Published on: June 5, 2008Now available on iTunes…To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:
Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
When I began MorningNewsBeat more than six years ago, one of my goals was to create a site that people could read while having a cup of coffee and that, hopefully, would have at least one or two stories each day that they’d want to tell someone about when they went to get a refill. That means, however, that I try to respect your time and keep MorningNewsBeat’s coverage to a reasonable length…not every story makes the cut, as much as I would like to write about them.
This morning, however, I thought I’d bring up a couple of stories that I’ve read during the week that sort of intrigued me, but that didn’t make it into the daily column…
For example, there was the Wall Street Journal
interview with Campbell Soup CEO Douglas Conant, in which he conceded that his company had lost the innovation war in soup last year, despite the fact that it is a category that the company continues to dominate. “That can't happen again,” he said.
My first reaction to this piece was that Douglas Conant must be a very secure and confident guy, because admitting that you’ve lost the innovation war isn’t usually a way to warm the hearts of investors and board members.
But it ends up that this is a consistent approach on the part of Conant, who has some basic tenets about how to do business – including “confront the brutal facts and be clear-eyed about the situation,” and “give the organization time to do things right.” I suppose that if the company goes another year in which it loses the innovation war there may be investors looking for people’s heads on pikes. But I don't think that is likely to happen…especially because I’ve tasted the V-8 soups that the company is coming out with in August. In fact, we mentioned them as a hot new product on our first edition of FoodWireTV, and I know for a fact that I’ll be buying them by the case. They taste great and are a great idea.
There also was a story in Advertising Age
about purposeful marketing campaigns – in other words, campaigns that go beyond just trying to sell stuff, but have a broader contextual meaning.
Examples include companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever creating wellness campaigns that attempt to redefine the notion of what is beautiful or what is healthy. Or Kimberly-Clark rolling out a $2 million, three-year "Not on My Watch" program for a bus tour “to teach nurses and others to combat hospital-associated infections that kill an estimated 100,000 people annually in the US.” Or Johnson & Johnson funding the world’s largest database on children’s sleep issues.
I have to say that in today’s competitive environment, pretty much everybody should be talking about the meaning that products and services have in people’s lives, or the ways in which these items can change perceptions and actions. I love the notion advanced by the Institute for the Future that we live in a “VUCA” world…one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous…and I think that by creating marketing with meaning, or the purposeful campaign, companies have the ability to make the world less volatile and less uncertain, with both less complexity and more clarity.
This could be a game changer for a lot of companies.
Finally, there was a story that didn’t make MorningNewsBeat because I couldn’t figure out how to make it relevant…but I can't ignore it anymore. Let me quote to you excerpts from the column by Clyde Haberman in the New York Times
“You see, there were these two New York guys acting like, well, New York guys. In some circles, they’re called alpha males. Sometimes, alpha males come hard-wired with omega emotional quotients.
“That seemed to be the case with these guys, both Wall Street types. They went to the same spinning class at a gym on the Upper East Side. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, spinning involves a workout on a stationary bicycle. It has nothing to do with a Gandhi-like pursuit of producing one’s own clothing.
“One of these men, Stuart Sugarman, was being obnoxious in a New York guy way. To pump himself up, he kept grunting loudly and shouting phrases like ‘Good burn!’ and ‘You go, girl!’ The fact that other people might not have appreciated his loud grunts and screams was a concept apparently beyond his grasp.
“One of those other people, Christopher Carter, couldn’t take it anymore. He was a few feet away on his own bike. He asked the grunter to pipe down. To be more precise, he yelled the four-word New York version of “shut up.” The grunter told him no. To be more precise, witnesses reported that Mr. Sugarman said, “Make me,” and gave Mr. Carter a salute — neglecting, however, to use all his fingers.
“Mr. Carter hopped off his bike. (We told you these were New York guys acting like New York guys.) He picked up the front end of Mr. Sugarman’s bike, drove the rear end into a wall and let go. Knocked off his perch, the grunter literally hit the wall. He landed in the hospital for two weeks.
“For his burst of anger, Mr. Carter was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with a misdemeanor count of assault. He went on trial last week.
“Here’s the thing, though. Some disinterested people believe that Mr. Carter should have been decorated, not indicted. We know this because they wrote us to say so. They also told bloggers the same thing.”
I love it. ‘Give the guy a medal!”
First of all, this is really good writing. And it is a really good story. But while you might think it is an “only in New York” story, Haberman has other ideas…
“Examples of this phenomenon abound,” he writes. “An outsize sense of entitlement — coupled with an indifference to others — helps explain the drivers who barrel through crosswalks with no regard for the pedestrians with the right of way.
“It helps explain ballpark loudmouths who couldn’t care less if those around them may be offended by their drunken swearing. It helps explain people who push their way into crowded subway cars before riders already in the cars can exit. It helps explain those who answer cellphones during a movie, or who take infants to the theater and then don’t leave when the babies start crying. It helps explain dog walkers who block sidewalks with their long-stretched leashes.”
The evidence would suggest that people are beginning to relate more and more to Howard Beale, the anchorman character in “Network” who wanted people to throw open their windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
What evidence am I talking about, other than the fact that some people think that Carter should be given a medal?
Well, there’s the jury in his case…which voted to acquit him.
I think that’s a good thing. But to be honest, I’m not sure.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.