Question Details

Answered: - Not less than 4 pages. 1. Problem Identification: Identify the


Not less than 4 pages.

1. Problem Identification: Identify the source of the dilemma that the focal group (i.e. the

Board, the CEO, etc.) involved in the case must address, guided by a core case question.

2. Issue Analysis: Identify and analyze the three most critical issues related to your problem in

order to develop an insightful breakthrough (e.g., Stakeholder, VRINE, SWOT, PESTLE, Value

Chain Analysis, and other analyses).
EXPERIENCE

 


 

HBR.ORG

 


 

Case Study

 

Should You

 

Sell That

 

Product?

 


 

on their smartphones rather than

 

on more-expensive e?readers. Each

 

installment in the series would be

 

short??easy to read on a subway or

 

bus ride,? as Calvin had explained?

 

and priced at 99 cents, the cost of a

 

ringtone. ?It?s bringing back the serial,

 

an old, cherished form of writing, in

 

a fresh, modern way.?

 

The series? title character,

 

El?Diablo, was a gangster, and the

 

stories, written in the vernacular of

 

street-smart young people, would be

 

set in his world, including overflow?

 

ing Cristal champagne, skyscraper

 

cribs with wraparound views, fast

 

cars, and lots of beautiful women.

 


 

A book series that glamorizes thug life raises

 

questions for its publisher. by Gregory Fairchild

 


 

O

 


 

Calvin?s move from TV to paper?

 

back publishing, and from a mostly

 

black organization to one in which he

 

and Olivia were the only two people

 

of color, had been unusual. But Olivia

 


 

n her morning jogs through

 


 

company introduced several new and

 


 

had promised him lots of leeway and

 


 

Golden Gate Park, Olivia

 


 

instantly popular lines, all targeting

 


 

support to get new products off the

 


 

Torres usually tried not to

 


 

nonmainstream audiences?not just

 


 

ground. She was thrilled to be making

 


 

think about work, but today she

 


 

men in midlife crisis but also gays

 


 

good on that promise.

 


 

couldn?t help herself. As the head of

 


 

and lesbians and people of color?

 


 

marketing and new product develop?

 


 

and Chartoff grew rapidly. ?They

 


 

stopped for a drink of water and

 


 

ment at Chartoff Publishing, she had

 


 

rewrote the book on pulp fiction,?

 


 

checked her phone. A new e?mail

 


 

just proposed a line of e?books, the

 


 

a San Francisco Chronicle reporter

 


 

from Harris Chartoff had the subject

 


 

El Diablo series, to the company?s

 


 

remarked on the publisher?s 25th an?

 


 

line ?We?ve got to talk.? His note

 


 

leadership team, and everyone had

 


 

niversary. But now, with the future of

 


 

was quick and to the point: ?It?s

 


 

loved the pitch. Olivia had left the

 


 

print seeming iffy at best, Harris was

 


 

about El Diablo. Call me as soon as

 


 

meeting elated, and an end-of-day

 


 

looking for ways to save the company

 


 

you get this.?

 


 

Halfway through her run, she

 


 

e?mail from Harris Chartoff, the

 


 

from extinction. He had hired Olivia,

 


 

company?s founder and CEO??Nice

 


 

a former tech executive, to enhance

 


 

he cut right to the chase: ?We may

 


 

presentation today, Olivia. Please tell

 


 

its digital offerings.

 


 

need to rethink El Diablo.?

 


 

your team I?m impressed with their

 


 

The El Diablo series was the

 


 

work??had only excited her more.

 


 

brainchild of Olivia?s newest team

 


 

Harris had started Chartoff

 

Publishing in 1978, after

 


 

member, Calvin Hart, a former

 


 

When she reached him on his cell,

 


 

?Why?? Olivia asked, taken aback.

 

?What?s going on??

 

Harris explained that he?d been at

 


 

African-American

 


 

raiser the night before, and Theresa

 


 

an ad agency to

 


 

GRAHAM SAMUELS

 


 

an ACLU of Northern California fund-

 


 

quitting his job at

 


 

Gregory Fairchild

 

is the E. Thayer

 

Bigelow Associate

 

Professor of

 

Business Admin?

 

istration at the

 

University of

 

Virginia?s Darden

 

School of Business.

 


 

media manager at an

 

cable network. Inspired

 


 

Cooper, the head of the Institute

 


 

write a series of

 

paperbacks about

 


 

by data showing that

 

African-Americans and Latinos

 


 

for African-Americans in the Media,

 

IAAM, had tracked him down. ?She

 


 

white-collar business?

 


 

use social media and mobile devices

 


 

wasn?t happy,? Harris said. Olivia had

 


 

men dropping out to join bands of

 


 

far more than whites do, he had con?

 


 

seen Theresa interviewed on CNN

 


 

motorcyclists. He was a mediocre

 


 

ceived of the series as micro e?books

 


 

and being quoted in the Chronicle

 


 

novelist but a skilled marketer, so the

 


 

that minority teens?a long-?untapped

 


 

about fighting negative images of

 


 

series became a hit. In the 1980s the

 


 

market for publishers?could read

 


 

blacks in the media.

 


 

January?February 2015?Harvard Business Review?113

 


 

EXPERIENCE

 


 

?What does that have to do with

 

El Diablo?

 

?She knows about the project,?

 


 

Tell us what

 

you would do

 

in this situation

 

at hbr.org.

 


 

Harris said, annoyance in his voice.

 

?And she thinks it?s a damaging portrayal of African-American men that

 

glamorizes violence, drugs, and the

 

mistreatment of women.?

 

Olivia wasn?t surprised by

 

Theresa?s objections. When she

 


 

can yell and scream all she wants

 


 

the future of his business and didn?t

 


 

Diablo series, but our stories will be

 


 

want to risk a misstep when the

 


 

mild compared with the video games

 


 

stakes were so high.

 


 

and apps targeting teens, especially

 

blacks and Latinos.?

 

?Right?and our product at least

 

has the advantage of getting them to

 

read,? Olivia said.

 

?Exactly. Yes, these books will be

 


 

and Calvin had begun working on

 


 

violent. Yes, they?ll have lots of sex.

 


 

the project concept, they?d had

 


 

But that?s nothing new to these kids.

 


 

similar worries. But they?d told

 


 

And they want stories that reflect the

 


 

themselves that once the series was

 


 

world they?re living in and give them

 


 

successfully launched and this new

 


 

a hero to look up to.?

 


 

customer group had been hooked,

 


 

?Let?s be careful not to call

 


 

they could consider inserting more-

 


 

El?Diablo a hero,? Olivia said. ?He

 


 

positive images and messages into

 


 

does kill three people in the first

 


 

later installments.

 


 

installment.?

 


 

?Calvin went over the risks,? she

 


 

that he was deeply concerned about

 


 

about violence and sex in the El

 


 

?Which is how many you kill in

 


 

?Let?s do that this afternoon,

 

after Harris has finished his call

 

with Theresa Cooper,? she said.

 

?Apparently she wanted to go over her

 

concerns with him in detail.?

 


 

Just an E?book

 


 

??Digital malt liquor??? Calvin repeated. ?That?s what she called it??

 

Harris was relating his conversation with Theresa. ?The bottom line is

 

that if we release this product, IAAM

 

is going to protest.?

 

?Good?let them,? Calvin snapped.

 

Olivia shot him a warning look, signaling that he should tone it down in

 


 

said, ?and we expect some backlash

 


 

the first 30 seconds of playing Hotline

 


 

front of Harris. As the only Latina at

 


 

from groups like IAAM. But that

 


 

Miami,? Calvin replied. As part of

 


 

the company, she felt it was impor-

 


 

doesn?t outweigh the benefits?

 


 

their research for this product,

 


 

especially the financial ones?of this

 


 

they?d looked at some of the

 


 

product line.?

 


 

more violent video games

 


 

?We just need to be

 


 

available, and Olivia still

 


 

tant to project composure and professionalism at all times.

 

?Theresa said that this is another

 

attempt by a mainstream organiza-

 


 

careful here,? Harris

 


 

couldn?t erase certain

 


 

tion to make money off black males

 


 

responded. ?I trust

 


 

images from her mind.

 


 

while pretending to serve their needs,?

 


 

your judgment. But I

 

want you to think about

 

this and talk with Calvin. Now that

 

we?re getting some heat from outside, we might want to reconsider.?

 


 

?So you don?t have any misgivings?? she asked.

 

?Of course I feel a little bad,

 

but stories about upstanding black

 

accountants and doctors aren?t going to sell books. It?s not our job to

 


 

Harris continued, reading from his

 

scrawled notes.

 

?So she doesn?t care about

 

Latinos?? Calvin said jokingly.

 

?Oh, she implied that protests

 

were sure to come from Latino activ-

 


 

Bring on the Controversy

 


 

promote positive images of minori-

 


 

ists, too,? Harris said. ?This reminds

 


 

ties. That?s what Theresa does. We?re

 


 

me of what happened with Street

 


 

ting in Olivia?s office a few hours later.

 


 

a commercial publishing house. We

 


 

Publishers about 15 years ago.? He ex-

 


 

?This is great news,? Calvin said, sit?Let Theresa Cooper go to the press. It

 

will only boost sales.?

 

Strong sales were exactly what

 

Olivia needed. If Chartoff was going

 


 

need to meet with Harris again and

 


 

plained that Street, one of their main

 


 

go over the numbers. We?re looking at

 


 

competitors, had come out with a

 


 

close to $300,000 in sales in the first

 


 

book aimed at young inner-city men,

 


 

year?conservatively. And the poten-

 


 

shrink-wrapped with a CD of gangsta

 


 

to make this year?s revenue targets,

 


 

tial for expansion into other product

 


 

rap ?back when it was first on the

 


 

she had to come up with a hit product,

 


 

lines is promising. He thought it was

 


 

scene.? To help test the book, the

 


 

and all signs indicated that El Diablo

 


 

a fantastic idea yesterday.?

 


 

company had shipped 1,000 copies

 


 

could be one. A pilot story tested with

 


 

Olivia knew that Harris wasn?t

 


 

more than 200 African-American and

 


 

afraid of controversy. He?d built

 


 

Latino teens had gotten rave reviews

 


 

Chartoff by serving ?outsider? cus-

 


 

both in focus groups and in surveys.

 

?Plus this is an empty controversy,?

 

Calvin continued. ?Theresa Cooper

 


 

114 Harvard Business Review?January?February 2015

 

?

 


 

to a local prison.

 

?As soon as the press got word of

 

it,? he said, ?there were protests and

 


 

tomers, and he always took criticism

 


 

petitions, claims that the publisher

 


 

about the content of the company?s

 


 

was inciting violence.?

 


 

books in stride. But she also knew

 


 

?Did the books sell?? Calvin asked.

 


 

HBR.ORG

 


 

has me second-guessing

 


 

?Street never released

 

them,? Harris said. ?It

 


 

myself. I?m wonder?

 


 

caved under the media

 


 

ing whether the series

 


 

pressure.?

 


 

will do more harm than

 


 

Olivia broke in. ?Help

 


 

good. Maybe Chartoff

 


 

us understand, Harris. As

 


 

Publishing needs to have

 


 

Calvin has said, the public?

 


 

more of a conscience.?

 

?Why do you need a conscience?

 


 

ity may be a good thing. Lots of

 

Chartoff?s series got their start in the

 


 

What about video game producers

 


 

hot seat. What exactly are you wor?

 


 

and Hollywood? They don?t seem

 

to be concerned about ruining boys?

 


 

ried about??

 


 

minds. You?re not the bad guys.

 


 

?I?ve always felt we were on the

 

side of the underdog?getting books

 


 

Besides, if you wanted to take on vio?

 


 

out there about and for people who

 


 

lent culture in the U.S., you?d have a

 


 

didn?t typically have books written

 


 

different job. You were excited about

 


 

about or for them,? he replied. ?I was

 


 

this job because you wanted to create

 


 

happy to stand behind those. But this

 


 

best-selling books and discover ways

 


 

feels different somehow.?

 


 

to keep people reading even if print

 


 

?I think it?s fair to say that we?ve all

 

had concerns at some point, but

 


 

is disappearing.?

 

?Right?but I?m not sure I?d let

 


 

I still believe in the El Diablo project,?

 

?Coming from a black man, that?s

 


 

son. ?And if I wouldn?t let my own

 


 

persuasive,? Harris said. ?But no one

 


 

nephew read it, should we be pro?

 


 

has ever before insinuated that one of

 


 

moting it to others??

 


 

our series was going to bring down an

 

entire population of minority teens.?

 

?This is just a series of e?books,?

 


 

?Let their aunts worry about what

 

they read. You worry about launch?

 

ing a successful product. The market

 


 

Olivia said. ?You know that?s not true.?

 

?Do I?? Harris asked.

 


 

research was all good, right??

 

?Yes. I?m confident that this series

 

will do well and make Chartoff some

 


 

More of a Conscience

 


 

decent money. But it?s not really

 


 

That night Olivia?s wife, Sara, brought

 


 

about whether we could sell it. It?s

 


 

home their favorite takeout, but

 


 

about whether we should.?

 


 

Olivia had no appetite.

 

?Bad day?? Sara asked.

 

Olivia told her about Theresa

 


 

Q

 


 

Cooper?s objections to El Diablo and

 

the meeting with Harris.

 


 

?So he wants to pull the project??

 


 

?No, he wants me to make the call.?

 

?At least he trusts you,? Sara said.

 

?You?re not having second thoughts

 

now, are you? You?ve been gung ho

 

about this project for months.?

 


 

?That?s right,? Olivia replied. ?I had

 

those initial concerns about the con?

 

tent, but I convinced myself that this

 

would make inroads with the market

 

segment. Now stupid Theresa Cooper

 


 

Introduce CSR

 

Olivia should go ahead with the

 

series. The market is untapped

 

and there?s a huge opportunity for

 

growth and diversification into other

 

product lines. To handle the heat

 

from IAAM, Chartoff could introduce

 

some corporate social responsibility activities to educate minors and

 

guide them toward a better way

 

of living. That would project an

 

image of helping society fight evil

 

and simultaneously create a huge

 

customer base.

 

Abhimanyu Singh, business development

 

executive, SalesProGlobal

 


 

Melvin read El Diablo,? Olivia said,

 

referring to her sister?s 13-year-old

 


 

Calvin said, calmer now.

 


 

HBR?s fictionalized

 

case studies

 

present problems

 

faced by leaders

 

in real companies

 

and offer solutions

 

from experts.

 

This one is based

 

on the HBS Case

 

Study ?El Diablo:

 

The Corner Cleaner

 

Affair? (product

 

no. UV1924-PDFENG), by Gregory

 

Fairchild, which

 

is available at

 

hbr.org.

 


 

Comments from the

 

HBR.org community

 


 

Should Olivia pull

 

the plug on the

 

El Diablo series?

 

See the commentaries following.

 


 

Misplaced Responsibility

 

This is a case of political correctness run rampant: Responsibility for

 

implementing effective controls and

 

standards is passed from consumers

 

back to business. Our society has

 

sufficient laws, rights, and regulations to protect us from inappropriate products, so if a company isn?t

 

breaking any laws or breaching

 

any rights or regulations, a social

 

conscience should not impact how

 

it meets its revenue targets.

 

Arthur Weiss, senior technology

 

manager, IT services

 


 

Warning Needed

 

We sit through shows like The

 

Sopranos because they offer compelling dialogue and imagery between the scenes where we squint

 

and cringe. If Olivia wouldn?t let her

 

nephew read the El Diablo series

 

because he?s too young, she should

 

put an age warning on the books. If

 

she wouldn?t let him read it because

 

there?s nothing redeemable about it,

 

she should pull the plug.

 

Liesl Margolin, freelance architect

 

January?February 2015?Harvard Business Review?115

 


 

 


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