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    Published on: July 14, 2010

    by Kate McMahon

    For the ultimate primer on how to maximize your brand via social networking, take a page from Lady Gaga’s songbook.

    The pop culture diva took New York by storm last week, and I was fortunate to experience Gaga-mania first-hand at the second of her three sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden. The Monster Ball production delivered what it promised – pounding disco/rock music, outrageous costumes, eye-popping antics. One New York critic summed it up perfectly as a “mind-meld of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ “

    But what struck me most was Lady Gaga’s intensely personal connection with her fans – her “little monsters” as she calls them -- which galvanized the Garden and is reaffirmed daily in her unprecedented online presence via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. She is not only the glam/rock Queen of the music world, she is also a marketing genius and reigns supreme on the internet.

    Consider the following:

    Just last week Lady Gaga hit 10 million Facebook fans or “Likes,” surpassing President Obama and becoming the first living music artist to cross that threshold. By yesterday that number jumped to 12.1 million, closing in on the Facebook page of the late Michael Jackson, with 15 million fans.

    She has 4.9 million followers on Twitter, and tweeted with her “precious lil monsters” who camped out in Rockefeller Center before her Friday performance on The Today Show, which drew a record-setting 20,000 spectators in the early-morning rain.

    She recently became the first currently producing living music artist to reach 1 billion YouTube views.

    Her album “The Fame” this month became the best-selling album in U.S. digital history.

    And that’s just the topline. So what is the retail and business takeaway on this 24-year-old
    phenom? Here’s what I think.

    Lady Gaga, who was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and attended Catholic schools in New York, rocketed to fame in the past two years due to talent, passion, originality and incredibly hard work. She’s true to her art, and is not afraid to outrage or offend (and she has many outraged and offended detractors out there).

    She’s also true to the fans who have supported her, including the gay community and those who dare to be different. I’ve heard many performers shout “I love you, New York” in concerts, but hers resonated on a deeply personal level as she thanked her hometown, her family and her die-hard followers. She reaches out to her fan base daily on Facebook and Twitter, always crediting their support for her success. How many retailers, marketers and service providers out there make such an effort to show appreciation for loyalty?

    Before the “Today Show,” she knew her “little monster sweeties” well enough to send pizza and water and tweets signed with “i love u” and “Amen.” How many retailers make that kind of an effort to reward customers waiting on line or for a delivery?

    Lady Gaga specializes in delight and surprise – how many companies can make that claim?

    Here at MNB, we note that the power of social networking lies in establishing a true connection with the customer, a two-way dialogue. In this arena, along with so many others, Lady Gaga rocks.

    Comments? Send me an email at .
    KC's View:
    Thank goodness for Kate. I write about Jimmy Buffett. Michael writes about James Taylor and Carole King. I’m glad someone here is paying attention to performers who are actually younger than we are.

    Which is, by the way, itself a good lesson in marketing. We always talk here about how important it is to “be the customer.” But that doesn’t always mean that we are the customer. It’s important to know the difference.

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    Marketing Daily reports on a new Experian study saying that moms are getting older - mothers 35 and older have grown from 40.9 million to 44.9 million in the last four years.

    The study suggests that this is good for the Green movement, since it isn older moms who generally are more willing to make the move into acquiring so-called “green” products. At the same time, the study suggests, younger moms also are migrating toward sustainable product choices.

    The shift is attributed “to more information available about the impact of green choices on children's health, whether it's reading about organic milk or the benefits of free-range chicken. The growth trend toward green purchases among younger moms, at this point, is outpacing the 35-and-older mothers by at least 5% a year.”

    One other interesting note from the study, according to Marketing Daily: “The study also puts the population of moms who work outside the home (either full- or part-time) at 62%, or 19.6 million moms, while 21.5% (or 6.8 million) identify themselves as stay-at-homers. Some 30.8%, or 9.7 million, are unmarried.”
    KC's View:
    If these shifts indeed are taking place, it means that marketers had better adjust their focus...because today’s and tomorrow’s moms simply do not have the same priorities and needs as yesterday’s moms.

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP are out with a new study, entitled “Forging Ahead in the New Economy,” which suggests that “consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies will need to employ different tactics than those used during the recession - divesting non-core brands, conserving cash, and cutting costs - to preserve shareholder value as the economy recovers. To grow revenues in this new climate, companies will have to focus on innovation to encourage household spending, especially for products in mature segments and to offset reduced spending by Baby Boomers who are nearing retirement.”

    Other conclusions from the report:

    • “Many CPG companies are looking to innovate by reaching consumers in more places or tailoring products for local customer tastes in emerging markets. Additionally, understanding customer priorities is central to innovation as consumers in the United States are buying more carefully, buying different pack sizes, taking advantage of volume discounts, and trading down to non-premium brands.”

    • “Establishing a foothold in emerging markets - especially in China, Russia, Brazil, India, and Southeast Asia - has taken on a sense of urgency for CPG makers as capital flows faster than ever and new competitors can ramp up quickly. The middle classes are growing and forming attachments to new brands and products just as fast. Consequently, product growth cycles in emerging markets have accelerated and the success or failure of a product launch or brand introduction now can be determined in a matter of just 12 or 18 months.”

    “These food, beverage, and household product companies are part of a true counter cyclical industry, as it performs better than other industries during recessions, but tends to balance the scales with slower growth during expansions, as was the case in 2009," says Susan McPartlin, U.S. consumer packaged goods industry leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers. "This may reflect the fact that CPG companies have been adapting to market conditions and sacrificing a bit of short-term growth to get their houses in order through increasing sales per employee, paying down debt, trimming workforces, and paring brand and product portfolios. We expect CPG companies to emerge much stronger as we move through 2010."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    What’s the antidote to all those energy drinks that have been consumed by the gallon over the past few years?

    According to the New York Times, it is a new kind of anti-energy drink.

    “‘Relaxation shots’ like Snoozeberry and iChill and soporific beverages with names like Unwind, Dream Water, Koma Unwind Chillaxation and Drank are aiming to take away the very buzz their caffeinated predecessors were designed to deliver,” the Times writes. “There are already more than 350 kinds of relaxation drinks on the market, according to Agata Kaczanowska, an analyst with the research company IBISWorld. Instead of slogans like Jolt’s ‘All the sugar and twice the caffeine,’ these new drinks proffer serenity with maxims like Unwind’s ‘Tired of being wired?’ and Drank’s ‘Slow your roll’.”

    Many of these drinks also suggest that they have ancillary advantages, the Times reports: “Drank claims it can help prevent jet lag. A drink called Blue Cow says it can improve concentration, relieve anxiety and irritability from fatigue, and even diminish PMS symptoms. Another brand, Mini Chill, says that because it lessens tension, some users have reported better sex lives.”

    The relaxation drink business is expected to generate as much as $500 million this year, up 327 percent from 2009.
    KC's View:
    Maybe I’m getting old, but I like the doctor interviewed by the Times who says that people need to be careful about putting all this stuff in their systems, and suggests that if people really want to unwind, a nice warm glass of milk before bedtime does the trick, and is a lot less expensive.

    I’ve thought for a long time that all these energy drinks are going to end up being a health nightmare. The idea that now there are relaxation drinks designed to calm you down after you’ve had these energy drinks does nothing to alleviate my suspicion that this is all some sort of scam.

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    In Canada, CTV reports that “Loblaw Co. workers in Ontario overwhelmingly have voted to give their union a strike mandate if Canada's largest grocery chain doesn't back down from concession demands that it says are necessary to remain competitive against its non-unionized rivals.

    “More than 97 per cent of members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents nearly 30,000 employees at stores under names such as Loblaws, Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstores and Fortinos, have voted in favour of a strike.”

    The two sides have been negotiating since April, but talks broke down last month over worker opposition to a reported company plan to cut wages by as much as 25 percent and reduce benefits, which the company says it has to do to compensate for declining profits.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    • Publix announced that beginning at the end of this month, its delis will offer five fresh, ready-to-eat kids meals for $3.99. Each meal consists of an entrée, two sides and a drink. The featured selections include chicken tenders, ham sandwich thins, peanut butter apple wrap, peanut butter rolls, or turkey rolls.

    “Our customers look to us to provide meal solutions, and finding nutritious meals for their children is no exception,” says Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations. “Whether as a solution to back-to-school meal planning or for families on the go, our new Publix Deli kids meals are the perfect solution to the question of ‘What’s for lunch or dinner?’.”

    • The Business Courier of Cincinnati reports that Procter & Gamble is designing special versions of some of its CPG products to be sold exclusively by certain retailers.

    One example: “Pringles recently launched a customized line of flavors that will be sold only at Tesco, Britain’s largest grocery chain. The exclusive line of ‘Great British Flavours’ potato crisps – sea salt & black pepper, smokey bacon, kebab, and curry – were designed by P&G in conjunction with Tesco, said Pringles U.K. spokeswoman Claire Forsyth-Brown.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    • PriceSmart announced that its president, Jose Luis Laparte, has added “CEO” to his title. He succeeds Robert Price, who remains as chairman.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    We continue to get email about my rave for Jimmy Buffett’s free concert down on the Gulf Shores, which was used to create tourist enthusiasm for an area devastated by the BP oil spill. Some folks objected to my enthusiasm because they are upset that Buffett blamed, in addition to BOP, the Bush administration for having allowed vampires to run the blood bank (to use his metaphor). I actually think that there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to allowing what I termed “corporate greed and mismanagement” to run amok and cause the spill through irresponsible behavior.,

    And again, some folks object to my language.

    MNB user Tom Devlin wrote:

    While  Jimmy Buffet blamed Bush for the BP mess, he forgot to mention the other Presidents as well and the millions of Americans that keep asking to stop depending of foreign oil.... Lastly, he also forgot to mention the millions he invested in a hotel that his killing his business. I am a HUGE Buffet fan but he is a business man as well.

    He’s hardly been hiding the fact that he owns the new hotel in is all over the news, and he’s been saying that he’s standing up for the businesses there because, in part, he is one of them. One thing that Jimmy Buffett doesn’t seem to have is a hidden agenda.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    While I too wish there was blame all around - there isn't.  I doesn't really matter, does it?   At this point, 90 days plus in, the oil is still flowing and the gulf is getting worse by the day.   There's no sense of urgency on anyone's part - especially the government.   Worse, even, the government forced yet another burden on 200,000 direct (not including indirect) jobs by yet again trying to halt drilling with no apparent reason other than to pander to the political left.  All is beside the point.

    The problem is, child of the gulf and all, that if the motivation were honorable (and I believe it was) one might consider that tact of 'Shut up and sing'.  Honorable or not, folks came to listen, forget only for a moment the disaster surrounding them that will burden them for decades.   His statements opened the door to question the motivation as being other than its purest of intent (which I am sure it was).

    Recently, amidst the disaster, yet another entertainer (of unmatched stature)  blasted a former president while being honored at the White House.   A bonehead thing to do.   He probably always was one.   Maybe I didn't want to believe he was because of the mystical magic around his music and wanted to believe otherwise.  I held out hope while knowing otherwise because I wanted the music to still feel the same.  Somehow, it doesn't.  He stepped way down several notches in respect in my view.   Sad.   We're all imperfect, but we do, I think hold out hope otherwise sometimes for some figures. (Right or wrong, its reality.)

    Somehow following the 9/11 disaster and the political fallout that emerged it became easier to divide rather than to unite and conquer.  I'm not so sure how we got here.  Its not a proud place to be.   A wonderful night of music void of political banter might have seemed much more honorable.  It wasn't a night without it.  It leaves one to question.  It shouldn't.  It does.

    Just as with McCartney, Buffett dropped down a notch.  Not because of his views, but because it was a time where those that came and those that watched wanted to forget, enjoy, and slip into music if only for one night knowing full well what faced them the next day.   They needed no reminder of it or the political divisions rather than solutions surrounding the whole disaster.  Its pathetic on all parts.

    There's no room for silence of political speech - period.   Yet, there is a time to 'Shut up and sing'.   He missed his time.   We all needed it.  Had we had it, we wouldn't be discussing anything other than what a great night and what a great benefit for those impacted it was.  It was; wasn't it?

    (Thanks for causing us all to think daily.  Agree or disagree its always fun and worthy of thought.   Thanks for being there daily.)

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    No supporter of BP, but “corporate greed”…we need oil and almost of its by-products to support our economy… not sure oil companies are any more greedy than Walmart or John’s Corner Drugstore or Kevin’s Coffee Shoppe. 
    Mismanagement is another story…

    Do we need oil right now? Of course. Has our need for oil potentially put us in an untenable situation, in terms of the economy, the environment, and national security? Seems pretty obvious to me. Have we done enough as a nation - going back to the oil crises of the late seventies - to find alternative energy sources and use them? I think not.

    Corporate greed , it seems to me, is the least that BP can be accused of. It seems pretty clear that the company cut corners as a way of maximizing profit. This isn’t a knee-jerk response...just one that seems logical because of the environmental disaster that BP has caused in the Gulf.

    (And, by the way, it seems clear that BP is facing another potential PR nightmare, as there are questions being raised about the company’s role in helping to negotiate the early release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer who was convicted of murder for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Megrahi was said to be suffering from prostate cancer and was not expected to live more than three months; a year after his release, he is still alive and kicking, and it appears that BP negotiated the release as a way of clearing the way so it could get permission to drill for oil in Libya’s Gulf of Sidra. If these accusations end up being correct, it will define the company’s level of corporate greed as having reached astonishing new levels. But some folks will probably disagree with that...)

    Knowing where to assign blame is important, because it allows you to understand the circumstances that led to a specific situation, and make changes.

    Onto other subjects...

    Regarding some of the positioning shifts taking place at Walmart, one MNB user wrote:

    I think anyone who has worked for or is working for WalMart understands clearly that is a huge company and one that the world watches its every move. As well everyone knows that the company will and must changes as the CUSTOMER needs and wants change. We all know that from time to time people from the outside will be added to add value. I think Mr. Sam would agree with all of these statements, as in fact he did just that, with Jim Donald being a great example of bring outside talent in.

    With this said the difference is that Mr. Sam and past leaders such as Mr. Glass allowed many in management to make decisions. Past leaders LISTENED to management and the customers rather than appointing a group of 4 that were the committee that knew all and made all the decision. When Jim Donald joined the company he added value from day one. Not by trying to change the company but by understanding it. He help take hi low pricing to EDLP ( which I might add is now gone and so is Jim). He didn’t bring “baggage” of food ideas that other retailers he had worked for to WalMart. Jim and other food executives rather took basic food skills and knowledge and helped Walmart to build one of the largest food business in the US from the ground up. Look at what they did - case ready meat, new produce trays, best selling store brand in the US, and the list goes on.

    But what have the recent folks brought to the company? Hi / Low pricing, asking for marketing and advertising money, their” baggage” from the companies they worked for and note many many of them are NOT from retailers, but from the other side of the table - suppliers like Kraft, Pepsi, and P&G. They were brought in to “help”, hum didn’t know that all that much back then was broken and seems to me they haven’t helped much. A concern one must have today is that the company under current leadership has the company going in a total new direction that the suppliers ,associates and customers don’t like nor understand ...

    MNB user Bob McMath wrote:

    As a long time stockholder (very small holdings) and shopper at Walmart, we have been surprised to see the changes that Walmart is making in its stock. One of our local stores in Oceanside, California -- only recently built -- has undergone a major revamp for the past few months. The way the shelves have been replaced makes it more appealing as an entrance -- but the cosmetics and things you have to walk through now are of absolutely no interest to me, and of little interest to my wife. But they make an interesting= approach!

    We have noted that the stock of things we normally purchase has disappeared, too. Some shampoo items I want for my gray hair, and moisturizers, etc., have gone, or are presently in such low stocking numbers, that I can look for them and they are not there.

    Some of the departments have been split, so looking for some household items in what department you would think they would be in -- they are not. Several times now, I have had to walk around most of the store to find what I wanted -- if it was there. A range of drain cleaners, for example, has been reduced to only one or to.

    I also find that in asking clerks where something might be found, often they no longer know, either. And worst of all, their pricing policies are apparently increasing. I used to NEVER find a local supermarket with a lower price -- but that is no longer true. And low priced greeting cards we liked to purchase from Walmart are no longer evident. I guess they decided that if I want a card, I'll pay whatever they want to charge.

    As a shopper and a stockholder, I no longer enjoy my shopping there. Now if I need something, Jean and I will purchase it at Stater Bros nearby when we shop, instead of saving it for a shopping visit to the Walmarts farther away. They have my prescription business, but I no longer save much of anything else until I am going over for a pick-up. But given the three months policy, my trips are much fewer and my purchases are much lower now.

    Wake up, Walmart.

    I know one thing. You just made Jack Brown’s day.

    Regarding a new iPad app about cooking and nutrition launched by Kraft, one MNB user wrote:

    Wasn’t Kraft’s Lunchables a favorite target of Jamie Oliver in his Food Revolution reality TV series aimed and changing and challenging the mindsets of parents, schools, and kids about food and healthy eating?  Maybe I’ve become jaded over the years but having a Kraft iPad app isn’t going to shave any inches off America’s collective waistline. I’d venture to say that the Brand Manager for Lunchables is directly compensated, bonused and motivated by the performance of that line.  That app is like lipstick on a pig.  Call me when Kraft takes Lunchables off the shelf and Kraft promotes Broccoli, Spinach or Carrots first.

    MNB user Ken Thornton had some thoughts about a story detailing years of mismanagement at Kmart:

    One major piece missing in this story , a company by the name of Pace Membership Warehouse , owned by K-Mart.     It was highly profitable and successful  warehouse club ,until Kmart management started to meddle.     We ( Pace)were aware what Sam Walton was up to , and told Kmart management.   But as with everything else they blew us off.

    We’ve had an extended here discussion about the future of the post office, postcards, and other vestiges of times past. And it continues...

    MNB user Carla Baughman wrote:

    How about one last perspective… I love sending postcards to friends and family back home. Not so much to make them jealous, but it gives me the time to sit down at a lovely sidewalk café in Paris and pass the time.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    This is my first time writing in. However, there were two points made that I believe needed to be addressed. One I believe there will always be a need for the post office (or some version of it). Packages will need to be delivered and invitations or thank you cards will need to be sent. For example, can you imagine your daughter sending an Evite to her friends and your family regarding her future wedding? I just do not see that happening now or in the future. Likewise, you mention that postcards will be dead as Super 8 MM film. I think that is not the case as well. I think there is possibly a romantic notion of sending postcards in foreign countries and receiving postcards from foreign countries. In particular this experience is not replicated via an email or a Facebook posting. Or the joy that a grandson or granddaughter would get from sending or receiving a postcard from a grandparent. I believe there will always be a need and a place for such mail services, but I agree they may not be the same or in the same form as today. Likewise, you mentioned the reinvention of the post office in Ireland. It is interesting that the Irish Post has more services than our US Postal Service, such as being a bank.

    MNB user Deborah J. Maestu wrote:

    I think you are right about postcards going the way of Super 8, 8 track tapes, etc. Actual books will go someday soon - sure there will always be a "boutique" appeal for a certain number of hard copy books. There is absolutely something beautiful about the feel of a new book, the turning of the page, etc. But it will be a luxury item, not an everyday purchase.  There is always a market for the necessities of past generations.  Check last Sunday's NY Times article on actual jousting tournaments in the US and around the world.

    You’re right, there will always be a role for some sort of post office. But will it be the current structure? Or something different? I’d bet the latter. Not sure what the structure will be, but it is an unsustainable business model in its current form. I’m only suggesting that to raise postal rates by two cents, or to eliminate one day of delivery, as a way of closing the budget gap is like putting a band-aid on a fatal wound.

    Sure, there are jousting tournaments. But would you use the concept as a model for a progressive business concept? I think not. Romantic notions are fine, as are niche businesses. But I’m not sure that this is the model for a 21st century postal service.

    One other thing. I think it would be fine to get an e-invitation to a wedding. It wouldn’t bother me at all.

    But maybe that’s just me.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    In the 2010 Major League Baseball All Star Game, the National League defeated the American League 3-1, the first time since 1996 that the Senior Circuit has won the exhibition game that determines what team will get home field advantage during this year’s World Series.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 14, 2010

    George Steinbrenner, who as part of a consortium bought the New York Yankees for $10 million in 1973 and turned the then-struggling franchise into a powerhouse that won seven world championships and 11 American League pennants, and is currently worth an estimated $1.6 billion, died yesterday of a heart attack. He was 80.
    KC's View:
    There were many sides to George Steinbrenner.

    He was the arrogant blowhard who fired dozens of managers and general managers and who, as documentarian Ken Burns said yesterday, was unsuited for a sport in which even the best teams lose 40 percent of their games. Burns said he was better suited to football, which has fewer games and therefore, fewer losses.

    He was the philanthropist who gave much to various charities and almost never sought recognition.

    He was the owner who was twice suspended from baseball - once for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard M. Nixon (he was pardoned later by Ronald Reagan), and once for paying a bookie to dig up dirt on his own player, Dave Winfield.

    He was the businessman who forged YES, the revolutionary sports network that owned rights to Yankee games and contributed millions to the Yankees’ coffers; he also managed, after years of threatening to move to New Jersey, to get a new Yankee Stadium built in the Bronx, complete with more luxury boxes with greater potential revenue.

    He was the guy who completely alienated Yogi Berra for more than a dozen years, but who commanded so much respect that people like his current manager Joe Girardi and shortstop Derek Jeter referred to him as “Mr. Steinbrenner.”

    He was, as Burns pointed out, an American original - he actually was born on the 4th of July. And he is the kind of sports owner who we may never see again.

    For me, he was the owner that through his bombast drove me away from the team that I grew up rooting for, and into the arms of the New York Mets (which ultimately made sense, since I prefer the purer form of baseball that National League teams play).

    When Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert blasted LeBron James for abandoning the franchise for the Miami Heat, the outburst reminded me of early Steinbrenner. It was the sort of impolitic, “damn the torpedoes” speech that one can imagine Steinbrenner using the criticize Reggie Jackson or Billy Martin. Early Steinbrenner was never easy Steinbrenner; he reminded a lot of people of every lousy boss they’d ever had.

    But two things happened over the years. First, Steinbrenner mellowed. It wasn’t that he cared less, but age and a kind of maturity seemed to help him understand that patience sometimes actually is a virtue, and that baseball people need to be allowed to do their jobs. (Not always, of course; he pretty much bullied manager Joe Torre into quitting even after he guided the Yankees into the playoffs in 2007 but did not get into the World Series.)

    The other thing that happened, it seems to me, is that in the end - as he aged and fell ill and rarely appeared in public - the thing that people seemed to recognize most in Steinbrenner was his passion. That passion sometimes could be destructive, but it also built a series of champions, and it could not, would not be denied. In that way, Steinbrenner may have reminded people of the kind of boss they’d like to have - the guy who believes so fervently, so completely, that he will do anything to succeed. I’ve worked for true believers, and I’ve worked for guys who were in it for the paycheck; even with the faults, I’ll take the believers anytime.

    In this way, the reign - and that’s probably the best, most appropriate word for it - of George Steinbrenner in New York sports stands as an example of both the best and worst in leadership. Much to learn from there, I think.

    One other thought. I have no idea how the Yankees’ ownership is structured, but it is certainly interesting to note that Steinbrenner died during the year when there is no estate tax. Does this mean that his family will be tempted to sell the New York Yankees for financial reasons? Hard to say, and I’m sure we’ll hear more speculation about this in coming days.

    But the over-under on when the Yankees will be sold just got a lot more interesting. I hate to see the team move from family to corporate ownership, as often happens in these cases. Perhaps it is inevitable, and for the best. There will never be another George Steinbrenner, and for lots of reasons, nobody else should even try.