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    Published on: March 2, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating piece the other day that compared - perhaps for the first time in the history of journalism - rocker Keith Richards and golfer Fred Couples. And in there was a lesson for business thought leaders.

    According to the piece, one of the most interesting parts of Richards’ recent autobiography, ‘Life,” is his description of learning the guitar. “Drug-addled reprobate that he admits to being, Richards makes a forceful case that would-be guitarists need to devote themselves first to the good old-fashioned fundamentals of the acoustic guitar ... He devoted years of surprisingly diligent effort to figuring out how the great blues masters played the key chords they did.”

    But once Richards had mastered basic technique, he “felt free to give himself over to instinct.” Richards writes, “There is no 'properly.' There's just how you feel about it. Feel your way around it.”

    Couples, who at 51 continues to play golf professionally, apparently is at much the same point. He spent years mastering the fundamentals, but these days he is prevented from practicing much because of a bad back, and often he has to play through the pain when on the tour. But, he says, “when I'm healthy and everything is right, I feel like I play better now than I did when I was 30." And that’s because he’s largely given himself over to instinct, and he trusts those instincts to a degree that he did not when he was younger.

    That’s a great lesson for marketers. At some point, one has to have the confidence to move past business-by-the-numbers, to paint outside the lines, if one is to create a picture that establishes a differential advantage over the competition. And like Richards, it may be in these moments that the memorable - and successful - riffs are created.

    And that’s our Wednesday Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    Vera Jane Mayne, wife of the late Calvin Mayne, who founded Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton, Ohio, in 1948, passed away on Monday. She was 105.

    Mrs. Mayne became president of Dorothy Lane Market after the passing of her husband in 1972, and only relinquished the title to her son, Norman Mayne, five years ago. It was always a source of great pride to Norman Mayne that his mom was an active participant in the business; it was just weeks ago, while chairing the annual Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference, that he spoke glowingly of his mother, and expressed his great pride in her legacy.

    Among her chief contributions was the decision to contribute a percentage of the company’s profits each year to local nonprofit organizations and charities; Mrs. Mayne felt strongly that it was critical to support the community on which the business depended for success. In addition, Mrs. Mayne’s face and name have long adorned a number of private brands sold by the stores.
    KC's View:
    My heart goes out to Norman Mayne and his family; my sense is that his mom, who I never met, served as the rock upon which Dorothy Lane Markets has grown into a legendary retail enterprise over the years. And is a mark of how well she raised her son that Norman, who was running the business long before he took the title, always was quick to give his mom credit ... and you could see the affection and love he felt for her in his smile and in his eyes.

    You never quite get over losing your mom. (Mine died 13 years ago today.) But if you are lucky, you also never get over having had her ... and, to paraphrase Robert Anderson, while death ends a life, it does not end a relationship.

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    The Culinary Tides trend forecasting firm is out with a new report, ‘Shifting Sands 2011,” suggesting that consumers are becoming more adventurous and courageous in their eating habits, and are willing to experiment with new and unfamiliar foods to a greater degree than ever.

    According to the report, “Overall, the trends indicated that consumers and food are moving away from comfort and toward experimentation.” And, it says, “There is strong evidence that consumers are moving out of the economic crisis both emotionally and behaviorally.”

    The report is actually “an analysis of 123 separate ‘Top 10’ prediction lists for 2011 affecting the food industry. In all, 1,280 individual predictions were evaluated for their potential in the coming year.”
    KC's View:
    Isn’t it pretty to think so?

    I’m not entirely convinced, much as I would like to be.

    I believe that there always will be people who eat to live, and those who live to eat. (I’m glad I’m part of the latter group.)

    I also believe that there are folks out there who are in the prediction business, who never get called on it when they’re wrong, and for whom it is a lot sexier to make predictions like “people are going to get more adventurous” as opposed to “people are going to eat the same old, same old.”

    But maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age.

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that “new Tide and Gain compacted powder laundry detergents are now available at Target stores nationwide. The new detergents are compacted by one-third, while offering the same number of loads in a smaller box.

    “Procter & Gamble officials said the company also will introduce compacted powder formulas for Cheer, Dreft and Ivory Snow.”

    The compacted detergents could, company officials say, “help save up to 22 million pounds of total packaging in the U.S. and Canada each year. In addition, because the new products are smaller and lighter, fewer truckloads will be needed to ship deliveries, cutting costs and pollution.”
    KC's View:
    If you can do something like this, why wouldn’t you? It is sensible economically and environmentally, and it sends precisely the right message up and down the supply chain.

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    The BBC reports that British officials have confiscated ice cream made with human breast milk that is being sold by a London ice cream parlor called The Icecreamists, amid concerns that it might not be safe to eat.

    The ice cream, marketed under the name of “Baby Gaga,” went on the market last week. It was sold in a martini-like glass, cost the equivalent of $22 (US) per serving, and was said to be natural, organic and free range.

    Officials were acting on complaints from the public; the federal Food Standards Agency reportedly is examining the ice cream to see if it is safe for human consumption.

    The owners of the company said that they had followed all appropriate food safety procedures in manufacturing the product, and that as far as they knew, there was no law preventing them from selling breast milk in food. Furthermore, they noted that the has been a huge demand for Baby Gaga, and that they’ve also been getting calls from women looking to sell their breast milk.
    KC's View:
    The marketers behind Baby Gaga aren’t boobs. They know how to milk a controversy for the greatest exposure, and that a little titillation can be good for business.

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the AFL-CIO, and Change To Win have filed a joint amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the plaintiffs in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores gender discrimination case.

    “For more than 45 years, American workers have sought protection from the courts for equal treatment in the workplace,” they said in their announcement of the filing. “Workers have joined together to remedy widespread discriminatory workplace practices through class action proceedings and by applying the nation’s civil rights standards to their workplaces. Today, Walmart is attempting to undo that standard by claiming its female associates have no right to appeal for justice as a class.

    “In our amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, we ask the court to uphold the fundamental pillar of the Civil Rights Act and to ensure that the class action process remains open to workers in all industries.”

    The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear to review Walmart’s appeal of a class action suit against it that charges the giant retailer with employment and gender discrimination and that could, if Walmart loses, cost it billions of dollars.
    At issue in the appeal is not Walmart’s guilt or innocence. Rather, it is whether the suit should be allowed to forward as a class action. Walmart says that the hundreds of thousands of women included in the class action, who worked in some 3,400 stores in 170 job classifications, “could not possibly have enough in common to make class-action treatment appropriate.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the folks who manufacture Bubba Burgers for grocers’ frozen food cases have decided to get into the restaurant business. They have taken over four former Times Grill locations in the Jacksonville area and will convert them to a fast casual concept called the Original Bubba Burger Grill.

    According to the story, “The restaurants’ menu will feature all the varieties of Bubba Burgers, including the original flavor, sweet onion, jalapeno, reduced fat, mini Bubba bites, all-natural and certified Angus beef and the all-natural turkey Bubba burger, the company said in a news release.

    “The new restaurant concept will not have wait staff, but patrons will be able to build their own burger by selecting from not only the patties, but buns, toppings, cheeses and sauces, too. A chicken sandwich and a mini Bubba dog platter will also be on the menu.”

    While this is the company’s first restaurant venture, the Journal writes that “the company hopes to grow the concept nationwide through restaurant locations as well as in food courts, airports, college campuses and sporting venues.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    Consumer Reports is out with a story saying that the new iPhone 4 that works on the Verizon cellular network has the same problems as the iPhone 4 that ran on the AT&T network - holding the phone a certain way can result in dropped calls and the inability to make connections.

    The iPhone 4 uses the metal band around the phone as an antennae, and when users hold it a certain - and natural - way, it can prevent the phone from working.

    Because of the problem, Consumer Reports says it will not include the Verizon iPhone 4 on its “recommended” list.

    Apple denies that the problem exists. "The iPhone 4 has a great antenna that allows it to have an amazingly thin design, great battery life and reception,” says spokeswoman Natalie Kerris. "We designed the iPhone 4 external antenna to work great on Verizon's CDMA/EVDO network."
    KC's View:
    It struck me when this first happened that Apple mishandled the situation, minimizing rather than dealing with in a straightforward way ... but the controversy seemed to die down pretty quickly with no discernible long-term effects. I wonder if it’ll be different this time...either in terms of the corporate reaction or any consumer backlash.

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    Bloomberg reports that is threatening to cut its ties with more than 10,000 California based affiliates - companies that place ads for Amazon on their websites and then get paid when people click through and make purchases - as it battles the state over internet sales taxes. Two years ago, Amazon severed its relationship with affiliates in Rhode Island, North Carolina and Hawaii over precisely the same issue.

    According to the story, “Four state proposals aimed at forcing Seattle-based Amazon to collect taxes from residents may be unconstitutional and lead to job losses, Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, wrote in a letter to the California Board of Equalization.

    “The letter is the latest salvo in Amazon’s fight with state governments over sales taxes. In February, the company said it would close a Texas distribution site over a similar issue. Amazon received a request from Texas last year for $269 million in uncollected sales tax, with the state contending that since Amazon has a facility in Texas, it should be collecting such taxes for online purchases.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    • Jack H. Brown, chairman/CEO of Stater Bros. in Southern California, has been honored by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society with the Patriot Award, for prestigious service to the nation.

    Previous winners of the Award include Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Will Rogers, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    • CVS Caremark Corporation announced that Larry J. Merlo has assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer.  Merlo, now President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Caremark, succeeds Thomas M. Ryan who will remain Non-Executive Chairman until his retirement in May 2011.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2011

    Responding to yesterday’s story about Taco Bell defending itself against charges that there isn't enough beef in its meat mixture, one MNB user wrote:

    Directly from Taco Hells website...

    Southwest Chicken: Chicken Breast Meat with Rib Meat, Water, Seasoning [Maltodextrin(Corn, Potato, Tapioca), Spices, Salt, Garlic Powder, Yeast Extract, Carrageenan, Paprika, Onion Powder, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Inactivated Yeast, Chicken Powder, Grill Flavor (from Sunflower Oil), Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Chicken Fat, Trehalose, Smoke Flavor, and less than 2% Silicon Dioxide and Soybean Oil added as Processing Aids], Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphates.

    Steak: Beef, Water, Seasoning [Modified Potato Starch, Salt, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Carrageenan, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Spices, Hot Sauce (Aged Red Peppers, Vinegar, Salt), Citric Acid, Sugar, Dehydrated Vinegar, Soybean Oil, Natural Flavors, Soybean Lecithin], Sodium Phosphates. Sauce: Water, Seasoning (Salt, Caramel Color, Modified Food Starch, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Xanthan Gum, Onion Powder, Beef Stock, Vinegar Solids, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Sugar, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Succinic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Beef Fat, Potassium Sorbate) Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, BHT. CONTAINS SOYBEANS"

    I can understand the other items on their menu having "value added ingredients, but when did chicken and steak get so complicated? If the meat started out of reasonable quality it wouldn't need this treatment to make it palatable.

    Not so sure they are doing themselves any favors.

    Oh, come on. You mean those ingredient lists don’t make your mouth water in anticipation?

    Another MNB user wrote:

    You could definitely make a case about visiting one time, having a less than adequate dining experience, never going back for that reason, etc... This would be an "eye opener" as we all have to be on our "A game" all the time. The reason...because you never know what customer is going to walk through the door and the impact on future business.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    I am not being judgmental in any way, but your comments about Taco Bell's meat are interesting to say the least.

    You may be right in your assessment and are definitely entitled to your own opinion...but seriously, how often do you eat there?

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    I like to think I’m smart enough not to have to continually subject myself to the same mediocre food over and over just to be qualified to say that it is mediocre.

    I’ve eaten there enough. Which is to say, too often.

    And I actually was being generous when I said they serve mediocre food. What I probably should have said is that it is crappy food.

    But that just seemed a little over the top.

    On another subject, MNB user David Burgess wrote:

    I don’t exactly see how taking away collective bargaining rights for benefits is demonizing teachers.  They reacted as if they are under attack, of course, but the point of the policy change was not to blame them for the problem, but to fix it.  You can disagree with the fix, and there are other alternatives, but this approach does have its merits.  Also, taking away public sector collective bargaining rights is no more governmental fiat than was taking away the bondholder rights in the GM debacle.  They are not constitutional rights.  They were awarded by the government, so it is the government’s prerogative to take them away, if done so through a legal process.  Calling it governmental fiat is simply deliberate provocation.

    First of all, deliberate provocation is what I do for a living.

    Second, you’re right ... taking away certain rights can be seen as a legitimate way to deal with a problem. My point is that this always seems more legitimate when you're the one doing the taking, as opposed the one losing the rights.

    Finally, I think there are different things going on here. There is a collective bargaining issue, but there also is the larger, more concerning problem of devaluing our teachers and lumping them together in a way that highlights the bad ones and doesn’t do a lot to attract new and good ones.

    Another MNB user chimed in on this one:

    While I believe that Governor Walker has over reached in his requested legislation, I would point out that the Wisconsin legislature gave the unions the right to collective bargaining in 1959. Thus the legislature has the right to repeal this right. Many states do not allow for collective bargaining by public employees and I don’t recall a vocal outcry to allow such a right to the public employee unions in those states.

    We had an email yesterday that talked about global warming and the impact on food prices all over the world, which led one MNB user to write:

    Every day I have kept myself from responding to some of the inane commentary by your readers. I think you put the letters in today because you really wanted to hear from me.

    Obviously the readers that talked about the global warming myth have no level of understanding of what causes rising food prices. A larger population and the fact less wheat and grain is being grown. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, but to jump to global warming????

    Do you really think the earth’s core temp hasn’t gone up and down for millions of years? Do you really believe the climate extremes that have happened for millions of years are caused by our carbon footprint? Anybody that still believes the global warming myth needs to see me, for I have some great oceanfront property in Kansas. I cannot believe there are still that many uneducated people in the world ... Please do not use my name.

    Must be tough for you. It is a heavy load, being the sole arbiter of what is fact and what is fiction. (No wonder you want to remain anonymous.)

    Seems to me that it is entirely possible to believe that indeed that the earth’s temperature has gone up and down for millions of years, and still accept the notion that an industrialized society could be having an impact on climate change ... and that it simply makes economic and environmental sense to do whatever one can to be good stewards of the planet. Those don’t seem like oppositional thoughts to me.

    And it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to think that in addition to a growing global population, climate change can have an impact on food prices. Again, to me, those concepts don’t seem mutually exclusive.

    But then again, maybe that’s just because I’m one of the uneducated class.
    KC's View: