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    Published on: October 29, 2010

    In honor of Election Day next Tuesday, it is worth pointing out that while Democrats and Republicans increasingly find it difficult to be civil to each other, there actually is some overlap in the brands that they value.

    Advertising Age reports that a survey by YouGov's BrandIndex indicates that Republicans’ top ten brands are, in order, Fox News, the History Channel, Craftsman, the Discovery Channel, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, Fox, FedEx, Lowe’s and Cheerios.

    Democrats have a different set of priorities, but there are actually seven GOP-favored brands that make their list, which goes, in order, like this: Google, Sony, the Discovery Channel, UPS, Craftsman, Johnson & Johnson, Cheerios, the History Channel, FedEx and Amazon.

    The suggestion is that at least from a branding perspective, the two political sides may actually have more in common that many would think. Perhaps they should be bonding while dropping off a package at FedEx or UPS, or while shopping for a Craftsman tool, or while discussing the previous night’s documentary on the History Channel.

    (It is interesting that MSNBC does not seem to generate the same fervor among Democrats as Fox News does among Republicans; perhaps this is the much-discussed “enthusiasm gap” that pundits have spent so much time discussing on TV.)

    But this also suggests a kind of game that marketers should play, and encourage their staffs to play, having nothing to do with political persuasions. If you were asked to identify the ten most important brands in your life, the ones that are the most relevant to your life and of the highest quality, which ones would they be? More importantly, why are they important? And what does that tell you about the care and feeding of your own brand?

    The results of such a self-inflicted test might indeed be eye-opening ... and about more than just your politics.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    The New York Times reports that last year, when members of the New York City Health Department were debating a media campaign designed to address the city’s obesity crisis, there was significant debate over an ad that claimed that drinking one can of soda a day would make you gain ten pounds a year. The debate was over whether the science (which suggests that the claim is at least hyperbolic) was more or less important than the need to motivate people to change their behavior, and support a proposed statewide tax on sugary drinks.

    “The dispute,” the Times writes, “reflected in unusually candid internal e-mails, reveals a health commissioner with a high tolerance for dissent, yet committed to fighting obesity, a passion shared by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The soda tax proposal was eventually dropped from the state budget,” which made the campaign unnecessary, “but the mayor escalated his antisoda campaign this month by requesting permission from the federal government to bar city residents from using food stamps to buy sodas and other sugar sweetened beverages.”
    KC's View:
    I think that a pretty good place to start when creating public policy is to not exaggerate the science. Inevitably, when this happens, even the best intentions lose credibility.

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Redbox, the Coinstar-owned company that has brought DVD rental kiosks to supermarkets and other locations all over the country, has unveiled “a new digital strategy that by next year will expand the number of movies offered to consumers directly in their homes -- a move the Illinois-based company hopes will set the stage for longer-term growth and soothe investors anxious about its prospects.

    “The company is in talks with several potential partners for this expansion, which will include a Web-based service that works in conjunction with its $1-per-night movie kiosks, said chief executive Mitch Lowe.”

    As the Times notes, market pressures “make it appealing for Redbox to go online and reach more consumers - particularly a younger crowd that  prefers to access movies with Web-connected devices. A digital service will also allow Redbox to expand its film catalog:  Kiosks typically contain about 600 DVDs, most of which are new releases.”
    KC's View:
    I’ve been arguing here for a long time that the Redbox business model is by its very nature not sustainable, simply because the downloading option will be seen as more attractive and convenient to the younger generation of shoppers. This doesn’t mean Redbox cannot survive for some time, just that nature takes its course ... and it makes sense for the company to prepare now for a business model that will keep it in business for the long term.

    Unlike, say, Blockbuster.

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    The Bergen Record reports that more than 100 members of the Teamsters demonstrated outside the New Jersey headquarters of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) earlier this week, protesting against a plan that it says will move 1,500 jobs out of state.

    C&S Wholesale Grocers, which has contracted to handle A&P’s distribution business, “plans to move warehousing and distribution work from New Jersey locations to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut,” according to the story.

    Lauren La Bruno, a spokeswoman for A&P, tells the Record, “It is the company's position not to comment publicly on any discussions or negotiations we may be having with our suppliers as we work to implement our comprehensive turnaround plan.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    Supervalu yesterday announced “the launch of a comprehensive, whole-store health and wellness program called ‘living healthy with my diabetes.’ The program offers a variety of resources to make life easier for customers living with diabetes, including educational materials, health screening tests, group and individual diabetes education and training programs, medication management consultations, nutrition information, dietary tools, products and other services.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    Reuters reports that Walmart may scale back its plans for a $4 billion takeover of South African retailer Massmart, and could simply acquire a stake of 50 percent or more. The possible shift comes after what Massmart said was discussions with its shareholders and stakeholders, and would, according to the story, “still make Wal-Mart the first major international retailer in South Africa” and give Walmart a launching bad for growth on the continent.

    • The Financial Times reports that Walmart-owned Asda Group in the UK is testing the concept of in-store kiosks that will allow in-store shoppers to order goods from a kiosk connecting to an online catalog. The test is being conducted at three stores in northern England, and is being called Asda Extra.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    Seattle University announced yesterday that it is “the first college or university in the state of Washington to go bottled-water free. The university has removed bottled water from vending machines, concession stands, the campus bookstore, on-campus restaurants and catering.”

    The move, the university said, “was spurred by students concerned about the social and environmental impacts of bottled water. Seattle University students spent the last three years working in partnership with university administrators to eliminate bottled water campuswide.”

    “As a Seattle University alum I’m proud of the steps students and staff have taken to pass this important resolution,” said Kelle Louaillier, executive director of Boston-based Corporate Accountability International. “By going bottled water free on campus, the university is setting an example for the state of Washington and other institutions to take similar steps, particularly other Jesuit universities.”
    KC's View:
    A limited protest from a bastion of liberal thought? Or a reflection of things to come? Not sure. But you can’t entirely eliminate the latter as a possibility.

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    The Associated Press reports that a Brazilian court has ordered McDonald’s there to pay a former employee the equivalent of $17,500 in damages because the man gained 65 pounds while working there for 12 years.

    According to the story, “The 32-year-old man says he was forced to sample food products each day to ensure that quality standards remained high because McDonald's hired ‘mystery clients’ to randomly visit restaurants and report on the food, service and cleanliness. The man also says McDonald's offered free lunches to employees, adding to his caloric intake while on the job.”
    KC's View:
    There is so much about this story that does not make sense...starting with the use of the words “McDonald’s” and “quality standards” in the same sentence. (Okay, I know this will add to the mistaken perception that I am a food snob. But I’m just sayin’...)

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    Crain’s New York Business reports that Nordstrom has signed a lease for a store in downtown Manhattan, but that it plans to build “what it bills as a ‘unique’ concept store at that address in the fall of next year. All earnings at the new store will be donated to nonprofits ... The name of the new concept store has yet to be determined, but will not contain the name Nordstrom, according to the company.”

    “It's a unique, philanthropic-based store concept,” Pamela Lopez, a Nordstrom spokeswoman, tells Crain’s. “All profits will go to nonprofit organizations.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    James MacArthur, who played “Danno” Williams on the original “Hawaii Five-O” television series on CBS from 1968-1979, died yesterday of “natural causes” at age 72.

    MacArthur came from a noble theatre heritage - he was the adopted son of actress Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur (“The Front Page”).
    KC's View:
    Too bad. I think that MacArthur was the last surviving member of the original “Five-O” cast, and I was sort of hoping he’d show up in some capacity on the new version (which is, by the way, terrific...especially Scott Caan in MacArthur’s old role).

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    In the second game of the 2010 Major League Baseball World Series, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 9-0, taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

    The series now moves from San Francisco to Arlington, Texas, where game three will take place on Saturday evening.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    Got several emails regarding the decision by Sony to stop making the tape-based Walkman, and yesterday’s Eye-Opener contemplating Sony’s fall from leadership in this category.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I am a long time reader. I appreciate the updates you provide on the industry and the challenges you propose to your readers to always rethink, refurbish and renew. I couldn't let the Sony Walkman comments pass me by today.

    I am a midwesterner in New York City for a vacation week with my family. We were at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab today close to Central Park. It was there that I saw in the introductory "technology evolution area" the school bus yellow Sony Walkman that debuted in the early 80's. Up to about a year ago I was still using a SW AM/FM Cassette player during workouts to play my 80's cassettes. I have a ton of old cassette recordings of my band and others from the 80's that I listen to during workouts. My wife was quick to point out the Walkman on display to me. My Walkman finally gave out and I upgraded to an ipod, which I have used ever since. The funny thing is...is that I have written and recorded ad jingles, sports anthems and original songs in digital formats for years. I know the technology exists to transfer the cassettes to digital format. I guess I never got around to it because I never had to.

    I have a brand new Sony Walkman CD player still in the plastic that I could donate for the next exhibit. I was going to use it once my Walkman gave out. Seems I skipped one link in the technology chain.


    MNB user Rhonda Williams wrote:

    To chime in on your Sony Walkman article, last week, to my amazement, I saw a woman jogging while carrying a portable CD player. I was in the car at the time with my 11-year old son. When I commented on how unusual it was to see that in this day in age, he asked, “What’s a Walkman?” I think he said quite a bit with that question.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    Pardon me, sir, but I have a plastic tote full of cassette tapes and a player in my car as well as in the house.  I also have both kinds of “walkmans”, along with a record player with a spindle that fits for 45s.  My 2 year old grandson will probably be the only child in his class some day to know what these “antiques” are all about and to hear Captain Kangaroo singing the please and thank you song...



    Got the following response from MNB user Dennis Zegar to our story about possible good financial news:

    There are many interrelated reasons for sluggish consumer spending and persistent unemployment.  Your readers are correct in believing that there is a fear of losing one's job, therefore they are spending less and saving more.  In fact, we have gone from a negative 2% savings rate pre-recession to a positive 5% savings rate post-recession.  However, we cannot discount that Americans have lived well beyond their means for years and now must pay the piper.  Americans are sacrificing personal consumption for paying down debt.  Consider the following:

    Average total debt in 2009 (including credit cards, mortgage, home equity, student loans and more) for U.S. households with credit card debt: $54,000. (That's down from $93,850 in 2008.) 

    Average total debt in 2009 (including credit cards, mortgage, home equity, student loans and more) for all U.S. households: $16,046. (That's down from $35,245 in 2008.)

    Total U.S. consumer debt (which includes credit card debt and noncredit-card debt but not mortgage debt) reached $2.45 trillion at the end of 2009, down sharply from $2.56 trillion at the end of 2008. (Source: Federal Reserve's G.19 report, March 2010)

    Total U.S. consumer revolving debt fell to $866 billion at the end of 2009, down from $958 billion at the end of 2008. About 98 percent of that debt was credit card debt. (Source: Federal Reserve's G.19 report, March 2010)

    Paying down debt is a non-stimulative expenditure, but important to the long term financial health of this nation.  Consider that through 2009:

    • Visa credit cards: 270.1 million, down 11 percent (Source: Visa.com)
    • Visa debit: 382 million, up 18 percent (Source: Visa.com)
    • MasterCard credit cards: 203 million, down 22 percent (Source: MasterCard.com) 
    • MasterCard debit: 125 million, up 1 percent (Source: MasterCard.com)
    • American Express credit: 48.9 million, down 9 percent (Source: AmericanExpress.com)


    Clearly, American's are charging less and paying cash for many purchases.  Debit transactions, on a macro level, slows consumer spending.  However, while full employment is probably 2 years away, we should see some relief by Q2 2011.  Why, there have been so many layoffs by industry that the existing workforce is near "burnout" levels having to pick up the work previously performed by others. While in the short-term layoffs helped businesses weather the recession, but in the long-term productivity will begin to decline.

    This recession is unlike any this nation and, for that matter the industrialized world, has ever seen.  It was deep and pervasive.  There is no magic bullet, only time and patience.  Hopefully, we will learn that there is no such thing as a free lunch.


    Except, apparently, at that McDonald’s in Brazil.




    I wrote yesterday that I thought the Lost Abbey brewery made a mistake in knuckling under to the demands of pro-witch activists who demanded that it change the label of its Witches Wit beer, which shows a witch being burned at the stake. My comment:

    Last I checked - unless someone has rewritten the history books - the burning at the stake of witches is a historical fact. And they should have made that defense, and run the risk that the witches community in the US is not so large that it could have an enormous impact on sales.

    Then again, maybe management was simply afraid of being turned into toads.


    MNB user Kelly Smith responded:

    Wow. I’m disappointed and a little shocked that the message I just got is that companies don’t have to do the right thing unless there’s a lot of sales at stake (a message totally inconsistent with your usual POV).

    Yes, burning at the stake is a historical fact. I think the point that you may be missing is that burning someone at the stake for their religious views (or their alleged views in most of said cases) is an atrocity, and not something to find humor in. I’m not wiccan and I find it offensive. This company did the right thing in accepting responsibility for offending others—however unintentionally—and making it right with customers (or potential customers), regardless of how small or large that group might be.


    I’m certainly not in favor of sanctioning atrocities (though, to be fair, I make at least part of my living offending people).

    But what I should have pointed out is that the Salem Witch trials took place in 1692 ... and to my knowledge, there have not been a lot of them in recent years. Maybe we all need to have a bit of perspective ... and not worry too much about atrocities that happened 300 years ago.

    Unless, of course, people are actually worried about being turned into toads.




    Finally, a great email from MNB user Rosemary Fifield, who objected to my describing something as a “new initiative”:

    Please don't use "New Initiative." With a little advance planning and some close scrutiny you will find there is a consensus of opinion on the final results of this sort of safe haven for the mass exodus of knowing awareness regarding repeated redundancy.

    You are right. Also correct. About the extra verbocity.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    I’ve always waxed rhapsodic about the Pacific Northwest, and recent forays to Portland, Seattle and San Francisco (which isn’t technically in the Pacific Northwest, but I tend to lump it in because it is part of the trio of favorite cities out west) did nothing to change my mind.

    The reason? Beyond the great food, the wonderful wines and beers, and a climate that I positively love (“I love the rain..it washes memories from the pavement of life,” Alan Felix once said), there also are the cities’ marvelous mass transit systems, which make it possible to get from the airport to downtown incredibly quickly...and cheaply. Efficient, effective, and environmentally friendly...that’s my idea of a strong triple play.




    After writing the Eye-Opener above, I tried to think about the brands that would qualify in my life, the ones that I trust almost without question, that are most relevant to my day-to-day existence.

    I would have trouble picking ten. The list would certainly include Apple, Amazon, LL Bean ... but I’m not sure any other brand would qualify. The only one that would even remotely make my list from the two political lists would be Google...

    Not sure what this says about me. And maybe I’ll think of a couple more as I’m traveling. But that’s about it for now...




    Y’know what’s wrong with America?

    This week, while speaking at a conference in Florida at a beachside resort, I saw all sorts of families cavorting together in the pool.

    And I thought to myself, why the hell aren’t these kids in school?

    I don’t think many schools are on vacation during the last week in October. And yet there they were, playing in the water, getting sunburns, when they should have been in a classroom somewhere, getting educated in such a way that they will make themselves and their nation more competitive.

    Sure, there are exceptions. Sometimes taking a kid on a business trip can be a great way of augmenting their education. But I firmly believe that a lot of parents pull their kids out of school because they think hitting a resort is simply more important than hitting the books.

    I don’t blame the kids. It is the parents, who communicate to them in no uncertain terms that school is not the most important thing in their lives, who are the target for my criticism.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.




    Wine Spectator reports that “women who drink in moderation face a significantly lower risk of sudden cardiac death than nondrinkers, according to an October study in Heart Rhythm.”

    Mrs. Content Guy will feel relieved.




    After the panel discussion that Michael Sansolo and I moderated recently at the California Grocers Association (CGA) annual convention, Safeway’s Karl Schroeder offered us a bottle of wine from his vineyard.

    Now, this wasn’t just any bottle of wine. It was a sultry, luscious 2007 that Cabernet Sauvignon, from his inaugural vintage ... and I have to tell you, this fellow knows how to make wine. Michael and i enjoyed it immensely, and we hope that if there are future vintages, he’ll see his way clear to share a bottle or two.

    I’ve always felt that wine can be a wonderful expression of personality - in this case, the label says, the wine is dubbed “Aurelia,” after his wife, because it has “beauty, zest and grace.”

    (I love the name .... because “Aurelia” also is the name of a significant character in one of my favorite holiday movies, Love, Actually. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean.)

    Anyway, cheers to Mr. Schroeder...he does good work.




    I really liked Hereafter, the new Clint Eastwood-directed movie starring Matt Damon, that examines three different people and their experiences with and connections to the afterlife. Now, I realize that not everyone shares this opinion - I’ve talked to some folks who really hated it.

    But I found it to be an uncommon piece of work - a serious, contemplative adult movie with genuine moments of surprise that left me gasping and in awe. The performances are uniformly excellent - I’m especially smitten with the Belgian actress Cecile de France, who plays a French journalist who has a near-death experience; I’ve never seen her in a movie before, and she is both beautiful and extremely talented.

    My only complaint is that Eastwood - who is as close to being a renaissance man as there is in Hollywood - has once again composed the score, which seems very similar to many of those that he has composed for other movies. But aside from that, I found Hereafter to be that rarity - a movie that you want to talk about when it is over, and for days afterwards.



    I also liked Red, the new action/comedy starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfuss, Mary Louise Parker and Ernest Borgnine (who at 93 is still working). The movie concerns retired CIA assassins who are targeted by death by the very same CIA - it is their job to find out why, and stop it.

    The performances are actually quite good; I was reminded while watching it how good an actor Willis is, and what a shame it is that he doesn’t get serious parts in adult movies. Red might have been better had it been a little bit more serious and less like the graphic novel from which it is derived, but it is what it is, an entertaining diversion.



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

    Slainte!
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    MyWebGrocer, the nation's leading provider for digital grocery solutions now has grown to 5.3 million unique visitors based on comScore's September 2010 Media Metrix report. Contributing to this new growth are key retail partners like Kroger, Winn Dixie Food Lion, and Bloom. Advertising on platform has increased 121% driving success for our retail partners and manufactures: P&G, Kellogg's, Kraft, Campell's, and Heniz who are taking advantage of MyWebGrocer's expanded retail foot print.

    To find out how MyWebGrocer and their digital solutions can help you grow visit MyWebGrocer.com or call 1-888-662-2284.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2010

    My Web Grocer
    MyWebGrocer, the nation's leading provider for digital grocery solutions now has grown to 5.3 million unique visitors based on comScore's September 2010 Media Metrix report. Contributing to this new growth are key retail partners like Kroger, Winn Dixie Food Lion, and Bloom. Advertising on platform has increased 121% driving success for our retail partners and manufacturers: P&G, Kellogg's, Kraft, Campell's, and Heinz who are taking advantage of MyWebGrocer's expanded retail foot print.

    To find out how MyWebGrocer and their digital solutions can help you grow, visit MyWebGrocer.com or call 1-888-662-2284.

    KC's View: