Friday, February 01, 2008

Annals of product management: The importance of a liberal arts education 

I despair whenever I hear that somebody in my company wants to hire a "business major" instead of an actual educated person. What good is a grasp of history, literature, and philosophy, people wonder, when you can get somebody who can build a nice model in Excel?

May it please the court, I offer into evidence Exhibit A, the most ignorant branding decision I have ever seen:

A chain of retail stores in Britain has withdrawn the sale of beds named Lolita and designed for six-year-old girls after furious parents pointed out that the name was synonymous with sexually active pre-teens.

Woolworths said staff who administer the web site selling the beds were not aware of the connection.

In "Lolita," a 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, the narrator becomes sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter -- but Woolworths staff had not heard of the classic novel or two subsequent films based on it.

Next up, "Anne Frank" brand stationary products.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 09:55:00 PM:

Business majors can read. They just aren't forced to.

And it is much more likely that a 25 year old liberal arts major would not have read lolita than a, say, 46 year old one.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 10:20:00 PM:

I was a TA in the business department at Iowa while getting an MBA. I make no particular claims to being anything other than a serviceable writer, but the essays/work product that business students thought were acceptable to turn in almost defy description.

A very small sampling includes the use of curse words, near-illiteracy, rampant cheating, and in my personal favorite, a strategic recommendation that included several major felonies.

As a result, I'll never hire an undergrad business student straight out of school.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 10:36:00 PM:

"A very small sampling includes the use of curse words, near-illiteracy, rampant cheating, and in my personal favorite, a strategic recommendation that included several major felonies"

So you're saying a business major may well have used the name Lolita here fully aware of it's connotation...?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 10:44:00 PM:

This is further illustration of the need for "cultural literacy", a term used by Proffesor E.D. Hirsch Jr. to describe the knowledge of people, places, things, sayings, happenings and ideas that all truly literate peoples should know. He even has a Dictionary of Cultural Literacy if you wish to test your own education.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 11:34:00 PM:

Are you friggin' guys kidding me? So those "well-directed, focused" young people who come out of liberal arts majors are more superior in business? Huhhhhhhh? Maybe it is the wine tasting classes or the hemp rolling courses that make them so...? By the way, no where in this article does it say that the people who conceived this ridiculous idea were business majors. However, it is a pretty good bet that it was a business major since they were gainfully employed.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Feb 02, 12:19:00 AM:

Theres an old joke: The Science major asks "How does it work?" The Engineering major asks "How do you make it?" The Business major asks "How much does it cost?" and the Liberal Arts major asks "Do you fries with it?"  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Feb 02, 12:19:00 AM:

I have no idea if the liberal arts students are any better, nor did I claim that they were.

I just won't hire undergrad business students, because I'm not in any particular need of unmotivated kids with a large sense of entitlement.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Feb 02, 02:34:00 AM:

Should have had an Engineering Major, they understand the concept of Googleing, and cant spell Lolita anyways.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Sun Feb 03, 03:12:00 AM:

Regardless of the educational background of its creators, this was still a marketing ploy gone horribly awry. Advertising has been sexualizing pre-teens and even younger girls for years, as any parent who tries to buy back-to-school clothes for a young daughter can tell you.

But I think TH is on to something. You wouldn't have to be an English major to appreciate the subtle signs and signifiers in a brand of steak knives called "Lorena's." Just tasteless to actually market such a product, however popular it might be with the disaffected wife demographic.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Mon Feb 04, 06:26:00 PM:

You can probably learn more about candidates by having them do sheetrock work than you can by reading their resumes. Theres a whole catagory of "Dumb" that shows up really fast when somebody picks up a hammer in a group. And coincedently I happen to know of a house that looks to be getting to the sheetrock stage...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 09, 10:49:00 PM:


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