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    Published on: April 14, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Content Guy’s Note: 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 look forward to hearing from you.

    I’ve been thinking about a story that ran earlier this week, about Storific, described by Business Insider as “a neat app that lets you order from participating restaurants and other venues straight from your iPhone. They work with restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels to provide the service.”

    Some of the online commentary about Storific noted that this seems like a really good idea because it has the ability to free us from surly waiters and waitresses as well as other kinds of non-communicative store personnel.

    My original reaction was that this seems sort of wrong-headed, that “I like the small interactions that I have frequently with waiters and waitresses, bartenders, baristas, check-in clerks at hotels and airports ... I’m not looking for extensive or deep conversations, but it is always nice to have a brief chat. I think that retailers or other businesses that minimize the importance or the potential impact of this are making a mistake.”

    Now, I got a lot of email about this, much of it from people who, while they understood my point of view, felt that this could be an enormous convenience. But one person really got my attention by commenting that the only people who would like Storific would be the same kind of people who like self-checkout.

    Wait a minute. I like self-checkout. Does this mean I’m being inconsistent?

    On one level, yes.

    But these things are also situational. Sometimes I like the small interactions, and sometimes I like self-checkout and other conveniences that eliminate human interaction. I want it to be my choice, my option.

    But that’s they key. My option.

    Where many retailers make a mistake, I think, is in not putting a premium on the importance of having personnel willing and capable of having small conversations, of creating connections with shoppers, of saying little things like, “How are you?” or “Did you find everything you are looking for?” As opposed to, say, talking to another employee about their personal lives and ignoring the customer.

    My option. Personal connections can be a differential advantage, if the customer wants them, and retailers need to put more of a priority on allowing them.

    That’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that “the UC Davis Olive Center and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory released on Wednesday a second research report that found nearly three-quarters of the samples they tested of top-selling imported olive oil brands failed international extra virgin standards.

    “The report follows a similar study the two research centers conducted last summer, which slammed imported olive oils and said that two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren't what they claim to be.

    “Wednesday’s report ... drew a larger group of samples from fewer brands - done in part to address some of the criticisms of the research methodologies used in last year’s report. The brands tested in this recent report were Filippo Berio, Bertolli, Pompeian, Colavita and Star. The researchers also tested samples of the top-selling premium Italian brand Lucini; Cobram Estate, the largest Australian olive oil producer; and California Olive Ranch, the leading U.S. producer.”

    The International Olive Council (IOC), the Times writes, “whose members make up 97% of the global production of olive oil, were less convinced. In a statement released Wednesday, the Spanish-based organization accused both reports of having ‘the same evident undercurrent of aggressive, inexplicable criticism of imported olive oil quality’.”

    California Olive Ranch helped fund the study, but said it had no role in determining the results.

    Full disclosure: California Olive Ranch is a longtime MNB sponsor.
    KC's View:
    Let me repeat something I said last July when the first study came out: I’d help fund a study, too, if I knew that I was being honest about my product and I felt that other companies were being less so.

    This case demonstrates why transparency is so important. Consumers should know and will know that they can trust companies that are completely up front about what they make and how they make it. And they should avoid companies that are not.

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Did you see the story in the New York Times about the eating habits of sauropods, described as “huge, some unbelievably gigantic, the biggest animals ever to lumber across the land, consuming everything in sight. Their necks were much longer than a giraffe’s, their tails just about as long and their bodies like an elephant’s, only much more so.”

    According to the story, a team of German and Swiss scientists has “re-engineered” a sauropod to figure out how they got so big. (Re-engineering, it appears, is different from using genetic engineering to recreate one. Which will be a relief to people remembering how badly things went at Jurassic Park.)

    The scientists have concluded that sauropods “were the ultimate fast-food gourmands. Reaching all around with their long necks, these giants gulped down enormous meals. With no molars in their relatively small heads, they were unequipped for serious chewing. They let the digestive juices of their capacious bodies break down their heaping intake while they just kept packing away more chow ...

    “(Another) conclusion is that their very young grew rapidly: A human baby doubles in weight in about five months, a sauropod in only five days; and an adolescent sauropod put on 3,500 pounds a year. These are growth rates higher than in today’s reptiles. They enabled these dinosaurs to reach sexual maturity in their second decade of life and full size in their third.”

    On the one hand, it needs to be noted that the sauropods were able to eat this way and thrive without the benefit of menu labeling laws, government recommendations, Michelle Obama or Jamie Oliver.

    On the other hand, sauropods are extinct.

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

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    Greenpeace is out with its seafood sustainability report, and Safeway has moved into the number one position, “praised for discontinuing sales of ‘red-list,’ or unsustainably caught, species, including orange roughy,” the Los Angeles Times writes, noting that “Safeway's move into first place from its fourth-place ranking last year was due in part to the company's involvement in fishery improvement projects to rebuild fish stocks. Most significant, it's made a public statement calling on the governments that control fisheries in the Antarctic Ross Sea to designate it as a marine reserve.”

    The Times goes on: “Three years ago, all 20 of the seafood retailers Greenpeace assessed failed the organization's seafood sustainability test. This year, 15 received a passing score, though none attained the Greenpeace criteria for truly green retail. 

    “Target and Wegman's shared the No. 2 spot on the report, with Whole Foods ranking fourth and Costco, Trader Joe's and Walmart ranking 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively. SuperValu, which operates the Bristol Farms and Albertson's stores, ranked 18th and did not receive a passing grade.”

    In a separate story, the Florida Independent reports that “Among those receiving failing grades are Florida-based grocery chains Winn-Dixie and Publix. According to the report, Winn-Dixie has continually ignored all inquiries from Greenpeace on its seafood policies and practices, which has resulted in a consistently low ranking. And, though it announced the creation of a ‘seafood ranking system’ last year, Publix has yet to implement a sustainable seafood policy.”
    KC's View:
    It is worth noting that the LA Times is a little behind the times - Supervalu no longer owns Bristol Farms. And it would be my guess that freed from the shackles of corporate ownership, Bristol will be a lot more progressive in this area.

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    Marketing Daily reports on a new Deloitte study suggesting that consumers are less than sanguine about the state of the US economy:

    • More than half of consumers say it does not feel like the recession is over.

    • Seven out of ten consumers say they expect high gas prices will affect their ability to spend money on other things in coming months.

    • Sixty percent of those surveyed said “they are shopping online to find the best product or price, including 56% of those who are 45 and older.”

    • “And -- in a key finding for stores -- while they've been checking out new merchandise, 53% say products seem pricier. Just 27% of consumers say stores are offering more value for their money, down from 45% who said so at this time last year. And 54% say stores seem to have less sales help on hand.”

    • “Those earning more than $100,000 have a "more elastic, optimistic point of view," she says, with 45% saying their confidence in the economy has improved over the past six months. Among those earning less, only 24% expressed that confidence.
    KC's View:
    Can’t help but feel this is going to get worse before it gets better.

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    Walmart has announced what it is calling its “Military Family Promise,” committing that it will guarantee a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel, and military spouses, employed at Walmart and Sam's Club who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the United States military.”

    In addition, the company promised that “ associates called to active military duty will continue to be paid any difference in their salary if the associate is earning less money during their military assignment.”

    Walmart said that the “Military Family Promise” is part of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's "Joining Forces" military support efforts.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a study by the Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health suggests that “children who lack access to healthy foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, are twice as likely to develop behavioural problems,” and that in Australia, “one in four households goes without healthy food because of low income levels.”
    KC's View:
    This seems in synch with the American studies indicating that families that eat dinner together tend to produce children who are better adjusted, better students, and less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol.

    It seems so simple, no matter what part of the world you live in. Eat well and eat with your family, and kids are better off. And yet, there are way too many families that don’t put a premium on the family dinner, and on serving healthy, diverse kinds of food.

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union announced that it will send three Ahold employees from Virginia to attend Ahold’s annual shareholders meeting in Amsterdam on April 20,” and will demand that Ahold “afford its Martin’s employees the same organizing and bargaining rights granted to Ahold workers elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe.”

    According to the announcement, “Ahold expanded into the Richmond area a little over a year ago with the purchase of 25 stores from local Ukrop’s chain, which it now operates under the Martin’s banner. Although Ahold already benefits from a mutually beneficial labor partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, which represents 65 percent of the company’s U.S. workforce - approximately 70,000 employees - Ahold decided to integrate the newly purchased stores with its non-union banner.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    • The New York Times reports that “European antitrust authorities levied stiff fines on Wednesday on the household products companies Procter & Gamble and Unilever for price fixing that arose during efforts to make greener packaging for laundry detergents.”

    • P&G will write a check for the equivalent of $306 million (US). Unilever will write one for $150 million (US). And, the Times notes, “a German company, Henkel, escaped a fine in exchange for blowing the whistle on the cartel.”

    • The New York Post reports that the buyout firm Leonard Green & Partners is expected to make a bid today to acquire BJ’s Wholesale Club. The move is expected to begin a bidding process that will have a number of companies looking to acquire the company.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Chipotle “plans to open its first Asian restaurant chain, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, in Washington, D.C., this summer,” reflecting a conviction that the company’s basic premise of serving up-market fast food would work with a variety of cuisines - in this case, a combination of foods from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    Barry Bonds, who holds the Major League Baseball career record for the most home runs, was convicted yesterday of one count of obstruction of justice, though the San Francisco jury was unable to come to a decision about whether Bonds lied about using performance-enhancing drugs.

    According to the New York Times story, “The conviction, rendered by a jury that listened to nearly three weeks of often-graphic testimony about Bonds’s suspected steroid use, amounted to an extremely limited victory for federal prosecutors who had spent years pressing their case in an effort to establish that Bonds used steroids during his career, then lied about it under oath.”

    Bonds could as much as a decade in prison, though experts do not expect him to serve anything close to that. Attorneys for Bonds said they would appeal the guilty verdict, while prosecutors said they will decide whether to try him again for the perjury counts on which the jury could not come to a conclusion.
    KC's View:
    Oddly enough, I don’t care if Bonds spends a week, a year, or a decade in jail. I’m more interested in him being banned from Major League Baseball, and never being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ostracism and disgrace seem like they would have a lot more impact.

    Bonds lied and cheated in his pursuit of records, and brought dishonor to the game that Robert B. Parker once called “the most important thing that doesn’t matter.” Let him stew in the juices of his own disgrace.

    Published on: April 14, 2011

    Note: This week, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) offers a preview of some of the most anticipated sessions scheduled for its Future Connect conference, slated to be held May 10-13 in Dallas, Texas.

    This morning, an e-interview with Jeff Molander, an authority on improving digital marketing's business return, who will present a Future Connect general session called “Off the Hook Marketing: A Practical, 3-step Way to Make Social Media Produce More Leads, Sales and Loyalty.”

    Molander will be speaking on Wednesday, May 12 at 10 am.

    There is a sense is that a lot of companies - especially retailers, but also a lot of manufacturers - either sprinkle a little social media/mobile funding and tactics on top of traditional marketing plans, or put this category toward the bottom of their to-do lists.  What needs to happen for these companies realize that this has to be a fundamental, integrated part of everything they do?

    Jeff Molander: Frankly, I believe what you're describing is a result of well-founded concerns.  The reluctance to invest is a result of skepticism over the "revolutionary change" today's gurus proclaim.  I think most businesses realize: social media's arrival represents an exciting evolution, not a revolution.  And I think they're smart enough to realize there's more than a little bit of snake oil being sold in this gold rush.  So to answer your question, I don't think anything needs to happen.  There's a presumption: that social media needs to be a fundamental cog in the marketing wheel.  That comes from all the hype around it.  Is it critical for survival?  Probably.  But for some more than others.  Those that truly "need" social media (for their business to survive) will see wheels start to fall off.  But I think this constant "need to save them" is folly -- demand creation for "guru" consultants. 

    In my humble opinion, the real, "under-discussed" problem is this: These "new rules" declare that success involves technology.  It doesn't.  It involves designing social media to produce behavior.  Setting up a Facebook page or learning how to operate blog software, install plugins, set up widgets or create LinkedIn groups.  These skills are essential to have.  But understanding how to “do social media” is not worthwhile unless you have a practical way to design it to pay you.  That's what my presentation at FutureConnect is about.  Giving stores a fast, practical way to make social media marketing achieve business goals -- beyond "likes" and follower count.  And beyond regurgitating promotions and circulars into a new channel.  

    A millennial generation blogger recently said at an industry conference that there is no chance she will ever buy a newspaper to get a coupon - never, no way.  And yet, companies still spend a fortune on paper coupons in FSIs that, on a good day, get 2% redemption rates.  Talk about the opportunities available to people who move into social media and don;t adhere blindly to old patterns.

    Jeff Molander: Again, this may not be what you're expecting to hear.  Everyone knows there's upside in what you're describing.  But if that's the case why the reluctance to tap into it?  Isn't that your story?  Aren't we hearing enough about the benefits?

    Or are the benefits being dismissed because they're not valid, real?  As I see it, businesses aren't really lost -- so much as they've been convinced of it.  Consider where typical priorities are coming from.  For instance, why is “managing your online reputation” and “developing enthusiasts” more important than generating sales?  Because a company selling social  “buzz monitoring” software says so?  Or why is the end-goal for Twitter something called engagement?  Because someone who wrote a book on Twitter decided so? 

    Most businesses have been listening to and engaging with customers for a while now.  Updating Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, posting on blogs.  They've been creating “compelling content” and “being transparent, more human.”  All good and necessary.  But is doing these things helping them sell more, more often?  

    In my research, successful business owners and marketing pros are quietly asking themselves better questions.  For instance, "Is there more to social media than grabbing at customers' attention? (being "liked")  Or answering their complaints in a new way? (Twitter) Or handing out coupons and discounts wherever and whenever they flock online?"  I think gut instincts tell them that social media is a chance to help customers get what they need into their hands – their products and services.  They just don't see how to make it happen -- beyond "like-ability."  And that's because those selling simple, misguided answers are in charge.  For instance, "getting liked more" or "upload a viral video" are not business strategies.

    The real upside lies in asking businesses asking better questions of themselves.  Just like Tony Robbins says.  Want better outcomes?  Ask better questions.  For instance, could the answer to selling more with social media be found in starting conversations that are worth having?  And could conversing in ways that generate questions – that your products or services give answers to – generate more customer inquiries? 

    Many companies make social media (and other e-initiatives) an IT project, an opposed to something driven by marketing.  How do you advise companies to structure their social media projects?

    Jeff Molander:  "Social" is something you are, not something you do.  That's where businesses are getting it wrong.  Because if a company's culture doesn’t already focus on building relationships with its customers then chances are it won’t use social media to do it either.  The "media" doesn’t dictate how social a company is or isn’t.  It simply enhances its ability to be a social business – if in fact it is.  If not, it illustrates the extent to which it isn't.

    The numbers suggest that a lot of social media usage - especially the kind interesting to the FMI audience - is not being driven by young people who are the customers of the future, but by women who have jobs and kids and are very much the customers of today.  Why is this, and what do marketers need to do to use social media as a sales and marketing tool?

    Jeff Molander: Why is this?  I have no idea.  And I don't know that I care... respectfully.  All I know is that marketers need to do these 3 things.  And I base it on my research:

    1) Get back to basics: Decide what NOT to do first. Focus on solving customers' problems first, not technology.  Where to start?  Follow needs of customers, not gurus nor “best practices.”  

    2) Think like a designer. Make each social marketing tactic “scratch customers' itches.”  Mix in time-tested promotional techniques that create opportunities to connect  those itches (problems, urges) to products.

    3) Translate: Be forever relevant. Use social media to help capture insights on customers' pain points.  Then put them to work.  Be relevant 24/7.  Invent ways to keep prompting more questions that your products answer – stay relevant over time.

    Finally, to what extent is social media a networking/marketing tool, and to what extent is it an actual sales tool with an ROI?  And how should its ROI be evaluated differently than traditional media expenses?

    Jeff Molander: If you don't mind my saying so... I despise this debate.  Because it's designed to go nowhere.  The marketing industry, much like the financial industry before it, has become blinded by metrics that they don’t understand.  Somehow, the notion of accountability has morphed into a misguided quest for the sure thing in the form of ROI metrics for just about everything.

    For registration information about Future Connect 2011, click here