This article “Vast underground bomb shelter reappropriated by urban farmers” (Wired.com, February 11, 2014), describes an innovative new “farm” located 100 feet below ground in southwest London. Zero Carbon Food uses a World War II bomb shelter designed to hold 8000 people. Fortunately it has not been needed since WWII and it has laid dormant — until now that is. A couple of entrepreneurs are growing broccoli, pak choi, and more using hydroponic growing techniques. One of the benefits — low shipping costs (something to talk about when you cover logistics) — and certainly appeals to the environmentally conscious segment of the market. We thought that our students would also find this interesting, so this was also posted at Learn the 4 Ps.
Most marketing managers look for ways to get us to use more of their products. On the other hand, many power companies have programs designed to help consumers become more efficient users of energy — to use less electricity, gas, etc. This is good for consumer budgets, better for the planet — and with some regulatory incentives, it can be better for utility companies as well.
Utility companies are learning something from academics (for one example, see T4Ps blog post “Figuring Out How to Nudge Consumers to Make More Sustainable Choices“). This recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Efficiency of Social Pressure” (September 5, 2013, non-subscribers may need to click here) describes utilities hiring behavioral scientists to learn how to encourage customers to be more prudent energy consumers. The article notes the inefficient use of energy in the residential sector.
This might be a good example to use when you cover social responsibility or consumer behavior. Your students might be able to generate more ideas about how to encourage environmentally friendly consumer behavior. We have also posted this at Learn the 4 Ps.
Coca-Cola has been facing mounting attacks about the healthiness of its products (see our blog post from last October for more). The soft drink maker is responding with a campaign to call attention to its low/no-calorie options (see below). While some have criticized the efforts as “damage control,” others are more optimistic about what this means — see “What Coke’s New Ads Mean for Brands and Consumers” (Co.Exist, January 17, 2013).
What do you think? Is Coke engaging in damage control? Or is the company simply doing what it has always done quite well, anticipating and responding to its customers’ needs? This debate alone could spark an interesting in-class discussion.
If I were to venture an opinion, I believe that some of both is going on. It is not really either/or. Coke has always been responsive to its customers — often accurately (sometimes not so accurately — recall New Coke and Coca Cola Blak) predicting customer needs with very successful products.
There is another interesting angle to this Coca-Cola situation. The rise of social media increases the risks of not getting ahead on these issues. If Coca-Cola does not anticipate changing consumer sentiment, its reputation could be seriously harmed. Coke is listening (and anticipating) and coming out with more low/no-calorie beverages.
Like many firms, Levi’s has invested considerable resources to find out how the apparel maker can operate in more environmentally friendly ways. This Bloomberg Businessweek article, “Levi’s Goes Green With Waste<Less Jeans” (October 18, 2012) details some of Levi’s efforts. This spring Levi’s launches Waste<Less jeans. Each pair of the new jeans includes content from eight recycled plastic bottles.
Levi’s was one of the first apparel manufacturers to conduct life cycle analyses for many of its products. Some of the results were surprising. In looking at its jeans, Levi’s found that the vast majority of water usage was beyond the company’s direct control; 49% of lifetime water usage was in the growing of cotton and another 45% occurred in consumer washing. You can read more about how the company has engaged in internal and external efforts to increase sustainability. Many of our students would be interested in Levi’s efforts and the examples in the article, so it has also been posted at Learn the 4 Ps.
This article provides examples you can use when you cover sustainability, new product development and supply chain management.
This extended article, “Former McDonald’s Honchos Take On Sustainable Cuisine,” (Wired, July 31, 2012) could provide the basis for a very interesting live case study. These guys are looking to make fast food healthy, sustainable and affordable on a mass scale. They bring tremendous knowledge of operations and logistics from their previous lives at McDonald’s. That experience makes you think they might just be able to pull it off. The concept is called LYFE Kitchen and right now they have a single store in Palo Alto, California where they are working out the kinks. And there are some very real supply chain challenges in going nationwide — “You need how many pounds of brussel sprouts?”
So how could you use this in class? The low student prep option would be for an instructor to read the article, check out the LYFE Kitchen website and then describe the concept in class, perhaps supplemented by a couple of videos from LYFE Kitchen’s YouTube channel (where you can find 21 more videos, besides the one below). I also recommend the testimonials from former Olympic swimmer Janet Evans and her family and Dr. Dorian and his family (see the video gallery). On the other hand, you could assign the Wired article, show a few videos in class, and launch from there.
The idea raises some good questions that could provide the basis for class discussion on a range of topics. I think the most interesting would be to evaluate whether LYFE Kitchen is a viable business as a national food chain. And if they are, how do you design a marketing strategy that could work? You could also discuss the target market, and each element of the marketing mix.