Kintsugi and Service Paradox

Management Musings of Prof. Harihara Subramanian

I recently came across the Japanese term, Kinstsugi (golden joinery) or Kinstsukuroi (golden repair). This is the art of repairing broken porcelain with gold or other precious materials. Japanese have perfected this as an art form. More: It reflects the Japanese philosophy of not hiding imperfections but embracing flaws.

The products after repairs are also more beautiful than the original.

While the first interpretation of embracing flaws may appeal to a social scientist, for a marketing professional like me the latter effect of looking more beautiful after repair may have a better appeal.

In services management, we often talk about ‘Service recovery paradox’ – a situation where the customer satisfaction is much higher when the company quickly and efficiently corrects a service deficiency as compared to the satisfaction if the service had been error free. In other words, the customer satisfaction seems higher after the recovery.

Can effective service recovery be called ‘Service Kintsukuroi’?


Quirky pricing policy by Sensodyne or is it too clever?

Pricing is always a tricky part of the marketing mix. when you combine it with promo schemes, it becomes even more potent.
Recently in a supermarket I was shopping for toothpaste and came across Sensodyne’s two SKUs. One, a 40 g,m pack for Rs 55. Another, a 70 gm pack for Rs 150. The size of the pack was huge and there was a promo of a toothbrush worth Rs 50 free. If you had not looked at the actual content of toothpaste, one would have been tempted to pick the larger pack. 

I fail to understand GSK’s pricing and promo policies. Do you?

What got you here won’t get you there. Summary

‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ by Marshall Goldsmith is a classic on how success and the consequent attitude can hinder further successes. It also provides some ways to overcome these bad habits. Remember ‘feed forward’?
Now I found a neat summary of this book here :

Lessons from Monopoly, the most popular board game. or, A Review of a Book Review

The book, Monoplists, by Mary Pilon (Bloomsbury) seems to throw a lot of light on one of the most popular board games of all times, Monopoly. No, I haven’t read the book, but the review by Roger Lowenstien in Wall Street Journal ( is quite comprehensive. 

Parker Brothers bought the game from Charles Darrow in 1935 for $7000 and thought they had paid too much. They spun a story around Darrow of how an out of work family man developed this game slogging many nights in his basement. The popularity of Monopoly took off skywards. This Classic marketing tool illustrates the power of the story / narrative/ legend which could be anything from “a lie to a stretching of facts.”

What is more interesting is the possibility that Darrow’s games was derived from an older game called ‘ Landlord’s Game’. This  was developed by Elizabeth Magie, a feminist and a tax activist, to illustrate the evils of Capitalism. It is an irony that this game was instrumental in inspiring many capitalists and wannabes. A case of unintended consequences!

The review also touches upon concepts like copyrights (who can distribute), trademarks (who can use a name) and patents (who has the rights to restrict others from similar methods and devices).

Pilon also dwells on the dress as a symbol of power and economic disparity. How passe!

A minor point which I found interesting was the increase in popularity of board games after the advent of electricity in homes and increase in leisure. 

Should make interesting reading if I can get hold of the book.

The return of the Mission Statements

Vision and mission statements were once the flavor of many seasons. For sometime, I thought, they had lost their novelty and utility.

This article in today’s WSJ assures me that the mission statements are alive and kicking.

More and more corporates are using loftier mission (or is it vision? ) statements to woo and motivate employees.

Long live the mission statement!

Are American consumers idiots?

Seeing Americans sign up their freedom for a jazzy phone at apparently subsidized costs, one would think Americans are idiots. In  a country which boasts of choices, it is surprising.  Reading this article ones really wonders if the consumer is a moron.

In this context, Indian consumers are smart. They have squeezed out the best from not only the service providers and the handset makers but the regulators too.