Umbrage against the machine — The return of humans — Paul English

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Paul English

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Paul English

From Re/code

As humans, we crave contact with one another. From tiny newborn babies who need their mothers, to the elderly who long for their children, throughout all stages of our lives, we reach for each other. It’s always been this way. Technology can’t replace the very thing that makes us human.

Many years ago, I was left to care for my dad, who had early-stage Alzheimer’s. One of the first things I had to do was take away his car, as his driving had become dangerous. This was difficult. My Dad was a “car guy,” and he had taught me everything I know about cars — it was a love we shared together. Taking away his car left him incredibly isolated; he would try to call his friends during the day, only to be confused by answering machines that sounded like humans. Sometimes, Dad would even call companies who sent him bills, claiming he had questions, but really, I think he just wanted to reach out to another person. Again, he was foiled by the machines who told him to press 1 for this, and press 2 for that, always finding ways to keep him from connecting with an actual human.

As a response to this, I started GetHuman, a website that allows customers to call real people at big companies without having to wait on the line or go through a million robots. Today, GetHuman.com receives millions of visitors a month, helping people with customer service issues at places like Verizon and Comcast.

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How TV can succeed in the digital age — Daniel Schiffman

Daniel Schiffman, MIT Sloan MBA '15

Daniel Schiffman, MIT Sloan MBA ’15

From Forbes

The media landscape has changed tremendously over the past year, and as we look ahead to 2016 a big question is: What is the future of TV? Television has long been the leading medium when it comes to American video consumption, but the landscape is quickly changing. Traditional TV is seeing competition from video streaming providers like Netflix and Amazon, Over-The-Top (OTT) devices such as Chromecast and Roku, and streaming content on a myriad of personal devices.

While big data is a powerful tool, it hasn’t yet unseated TV from its place at the head of the pack. A Nielsen Total Audience Report for Q2 2015 shows that adults 18+ spend more than 32 hours a week watching television, giving TV a 95% share of all video viewing. As for advertising, TV is where we see the majority of spending. It’s a $72 billion-a-year industry in the U.S., compared to $50 billion for digital advertising. However, if TV is going to stay the leader amid this digital disruption, it needs to make some changes – and make them fast.

Not surprisingly, we’re starting to see TV experiment with alternate data collection methods. The traditional means to obtain data about television viewership has long been the Nielsen rating system. That is based on a panel of roughly 25,000 homes in the U.S. and collects data once every minute. However, it really only tells us what is on the TV screen in that home. It doesn’t show if anyone is actually in the room watching the TV, or, if they are in the room, whether they are attentive to the program. Yet Nielsen has long set the standard for telling us what Americans are supposedly watching, which sets the pricing for TV advertising.

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Trump’s rhetoric may topple adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity — Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From The Conversation

Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

Donald Trump’s campaign appears to be a test case in whether this old adage is true or not. His business interests are intricately linked to the Trump brand, which has been taking a hit as a result of his more extreme statements and proposals on the campaign trail.

At least in terms of political support, his comments have appeared only to improve his numbers. He’s dominated the polls since July, and repeated predictions that the latest remark would send his numbers tanking have all been wrong.

But how long can Trump continue to alienate and disparage various groups without harming his own brand and broader business deals?

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Run field experiments to make sense of your big data — Duncan Simester

MIT Sloan Prof. Duncan Simester

MIT Sloan Prof. Duncan Simester

From Harvard Business Review

Making marketing decisions based on an analysis of Big Data can be risky if not done properly, because data seldom reveal the causal links between correlated events. Take the case of one large retailer we studied. The company noticed that customers who purchased perishables also tended to purchase large-screen TVs. Based on this observation, the company made a significant investment in marketing activities directed at increasing purchases of perishables, in the hope that this would trigger more TV purchases. But while they sold more perishables, they didn’t manage to shift any more TVs, and the profits from selling extra perishables weren’t enough to cover the marketing investment.

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Why the ice bucket challenge proved such a runaway success — Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Professor Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Professor Catherine Tucker

From Yahoo! Tech

As social media sensations go, this one had it all: Emotion, social currency, money, and a sense of derring-do. It involved your social network and mine, but also celebrities, professional athletes, and even a former president. It was, on one level, silly and tapped into our deep-seated can’t-look-away tendencies, but it was also on a deeper level inspirational and supported a worthy cause.

I am referring, of course, to this summer’s social media phenomenon: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

For the uninitiated, the Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a pail of cold water over your head, posting photographic evidence of the pour on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and then challenging friends to do the same within 24 hours or give $100 to A myotrophic l ateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Many did both.

As a fundraiser, the Ice Bucket Challenge continues to be, in the words of Forbes magazine, a “philanthropic blockbuster.” Not only has it raised more than $100 million for ALS, the progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, but it has also heightened awareness for a disease that many Americans knew little about.

The challenge has been such a success that every professional fundraiser in America is no doubt thinking: “How can we start our own Ice Bucket Challenge?”

Trying to imitate the Ice Bucket Challenge, though, is a mistake. A winning social media campaign is not about tweaking an existing idea; it’s about coming up with something colossally original. And a bucket-esque challenge that requires participants to do something distasteful but that won’t kill them — drinking a bottle of vinegar water, say — isn’t going to cut it. Perhaps the first onslaught of copycats might be able to piggyback on the idea — the Rice Bucket Challenge, where participants donate a bucket of rice to someone in need and click a picture of it to share online, got some brief attention in India because of its cutesy name — but on the whole, marketing mimicry is doomed for failure.

Read the full post at Yahoo! Tech

Catherine Tucker is the Mark Hyman Jr. Career Development Professor and Associate Professor of Management Science at MIT Sloan.