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    Published on: January 27, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    Since so much of the annual State of Union speech is about visuals, let’s ignore issues for a second and consider just what we see. Because there was one optic in this year’s speech that left me annoyed, especially in our new age of information.

    I’d like to ask: In what decade does our government live?

    There were endless crowd shots each contained views of people following along in printed handouts of the speech. Can you possibly imagine a group of 500 business leaders, 500 consumers or 500 college students doing the same? NO!

    Where were the iPads?

    Granted, it is probably way cheaper to give each speech attendee a printed copy instead of an iPad, but I wonder how much money (and how many trees) we taxpayers spend each year printing documents that our leaders could easily download. I’m betting we would pay back the cost of the iPads inside of one month of documents going unprinted.

    Now I understand that this would come with problems. First off, since every congressman and senator loves nothing more than his or her own opinions, we know that virtually no one would actually listen to the speech. Rather, they’d be tweeting their reactions constantly, but they do that anyhow.

    Secondly, as my 24-year-old daughter pointed out, we’d probably have to find people to train each of them in how to use an iPad. (After all, as we pointed out here not that long ago, we have at least two members of the US Senate working on financial services committees who are only barely familiar with the use of ATM cards.) But I’m okay with teaching them how to use iPads, because unless leaders understand the cutting edge technologies of the day, they won’t be leading for long. I’m thinking that goes for our country too.

    And that’s my Eye-Opener for today.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2011

     Content Guy’s Note: Last week, when I did a video commentary, one of the things I heard from a bunch of people was that while they liked it, they wanted to have the option of reading it in text form, which is what I used to do for MNB Radio. The only problem is that the video wasn’t tightly scripted, so I didn’t have a transcript to run.

    So what I decided to try is this. Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I hope this satisfies as many people as possible...and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Earlier this week, I was attending the annual Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference in Phoenix, and, as has been the tradition over the past dozen or so years, there was the taking of the yearly photo of what is known as the Silver Fox Club.

    The Silver Fox Club was started by Paul Corliss, the founder of DCI and a pioneer in the card marketing business, because he looked around and saw so many guys with gray hair. Because he was in the business of affinity programs, Paul thought that it might be fun to create one at FMI Midwinter, and so every year they take a picture. It’s good fun for everybody who gets in the picture, and (to be honest) a matter of quiet pride for those of us not yet at the point where we qualify.

    This year, however, as they were taking the picture, I couldn’t help but think that they have it all wrong ... or at least ought to be thinking about taking the group in a new direction. I think it is great to celebrate longevity and wisdom, but what they really ought to be celebrating is the ability of people with gray or white hair not to think or act like people with gray or white hair.

    Today, more than ever, to run a sustainable business or have a sustainable career as a business leader, you constantly have to renew and reinvent yourself, develop new skills and understand that the sacred cows of the past have to be the among the first things to be put out to pasture. Or slaughtered.

    I’m not trying to rain on everybody’s parade, but here’s what the Silver Fox Club ought to do next year. It ought to be their challenge to bring someone to the conference - and stand next to that person in next year’s picture - who does not have gray or white hair, who is helping the older person understand the next generation of consumers and how to achieve sustainable marketing and organizational excellence relevance, and who has been identified as a current thought leader and future company leader.

    Would that push the Silver Fox Club in a new direction? Sure. But isn’t that what all entities have to do these days?

    I’m Kevin Coupe, and that’s what is on my mind this morning.

    As always, I want to know what is on yours.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart “is spending half a billion dollars this year to expand in Canada, the latest example of a retail rush north to take advantage of Canada's relatively robust economy and eager-to-spend consumers.

    “Wal-Mart's Canadian arm will open 40 supercenter-format stores in the next fiscal year, though only eight of these will be new stores. The remainder will consist of expansions or remodellings of existing stores, as well as store relocations. The expansion is expected to increase the number of Wal-Mart stores in Canada to 333 by the end of January 2012, including 164 supercenters.”

    It probably is not a coincidence that Walmart is upping the ante in Canada at the same time as Target has announced that it will start opening stores there beginning in 2013, its first venture outside the US.

    According to the story, “The foray into Canada comes as U.S. retailers look for new opportunities outside of the saturated domestic market. Canada is a particularly attractive destination, as retail sales have already recovered from their recessionary lows. As well, Canada's proximity to the U.S., and its similar culture and language make it an attractive destination for U.S. retailers.”
    KC's View:
    Seems to me that the big thing that Walmart has going for it in Canada is the presence of Shelley Broader, who used to run Sweetbay Supermarkets in Florida, and now is serving as its chief merchant north of the border. Shelley gets food in a way that many food retailers do not...and she is going to prove to be an enormous weapon for Walmart there ... and probably here in the not-too-distant future.

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    Safeway has introduced its new Open Nature line of 100 percent natural foods, saying that the initiative continues “its leadership in the retail food industry as an innovator in health and nutrition offerings.”

    According to the company, “Open Nature is a new line of more than 100 products made with 100% natural ingredients from natural sources, with nothing artificial added. The first Open Nature items are available now in Safeway’s meat departments, featuring fresh beef and pork, fresh chicken, chicken sausages, bacon and beef hot dogs. Additional Open Nature products will be available throughout the year across even more categories such as bread, yogurt, ice cream, salad dressing, frozen foods and many others.”

    Safeway says that “Safeway holds these exclusive products to high standards, ensuring that every item in the Open Nature line is made only with ingredients from natural sources. In addition to these high standards, each of the products adheres to specific guidelines. For example, Open Nature meat and poultry products must also meet the following criteria: raised without antibiotics, no added hormones, fed an all-vegetarian diet, and no artificial preservatives.”

    The Open Nature line is being added to Safeway’s O Organics, Eating Right, and Eating Right For Kids lines.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    Walmart yesterday announced that it has changed its mind, and has decided not to go to court to fight for its right to build a supercenter near a the Civil War battlefield, simply saying “it was the right thing to do.”

    Preservationists have been fighting the Walmart building plans for some two years, despite the approval of the Walmart by local zoning officials.

    According to the Associated Press, “Burt P. Flickinger III of Strategic Resource Group said it is rare for Wal-Mart to back away from a store once it has researched a location and settled on a site. But they may have wanted to avoid a continuing public relations hit at a time of disappointing sales and increased competition. ‘To the company's credit they decided to do something different,’ said Flickinger, who said he is a Wal-Mart shareholder.”
    KC's View:
    Discretion is the better part of valor.

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Procter & Gamble (P&G) has “plunked down an estimated $80 billion over the past two decades to transform itself into a beauty company, a big wager that appealing to the vanities of men and women will bring higher profit than just selling diapers and household cleaners.” However, the story suggests that even though the beauty products business generates about a third of P&G’s annual revenue, “its underlying growth is weak due to limited exposure to emerging markets and cash-strapped shoppers who have cut back on purchasing beauty products.”

    In charge of making sure the investment is worth it is Ed Shirley, chief of P&G’s beauty products division, who has been bringing a new approach to the company. Here’s how the Journal frames it:

    “When Mr. Shirley took over as beauty-products chief, the unit was too focused on North America and missed out on sales growth other divisions were seeing overseas, namely in developing countries. Brands weren't following related products into new markets ... His solution was to put products like men's deodorant, shaving gear and skin care in one unit, so the brands could pool their efforts. The plan ran smack into P&G's generations-old practice of managing each brand as essentially a separate business. Multimillion-dollar marketing plans, nearly all financial reporting and compensation targets would have to be reorganized.”

    The story notes that P&G has been running a number of joint brand campaigns, as well as being more aggressive about its high-end business. But the jury remains out - at least among analysts - on whether the long-term strategy will prove out, no matter how much sense it seems to make on paper.
    KC's View:
    Here’s the paragraph that stood out to me in the Journal story:

    Mr. Shirley, an outsider, had to sell this to employees who had grown up together at P&G. He even had to defend his signature mustache, which some employees viewed as disloyal because P&G now sold Gillette razors. "I shave every day, I just don't shave the mustache," Mr. Shirley says.

    No offense, but what year is this anyway?

    I love it. Here on MNB, we’ve been discussing the cultural challenges that occur when our employees have tattoos and body piercings, and how some companies will have to adjust so they don’t lose out on great people who may have different standards than we do.

    At P&G, they see mustaches as disloyal.

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    Arkansas supermarket chain Harp’s has created a little bit of a controversy by covering up a magazine rack that featured an Us Weekly issue featuring singer Elton John, his partner David Furnish, and their new adopted baby.

    The card in front of the magazine read: “Family Shield. To protect young Harp’s shoppers.”

    Well, someone took a picture of the “shield,” it made it onto the internet, and suddenly the controversy went viral and Harp’s was getting phone calls questioning why it would cover up the picture of a mainstream singer who, it should be noted, recently performed at Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wedding.

    Kim B. Eskew, president/COO at Harp’s, has now released the following statement:

    “We have received a number of complaints regarding an incident in our Mountain Home store involving the current issue of US Weekly Magazine depicting Elton John, David Furnish and their newborn son. I would like to explain how this happened. For many years we have provided each of our stores with shields which can be used at the manager’s discretion to cover the front of magazines when they receive complaints from our customers regarding either the photo on the cover of the magazine or the titles of articles contained within the magazine. Sometimes those photos might be sexually provocative or too revealing. The magazine article titles might also be too suggestive for some customers.

    “In this case our store manager received some complaints and, as has been our custom, placed the shield over the cover of the magazine. When we began receiving complaints at our corporate office, we reviewed the magazine in question, removed the shield and are selling the magazine in all our locations today without any shield.

    “Our true intention is not to offend anyone in our stores and this incident happened at just one of our 65 locations, which when brought to our attention, we reversed.”
    KC's View:
    Lesson number one is that even a single move by one store manager can instantly become a much bigger deal because of the internet. You may not like it, but there isn’t much you can do about it. One of the things you have to tell your people is that they have to factor this kind of thinking into their decision-making process.

    Lesson number two, I think, is this. When I was a kid, if I saw a sign saying that it was there to protect me from seeing something, the first thing I would do is look behind the sign. (I once got into trouble during a class trip to FDR’s home at Hyde Park, NY, when I went up the stairs past a sign saying “do not enter” because I was curious what they did not want me to see.) I would expect no less of my children.

    There are a lot worse things kids could see than picture of two people in a committed relationship raising a family.

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that “as the annual selling season gets under way for the organization's iconic cookies, Girl Scouts councils are beginning to say adios to Dulce de Leche, no thanks to Thank U Berry Munch and farewell to a whole slew of other varieties added in recent years.

    “To cut costs and increase revenue, a dozen Girl Scouts councils are testing out a plan to hawk just six different cookies.”

    And at least some troops are getting a lesson in entrepreneurship. The Journal also notes that “to boost flat cookie sales,” Girl Scouts in Nassau County, New York have been taking seminars from a professional consultant in how to sell more cookies.
    KC's View:
    Ironic that the takes note of the Nassau troop...since Nassau is a county in so much trouble that New York State - itself suffering from a lot of fiscal difficulties - has seized control of its finances.

    If the Girl Scouts there are able to make any progress, maybe they could just put the kids in charge of the government.

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    Got to love a story like this, which came across the laptop yesterday:

    “Sal Mora recently became the 14th Brookshire Grocery Co. truck driver to achieve the milestone of driving a million miles without a preventable accident.

    Mora accomplished the feat on January 20, 2011, at mile-marker 634 on Interstate 20 near Waskom, Texas.

    A 21-year employee, Mora joined BGC in 1989 as a warehouseman, later serving in facility maintenance and as an order checker. He became a truck driver in 1997.

    “‘What a tremendous accomplishment for Sal, not to mention the entire distribution team,’ said BGC President and CEO Rick Rayford. ‘Our distribution group is committed to safety and professionalism, and achievements such as this demonstrate that commitment’.”
    KC's View:
    Maybe this happens a lot. Maybe it happens rarely. (Though it clearly has happened 14 times at Brookshire.)

    But I just thought this was sort of cool, and deserving of wider recognition.

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    BrandWeek reports that “Laura Klauberg, svp, global media at Unilever, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2011

    Not sure if you’ve seen this, but singer Jimmy Buffett was doing an encore during a concert in Sydney, Australia, when flashing lights caused him to accidentally step off the stage and drop to the pavement below, cracking his head on a metal ledge and falling unconscious for as long as 10 minutes. He was taken to a local hospital and treated, and apparently was released this morning. No word on whether he will be able to perform at his concert in New Zealand on Saturday.

    Not sure if this was real or not, but a friend told me that Buffett’s manager was quoted as saying, “Some people say that there was a woman to blame, but it was his own damn fault.”

    KC's View: