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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.

Consider, if you will, the hamburger.

Now, what is a hamburger, really? Meat and a bun. Put them together, and you’ve got a hamburger in its most basic form.

Of course, there are a lot of different variations on the hamburger. We all have our favorites.

I like mine with lettuce and tomato.
Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes.
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer.
Good god almighty, which way do I steer?

But putting this lyrical approach to the hamburger aside for the moment, I know there are a number of hamburgers that I love.

For example, when I was a college student in Los Angeles, I used to love middle-of-the-night visits to the Original Tommy’s at the corner of Rampart and Beverly, where the double chili cheeseburgers were so potent that I once dripped a little chili on my car and it ate away the paint. I have to admit, though, that I haven't been there in a long time…I’m not sure what the chili would do to my stomach these days, and so I have to concede that the Tommy’s burgers may be better in memory than in reality.

In more recent days, there are lots of places that I go to where they serve a great burger. For example, there are two places in Seattle – Etta’s, which one of my sons says makes the best burger he’s ever eaten, and Lola’s, where they make an incredible lamb burger. Closer to home, there’s a place called the River Cat Grill that makes a wonderful pesto burger that I love…served with tomato, mozzarella cheese and, naturally, pesto. And a place called Napa & Company makes a Wagyu burger with gouda cheese that is melt in your mouth good…the only problem being that they’ve priced it beyond the point where I can afford to buy it.

Michael Sansolo likes to say that his favorite burger is an In ‘n Out, and I have to admit I’ve become a fan, just as I also like Five Guys burgers a lot, especially the grilled onions and the Cajun-style French fries. I recently went to a place called The Counter which is quite good because of the way they customize virtually every component of it…and one my favorite places is Burgerville, which serves its outstanding burgers with Tillamook cheese and amazing berry smoothies.

I mention these last ones because they all essentially are fast food burgers, and yet they transcend the fried hockey pucks served at some fast food joints…proving that speed and convenience don’t have to mean low quality.

I fully expect that you have your own list…and if you send me your favorites, not only will I post them on the site, but I’ll do my best to visit them. And, the first 25 people who submit best burger joints that I’ve never heard of will get a free limited edition MorningNewsBeat canvas shopping bag.

Now, why have I gone through this burger litany? Simple.

Go back to where I started. Viewed as a commodity, a hamburger is just meat and a bun. But with a little innovation and imagination, a burger becomes something more, something special. It becomes something that gives the place that sells it a differential advantage.

The same thing goes for many of our stores and many of our products. Even in a time of economic duress, it continues to make sense to apply innovation and imagination to how we create and market them.

I was talking to a guy from the private label industry this week who told me that his company’s sales were pretty flat, and he said that the problem is that “what we’re selling isn’t anything special.”

I’m pretty sure he’s right. That is the problem.

Because in 2008 and beyond, I don't know how you sell products that aren’t special in some way, that don't offer some sort of advantage, whether it be nutritional, environmental, psychological, spiritual, or whatever. Because if your products aren’t special in some way, it is likely that at least one of your competitors will sell products that are.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

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