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    Published on: August 19, 2010

    Now 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 MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    I love lists. Not because they always are exceptionally meaningful, but they often are entertaining and can provide a yardstick against which to measure ourselves and our own preconceptions and misconceptions.

    So it was interesting this week to read the annual Mindset Report from Beloit College in which it “provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.” While the college notes that the list was “originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references,” it has evolved into “a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.”

    Here’s how Beloit introduces its list of cultural touchstones:

    “The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since ‘digital’ has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch ... The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

    “Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them.  A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.”

    Here’s another observation to make you feel old: Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1992. For them, Sam Walton has always been dead.

    Beloit actually offers 75 different specific observations about the class of 2014. Here are some of the ones that I found most interesting:

    Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

    Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

    A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

    Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

    DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

    Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

    Czechoslovakia has never existed.

    Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

    “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

    Interesting stuff. It certainly gives people of a certain age - which is to say, people of my advanced years - pause to realize how much of the change that we’ve seen take place during our lives has always existed in their lives. I can remember, for example, when the fax machine was this unbelievably cool new technology. Now, I have one in my office...but it rarely gets used, a symbol of expedient obsolescence if ever I’ve seen one.

    Of course, sometimes the lists get a little crazy, a fact illustrated by the Daily Beast this week in a piece that analyzed a number of different lists, surveys and studies put together by a variety of organizations. It is funny what a little cross-referencing will do.

    Depending on who you read or pay attention to, you would find out that:

    Republicans are 15 percent happier than Democrats.

    Older people are 18 percent happier than young people.

    Residents of Hawaii are 8.5 percent happier than residents of West Virginia.

    If you're a stay-at-home mom, there's a 36 percent chance that you're very happy. And if you're a working mom, your chance of being very happy is exactly the same: 36 percent. And both types of moms share a 14 percent chance of being unhappy.

    Married people are 19 percent happier than unmarried people.

    Members of the clergy are 509 percent happier than gas-station attendants.

    Americans are 200 percent happier than Cameroonians.

    Rich people are 27 percent happier than poor people.

    Grateful people are 25 percent happier than ingrates.

    African-Americans are 8 percent happier than Caucasians.

    If you're an Evangelical Christian, there's a 99 percent chance you're very happy.

    Starbuck's fans are 2 percent happier than McDonald's fans.

    In other words, if you are an old, African-American married member of the clergy who lives in Hawaii, is an American citizen (better have a birth certificate, because we all know how dubious those Hawaiian births are), have some money, vote Republican, go to Church regularly and like to indulge in a latte every once in a while, you pretty much have it made.

    Of course, I’m one of the happier people I know, and I only fit a few of these criteria (I’ll let you guess which ones). So I guess that all surveys, studies and reports...have their limitations.

    Sometimes they tell us stuff that is the fact that for the next generation of customers, email is too slow for their needs and one quarter of them have been born to immigrants. Such information should be factored into how we go to market, and how we try to communicate with this generation.

    But other information is just that. Information. Often without context, without meaning, without reward. We should never forget that while marketing is a science, and information is important, it also is an art, requiring creativity, innovation, and an ability to ignore the numbers to do what just seems to make sense.

    Do it right, and you end up being happy. Or at least happier than young, single, atheist, West Virginian gas station attendants.

    For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    We’d all agree that business success comes from a solid point of differentiation, but continued success comes from nurturing and caring for that special skill. For anyone doubting that, please consider the curious case of Francisco Rodriguez.

    Rodriguez - or “K-Rod,” as he is popularly known - is a baseball pitcher known for his ability to pitch the final inning of ballgames. He’s a closer. It’s a skill that pays really, really well. As a right-handed pitcher, you would think that K-Rod would understand that his chief asset is that very hand. K-Rod, like all of us, knows you protect what’s most important to you. When you don’t (think Toyota and product quality…among others), bad things happen.

    K-Rod is lucky because he has easy role models every where. Legendary baseball pitcher Tom Seaver used to say he never reached for a scissor, razor or even to pet a dog with his prized right hand. He knew his career was in that hand. Movies give examples too. In Bull Durham, there is this exchange between aging catcher “Crash” Davis and rookie pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh after the younger man has decked Davis in a brawl:

    Davis: Did you hit me with your right hand or did you hit me with your left? Huh? Did you hit me with your right hand or did you hit me with your LEFT?

    LaLoosh: My left.

    Davis: Good! That's good; when you get in a fight with a drunk you don't hit him with your pitching hand. God, I can't keep giving you these free lessons so quit screwin' around and help me up.

    K-Rod apparently doesn’t watch movies or study baseball history. Recently he hit his girlfriend’s father with his money hand, a stupid and possibly jail-worthy decision. Now he’s injured, his season is over and his very lucrative contract with the New York Mets is at risk. Simply put, thinking is never overrated.

    That’s my Thursday morning Eye-Opener.

    - Michael Sansolo
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) said yesterday that it has hired Paul Hertz, most recently the Executive Vice President of Retail Stores for OfficeMax, to be its new Executive Vice President, Operations.

    Hertz succeeds Mark Kramer, who departed “to pursue other interests.” Kramer had been in the job for about four months, having come over to A&P from Rite Aid. However, since then A&P has changed CEOs, dismissing Ron Marshall after a seven-month tenure and replacing him with Sam Martin, former COO of Whole Foods.

    Before going to OfficeMax, A&P said, Hertz was “Vice President of Wild Oats Stores ... also served as Vice President of Store Operations for ShopKo and held several field and VP-level positions at Fred Meyer, a division of Kroger.”
    KC's View:
    Quick question. Who got a better night’s sleep last night, Mark Kramer or Paul Hertz?

    I’m guessing Kramer. I just hope that he got a nice severance package, since he gave up his job at Rite Aid to try to help turn around the company that I’m now going to refer to as the Morass in Montvale.

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    The Associated Press reports this morning that an egg recall prompted by a salmonella outbreak has been expanded to 17 states and 380 million eggs.

    According to the story, “eggs affected by the expanded recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and food service companies in Georgia, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.”

    The eggs were distributed by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa, to food wholesalers, distribution centers and food service companies. The AP says that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with state health departments to investigate the illnesses. No deaths have been reported, said Dr. Christopher Braden, a CDC epidemiologist involved in the investigation.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets plans to open seven Northern California stores in early 2011 - in San Francisco, San Jose, Danville, Pacifica, Vacaville, Walnut Creek and Concord.

    Fresh & Easy has opened 160 of the small-format stores since first opening, all of them in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. The company has been delaying its Northern California offensive because the recessionary economy has proven tough to navigate; Fresh & Easy slowed its opening plans and tweaked the format in response to a certain amount of consumer antipathy.
    KC's View:
    Some people keep predicting that Tesco is going to bail out one of these days, but this move suggests what I’ve always felt - that Tesco has plenty of money and even more patience.

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    Count this as yet another example of dueling studies.

    It was just a couple of days ago that MNB took note of a report saying that there is a general expectation, based on consumer interviews, that “the back-to-school shopping marathon, the second-largest shopping season in the U.S. after the end-of-year holidays, could be pushed deep into September,” as customers wait for the deeper discounts that they feel inevitably will come. The sense seemed to be that the recession has trained shoppers to wait on making planned purchases, since they believe that retailers will engage in price wars, aggressive promotions, and various other machinations as they sacrifice margin for sales and market share.


    The National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with a new study saying that “consumers got a jump start on their back-to-school and college shopping this summer as extreme temperatures drove them into stores and out of the pool ... The average family has completed 43.2 percent of their school shopping, compared to 41.6 percent at this time last year. Similarly, families of college students have completed 43.1 percent of their shopping, versus 41.0 percent the previous year.”

    Now, more than 26 percent of US families have not even started their back-to-school shopping yet, NRF says...and these families apparently can be deemed “budget wise families.” (Seventeen percent of families said that all their shopping was influenced by coupons, up from 14.7 percent a year ago.)

    One other interesting note - 16 percent of families said they would finish their back-to-school shopping online, up from 12.2 percent a year ago.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    The vagaries of the legislative process have come home to roost for California egg producers, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning. Here’s how the paper frames the story:

    “About 150,000 hens at egg producer J.S. West Inc. appear to have scored an upgrade.

    “They cluck and cackle in an air-conditioned henhouse that got a $3.2 million renovation this year. Some lay eggs in nesting areas, where lights are dimmed. Others poise on perches with room to flap their wings. They even have hen-style nail files in their cages.

    “Two years after California voters approved a law designed to create humane standards for farm animals, it isn't clear if these hens are leading lives of luxury - or being treated cruelly.

    “The law, known as Proposition 2, doesn't take effect until 2015, but it is already generating confusion among egg producers who aren't sure if they need to get bigger cages like those at J.S. West or let the hens roam free. As a result, few have made any changes at all.

    “The law mandates that egg-laying hens must be able to fully extend their limbs, lie down and turn in a circle within their enclosures. Michigan approved similar regulations last year, and gave egg producers 10 years to make changes. Other states - including Ohio, Arizona and Florida - have adopted less restrictive regulations. The California requirements have proven resistant to uniform interpretation.”
    KC's View:
    Two things occur to me as I read this story.

    One is that I’m glad I’m in my business, not the egg business.

    The second thing is that in my first apartment I wasn’t really able to fully extend my limbs, lie down and turn in a circle. It never occurred to me that I needed a legislative solution...

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    Wine Spectator reports that a new study from the University of Sheffield in the UK “suggests that regular alcohol consumption decreases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and can lessen the symptoms of the disease for those who already suffer from it.” The researchers, according to the story, “caution that the results are limited, but the findings could lead to valuable new research for limiting this painful, often disabling condition” that “affects an estimated 1 percent of the world's population, attacking joints with painful inflammation.”

    The study “found that nondrinkers were four times more likely to develop arthritis than people who drank alcohol on more than 10 days a month. For those with the disease who drank, levels of inflammation were lower.”
    KC's View:
    Good news here ... especially since after 35 years of jogging and a couple of marathons, I’ve been diagnosed with having some arthritis in my left knee. Good to know that in addition to the bicycle that I’ve been riding - in place of the old jogging and boxing regimen - a little bit of vino might help make a difference.


    Published on: August 19, 2010

    • In the UK, MediaTel reports that Tesco is preparing to launch three new consumer magazines that will be sold in its stores. One is called “Food,” and another is called “Home,” and will cover exactly what the titles suggest; they will be launched at the end of September.

    The third is called “Your TV Week,” will be launched in December, and is features TV listings and editorial content.
    KC's View:
    Hard to imagine that in a world where “TV Guide” has become pretty much irrelevant, replaced by online and onscreen listings, Tesco will find much of an audience for a new TV listings magazine. But maybe things are different in the UK.

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Starbucks is developing a new strategy that will “use its coffee shops as a testing ground to get more products into grocery stores ... The company also plans to leverage the licensed Starbucks cafes located inside supermarkets and Target stores by sampling new products that it hopes will entice consumers to then pluck them from the store shelves. Starbucks will open more licensed stores in 2011 than company-owned stores.”

    • The Poughkeepsie Journal reports this morning that the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) is suing Ahold-owned Stop & Shop, accusing its rival of falsely advertising that its prices are nine to 19 percent cheaper than A&P’s.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal report that Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips are creating a lot of noise these days - but not because of the quality or environmental purity of the food:

    “Rather, it is the bags that are causing a problem. Its newest bags are made out of biodegradable plant material instead of plastic, and apparently make ‘loud crackling sounds’ that some compare to a ‘revving motorcycle’ and ‘glass breaking’. The Journal notes that ‘a Facebook group called ‘SORRY BUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG’ has attracted 29,949 fans, with many posting outraged comments’.”

    I was a little surprised by the reaction to this story.

    MNB user Jeanne Colleluori wrote:

    My sister has a positive opinion on the new Sun Chips packaging - she says it’s part of her diet plan…. There’s no way she can sneak any chips without others in the family hearing her! Keeps her honest.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Disclaimer, I don't eat a lot of chips but OMG, these are the most horrible bags -  yes, great for the environment but they're not only loud, they feel disgusting. Eating is a total sensory experience and Frito-Lay missed it on this one!

    And, from another MNB user:

    I’m not one of the 29,949 airing their complaints on Facebook, however, I am one of many that has stopped purchasing Sun Chips. In a world of nearly unlimited choice, the bag was more than annoying enough for me to switch. I liked the effort to develop something more sustainable which should have aligned well with a healthier chip image, but honestly, the 2 times I purchased post-repackage I transferred to ziplock bags. Twice was enough.

    That said, I don’t agree at all with the link to Pepsi/Tropicana’s awful, indistinguishable packaging. Did you stop by a super market after they introduced that ‘modern, clean’ packaging? There were zero visual clues as to the difference between products. The result: 3-4 cooler doors of what looked like the same sku. Lesson learned: don’t make shopping harder. Not when people are increasingly crunched for time and already hate spending time in the refrigerated section (myself excluded – I lived and breathed the dairy case for several years and it’s my first stop when I’m visiting stores).

    In both instances, a lot of time and money were used to develop new packaging and in both cases, companies ignored the voice of their buyers and customers in forcing what they decided was a great decision into the market. The result of not testing and understanding your customer: millions of dollars lost. A good lesson for everyone – innovation is key to long-term success, but innovation without the customer in mind is a waste. Take the time to understand what your customer wants and ensure you’re making improvements, not changes.

    And MNB user Dave Vosteen wrote:

    Could care less if they are bio-degradable. People need to quit worrying about making everything green. Ridiculous waste of time and money.

    But MNB user Cheri Quast demurred:

    When I read the Sun Chip’s bag article that you posted, the first thing that came to my mind is how much of a whiner some of the American people have become. To actually get upset over how much noise a bag of chips makes when you pick it up or touch it is ridiculous in my mind. We constantly have noise coming at us in all kinds of different directions. Between televisions, computers, radios, iPods, etc, we are constantly bombarded by noise and therefore to complain because a bag of chips makes too much noise when you touch it is stupid in my mind. I bet if you compare the amount of time someone spends holding a Sun Chips bag versus how often they are listening to one or more of the mediums listed above, you would probably find a huge difference between the two percentages. No wonder people from other countries are so critical of the U.S. and in this instance I cannot blame them. It is a stupid and frivolous complaint and compared to other things, I do not understand how this is even on anyone’s radar.
    You are right; Sun Chips cannot get a break when they are trying to do something right which is too bad.

    Two other quick emails, on different subjects...

    I thought that MNB user Ellen Feldman-Ornato mad an excellent point in addressing the story about how the recession has trained consumers to wait before making back-to-school purchases in hope of getting better prices:

    I don’t think the recession has trained consumers to wait; retailers have. In the last 10 years every department store switched from an “everyday fair pricing” to the high-low/deep discount strategy. As the department stores went in that direction smaller retailers followed suit so they’d have something to talk about in their marketing. Coupons, Midnight Madness and ridiculous store hours ensued. The stores trained the consumers to NEVER pay full price, except at boutiques where waiting means the customer risks missing out entirely.

    So this is the “new normal,” on steroids – an exacerbation of a trend that leaves the retailers getting exactly what they’ve been training their customers to do and, unfortunately, sitting on merchandise that should be moving seasonally.

    So true. We have met the enemy, and it is us.

    And, this email from MNB user Gary Smith:

    Two weeks ago on the way to Yellowstone, my father and I stopped at a Crown Burger in Salt Lake City (as I have made your best hamburger list my personal Bucket List). The Crown Burger was excellent (I look forward to the other ones on the list), but my father kept wanting an In-N-Out, which he had on a CA trip three years ago. From my father's reaction, I concur with Sansolo, even though I have never had an In-n-Out, but have had Five Guys. The Crown Burger beat Five Guys by a substantial margin. I suspect the In-N-Out would, too.

    I love the idea that MNB has helped create Gary’s “bucket list.” Our pleasure.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    MNB is going to take a day off today, Friday, August 20. But we’ll be back on Monday, August 23, with all-new, hand-crafted news in context and analysis with attitude.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2010

    Since MNB Radio was a little longer than usual this morning, and I don’t want to wear you out or abuse your patience, I’ll just make a few short comments in “OffBeat” this morning...

    There was a story yesterday here on MNB about Five Guys outranking In-N-Out in a new Zagat survey, but for my money, Washington, DC, is about to get a burger joint that is better than both, albeit a lot harder to find.

    Shake Shack, the popular Danny Meyer burger-and-shake joint that has grown from a seasonal kiosk in a New York City park to a small chain of five locations in New York City and one in Miami Beach, will be opening a version in Georgetown next year.

    The even better news - the lines that have typified Shake Shack’s other locations may be mitigated in DC, since the owners have figured out how to enlarge the kitchen and move the customers through faster.

    So get ready, are about to get a great burger experience.

    There also has been some coverage in the media about the new Pop-Tarts World restaurant in New York’s Times Square. The reviews have been mixed at best, but I especially love the comment that Shep Smith of Fox News made: “Pop-Tarts now has a store in Times Square. Pop-Tarts, crossroad to the world. Pop-Tarts. I say we bring back the porn stores.”

    Someone I really respect on these issues - my 16-year-old daughter - stopped by Pop-Tarts World earlier this week. She came away less than impressed...and said it did not have nearly the flair of the M&M’s Store.

    Just sayin’...

    By the way, thanks to all of you who wrote after last week’s “Your View” to say that you think that the opinions I express here are authentic (not fabricated, as one user suggested), and that I’m not a “Pinko Commie,” which one person accused me of being. The nice thing is that most of the folks who wrote in don’t even agree with me most of the time...but they value the notion of calm, reasonable, civil discussion and debate. I appreciate it.

    Last week I saw an unusual pair of movies - one about a lesbian couple raising a family in Southern California, and one about soldiers of fortune killing off about a thousand people in an attempt to rescue a small South American country.

    To be honest, Annette Bening in the first one seemed a lot more formidable than Sylvester Stallone in the second one.

    “The Kids Are All Right” is a comedy/drama about what happens when the children being raised by two moms - played by Bening and Julianne Moore - decide they want to meet the man who served as sperm donor...their biological father. That man ends up being Mark Ruffalo, charming as the carefree owner of an organic restaurant, and he is an odd and eventually disruptive influence on the family.

    I liked “The Kids Are All Right” a lot. It is a little rough in spots, and sometimes explicit in a way that goes a bit beyond my comfort zone. But the acting is great - especially Bening, who is absolutely riveting.

    There is nothing at all riveting about “The Expendables,” unfortunately - unless you decide to pass the time trying to count all the bodies that get shot, stabbed, dismembered, burned and exploded. Some of it is painful to watch, especially when director/co-writer Stallone tries to go for “greater meaning” - at one point actually suggesting that one can redeem one’s soul by killing thousands of people. This movie could have been both fun and interesting, if they’d gone for a kind of Seven Samurai/Wild Bunch/Dirty Dozen vibe. Instead, it is neither.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Fins Up!

    KC's View: