business news in context, analysis with attitude

Not everyone agreed with our coverage of the VNU Consumer 360 Conference over the past few days. MNB user Kevin Foley wrote:

“I find your excitement over the "new news" at Consumer 360 very interesting.

“We have known for years that all consumers gravitate towards homogeneity the longer they are in the US and as they increase in education and income. That is not so much from a cultural habit perspective but, mostly from a purchase habit perspective and the early adopter news is not new either. Most anyone who has followed their new product launches with some precision know about the early adopter. Test markets, if planned properly, are usually stacked to focus on early adopter demos. This give you a good read on your focus consumer and, frankly, may insure the Brand Manager’s success.

“I think that VNU is struggling along these days and trying to position themselves as the consumer insights experts. However, I have not seen much "new news' from them in years.”

One man’s new news is another man’s old news. (Though we try to be in the new news business as much as possible…)

It probably is worth pointing out, in the interest of fairness, that we also got some phone calls looking for more information about sessions offered at Consumer 360. So the VNU folks clearly hit a chord with some people.

Just not everyone.

Responding to yesterday’s story about food industry companies and associations lining up to support the Bush administration’s proposed Medicare reforms, one member of the MNB community wrote:

“As far as I am concerned, the elderly have paid taxes and everything else all their lives, and now Bush wants to deny the poor elderly any thing they may have coming. What a shame, we can send billions of dollars to other countries, but cheat our elderly out of everything they worked for in the United States of America.

“What do the wealthy care about the average elderly citizen?”

On the subject of HEB expanding its Houston operations, one MNB user offered up the fervent hope that the company would move further east. A lot further east:

“Come to Georgia. Any HEB store transposed into Georgia would be 200% better than ANY store or format in the state. I cannot understand why this type store has not taken hold here in Georgia. A large store here is 60,000 sq. ft and the selection is horribly small. This displaced Texan was amazed at how under developed the retail trade is in this state. When we return to Texas and HEB country we are in awe.”

No offense, but we just knew that had to be a Texan writing, and not a Georgian…

But he’s certainly right about HEB’s consistent level of excellence, and the wonders of its Central Market operation.

Another MNB user concurred:

“HEB is an incredibly well run company. They're visionary but competitive. No one beats them at their game.

“Not even the 800 pound gorilla.”

What 800 pound gorilla would that be?

Regarding Kmart’s decision to reserve stock for top executives, which we felt ignored the folks in the stores who really make the company work, one MNB user wrote:

“How is Kmart different than any other company? The Top People always get the rewards while us who do the work bite the proverbial bullet.”

That’s probably true to a great extent. That doesn’t diminish our outrage, which is greater in Kmart’s case because management keeps making the same damned mistakes over and over. (It’s like the Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day,” except that it isn’t funny, they never seem to learn, and at the end the hero won’t get Andie McDowell.)

Granted, different companies work different ways. But we feel that any company that doesn’t create a structure in which its people all share in the benefits of continued growth and success is actually not taking advantage of its human assets.

We’ve gotten into an ongoing discussion the last few days about the nature of leadership, and an MNB user wrote to throw another quote into the mix:

“The true purpose of leadership is to create more leaders, not more followers.”

There was another line we liked on the subject in the recent issue of Fast Company, from Al Wasserberger, founder, chairman and CEO of Spirian Technologies:

“Managers guide, delegate, inspire and hold their teams accountable for the company’s performance. Leaders break things, shake things up and provide an organization with example and vision…Displaying ‘management’ characteristics will get you promoted to middle management. Displaying ‘leadership’ characteristics will get you to the top. True leaders break things and take risks to build long-term value.”
KC's View: