February 25, 2021

A couple of weeks ago, Texas’ power grid failed after a historic snowstorm and cold snap overwhelmed the state. As millions struggled without electricity or heat, those who had power potentially faced exorbitant electric bills because of changes Texas made to its utility system more than 20 years ago. Back then, much of the state switched from using regulated utilities to a deregulated market where customers could choose from a variety of power providers. As a result, nearly 60 percent Continue reading

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January 21, 2021

At the start of the pandemic, fast food chains like Taco Bell suddenly had to close their dining rooms and serve all customers via drive-thrus. Many of these companies altered their menus to increase efficiency so that the lines of cars would move as quickly as possible. For instance, Taco Bell got rid of items like the Mexican Pizza and Nachos Supreme to reduce its packaging needs while also ditching all potato items so that it could keep its ingredients Continue reading

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January 5, 2021

More than one third of American households have a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Nest that can be activated by thousands of different voice commands. But in order to hear what we say, these devices also need to listen. This video looks at what big tech companies do with recorded smart speaker commands and how customers can opt out of sharing their data. 

Questions:

  1. Why does Amazon collect recordings of voice commands made by customers to Continue reading
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November 19, 2020

Sony’s PlayStation 5 launched earlier this month and is expected to be one of the blockbuster products of the holiday season. This video looks at the evolution of the console throughout the years and how it became a central focus of Sony’s business.

Questions:

  1. How did the PlayStation help Sony transition from a consumer electronics manufacturer into a gaming company?
  2. Why did Sony decide to focus closely on the gamer market for future generations of the PlayStation, and how did they accomplish this task?
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November 12, 2020

Since the 1990s, on November 11th Chinese retailers led by the e-commerce giant Alibaba have celebrated Singles Day with an abundance of discounts and deals. Initially started as a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day and celebration of singlehood, over the years Singles Day has grown into one of the globe’s biggest sales events. In fact, Alibaba said that consumers purchased more than $75 billion worth of products on its site during yesterday’s festivities. 

This massive haul represents a 26 percent Continue reading

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November 5, 2020

Over the last few years, fast food chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell have invested heavily in breakfast menu items in order to drive up morning sales. This strategy worked for a while as breakfast sales continually increased from previous years and chains poured millions of dollars into marketing the so-called “most important meal of the day.” But like so many other previously successful ventures, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a major toll on the breakfast business.

Morning drive-thru traffic Continue reading

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October 29, 2020

Jingles were once a regular feature of television and radio advertising, but these catchy tunes are no longer as popular with admakers as they used to be. This video looks at the history of jingles in commercials and why they have slowly disappeared in the age of digital advertising. 

Questions:

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using jingles in modern advertising? 
  2. How did the use of music in commercials evolve over the course of the 20th century?
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October 15, 2020

Despite being one of the largest restaurant chains in the world, McDonald’s experienced a drastic drop in sales at the beginning of the pandemic just like many other businesses. Once the chain recovered from the shock of closing tens of thousands of dining rooms, though, it refocused on streamlining its drive-thru business and menu. McDonald’s also struck a marketing partnership with the rapper Travis Scott for a branded meal that became a bestseller for the month that it was available Continue reading

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September 8, 2020

More than 15,000 restaurants have closed permanently since the start of the pandemic, and not all of them are small independent operations. NPC international, a major franchisee of Pizza Hut and Wendy’s locations, recently filed for bankruptcy protection as sales across all stores dropped 37 percent compared to the previous year. But while much of the restaurant industry has struggled, one chain has managed to thrive: Domino’s Pizza sales have increased by 16 percent since March. 

By focusing on Continue reading

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August 31, 2020

For decades, ice cream trucks carrying Good Humor products have traveled through American neighborhoods with the folk song “Turkey in the Straw” playing at full blast. Unfortunately, though, this more than two-century old tune has a sinister history outside of its long association with frozen treats. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, “Turkey in the Straw” was a standard number in minstrel shows that relied heavily on racist caricatures. 

“While these associations of ‘Turkey in the Straw’ are Continue reading

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