New look, same great taste. Soon cereal boxes will be envelopes.

Ever since the enormous fiscal slapping we all received in 2008, I’ve noticed that food companies have been busily revamping their images in an effort to draw consumers and make ends meet. I may simply have become more sensitized to an existing practice, or efforts along these lines may have expanded greatly in the face of growing financial pressures on the market.

Cereal boxes have done the most to catch my eye, sporting a seemingly continuous stream of new boxes, or some other sign brightly plastered signaling that something has changed and that we must take notice as we wander through the aisles. Last week, I came across a box that will remain unnamed with the text “New look, same great taste” on a banner running across the top.

When I compare the new box to the old, there are a few cosmetic changes, but nothing that I could consider ground breaking or shouting for attention much more loudly than the previous box. Indeed, I am a habitual buyer of this brand, so I would have bought this cereal on that trip regardless of whether it had been packaged in a box with flashing lights being carried on the back of a panda driving a car, or if it had been in a plain, unmarked box. Cool. This ensures the company’s graphic designers have something to do from time to time, right? But there’s always a but.

But, upon closer inspection, the box was a little smaller, and contained a slightly diminished mass of cereal, without having a reduced price. Here’s the rub: in order to keep us feeling good about buying cereal despite the growing cost of delivering grain-based foods to the market, companies are reducing the quantity they sell in a box. We’re still happy to shell out our $5,99 for a box of cereal, but we are getting less and less every time we come out of the grocery store.

I get it. It’s a business. I grew up on a farm, so I appreciate the farmer’s stake in this. I’d like it if they could get a bigger cut than does the middle man, but that seems unlikely to change for a while. But you see, I like to be efficient with my time without being hypocritical about what I do. If the cereal costs more, I’m happy to pay more for the same volume, rather than have to come back to the store at an increasing rate wondering why my boxes of cereal are now lasting a few days rather than a couple weeks. Granted, food and I get along very well together, but I don’t need to get a false sense that I’m hoovering all of the grain from the Prairies to satiate my morning hunger.

For marketers to be doing this suggests that there is some pretty solid data to show that these mind games work.  I wish it weren’t the case. I fear that some day I’ll be walking out of the store with an arm full of $5,99 postage envelopes of cereal to get me through the week.

Why leading from the front is so important

A big shout out to my brother for finding this image on imgur.

There is a huge difference between a leader and a boss.

There is a significant difference between a boss, manager, and a leader. Being one does not imply being the other. These statuses can be distinct as much as they can be mutually inclusive.

There is a great deal of theory and research on the subject, but I find the image above sums it up quite nicely.

I will simplify some of the concepts below in order to make a concise point, so all you behavioural scientists, organizational analysts, and motivational speakers out there please cut me some slack when I say:

A boss is someone vested with positional power to make others do work.

A manager is someone who is good at juggling the resources needed to get a job done.

A leader is someone who can influence others in such a way as to accomplish a greater goal.

In an optimal organization, the boss is a an efficient and caring leader and a skilled manager. The boss need not place his desk apart from the others, nor whip them to achieve performance. She/he must share hardship and set the example. She/he must never ask those who work for her/him to do something she/he would never be willing to do herself/himself.

When a leader-boss-manager balances this triad appropriately, great things will happen.

The finances of independant game design – Hitbox Team postmortem

Dustforce (www.dustforce.com)

Dustforce (www.dustforce.com)

The Hitbox Team financial postmortem provides a candid overview of one independent game developer’s financial status one year after the launch of their game, Dustforce. It is a rare opportunity to gain a glimpse into such typically closely-guarded aspect of game design. Anyone who is interested in game design needs to keep an eye on the business aspect of their project, since it does no one any good to have to can a project and dissolve the design team because there isn’t enough money to deliver a finished product. It is nice to see some concrete figures. They will doubtless prove invaluable to other indie developers as they tackle the challenge of bringing their visions to reality.

The key takeaway: if you’re indie, you’d better not be in it for the money. Design games because you love to, and you want to bring a unique experience to others. If you do a really good job, you’ll make enough to allow you to do it all over again.

Equity Crowdfunding, highlights weird and wonderful nature of investment

Crowdfunding has by now emerged from obscurity and is garnering mainstream awareness as the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo begin to churn out record-setting projects that have gained the attention of major media outlets.

A new development I was completely unaware of until reading Frank Cifaldi’s article on Gamasutra is Equity Crowdfunding, a European service which appears to be gaining steam as a platform for Venture Capital (VC) investing in game development. When I first started using Kickstarter, I recall thinking that it would be great to have the ability to establish such a cooperation mechanism, as I really have no use for extra USB keys or a new fanboy mug. Cifaldi efficiently explores some of the pros and cons associated to the concept.

What I did find interesting, and wholly unrelated to the article’s game development aspect, are the issues relating to VC in North America. In order to take part in such investment, one needs to be registered as a “qualified investor“. Key criteria for a Canadian to be deemed as such are:

  1. an individual who, either alone or with a spouse, beneficially owns financial assets having an aggregate realizable value that before taxes, but net of any related liabilities, exceeds $1,000,000; or
  2. an individual whose net income before taxes exceeded $200,000 in each of the two most recent calendar years or whose net income before taxes combined with that of a spouse exceeded $300,000 in each of the two most recent calendar years and who, in either case, reasonably expects to exceed that net income level in the current calendar year; or
  3. an individual who, either alone or with a spouse, has net assets of at least $5,000,000; and
  4. a person, other than an individual or investment fund, that has net assets of at least $5,000,000 as shown on its most recently prepared financial statements.

Basically, one needs to be rolling in dough to be deemed capable of funding an activity with the hope of making money from it. This certainly reinforces the adage that it takes money to make money.

I guess I’m going to have to up my game at the lemonade stand this summer.

More Quebec gas price strangeness

On April 1st, 2013, Revenu Quebec (link) posted a gas tax increase. Strangely enough the price today (April 3rd) has dropped two cents.

As I’ve written earlier (link), this price drop comes after having jumped ten cents in a single day in February, and then flat lining at $138,4 for several weeks. The price dropped for the first time since February today, two days after the tax increase, and now sits at $136,4.

Fascinating.

The circles I work in for my alternate-desk-jockey-reality like to say that credibility is everything.

I can’t help but think that this pokes all kinds of holes in Big Oil’s credibility and certainly makes me wonder about many things besides their dubious pricing schemes.