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).






Case Study


Should You


Sell That





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






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






raiser the night before, and Theresa



an ad agency to






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






?What does that have to do with


El Diablo?


?She knows about the project,?



Tell us what


you would do


in this situation





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.






?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.






has me second-guessing



?Street never released


them,? Harris said. ?It



myself. I?m wonder?



caved under the media



ing whether the series






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






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



Comments from the 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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