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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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Tuesday Morning Eye-Opener: Big Flood, Big Hearts

by Kevin Coupe

Let's take a moment this morning to applaud the companies that - as they usually do in times of crisis - have come across with donations of money and food to help people living in the devastated regions of Louisiana, dealing with both the short-term and long-term impact of flooding there.

This won't be a complete list, but among them...

• Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million in cash and in-kind donations "to provide additional food, water, cleaning supplies and other essential items to those in critical need. Funds will also be used towards longer term recovery efforts."

• Southeastern Grocers - parent company to Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo and Harveys - has created a mechanism for its customers to donate money to flood relief efforts in all of its stores, pledging to match every dollar through its Southeastern Grocers Foundation.

• Hormel donated more than 34,000 pounds of shelf-stable products to flood relief efforts.

And that doesn't even count the numerous retailers and suppliers that consistently give to charitable organizations like the American Red Cross, and up their donations in times of crisis.

For as long as I've been writing about this industry, I've consistently been impressed by the degree to which companies step up to the plate when they are needed. It always has been an Eye-Opener, and certainly worth acknowledging.

The Case Against Comment Sense

USA Today reports on a number of media outlets that have decided to eliminate the comments sections that traditionally have followed stories on their websites, citing the often toxic, irrelevant and bullying tone used by some readers.

Among the media companies are National Public Radio (NPR) and the Quad-City Times, following earlier examples set by Popular Science, CNN, Reuters, and the Chicago Sun Times.

Autumn Phillips, executive editor of the Quad-City Times, says that she reached the decision after finding "a sea of ridiculousness, hate speech and online bullying" in comments sections. And both Phillips and NPR emphasized that "the decisions hardly meant that the news outlets no longer were interested in what their audiences were thinking. Both stressed their eagerness to hear from readers and listeners on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter  and in a wide variety of other ways. But both agreed that comments had run their course. And so they have."

KC's View: While toxicity of sentiment, tone and actual content is not isolated to websites' comments sections, it is on these sites that they tend to achieve their highest volume and lowest standards. I found this USA Today story interesting because I made the decision almost 16 years ago on MNB not to create an online bulletin board where anybody could say anything, even though it would save me all the time that I spend reading emails and deciding which ones to post. I just figured that part of my editorial responsibility was to curate the comments and keep the conversation on course. (One always has to be aware of the lunatic fringe...)

I think that the general tenor of the discourse in America these days - I talked about this yesterday in my comments about how consumers often are unpleasant to store and hotel employees around the country - means that anyone with a website that encourages consumers to comment/respond needs to be vigilant about the things that people say there.

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From MyWebGrocer...

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Amazon Hits The Road With Expanding Hyundai Relationship

Yahoo News reports that Amazon will use its Prime service to offer Hyundai test drives to its members.

According to the story, "The program runs through Amazon Prime Now, the speedy-delivery service designed for shoppers who can't wait the two days that Prime usually takes. By visiting, Hyundai shoppers can have a car brought to their location, whether that's a home, business, or cafe. They'll then have up to an hour to take the car for a spin. (If they like it, though, they'll have to visit a dealership to make a purchase.)

"As nice as that might sound to harried souls, the program has a couple of limitations.
For starters, Hyundai is only offering consumers one model to test drive via Amazon Prime Now: the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. If that's not on your must-have list, this isn't going to benefit you. Also, the program is limited to Orange County and Los Angeles, California. If you're itching to get behind the wheel of a 2017 Elantra and live somewhere else, we're afraid you're going to have to do this the old-fashioned way: by visiting a dealership."

The test drive promotion is scheduled to take place this Saturday and Sunday.

This is just the beginning of Amazon's relationship with Hyundai. Last week, Yahoo News writes, "Hyundai announced that some functions in its Genesis line of luxury vehicles could be controlled via Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa."

KC's View: One can expect, I would think, that if there is a lot of activity around this promotion in Southern California this weekend, it seems likely that Amazon will roll it out to additional markets and perhaps work with different car companies. We already live in a world where the act of buying a car has changed dramatically, with consumers having far more information and negotiating power than previously.

This conceivably could be the next iteration.

When one considers other changes that have taken place in the car buying process - like Tesla moving away from the traditional dealership model - it seems entirely possible that in a few years, buying a car will be nothing like it used to be. That's hardly a bad thing, because not many people really like going out to buy a car ... except of course, if you are in the car selling business. Then, you'll probably consider this to be a job killer.

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From ProLogic Retail Services...

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Worth Reading: The Monetization of Genetic Research

Fast Company has a fascinating story about new and groundbreaking studies being done by medical researchers, using "insights gathered from customers of 23andMe, the Google-backed company that makes a direct-to-consumer genetic test kit. Perhaps best known for its battles with regulators over its consumer genetics test in 2013, 23andMe has quietly expanded its business to include brokered access to its database of more than 1 million people’s DNA.

"Everyone who uses the company's $199 test kit receives a request to participate in research. If they agree, their health data is added to a separate database. With 80% of customers consenting, the company has amassed a health data gold mine - and researchers are eager to study it."

23andMe, the story says, "is one of a growing number of companies that are developing consumer-friendly tools for researchers, although it is one of a small number focused on genomics. Large academic hospitals like Stanford Medicine and Duke are currently using Apple's ResearchKit to collect health information via iPhones. Fitbit is also investing in this area: Researchers are increasingly incorporating its step and heart rate data into large population health studies."

There are issues associated with this trend. One is the accuracy of the data being accumulated by companies based on surveys; people don't always answer truthfully about things like weight and alcohol consumption, for example. Another emerging issue is whether consumers providing personal data to companies ought to be compensated for their participation, especially since these companies potentially can reap a financial bonanza from the results of some of these studies.

But the larger point that retailers - especially those who are putting any sort of stake in the ground with a health-and-wellness play - need to think about is the amount of data that is being generated that allows for the creation of new products and services. Some of this information inevitably will lead to products and services that they can/will carry on their shelves. And, in the broadest sense, retailers need to emulate the strategy of compiling data, compiling data, and then compiling more data ... and then customer-designing their stores to match what they know their customers want and believe their customers desire.

Great piece in Fast Company, and you can read it here.

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From ReposiTrak ... A New CEO Spotlight Series...

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E-conomy Beat

• The Omaha World-Herald reports that Kroger-owned Baker's "is joining Hy-Vee and Walmart in offering online grocery ordering in Omaha, starting today at a Bellevue location and expanding in the next two weeks to two west Omaha stores."

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From the National Grocers Association...

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Baste Not, Want Not

The Associated Press reports that KFC has begun a late summer promotion in which it has given away 3,000 bottles of sunscreen, and in fact has run out.

The corporate connection - KFC says that it smells like fried chicken as a way of promoting its Extra Crispy Chicken (which has been the subject of new commercials in which ultra-tanned actor George Hamilton plays Col. Sanders).

The story notes that "several Associated Press reporters who tested the sunscreen said the smell did not immediately bring to mind chicken, however."

KC's View: Not sure which is worse. The promise, or not delivering on it.

Actually, I do know which is worse...

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From the Network of Executive Women (NEW)...

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Amazon Plans To Play A Pair Of Different Tunes

Recode reports that Amazon is working on two different music subscription services - one that would compete with Apple, Spotify and Pandora and allow customers to stream all the music they want, on any device, for a $10 per month subscription fee, and another that would cost half the price and only work on Amazon's Echo family of devices.

The story notes that "the $10-a-month service would replicate features that used to be hard to find, but are now common: Unlimited, ad-free music you can play on any device you want and also download for offline playback.

"The lower-priced service would represent a novel approach. Other services have tried, without success, to offer subscriptions in the $5 range. But those have usually been variants of web radio services, which don’t let users play any song they want, whenever they want." This approach, Recode writes, "runs counter to conventional wisdom in the music business, which believes that most people value the ability to take their music with them and play it whenever they want."

KC's View: I suppose it makes sense to create different tiers for music customers, though my personal desire is for one system that works everywhere - on my smartphone, in my car, on my computer, etc... Right now, I pretty much want to talk to my Echo and Alexa everywhere, and want it to access everything from turning on and off lights to playing music and ordering products.

Though Michael Sansolo says that I'm only going to get into trouble when I call Mrs. Content Guy "Alexa" ... since that isn't her name.

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From Samuel J. Associates...Why Career Success Is Not A Shiny Car

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The MNB Walmart Watch

The Street reports that Walmart-owned Asda Group in the UK has sold off its photo division for "a mere" $7.04 million (US) to Photo-Me International, part of its move to streamline its business and focus on core strengths.

"The sale comes a week after Asda reported its steepest decline in quarterly sales ever," The Street writes. "The 621-store chain saw same-store sales fall 7.5% in the second quarter compared with a fall of 5.7% in the first quarter ... The sale is also the first under new CEO Sean Clarke, who took the helm in mid-July. Clarke will attempt to turn around the struggling business, that is losing market share to low-cost retailers Aldi and Lidl."

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Energize your Digital Circular

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• The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that "Lucky's Market, the Kroger Co.-backed specialty grocer, is planning several locations in the Tampa Bay region ... Lucky's has several locations in Florida already, including in Naples and Orlando."

The story notes that Kroger's decision to invest in Lucky's - which describes itself as offering organic food "for the 99 percent" - earlier this year has allowed the company to significant accelerate its growth plans.

Sansolo Speaks

Michael Sansolo is off, but will return in September.

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Register Now for the Path to Purchase Expo

Register today to reserve your spot!

The Path to Purchase Expo, the world’s largest gathering of shopper and retail marketing professionals, delivers solutions and strategies for engaging shoppers and driving retail sales.

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Jack Riley, who probably gained the most fame during a long acting career for playing Mr. Carlin, a self-absorbed patient of Bob Newhart's psychologist in the original "Bob Newhart Show," has passed away at age 80.

Riley also was a favorite of Mel Brooks, who cast him in Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World: Part I and Spaceballs. He also had a small role in one of my favorite movies, Robert Altman's film version of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye.

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Topical, relevant, engaging, thought-provoking...Who could ask for anything more?

When Kevin Coupe gets on stage in front of your company meeting, association conference, or any other event, the pace is fast ... the thoughts are provocative ... the focus is innovation ...the style is entertaining and interactive ... and the reviews are glowing...

"Kevin inspired our Stew Leonard's management team with his insights about the food industry and his enthusiasm. We've had the best come in to address our group, and Kevin Coupe was rated right up there.  He had our team on the edge of their chairs!"
- Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard's

"Our sales organization is a very skeptical bunch, and your presentation was both topical and relevant. The content was right on to address the meeting theme, and was presented in way that kept the audience enthralled. I had quite a few positive comments at the break, something that does not happen frequently. We appreciate the time and effort to help make this sales meeting one of the best we have had in several years."
- Jon Kramer, Chief Marketing Officer, WestRock Merchandising Displays

“Kevin’s presentation to our Phoenix group was very well received! The topic was very relevant to all the retailers in the room, with just the right amount of humor. The icebreaker at the beginning, and the personal interaction at the end was truly engaging!”
- Cathy Kloos, Director of Human Resources, Albertsons Safeway

“Kevin was an engaging speaker whose stories really brought the concepts to life. Although his lessons were focused on retail rules to achieve business success I found the lessons could be directly linked to enhancing my leadership style. “
- Jessie Thomas, Director Merchandising Solutions, MDM and PMO, Petsmart

And there's more...

"Your presentation was well-received, very thought-provoking and was a great lead-in to the overall theme of our show."
- Tim Myers, CMO, Affiliated Foods Midwest

"Your presentation was unbelievable – everything we hoped for and much, much more!  Thanks for making our customers (and us) better!"
- Joe Himmelheber, Director of Marketing and Merchandising, Caito Foods

"Both of your presentations kept the audience engaged ... This was a difficult subject, but you made it easy to understand - and learn from. Everyone who has not yet seen one of your presentations, should know how informative and to the point your program is and how it will definitely enhance their event. "
- John M. Dumais, president/CEO, New Hampshire Grocers Association

"Kevin is an engaging speaker who really brought the content to life.  He customized his program to meet our needs to ensure our event was a success!
-Kim Richardson-Roach, Network of Executive Women (NEW), New England Region

"The response to this session was overwhelmingly positive. The audience appreciated the lively and enlightening exchange between the moderator and panelists ... the spark you added to the panel as moderator contributed to the flame of excitement this event engendered ... Thank you for helping ground the material in a reality readily recognized ..."
-Leslie G. Sarasin, President/CEO, Food Marketing Institute (FMI)

Kevin Coupe uses his unique perspective as MorningNewsBeat "Content Guy" and more than 30 years writing about business, marketing and innovation to identify the ways in which consumers are changing, the reasons behind these changes (technology, the economy, culture, demographics), how new and unorthodox competitors are altering the marketing landscape, and what companies need to do to find and exploit differential advantages.

Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?Start here: Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

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Your Views

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