Entrepreneurial Marketing - The Comic Book Guy
Students should gain familiarity with the following elements of business information literacy and specific information resources.
- The distinction and relative advantages between primary and secondary market research.
- The kinds of market information that are freely available on the Internet.
- The cost of pre-packaged market research reports.
- How to apply indirectly relevant sources and cope with the limitations of freely available information.
- American Factfinder on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website (http://factfinder.census.gov/)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey (http://www.bls.gov/cex/)
- Pew Internet and American Life Project (http://www.pewinternet.org/)
Large corporations and universities can afford premium sources of market research. But after graduation, if you go into business for yourself or work for a smaller company, what are your options? Herb Azaria wants to open a comic book store. He has some inventory in cardboard boxes in his garage, but he’ll need to convince some investors or a bank to fund his dream. And he’ll have to decide whether to open his store in Miami or to move back into his mother’s basement in Boston and open his store there.
This case provides an opportunity to educate students about the cost of secondary market research. A Google search for market research on any given topic typically reveals a number of market research reports available for purchase at prices as high as several thousand dollars. However, there is a large amount of information freely available on the Internet through government agencies and other sources. Students can brainstorm the types of data that would help Herb write a convincing business plan and decide where to locate his store. The librarian can point out which of those data are available from free sources.
Students will likely identify demographics as one factor in the decision about where Herb should locate his store. The librarian can demonstrate American Factfinder on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website (http://factfinder.census.gov/) as a source for demographic data. Students may have identified young people as the target demographic, and they can now spend several minutes using American Factfinder to determine which city—Boston or Miami—has a higher population of young people and to identify possible reasons for this trend. The exercise may surprise some students: in 2006 37% of Boston’s population was 15 to 34 years old, compared to 26% of Miami’s, which is likely related to the fact that 13% of Boston’s population are college or graduate students, compared to 5% of Miami’s population. Unexpected discoveries like this reward students’ efforts and engage their interest.
Knowing how much money people spend on comic books would help Herb build a business plan to impress potential investors or lenders. A good source for consumer spending data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey (http://www.bls.gov/cex/). Unfortunately, the data is insufficiently granular to address a niche category like comic books. This provides an opportunity for the librarian to discuss strategies for coping with such obstacles when conducting research. Students can then spend time exploring the Consumer Expenditure Survey or the American Time Use Survey (http://www.bls.gov/tus/) for information that, while not specific to comic books, might nevertheless prove useful. One or two students can present what they find and explain its relevance.
Third Resource (Optional)
"Herb also wonders whether creating a website for his store is worth the expense."
Free sources of relevant information might include E-commerce statistics from the Census Bureau’s E-Stats site (http://www.census.gov/eos/www/ebusiness614.htm) or data and reports from the Pew Internet and American Life Project (http://www.pewinternet.org/). After selecting and demonstrating a resource, students should be allowed time to explore it for relevant information, followed by one or two students presenting their opinions.
While the challenges presented by this case cannot be resolved in an hour-long session, it is important to remember that the purpose of using case studies in library instruction is not to discover a correct answer for the case but to discover principles of information literacy and learn research strategies. A review of the resources covered and the types of information they offer provides an opportunity to underscore these learning outcomes.
Humor helps engage students in this case, in which the protagonist can be playfully caricatured as a comic book geek.
Originally Submitted: January 16, 2009
- A copy of the handout created to accompany this case as conducted at Brigham Young University in February 2010 can be downloaded here.