MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Jason Calacanis at the SMASH

April 19, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at renowned online entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.

Largely viewed as a web pioneer, Mr. Calacanis began his career at the outset of the dot-com boom and has carried his respected name through multiple entrepreneurial efforts since. (One of his projects, Weblogs Inc., sold for $25 million to AOL in 2005.) His résumé proves that he’s always viewed the internet as a social tool, and his latest endeavor — an online information house called Mahalo, which answers everyday queries with articles and videos — has emerged as a leading how-to guide for serious questions and minutia alike. Most notorious, however, are his fiery spirit and at-all-costs openness — SMASH host and Communitelligence president John Gerstner referred jokingly to Mr. Calacanis’ lunchtime presentation as “Jason, Tell Us What You Really Think.”

His message was one of change, including major overhauls to social media and online business. A blogger himself, Mr. Calacanis explained his position on the evolving blog network: that there are too many poorly-written blogs filling up the virtual world, making it increasingly difficult to discover the ones worth their while. Dismissing search engine optimization, he professed that his high page rankings have resulted from a common sense blogging procedure, not from paying SEO experts. Mr. Calacanis spoke at length about the upcoming video platform that will soon overtake much of the web — a revolution to be led by YouTube, he said, as soon YouTube becomes the way to watch all streaming content.

While he admitted that the futures of social media cornerstones like Facebook and Twitter are yet to be seen, Mr. Calacanis made several predictions. He believes that Facebook is peaking, and will be overtaken by the innovative apps and networks provided by mobile communications. He claimed that Twitter is underrated and will soon be the new “email address for life.” LinkedIn he described as impressive, and while the emerging social media phenomenon Color has yet to make waves, he finds it fascinating as an idea and a good way to meet new people. (Color allows its users to post photographs, which it then sorts by location to show which users have been where and when.)

To close, Calacanis explained his philosophy on the workforce and the hiring process. He denounced “good” workers, the type he would gladly hand over to competitors, in the search for “great” workers. He looks for people who forgo balance in order to devote themselves fully to their work — a trait he sees rarely in Generation Y employees, whom he views as coddled and sometimes unmotivated. His talk was one of candor, brash honesty and, for those who could the stomach the criticisms that cut close to home, a shot of DIY inspiration.

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Paul Dunay at the SMASH

April 18, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at social analytics expert Paul Dunay.

Mr. Dunay is the Chief Marketing Officer of Networked Insights, a leading analytical service for social media statistics and trends. He has also authored four volumes of the Dummies series, including the first two editions of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, and his widespread expertise has earned him placement in the Top 25 B2B Marketers as ranked by BtoB Magazine for two years running. Mr. Dunay’s blog, Buzz Marketing for Technology, is widely regarded as a top marketing blog for businesses and individuals alike.

Mr. Dunay pointed out metaphorically the first major error that companies make when moving their marketing strategies online: spending more time planning the wedding than the marriage. An aesthetically-appealing Facebook page is a good start — and many businesses conceptualize such pages — but more important is the analytic process that follows. Of the companies that use social media, 68 percent don’t know how to measure return on investment. Another 15 percent ignore it altogether, leaving just 17 percent of socially-connected companies that actually understand the value of ROI. To amend this problem, Mr. Dunay suggested a process of listening to consumers, sharing a brand’s personality and engaging in dialogue. He encouraged companies to use internet clearinghouses like Radian6 to make sense of social media data and monitor the web conversations that center around their products or services.

According to Mr. Dunay, the greatest power of the social internet lies in customer service — the only surefire way for a company to locate its most important customers, hear out their plaints and ultimately solve their problems. He gave the examples of Avaya, Comcast and Dell, all three of which have positively influenced their brand images through effective customer service initiatives. Sometimes this is accomplished through support forums, where average consumers and company-appointed moderators discuss technological issues and potential solutions; other times the process is more direct, involving a two-way conversation between a company representative and a client to provide personalized answers to any number of questions. The internet allows these discussions to happen more quickly and in a more genuine manner than ever before.

Mr. Dunay also differentiated between sharing and engaging, and pinpointed the online services that can assist in the execution of both. For companies looking to share expertise, he recommended traditional blogging and TweetDeck, a tracking site for communications across all social platforms. As for engaging, he recommended Facebook as well as support forums — both of which stimulate positive brand interactions and consumer sympathy.

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Gareth Hornberger at the SMASH

April 15, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at social media wunderkind Gareth Hornberger.

After graduating in 2009 from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Mr. Hornberger started a social media career at Razorfish before moving into his current role as the Social Media Manager for Levi’s. The historic jeans company now has almost 4 million Facebook fans — compare that with 1.75 million for Old Navy, and less than one million for Lucky, Lee, True Religion and Wrangler combined — and an active account on Twitter, featuring pictures and deals for the vibrant Levi’s community.

The first major takeaway from Mr. Hornberger’s presentation was that he perceives a paradigm shift from social marketing to social branding in the corporate web space, meaning that companies need to be more consumer-focused, empathetic and honest, conversational, clear in vision and willing to empower everyone in their day-to-day initiatives. It’s no longer about tactics, explained Mr. Hornberger, but about real world outcomes — much like the way that President Obama, hailed for his social media strategy in the 2008 election, had his eye on the presidency at all times, not on amassing a certain number of Facebook fans or messages. Brands are becoming inherently social, and therefore need to capitalize on the new outlets of communication where ordinary individuals most often discuss their consumer experiences and beloved products.

To illustrate his ideology, Mr. Hornberger explored Levi’s Water<Less, a synergistic goodwill campaign that combined elements of engineering, marketing and social media to achieve a charitable end. Troubled by the statistic that one in every eight people has no access to clean water, Levi’s developed a new water-saving product line that cut some 16 million gallons of water from the manufacturing process in one season alone. To accompany the launch, Levi’s released a typical publicity announcement — explaining that the company would pair with Water.org, an American NPO, to fund sustainability programs and spread drinkable water around the world — but upped the ante with an interactive Facebook game called Watertank, which urges players to complete challenges like pledging to wash their jeans less often and donating money:
The Watertank game generated more than 125,000 likes, comments and clickthroughs, almost 4,000 pledges and 2,000 tweets, and 5,200 stream stories in its first ten days. It has an active community of 10,000 highly-engaged players, and accomplishes for Levi’s exactly what Mr. Hornberger identified as social branding: it empowers the individual to match the attitude of the company, who together achieve a common and well-defined goal. This is how socially-innovative organizations win the hearts and minds, much more coveted than the dollars and cents, of their consumers.

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Mike Bonifer at the SMASH

April 14, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at director, producer and author Mike Bonifer.

Mr. Bonifer is a proud veteran of Los Angeles — his first publicity job was on the set of the original Tron — and an expert in fusing the strategies of entertainment with those of social marketing. His 2008 book, GameChangers: Improvisation for Businesses in the Networked World, explores the movement of improv from the 1930s schoolrooms of Chicago teacher Viola Spolin to the stages of the city’s legendary comedy troupe Second City — and now into corporate social strategies, where improvisational endeavors open lines of communication and etch narratives into the public consciousness.

Mr. Bonifer, a proponent of fun at all costs, started his talk with onomatopoeia: the convention’s attendees were urged to generate animal noises from the names of popular web tools like Twitter and Wibbitz. From there, things got much more serious. Mr. Bonifer explained that the nature of good storytelling is in conflict; that social narratives, which come from stories, define communities; and that communities exist in the real world, in virtual space and in the coveted conceptual space, where the most effective companies find the opportunity to establish a narrative presence. He stressed the necessity of participation with an audience over rote authorization when it comes to online communications, which turns routine storytelling into story making — a process that involves flow, generative power and the acceptance of serendipity as a business model, not a hindrance. To illustrate how the preparation behind a marketing strategy is more valuable than the strategy itself, Mr. Bonifer quoted the William Gibson novel Zero History: “Love the planning,” he said, “fear the plan.”

To conclude his presentation, Mr. Bonifer shared several case studies in which major corporations embraced the unexpected. The most powerful was one of last year’s paramount news items in the arena of human interest, in which 33 Chilean workers were trapped for more than a month in a collapsed mine. Upon their triumphant rescue, Mr. Bonifer noticed that each miner sported sunglasses as he emerged back into the world — an essential safety measure given their sensitivity to light after such a prolonged period underground, but nevertheless intriguing because each pair of glasses wore the well-known Oakley emblem. After speaking with various Oakley reps, Mr. Bonifer got to the bottom of the coincidence: while sitting in on a meeting leading up to the liberation of the miners, embedded journalist and sunglasses enthusiast Jonathan Franklin recommended the Oakley name to Chilean officials. In an unprecedented move, the local government allowed Franklin to handle communications between Chile and Oakley; weeks later, each miner wore branded sunglasses during the massive celebration of the rescue. By its own estimates, Oakley earned $42 million in media coverage for less than $6,000 worth of sunglasses. Improvisation and serendipity, two of Mr. Bonifer’s key ideas, were fundamental in the achievement.

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Wendy Cohen at the SMASH

April 13, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at digital campaign strategist Wendy Cohen.

Ms. Cohen, the Director of Digital Campaigns and Community for Participant Media, has worked on controversial and highly-successful films including Waiting for Superman, The Cove and Food, Inc. Her company, which weaves social issues and political activism into documentaries and dramatic films alike, has received three Academy Awards, produced more than fifty high-profile projects and raised tens of millions of dollars for its various causes — animal rights, homelessness and American education among them — in just seven years of existence. Ms. Cohen explained how Participant’s creation of online content, from microsites to Twitter feeds, is unique to each film, and customized for audience, topic and tone.

She used the case study of Food, Inc., which examines the cruel and unhealthy slaughtering techniques of the American farm system, to start her presentation. The social media story behind the movie is unique and inspiring: once the film was released, the Twitter community started attaching the #foodinc hashtag to posts about nutrition, cooking, vegetarianism and countless other topics both directly related to and merely inspired by the documentary, with such frequency and fervor that Participant felt no need to create its own Food, Inc. Twitter account. Instead, it relied on this existing and continuously-updating content to heighten exposure to the film; as Ms. Cohen explained, the internet allows companies to “be where the conversation is already happening” as opposed to redirecting the discussion away from forums where individuals feel comfortable. (Facebook pages, however, are still a must — the Food, Inc. profile has nearly 300,000 fans.)

With Waiting for Superman, a contentious look at America’s failings in public education, the strategy differed. Because the film engaged with targeted audiences based on identity and location, Participant used a website with sections for parents and teachers, as well as respective directions for activism. It also created a statistically-daunting and visually-mesmerizing PSA, “Shock and Awe,” which ran in theaters as a sort of trailer and eventually made its way to YouTube:
To close her presentation, Ms. Cohen shared an anecdote to show the versatility and unexpected benefits of social media in an interactive world. On one of Virgin America’s first wireless flights, she explained, an airborne lawyer tweeted about just having passed the bar — prompting Virgin America, from its own Twitter account, to urge the plane’s other passengers to buy the lawyer a drink. Someone did exactly that in the air, creating an entire in-flight network within minutes thanks to a few well-placed tweets. Twitter is at its finest, said Ms. Cohen, when used as an outlet for customer service.

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Jason Kintzler at the SMASH

April 12, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at social PR maven Jason Kintzler.

Mr. Kintzler is the Chief Executive Officer of PitchEngine, a social platform for entrepreneurs, businesses and thought leaders that refashions the PR package for the web. His background in journalism gives him keen insight into the ways of earning media, and his own entrepreneurial acumen turned PitchEngine into a marketplace for some 100,000 ideas last year alone. His bird’s-eye view of the site, meanwhile, provides access to numerous successful case studies of business communications achieved online.

To explore the idea of an unconventional company using social media for publicity, Mr. Kintzler provided the example of Fat Tire — a popular alternative beer sold by the New Belgium microbrewery in Colorado. Using youth-leaning platforms like Twitter and Facebook was certainly a gamble for an alcoholic beverage — but as Mr. Kintzler explained, the company remained responsible and earnest in its emergence into the networked world. Its first move, bolstered by research that showed the beer to be difficult to locate (a sample Twitter post might read: “I love Fat Tire…but where do I find it?”), was to create a virtual map denoting liquor stores, bars and restaurants where it could be found. The ensuing Fat Tire Facebook page amassed 1,000 followers almost instantly, and now its makers have developed several playful concepts — like beer rangers, or local employees devoted to all things ale-related — that fit with Fat Tire’s lighthearted, happy-go-lucky brand image. (According to Mr. Kintzler, many of New Belgium’s employees bike to their jobs, and the workplace includes a giant slide into the “free liquid zone.”)

Mr. Kintzler travels around the country promoting, well, the world of online promotion. His speaking engagements are diverse, and his blog provides insight on how the field of public relations has and will continue to change because of emerging social networks and online accessibility. Still, as he explained, the main goals of PR remain the same: to propagate awareness of a brand as far as possible at little cost, and to protect a brand’s authenticity through all of its communicative campaigns.

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Eric Schwartzman at the SMASH

April 11, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at corporate communications consultant Eric Schwartzman.

Mr. Schwartzman is a specialist in web communications strategy who counts the U.S. Military, Boeing and Johnson & Johnson among his clients. He is the co-author of Social Marketing to the Business Customer, the leading text on business-to-business web communications, which was hailed for its “truly expert advice” and “practical examples” when released in January — and for having “broken the code to how to approach B2B marketing with social media.” Mr. Schwartzman also produces the On The Record…Online podcast, which recounts industry successes — the most recent episode explored social sync at the South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Texas — and discusses essential marketing insights with high-profile guests.

To start his presentation, Mr. Schwartzman shared the mistakes made most often by companies new to the social media game. They don’t listen to much more than their own name, he explained, and fail to identify where their customers really exist. They treat Facebook and Twitter like an impersonal parking lot, not an avenue of direct and thoughtful consumer engagement. And even among the companies that do listen, many take in much more data than they need — an error less attributable to the internet’s wealth of information than to an undiscerning eye. “It’s not information overload,” said Mr. Schwartzman, quoting technological sociologist Clay Shirky, “it’s filter failure.”

How, then, can companies listen in a strategic, responsible and ultimately profitable way? Mr. Schwartzman suggested the “triangulation of intelligence,” or the careful combining of keywords from social media like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — anywhere that hosts online communications — to locate and subsequently target a specific demographic. And because levels of discourse differ from site to site, executives need to tailor their ears to blog language, news language or social language depending on where they’re searching and what they’re searching for. The online community revolution, which started years ago with college students on Facebook, has made its way through corporate hierarchies and between businesses with such speed and strength that companies resisting social media are squandering an opportunity to be seen as thought leaders and progressive participants in an evolving marketplace. As explained in Mr. Schwartzman’s lecture and in his book, businesses are embracing the web with increasing rapidity: B2B marketers already spend $3 billion annually on internet initiatives, and the rates of online marketing and social media are expected to increase by 12 percent and 21 percent, respectively, for each of the next three years. For any business, missing the bandwagon would mean turning a deaf ear to an industry more or less shouting for attention.

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The SMASH Conference

April 8, 2011
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Yesterday, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles, USC‘s campus locus for alumni assemblies, business conferences and breakfasts with President C.L. Max Nikias. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, gathered industry pros, graduate students and doctors of psychology for 11 interactive presentations, a lunch discussion with internet entrepreneur and Mahalo creator Jason Calacanis and a seminar-ending discussion of cyber innovation and revolution. Moderated by Communitelligence president John Gerstner, the SMASH later connected to MediaSense, a similar conference in New Zealand. Organized into six distinct sections — Listening, Community, Social Dialogue, Leading, Measuring and Future Visioning — the SMASH featured one hour-long session per topic, each composed of short lectures and brainstorming huddles between attendees and speakers. The event drew members of the entertainment, public relations, market research, digital communications and online marketing industries, and introduced to many the principles of social media while generating for all a multitude of new ideas and strategies for the rapidly-evolving field.

Starting next week, MHB students will provide a speaker-by-speaker breakdown of the conference, summarizing major concepts and sharing the various metrics, tools and sites that are essential to any individual, business or organization with serious interest in social media. For SMASH attendees, this is a great way to review the ideas and access the contact information of each exceptional presenter; for internet professionals and newcomers, it will introduce an elite group of West Coast social mediators and the campaigns, methods and secrets that have earned them both renown and profit. Continue reading for the event’s speaking schedule, which doubles as a preview for next week’s reaction and analysis.

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Job Listings, Week of 4/04/11

April 7, 2011
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Part of the MHB program is an internship, as students choose among the myriad L.A.-based job and internship listings in the following fields: HR, market research, marketing, advertising, PR, social media and management. Here are options from this week:

Corporate Recruiter (apply here)
Volt Workforce Solutions (Fountain Valley, CA)
“Volt has partnered with a leading automotive manufacturing company in Fountain Valley to help identify an experienced recruiter for an immediate temporary opportunity. In this role you would be responsible for: working with hiring managers on recruiting plan meetings; leading the creation of a recruiting plan for each open position; conducting regular follow-ups with hiring managers to determine the effectiveness of recruiting plans; developing a pool of qualified candidates; researching and recommending new sources for active and passive candidate recruiting; posting openings with professional organizations, internet, newspapers and other publications based upon hiring managers needs for the open position; researching new ways of using the internet for recruitment; and assisting with all administrative tasks associated with the hiring/recruiting process, including the maintenance of internal/external recruiting systems.”

Manager of Accounts Services (apply here)
Jobs in Sports (Burbank, CA)
“Job responsibilities include: managing ASRs within television, digital and magazine across the offices; leading weekly team ASR meetings; overseeing ASR credit and collections efforts to ensure team makes monthly, quarterly and annual collection goals; ensuring ​that all new ASRs have been fully trained on position and are ready to support their sales teams; leading the development of departmental and staff training; writing up weekly ASR agendas; treating sensitive or confidential information appropriately; and interviewing ASR candidates.”

Account Executive (apply here)
CoreLogic (Santa Ana, CA)
“We are the new CoreLogic — a leading provider of business information, analytics and outsourcing services. Together, we are a $2 billion technology company with more than ten thousand employees worldwide. We are proven experts in the areas where we work and are passionate about helping our clients succeed. No one else has such a vast repository of data, an advanced set of analytical models and a talented, diverse team of professionals. The Account Executive, under general supervision and working in a team environment, promotes and sells First American products and services, ensures a high level of customer satisfaction, and achieves sales goals and objectives, within an assigned territory.”

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An E-Z Buy: The “Last Name” Effect

April 6, 2011
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Thanks to technology, advances in psychology and the incorporation of academic study into the private sector, research that analyzes the attitudes and behaviors of consumers is more frequent than ever — and often used in the design and modification of marketing strategies. Both corporate America and society in general benefit from these efforts: major companies, which have come to expect that customers have purchasing intentions and associated purchasing behavior, can increase profits in predictable and systematic ways; consumers, meanwhile, get a bird’s eye view of the links between their major life events and everyday shopping habits. How, then, will an upcoming study in the Journal of Consumer Research — which connects a person’s surname to his or her marketplace decision making — be interpreted by individuals and exploited by businesses?

According to Kurt Carlson and Jacqueline Conrad — coauthors of “The Last Name Effect: How Last Name Influences Acquisition Timing,” the research project in question — consumers whose last names start with letters late in the alphabet tend to buy products faster than others, a phenomenon they dub the “last-name effect.” And while their work won’t be officially published until August, a press release (“Why Do the Abbotts Wait, While the Zimmermans Rush to Buy?”) from the University of Chicago Press and an ensuing article in Time magazine have already saturated the academic and corporate worlds with their work — which the authors argue has widespread commercial potential. “The last-name effect is especially important to retailers and salespeople,” explains the study, “because customer names are easy for marketers to obtain and because there are many decisions in which the decision is not whether to buy, but when to buy.”

To demonstrate this last name effect, Carlson and Conrad conducted four distinct experiments. First, they emailed MBA students to offer them free tickets to a women’s basketball game, specifying that the amount of tickets was limited. Students whose last name started with a letter from R through Z replied significantly faster: their average time was 19.38 minutes, compared to 25.08 for students with A through I last names. Second, the authors asked 280 adults to participant in an online survey with a chance to win $500. Again, those with late last name letters were prone to join the survey more quickly. (Even more tellingly, wives acted in ways that corresponded with their maiden names, not their husbands’ names.) A third hypothetical situation, in which the researchers offered $5 and a bottle of wine as rewards for student participation in a 45-minute study, repeated the trend. As did the fourth and final experiment, in which Carlson and Conrad asked students to imagine having left their wallets at home: how would they act if they walked past a bookstore sale for 20 percent off all items “while supplies last?” Students with late-letter last names more often responded that they’d run home, grab some cash and take advantage of the deal.

From the results of these experiments, researchers think the last name effect is caused by childhood experience. Americans prefer to use the alphabet as a sitting or standing arrangement, so the Z’s are usually in the back of the classroom or at the end of the line. Their waiting time is longer than that of others, and sometimes they lose selections or opportunities because others in front of them have a better chance to seize prime choices. In the end, when the Z’s have a shot at a great deal, they are more likely to accept it immediately. For businesses, this research has a clear takeaway: to ensure the success of a time-limited sale, they should index their consumer database and target customers with late-alphabet last names to get faster responses.

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