - like paying it forward"  Now I was impressed, not only because of the well thought out graphic design (It didn't look like the usual bank marketing piece), but more importantly it contained a $10 bill!

Now when was the last time a bank gave money out like that? I was totally impressed, and inside the brochure the bank talks about building better communities and doing something with the $10 just to make someones day. You can also share your story of giving back at the website

I think the campaign is brilliant! I had a whole new respect for the place I bank at. Which got me  to thinking. Wouldn't this type of campaign be great for a college store? Talk about building some good will, giving back, and providing at opportunity to pay it forward on campus. I think it would send a powerful message of community support, building empathy for others, and providing the campus store with a strong community focused value message.

So what did I do with my new found $10? Well, I thought briefly of keeping it for myself, but that would have defeated the point. Instead, I walked up to a mother with her two kids in the Starbucks drive through window, and after she realized I wasn't gonna attack her, handed her the cash. She was thrilled.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is Textbook Rental The Way to go?

The TV show "Dragon's Den" is a reality show where 5 entrepreneurs listen to business pitches and decide if they want to invest their own money in the latest business idea pitched to them. The show started in the UK and has been widely popular. Across the pond in Canada, "Dragon's Den" has been a success for the CBC, and spawned a less than successful US Version called "Shark Tank"

The premise is simple. Everyday people pitch their new product or service and look for investment from the "Dragons". Sometimes the Dragons invest, many times they don't, pointing out the problems withe products or service, or more likely, the individuals high company financial valuation.

A recent episode of the Canadian show, included a pitch for a Textbook Rental Service. The individual who started the service, pitches the dragons asking for money to expand the operation to include more Universities and Colleges. His business model is like all other textbook rental schemes. The student goes to his website, enters in the course information and then pays to rent the textbook for a semester.

The whole process is web based, with the books mailed back and forth between the student and company, bypassing the campus store. The owner of this company sees real saving for the student, and of course profit for him. His pitch is no different than the hundreds of text rental ideas that are floating around right now.

So, do the Dragons bite? not in the least. These venture capitalists, far removed from the economics of Higher Education and the textbook business don't take long to point out the flaws in the business model. One Dragon does the math, realizing quickly that buying and reselling used copies is a better deal for the typical student. Another dragon sees the textbook rental business as a limited time success story - ebooks is where to put the attention.

The clip is a sober wake up call to the textbook rental business model. When venture capitalists such as these five Dragon's can't seem to see how text rentals will make any profits and be financially successful, it should give any store pause when considering this idea on campus.

You can view the clip HERE, where you can also enjoy watching the presenter dress up as a Lion / Sunflower; illustrating how not to make a business pitch.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Noteworthy Nuggets - Halloween, Bookstores, and General Ephemera

Sometimes we just notice things that are interesting and noteworthy. As the rain pelts the windows of Muse operations, we pelt you with some noteworthy ephemera:
Calling the Textbook Dead:
Ipads and Kindles and Ebooks oh my! This is the year that the textbook dies right? Of course pundits have been predicting the death of the textbook from as long ago as 1925. Yes, 85 years ago, the filmstrip projector arrived in school classrooms. Inventor Thomas Edison stated proudly that "books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye". 
The TV Brand
What the most successful TV merchandising sales brand of all time? No not Jersey Shore. "The Simpsons". Word wide, this ubiquitous animated story of every one's favorite dysfunctional family has racked up merchandising sales of more than $8 Billion. Second was Sesame Street. Time to stock up (again) on Simpsons merchandise, along with Big Bird underwear.
Halloween 2010
One month till Halloween 2010! Have your costume ready? This year Halloween will be big business, with an estimated $5.8 Billion in sales. That's an increase of 17.7% on Halloween costumes, decorations and the like. Believe it or not, 11.5% of Americans plan to dress up their pets. Americans are still in the economic doldrums, and plan to use Halloween as a bit of escapism. But, they will spend money on their costumes, and reduce their spending on candy. Poor young kids trick and treating.  The Lady Gaga costumes will be in large supply, but the candy corn will not.
Toys popping up everywhere.
If there is a sales category that might be best left alone this holiday season, it's Toys. Toys R Us is opening a phenomenal 600 pop stores across the country in vacant mall spaces. FAO Swartz is opening another 10 pop up stores, and Sears has plans to unwrap 85 toy shops in their stores. This coming as national bookstore chains are expanding  their product lines with toys. Will it all work? We bet not. We're thinking the Toys R Us gambit, while successful on a small scale last year, will be too much, too late this year.
Make my dishes clean!
Interesting story in a recent Sunday issue of the New York Times, showing how consumers are getting angry at their dishwasher detergent. Turns out that detergent manufacturers like Procter and Gamble have been reducing the level of phosphates in their products in an effort to be more environmentally aware and meet tough new legislative guidelines.
All well and good, but consumers are un happy with the products effectiveness once phosphates are eliminated. It's an interesting conundrum. Do you want clean dishes or clean uncontaminated water? Turns out you might not be able to get both.
Smart Corporate Partnership.
Macy's has partnered with "The Heart of Haiti", a non profit organization to offer handmade products from Haitian artisans at 25 stores this fall. The products offered support full time work for over 200 Haitian artists whose business was interrupted by the earthquake this year. The Macy's partnership will assist these artisans to rebuild their businesses. A worthy purchase.
From Window Dresser to Couture
Simon Doohan has made a name for himself as the great brain behind the visual merchandising at Barney's in New York. He has become famous  with his out of the world windows during the holiday season, along with penning and peddling a few books along the way.
Now Doohan is stepping out with Target to create a line of "Costume Couture" designed by Doohan for the Halloween season. It is available now, exclusively at Target. You can see his designs HERE. We are not sure that it's really that interesting in terms of design, but we give Doonan his due for continuing to effectively self promote.
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