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Course Selection Advice from the Case Rip Cord

Well, it’s that time of year again, when first years fret about their EC class registration. The Case Rip Cord, which judges such course selection matters entirely on the basis of the entertainment value of the cases in the course, has to cast its vote for Professor Susan Fournier’s Half Course on Branding. In addition to cases on Cheerios, Pok‚mon, the Edsel, BMW, Land Rover, and Martha Stewart, there is a video of Professor Fournier on a Harley Davidson posse ride. Here are some wonderful pieces from a couple other interesting cases:

Introducing…the XFL starts out by describing wrestling entrepreneur Vince McMahon’s foray into football as “a blend of on-field violence, soap-opera drama, high-tech television coverage, and cheerleader sexuality.” In the pre-season hype, an advertisement featured a model-turned-XFL announcer in a football uniform, saying that she was trying to get in the players’ pants.

Regarding the cheerleaders, McMahon says “the NFL prohibition on dating is the most absurd rule of all…. It’s just un-American. Yes, our cheerleaders will date our players. Yes, they’ll be hot babes.” He later says that if a player makes a mistake on the field, a reporter will interview his cheerleader girlfriend “demanding to know whether the two of them did the wild thing last night.”

When the ratings went south after the first week of XFL games, WWF wrestler The Rock told “NFL Executives to take their suitcases, ‘turn them sideways and stick them straight up your candy ass.'”

The XFL ended up a failure. Apparently the American public was not ready for what one critic called “selling violence, homophobia, misogyny, twisted sex, negative ethnic stereotyping, and senseless hate to American children.” Which, while not explaining the continued existence of the Jerry Springer show, is nice.

From professional sports we go to alcohol, with J & B. In an interesting coincidence, the protagonist in this case about a Scotch whisky distiller is named Michael Stoner. And in a light-hearted in-house promotional video shown in class, a graphic pointing to Stoner calls him “Guy whose ass is on the line.” One of Stoner’s concerns is that a recent trend against questionable types of business entertainment means they have “lost the business lunch.”

This case is full of typos, forcing the reader to wonder how close case writer Professor Grant McCracken was to the brand when he was writing it. But really, McCracken has penned what is arguably the school’s most pleasurable read, and he has filled it with flowery, vivid language and imagery galore. For example:

On the recent college grad segment: “Music is defeaning. Conversation must be shouted. Dancing is common place. Fights are not unheard of. Floors are often awash in spilled beer, cigarette butts, crushed cups, even broken bottles.”

On Swing: “It is showy. People dress up. They act out. … Swing has been accused of creating a world in which men are men and women just have to put up with them.”

On Lounges: “[Y]ou step back…to a time when ‘revolution’ meant watering your scotch with ice. Back to an era when ‘evolution’ meant taking out the olive and putting in an onion. When Generation X was a secret atomic weapon aimed at the White House by double agents and long-legged Russian girls whose names only Matt Helm could pronounce.”
And the best sentence of all: “Lipstick-kissed cigarettes ashtray dance with cigar stubs and cherry stems.”

And for pure entertainment value, neither the XFL nor J&B hold a candle to Exploring Brand-Person Relationships: Three Life Histories. This case is a condensed version of a study Professor Fournier has been working on for some time. As the title suggests, it’s the tale of three women revealing their feelings about their relationships to brands. There are some poignant moments, with topics including Harvard MBAs, big spicy meatballs, and huge bra selection based on mood. But instead of exposing these three women in depth here, the Rip Cord will just recommend you take Professor Fournier’s course.

Or you could just take Business Marketing and read yourself to sleep every night. Your call. Either way, Happy Course Hunting!

Please send comments on your cases to Uncle.Jordy@mba2002.hbs.edu.

April 8, 2002
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