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    Published on: January 27, 2009

    by Michael Sansolo

    Every so often we get to watch the game of marketing change slightly. We see a company or organization venture out of the box and we wonder: can it work, should it work and, if so, why didn’t we think of it first.

    Let’s be clear, this isn’t about violating laws. There are rules and laws that must be obeyed and I’d passionately argue that many of the economic troubles we are in today have been caused precisely by people forgetting that right and wrong do exist. Instead, I’m talking about attacking old conventions and finding advantage where none existed before. The opportunities are all around, but are rarely obvious. Let’s take three recent lessons: “American Idol,” Jay Leno and Jif Peanut Butter.

    It’s hard to believe there could possibly be any lessons learned from television these days, but “American Idol” and Jay Leno offer two. Let’s start with the former.

    “American Idol,” for those of you who don’t follow it, is the current kingpin of primetime television, if such a thing even exists. It is ratings gold and its network, Fox, knows it.

    So last week, Fox decided to fight a little un-fairly. On the night ABC was debuting one of its rating giants, “Lost,” Fox created a little problem: it ran “Idol” for an extra three minutes. Doing so - and doing the same for the show following Idol - meant that a chunk of the television audience unknowingly missed the first six minutes of “Lost.” That’s an interesting lesson in how to compete: use your best asset to keep shoppers from the competition. (By the way, the move worked and the ratings for “Lost” were hurt.)

    Of course, the downside is equally simple. Viewers of both “Idol” and “Lost,” if they don't happen to own DVRs or have access to iTunes, might rebel against this heavy handed treatment, although anything like that has yet to happen. History is shown that it only works for so long – the extra minute or two add-on is a technique that has been employed by NBC for years, and right now NBC’s ratings are pretty much in the basement…because it doesn’t seem to be making many shows that people want to watch. So the cautionary tale works both ways.

    The Jay Leno example is more complex. Leno will soon be leaving his 11:35 “Tonight Show” slot and moving to a new 10 p.m., Monday-through-Friday slot on NBC. Television critics have decried the move as a sign of NBC’s inability to create new shows that can draw a primetime audience. (See the problem cited above.) In addition, Leno’s show will be far less expensive to produce.

    But there is another side. As we know from stores and products, changing population patterns produce changing needs. And it’s very likely that aging Baby Boomers aren’t staying up for an hour-long show beginning at 11:35. It is also quite likely the younger generation remaining up at that time is more likely to turn to Stephen Colbert or Leno’s replacement, Conan O’Brien. But change comes with risk, as we also know from stores and products, and it’s possible that Leno’s move will simply make David Letterman more popular than ever. Or it might force CBS and Letterman to consider a similar move.

    Taking on conventional wisdom came to our industry last week thanks to Jif Peanut Butter. No doubt, Jif was facing a huge problem over the past few weeks. The media was constantly reporting on the salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter products and while the point was made consistently that jarred peanut butter was completely safe; we know people have a tendency to miss part of the story or to misinterpret it.

    So Jif bravely stepped on the third rail of food marketing and ran a simple ad proclaiming: “You Can Trust Jif.” (The website of Jif’s parent company, JM Smucker, was equally direct.) In short, Jif said there is a problem, but not with our products.

    Like it or not, food safety has become a constant issue and all parts of the food chain must do everything possible to ensure food quality. Various research studies have shown that the problems that come up diminish the overall public trust in our system. But that doesn’t mean the issue can’t be discussed.

    Sure, Jif’s ad could be viewed as risky, highlighting a product that is sitting in the middle of the media spotlight. It’s doubly risky in that there is no way of knowing where the next food safety problem will occur. But it also could be seen as brilliant, helping consumers better understand the problem facing them and the choices they can safely make. And Jif is putting a stake in the ground saying, trust us.

    Just as with “American Idol” and Leno, there is risk in acting, but there’s risk in doing nothing, too. A new day calls for new tactics and new strategies, whether it’s on primetime television or in the grocery aisles. Wake up; it’s a new day.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    A combined 37,000 US workers are being laid off, it was announced yesterday, setting the table for what many experts believe will be a dismal week for economic news, and presaging an unemployment rate that will continue to spike.

    The layoffs broke down like this:

    • Caterpillar said it would eliminate 20,000 jobs.
    • Sprint Nextel is cutting 8,000 jobs from its workforce.
    • Home Depot said that it will close its Expo stores as a failed experiment, and will drop 7,000 jobs from its books.
    • And General Motors said it would eliminate 2,000 jobs.

    In addition, Pfizer, as part of its acquisition of Wyeth, will eliminate 18,000 positions – though these are not all in the US.

    USA Today reports that some experts think that as many as three million Americans could lose their jobs in 2009.

    KC's View:
    We don't want you to be too depressed as you drink your morning coffee, and perhaps are tempted to drizzle a little Irish whiskey into it to ward off the chill, so read on to our next story…

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) has released its 2009 economic forecast, which suggests that the first half of 2009 is going to be pretty awful, that the third quarter may see some improvement, and the fourth quarter will see some real improvement…though this latter boost will look better than it is because it will be compared to the dismal fourth quarter of 2008.

    Q1-2 retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) will decrease 0.5% from last year, according to NRF, which says that there will be “more challenges ahead as consumers continue to shift their spending priorities.”

    The report goes on, “The first half of the year will see a continuation of the weakness that was felt in most of 2008. First half sales are expected to decline 2.5 percent. There will be some improvement in the third quarter with sales decreasing 1.1 percent. In the fourth quarter, sales are expected to improve 3.6 percent due to easy comparisons to last year as well as a strengthening economy.”

    KC's View:
    These days, any optimism is welcome. It seems to be in short supply.

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    The Seattle Times has a piece about how Costco is dealing with the recession, with CEO Jim Sinegal telling the paper that he expects private label sales to grow from 20 percent of the chain’s business to 25 percent in the next few years.

    In addition, according to the story:

    • “The down economy has given Costco some opportunities for luxury-item deals, including the chance to sell prime-grade meat that used to go almost exclusively to restaurants. With people eating out less often, said Sinegal, ‘there are not as many steaks being sold in restaurants, and we're selling them’.”

    • “The number of television sets sold at Costco is up more than 50 percent, Sinegal said, but they're priced so low that the chain has not seen a lot more money from those sales. He credits the low prices with driving those sales, but said customers also could be making different lifestyle choices. ‘It could be people saying that home entertainment is more important now than ever,’ Sinegal said.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    A new Cub Foods store opened in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been awarded EPA GreenChill Gold-Level Certification, which is given for outstanding use of environmentally-friendly refrigeration technology. In addition, the store is expected to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) NC 2.2 Gold Certification, which would make it the first Minnesota store to achieve that recognition.

    According to an announcement put out by the company, the new 62,900 square-foot Cub store has other sustainable features that include:

    • 44 skylights that illuminate 75 percent of regularly occupied spaces using a solar powered GPS system that tracks and redirects sunlight as needed.
    • The first commercial parking lot in Minnesota to be illuminated using only LED lights, which need to be replaced every 40 years and provide 50 percent energy savings.
    • Nearly half of the waste from buildings torn down on the construction site was recycled and reused as fill.
    • 35 percent savings in lighting costs compared to typical Cub stores.
    • A maintenance-free floor that eliminates the need for chemicals during the cleaning process.
    • A landscape irrigation system that uses 50 percent less water than typical systems.
    • 75 percent of the building construction waste will not end up in landfills. Instead, it will be recycled and turned into other useful materials.

    KC's View:
    Increasingly, I believe, consumers are going to make judgments about where they shop based on these kinds of values statements by retailers. In addition, in the long term, these sorts of sustainability measures are going to save the company money.

    Efficiency and effectiveness. Strong combination…

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    Forbes reports that Walmart announced that it will work with its laundry and dish detergent suppliers to reduce the amount of phosphates – a pollutant that can damage ecosystems - in these products by 70 percent by 2011. The changes, according to the story, will impact the products sold in its stores in includes Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, Brazil and Argentina.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    • Published reports say that the Subway sandwich chain has developed a system that allows consumers to place orders using their computers and cell phones – and that Internet orders on average are as much as 15-20 percent larger than phone orders, as well as occurring more frequently.

    According to stories, Subway is working with a company called Go Mobo to test the system, which allows people to enter their credit card information the first time they use the program, and then never have to do so again. The program also offers specials via test messaging that are not available in-store or elsewhere.

    KC's View:
    The interesting thing to me about this is how the use of technology like cell phones can actually create a relationship with the shopper that creates more frequent and higher transactions. It is all about finding new ways to, as the old ad used to say, reach out and touch someone.

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    Forbes reports that Kellogg’s is testing a new cereal box shape that is shorter and deeper than its traditional boxes, saying that they will use about eight percent less packaging per box as well as be better shaped to fit people’s cupboards.

    The new boxes are being tested at Detroit-area Kroger and Walmart stores, according to the report.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    The Business Journal of Milwaukee reports that Roundy’s Supermarkets, as part of its plan to open stores in the Chicago market, is targeting Arlington Heights, Illinois, as a potential location for one of its Pick ‘n Save stores. Local approvals are required before building can begin.

    According to the story, Roundy’s announced in 2007 that it planned to open “many stores” in the Chicago region over a three-year period, but no site shave yet been finalized.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    • The Financial Times reports that McDonald’s plans a major European expansion in 2009, opening as many as 240 new units there, mostly in Spain, France, Italy, Russia and Poland.

    FT notes that the aggressive plans put McDonald’s at odds with many other chains, which are scaling back their expansion plans in the face of the global recession.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    • Tesco announced that it has named Laurie McIlwee, its distribution director, to be its new finance director, succeeding Andrew Higginson, who has become the company’s chief executive of retailing services.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    • Tyson Foods announced a Q1 loss of $112 million, compared to a $34 million profit during the same period a year ago. First quarter sales rose slightly to $6.52 billion from $6.48 billion.

    • McDonald’s announced that its fourth quarter revenue was down 3.3 percent to $5.57 billion because of “currency translations,” but that its Q4 same-store sales were up 7.2 percent. Earnings were down 23 percent to $985.3 million.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    Bruce Springsteen is out today with a new album, “Working On A Dream,” which is classic Springsteen – filled with a driving rock beat and lyrics laced with a singular and blissfully vigorous vision of Americana.

    And one of his songs is actually a paean to a specific retail experience, entitled “Queen of the Supermarket.” The lyrics, in part, go like this:

    There's a wonderful world where all you desire
    And everything you've longed for is at your fingertips
    Where the bittersweet taste of life is at your lips
    Where aisles and aisles of dreams await you
    And the cool promise of ecstasy fills the air
    At the end of each working day she's waiting there

    I'm in love with the Queen of the Supermarket
    As the evening sky turns blue
    A dream awaits in aisle number two

    With my shopping cart I move through the heart
    Of a sea of fools so blissfully unaware
    That they're in the presence of something wonderful and rare
    The way she moves behind the counter
    Beneath her white apron her secret remains hers
    As she bags the groceries her eyes so bored
    And sure she's unobserved

    I'm in love with the Queen of the Supermarket
    There's nothing I can say
    Each night I take my groceries and I drift away
    And I drift away…

    KC's View:
    There’s nothing quite like a fresh Springsteen album. My feet have been tapping ever since I downloaded it from iTunes when it became available earlier this morning.

    Great stuff.

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    Responding to yesterday’s story about The Nielsen Company’s decision to suspend its PRISM in-store marketing measurement initiative, MNB user Simon Haddad wrote:

    I'll contend that P.R.I.S.M. might have been doomed from the onset. Attempting to develop a syndicated metric for in-store based on traditional media formulae was obviously done to resonate with marketers comfortable with existing principles. However, it begs the question of whether or not that was the correct approach, considering the in-store environment is a much more dynamic medium with many influences competing for the shopper's attention, coupled with the ultimate goal of sealing the deal.

    Moreover, Nielsen's approach to monitoring display activity is very complicated and includes many rules as to how brands are factored into the metric mix. As a result, some brands end up not being counted as on display.

    Furthermore, In-store marketers talk about placing the shopper at the centre of the decision making process, where the shopper turned buyer is making that vitally important decision to purchase; and yet some of the parameters of P.R.I.S.M. were based on impressions. The two criteria don't match up holistically and therein lies another problem.

    The tragedy in this economic environment, is not having a workable syndicated data source for evaluating ROI. As such, we have found it is necessary to put feet on the street to effectively evaluate and track program results.

    In our ongoing environmental debate, one reader wrote yesterday that “it scares me to think that there are people out there that honestly do not see the global climate change and state of our environment as being our responsibility…it makes me weep for the youth of tomorrow…”

    To which another MNB user wrote:

    In my best Rod Serling voice... Submitted for your approval....

    What if this environmental/global warming issue is only 2-3% of the earth's pending demise?

    What if there was an entity hell-bent on destroying the earth and every living thing therein.

    Even to the tune of 97-98%. Where would you REALLY want to focus your efforts?

    Well, if left unchecked, the government will do just that. Between bailouts, scandals, lawsuits, FTC, FDA, FBI, etc. it matters not, whether you're an advocate for the jackass or the 8000 lb elephant in the room, when our elected/appointed officials "forget" that they work "For The People", they are a way bigger threat to this planet than plastic bags or bottles.

    Keep up the great dialog, Obe-Wan-Kev-nobe, You're our only hope!

    That’s because the Force is with me.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I’ve seen your comments and those of others debating the dubious science behind the “Global Warming” panic. It scares me to hear people say things like, “whether or not global warming is real, it won’t hurt to reduce our carbon emissions”. I would agree with that over simplified statement wholeheartedly EXCEPT for the radical proposals like the Kyoto Protocol and a carbon credit program that seem to be gaining momentum and will be aided by our new administration’s support. Being better “world citizens” is fine – recycle, develop alternative energies, drive a hybrid. But, don’t start gutting the U.S. economy in order to “save the planet”.

    Being the most productive nation on earth should not make us world public enemy number one. Real industries and real families will be dramatically impacted by such a plan and in the end, we don’t know if it will have any noticeable impact at all. We certainly will not know the answer to that until the United States has been long ago crippled or erased off the map. You think this recession is bad? Wait until our carbon producing industries can no longer afford to produce anything or provide employment. Or, when the cost of buying additional credits gets passed on to consumers, who will be able to afford what was produced?

    This is a bad, bad idea and one that should not even be considered until we have more substantive and reliable data that isn’t designed solely to keep the hysteria and the government grants flowing. I’m as “green” as the next guy, but I don’t want to ultimately lower my standard of living to that of a third-world country to save a planet that likely barely notices we are here and is just going through its natural cycles.

    I have trouble with the notions that the planet barely notices that we are here, and that the acts of environmentalists necessarily will lead to our becoming a third world nation. It just doesn’t seem to follow.

    Regarding our story yesterday about the eating habits of Generation Y, one MNB user chimed in:

    The article was right-on about this particular lifestage for this demographic group. But it does not represent a generation…

    • Baby Boomers – 1945 to 1965 (ages 64 to 44)
    • Boomer Babies – 1966 to 1986 (ages 43 to 23) (often referred to as Gen X or Gen Y – I call them Gen O for “Obama”) defined so far as wired, environmentally conscience, family and community based, health driven, and educated – will implement the revival of “what it means to be an American” – and have learned much from Boomers – but are very different…and you are right – understand them or lose.
    • Millenniums – 1987 to 2007 (ages 22 to 2) born either side of the millennium change.

    And MNB user Louis A. Scudere wrote:

    While I don’t disagree that Gen Y has the potential to behave differently due to their early and constant exposure to technology, I cannot help but wonder if we are looking at BC (before children) versus AC (after children) in a lot of these studies. Therefore, while it makes for great press I can’t help but believe that one should be hesitant about some of the grand conclusions drawn about certain behaviors given that for the most part this group is in the midst of its early family formation and AC behavior tends to be a little more consistent from generation to generation.

    Maybe. But I’m reasonably confident that their behavior won’t change radically after they have children, because they will view the technological shifts that have enriched their lives will be even more relevant when they become more time constrained.

    And, regarding the ongoing battle between the Federal Trade Commission and Whole Foods, one MNB user wrote:

    One of your readers made the comment today about the risk of Whole Foods filing for bankruptcy if the Wild Oats purchase unravels. Taking that thought further, even if they survived--even thrived--with the FTC unraveling the deal, do you suppose the FTC has considered what would happen to the former Wild Oats stores? Their infrastructure has likely been diminished when merged with WF to managed cost efficiencies. Who would then purchase them? Another grocer that isn't 'competition'? Fascinating.

    Which just supports my contention that the FTC has no understanding of the supermarket industry’s shape and form in 2009.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2009

    Is your company coping efficiently and effectively with the stunning economic changes that have taken place in the marketplace in the past few months?

    Michael Sansolo and Kevin Coupe can help.

    Are you turning challenges into opportunities, and providing your organizations with the tools to help people become thought leaders rather than lemmings?

    Michael Sansolo and Kevin Coupe can help.

    Are you waiting for the world to get back to normal, rather than seeing today’s world as the constantly changing new normal, and redefining your business to embrace new opportunities?

    If so, you could be making one of the biggest mistakes of your career.

    Michael Sansolo and Kevin Coupe can help.

    We’re not talking platitudes and pontification. We’re talking about hard-edged, straight-to-the-point thinking that puts your customers and business opportunities into the context of daily events and the ever-evolving big picture.

    Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo tackle this task every day on, and they’ve done it for years in presentations for groups ranging from 25 to 2500.

    And they can do it now, for your company or organization.

    Before it is too late.

    Want more information?

    Just contact Michael Sansolo at 202-258-4365, or email Kevin Coupe at: .

    KC's View: