Generalizing: Learn the Lessons of History, But Which Ones?

A few months before Katrina, I caught one of the early Mardi Gras parades in a rural town outside New Orleans. Race relations there seemed different from those here in Northern California. Blacks were more outgoing and friendly to whites, and yet there also seemed to be more racial segregation. At the parade, the floats and teams were strictly segregated. The only integration I saw was a few clusters of black and white teens. I watched a policeman go out of his way to harass a black youth who was hanging out with some white girls.

As I was heading back to my car I saw one group by a 7-11 and thought to ask them directly about the state of race relations. A white girl spoke for them all, “Oh, it’s getting better. The police still give you a hard time but it’s not bad.” I thanked her and walked toward my car feeling pleased and hopeful; it was good to hear from a like-minded youth who was transcending past bigotries.

The girl called me back. “You say you’re from San Francisco?” she asked.

“Are they still letting gays marry there? ‘Cause I think that’s so disgusting.”

OK, not entirely like-minded. She had learned a lesson about bigotry, but she hadn’t generalized it. Me, I’ve seen enough instances of destructive bigotry to extrapolate to a universal pattern. Bigotry against blacks, Jews, the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, gays-I get it-no bigotry is acceptable. What you don’t do to blacks you don’t do to gays either.

In this election I’m hoping a disenchanted nation will do some careful generalizing. Too much focus on Bush and Cheney’s bad character distracts us from questions about what makes them bad. If we conclude that they’re just bad apples, then what’s to stop equally counterproductive people with different names and faces from taking their places?

Everyone says, “People who don’t learn the lessons of history are forced to repeat it,” but if that statement doesn’t miss the point completely, it just barely grazes it. Sure, we should try to learn lessons-but the real question is which lessons, what generalizations? From Stalin and Hitler should we generalize to no more leaders with mustaches? No more short people?

What we want, of course, is to generalize lessons from history that end up paying off in the future. Unfortunately, although that’s a great goal, it’s useless as a rule of thumb. The future isn’t here yet, so you can’t use it directly to guide your generalizations.

“Son, my advice to you is buy low, sell high, and always learn today what worked tomorrow.”

Still, our society’s accelerated progress over the past few centuries is largely a product of culture realizing that right generalization is the name of the game. Science and engineering are largely attempts to systematize the process of effective generalization. In the hope of promoting that process, however slightly, here are a few generalizations about generalization applied to the coming election.

Undergeneralizing: Sometimes we fail to learn because we fail to generalize at all. Bush voters who now criticize the president tend to defend their votes. Yes, Bush turned out to be a lemon, an exception to the otherwise fine products of the conservative movement. Gore, Kerry, and the whole liberal agenda would have been much worse. McCain will fix things. Abu Ghraib? A few bad low-level soldiers. There’s nothing to learn, no generalization to be drawn.

When McCain said the economic problem was caused by greedy people on Wall Street and that the answer was to fire the head of the SEC, he sounded like unsophisticated leftists I knew in the ’70s. The problem is a few greedy people leading big corporations. Replace them with un-greedy people like me and it will all be groovy.

Overgeneralizing: Litmus-test radicals think they’ve found the one or two factors from which you can generalize to everything you need to know about a candidate. A Christian? Anti-abortion? For gay marriage? Divorced? A loyal spouse? For change? A traditionalist? The Sufis say, “He who’s burnt by hot milk blows on ice cream.” Not all dairy products will burn you. And not all Christians are great leaders. To litmus-test radicals on the left or the right, expert status isn’t earned through careful analysis but through passionate self-certainty. They’ve found the one cause that matters. It’s a priority not because they’ve compared it to other issues but because they can make an impassioned argument for its intrinsic and isolated merit. “But don’t you see, it’s a fundamental right!”

Motivated generalization: An alcoholic ponders what’s causing those daily hangovers. Monday: gin and tonic; Tuesday: vodka and tonic; Wednesday: whiskey and tonic; Thursday: rum and tonic. Clearly it’s the tonic.

Generalization serves two masters. One is, of course, our future selves. We hope to learn history’s real lessons so we don’t have to repeat them. The other is our present gut instinct, which definitely prefers some lessons to others. The alcoholic’s future self wants to avoid future hangovers, but the alcoholic’s gut doesn’t want to discover that those hangovers are caused by alcohol rather than tonic.

Most Republicans don’t seem to want to consider the possibility that they’ve had a substantial chance to try their ideas out in the real world and that in general those ideas don’t work as well as they had hoped. Just this week, days after the $700 billion bailout was announced, I was probing a right-wing friend about the core values and principles that drive his beliefs. He’s for the bailout as the lesser of two evils. On core values, though, he proudly told me one thing he knows for sure. Liberal efforts to regulate the free market have failed over and over and should never be tried again. No mention of the possibility that conservatives have anything to learn here.

This same friend tells me that he relishes arguing with liberals like me because our arguments are so weak and implausible. He’s the second conservative to tell me that this month. In other words, we generalize poorly. We’re either slow learners or we’re driven to our generalizations by our gut instincts, not our rational minds as they are.

Psychological research* indicates that we all generalize through two parallel systems, the rational mind and the gut, and that the gut predominates. The gut is faster acting than the rational mind. It’s often right or we wouldn’t survive. But there’s plenty of evidence that the gut gets it wrong consistently on crucial matters.

Ideally, therefore, we’d be rational about when to use our gut instincts and when to be rational. Among the more troubling findings therefore is strong evidence that most of us assume we’re more rational than we in fact are. We interpret gut instincts as rational instincts. Guts have the upper hand. Our guts tell us our rational minds are telling us that our rational minds are generalizing from the evidence and not our guts. We generalize incorrectly about our generalizing performance and skill.

Me and all my Obama-supporting friends included. We assume we’re the rational ones. Given the psychological evidence regarding everyone’s ability to interpret their interpretive prowess, we’re disqualified as authorities on the subject of our own rationality. So are our equally gut-motivated Republican detractors. Indeed, posterity gets the final word on whose generalizing skills were best. It alone knows how skillful we were at generalizing to the right lessons of history to learn and not the wrong ones. Unfortunately it was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing.For a great new survey of the findings, check out Nudge: Improving decisions about health wealth and happiness.

 

General Electronics – Gearing to a Wide Array of Applications

General electronics is a very broad category for a product. It refers to a lot of industries and applications. Nowadays, these types of gadgets are geared on energy-efficiency and user-friendly guidelines. Every time an innovation is launched in the market, companies never fail to incorporate it in the changes for these products.

It was mentioned awhile back that there are various applications for general electronics. As proof to this, the industries benefiting from these industrial products are discussed below.

Aviation industry

Electronics for this type of industry are made to have more power despite fuel reduction. Products have surpassed noise reduction requirements in the industry. A great example is the turbojet engine that paved the way to production of other engines for commercial, military, marine and corporate industries.

Consumer electronics

The list of electronic products will not be complete unless consumer electronics are mentioned. Providing the needs of clients worldwide, new technologies are injected in these products and services. Audio-visual components as well as telephone and computer accessories are found under the list of consumer electronics. Specifically, radios and television sets, digital cameras, generator systems, house wares and holiday lighting are enumerated under this electronics’ category.

Electrical distribution

Different industries benefit from this type of product from the general electronics line. Since electronics are somewhat synonymous to electric, electrical distribution should not be missed out on the list. The list of products includes appliance controls, arresters, automatic transfer switches, battery-powered equipment, circuit breakers, capacitors and drives.

It also contains products for communications and networking, energy management, motor control centers and power conversions. Reactors, push buttons and pilot devices, relays and timers form part of the enumeration as well.

The list of products for electrical distribution applies to commercial-electrical, industrial-electrical, residential-electrical and institutional-electrical requirements. They are also helpful for original equipment manufacturers and utility companies. When it comes to energy industries, electricity, gasification, hydro power or water control, nuclear energy, oil and gas, transmission and distribution and solar power companies benefit from these types of products.

General electronics is multi-faceted. Expect that there are more products listed under this industrial category. The list on this page is not enough to discuss all of the important facets of these products. On top of all the things you need to remember, electronics are updated to comply with the set standards of different industries. They are made to ensure the health of the individuals and companies that derive important uses from these materials.

How Does the Product Life Cycle Affect Your Role As a Marketer?

Among the challenges that marketers face in real life experiences versus school theories is the application of what we learn in our professional life. Schools updating frequently the books they use to reflect market development are limited. Even when some attempt to do it, they are not able to collect enough examples to prepare you for real life experiences. By all means, they cannot teach you a life time experience in a 3 credits course.

When I studied Business, I focused on marketing courses. I liked the field but I never thought I will be traveling to so many countries and exposed to different cultures. No university could have prepared me to such experience, yet I was taught the basics.

One of the concepts I learned in marketing is the Product Life Cycle (PLC) and its effects on the marketing mix.  PLC is a term used to define the various stages that a product goes through. From its conception to its production, its maturity to its decline, the product goes through multiple phases and they are usually referred to as: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. Although I find PLC to be a sales concept rather than marketing, the interrelation between sales and marketing makes the involvement of the marketers essential as they will have to adopt various approaches when facing the different stages.

Most of the articles I read about the PLC assume that the product is new, the competition is low to none, and that customers need to be educated and prompted to act towards the product. How about the not so new products? What if you are launching a competitive product in the market? Does your PLC follow your competitor’s product PLC? My answer is no.

I have worked in multiple types of markets varying from ones where my company had monopoly over mobile telecommunication to extremely competitive markets where we were the 4th operator to enter the market.  I used the PLC as a reference although I believe that the decline phase in mobile communication is not something that I will see in my lifetime hence my preference in using the term Product Cycle versus Product Life Cycle. Surely, I watched the decline of some technologies used, only to be replaced by newer ones (AMPS versus GSM for example), I have also seen companies sold to bigger ones without affecting the presence of the product itself (mobile communication).

As I attempt to define the product cycle below, the reader should take into consideration that my approach is based on a professional experience to introduce a long term product in a competitive market by linking it to the marketing mix versus defining its characteristics from a sales point of view.

1. Introduction:

  • Product: Voice telephony is already known to the public. The investment in educating the public about the product is slim to none. Branding is usually what I focus on in order for the public to identify my product and be able to differentiate it from my competitors’,
  • Price: “Skim the cream” pricing was applicable when I worked for a company that monopolized the mobile telecommunication. The pricing policy to apply needs to be almost in line with my competitors, since it needs to attract customers without causing a price war between the operators (Fact: Companies need you as a customer for your money)
  • Place:  Distribution depends on the type of market. If you have enough flexibility you can opt for direct sales via your own shops, through already established distribution channels (when existing distributors are not bound by your competitors’ exclusivity contracts) or by using the franchising approach. Usually I am faced with budget limitation and I start with using the existing distribution channels.
  • Promotion: Probably the most essential development in this stage. You will need to position yourself by differentiating yourself from your competition. Your message should be clear; you are not just another mobile operator. You need to build public awareness about your product without forgetting to position yourself in this competitive market. Depending on your strategy, your message is targeting the general public or the niche you are aiming for. Usually I start by targeting the general public since mobile telephony is used on a massive scale.

I should mention that usually at this stage I am introducing the basic mobile services. Due to the large investment made by the company it is not logical to invest in a multiple level of services hence increasing the expenditures. However the basic level of services should be able to offer a certain level of flexibility that guarantees positioning as a competitor.

2. Growth:

It is usually the stage where the company is building the branding differentiation. If your positioning message was well thought of at the introduction stage, then you already differentiated yourself from the competition. By now, if you have not achieved your target, you are probably working in a different company. You should learn from your mistake, although strategies a very useful in marketing tactics are as important in competitive markets.

  • Product: Enhance quality while focusing on your message to the target market. In the companies I worked for, enhancing quality is usually increasing coverage areas and upgrading congested sites. You may also want to introduce new services that support your product. I usually have SMS based services launched at this stage.
  • Price: It will usually depend on the competition. You do not want to be the first to start a price war yet you should be ready for it especially if your marketing strategy reflected its success into a declining market share for your competitors. If you had launched new services you may be able to set your own pricing if your competitors do not have them. Beware of setting high prices for those services though, your competitors may be able to launch them faster than you could expect.
  • Place: You have introduced your product; it’s time to expand your distribution channels. Identify the weaknesses of the first stage and try to explore the possibilities. At this stage I am usually adding a direct presence in the critical areas and adding incentives to encourage exclusivity.
  • Promotion: Due to the type of product I am dealing with this is where I target the niche segment, although I keep the general public message.

3. Maturity:

Your competitors are pushing hard, and so should you. When the first two stages are complete successfully you have already guaranteed a market share that you want to keep. Sometimes due to their high investment your competitors are the ones who have problems defending their market share (They matured earlier than you did). If that’s the case, you are still in the growth stage of your product. Reasons for your competitor maturity or a later decline may be an aging network which increases failure in calls and initially high operating expenses such as over-employment (trust me it happens).

  • Product: Enhancing features and services (Value Added Services). Although voice is the product of choice in many markets, the introduction and variation of SMS services can help in extending the duration of your product in the market.
  • Price: Usually lower than the stage before as your competitor matches with your VAS (Value added services)
  • Place: Distribution is fierce, you might have to increase the incentives offered to the distribution chain to keep your market share.
  • Promotion: Although you generally promoted your positioning and differentiated your product, you should focus on promoting the differentiation in the features between your product and your competitors’.  (For example: Your rates per minute of usage are viewed as being higher but accepted because you are covering a wider area than your competitor. You differentiated yourself as being the operator covering all the country. If that was the case, maybe it’s time to focus that you are actually charging per second although you were announcing the minute price)

4. Decline:

Mobile communication became part of our life and I don’t see it fading any time soon. It is part of the communication process that evolved. However, some technologies used for communication faded and were replaced by other types (Semaphore flag signaling, Morse code, Telex, etc…)

In mobile communication when we talk about GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) we know it went from phase 1 to phase 2 and the 3G (Although in developing countries Phase 2.5 is still not applicable).

The marketing mix in this stage will depend on your company’s strategy. The cases I witnessed are as follows:

  • Maintaining the product by adding features such as the Ring Back Tone, MMS, and GPRS (General packet radio service, which is in brief the service that allows us to offer data)
  • Investing further by upgrading to a newer technology hence re-launching the product. Although maintaining (the point above) may be considered as investing further, they are separated due to the high difference in expenditure figures between the two.
  • Sustaining the product by offering it to a niche of customers. When my company decided to replace the old AMPS system with the new GSM we operated both networks together for a long period. The Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) was more reliable when it came to fax services and our business customers wanted to maintain this option. Another example happened in a different market where existing operators (and competitors) were not authorized to apply for GSM license until our exclusivity term comes to an end with the government. By using a first generation cellular technology such as AMPS they had to choose what to do. Our competitor kept a minimal number of employees (6 people in the whole company among which 2 were in the commercial department) and offered his service to his loyal yet VIP customers.
  • Discontinue the product. When it was time to take a decision as the product entered its decline stage, the majority shareholders of my previous company decided to sell to a firm willing to continue in this line of business. Another way is to simply dismantle and disregard the old product. When the AMPS system (from the previous point c.) became unsustainable, the main towers we used in the new GSM network while other technical equipment was sold.

In a competitive market you cannot deal with your product as an exclusive case. There are many market variations that will affect your decision and performance. The product cycle although theoretical, can help you set your strategy and tactics to ensure your success in your role as a marketer in your company.