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    Published on: June 24, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    This certainly is a story that made my eyes widen.

    In the UK, the Telegraph reports that Osama bin Laden’s final writings, collected by American intelligence officers after he was killed by US Navy Seals, indicate that he was considering a very western solution to what he viewed as a marketing problem encountered by al-Qaeda.

    He was thinking about changing the organization’s name.

    According to the story, bin Laden felt that America was winning the public relations war and that he needed to do something to improve al-Qaeda’s fortunes. Part of the problem, the story says, is that bin Laden felt out of touch with the front lines because of he was living in hiding, plus he did not know many of the young leaders who had been tapped to replace terrorists who had been killed since 9/11.

    “The documents portray bin Laden as a terrorist chief executive, struggling to sell holy war for a company in crisis,” the Telegraph writes, adding, “The problem with the name al-Qaeda, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

    “Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would work, he wrote. Or Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

    “As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group's full name, al-Qaeda al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaeda. Lopping off the word ‘jihad,’ bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam’.”

    Of course bin Laden, like many leaders, didn’t understand the real problem.

    It wasn’t al-Qaeda’s name. It was the product he was selling.

    He also didn’t understand that many people didn’t know what “al-Qaeda” translated to, or cared.

    We heard the name, and we thought it meant “bastards who, unprovoked, attacked the United States.”

    And there was no marketing fix to that one.

    But the fact that he thought there was one is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that federal health officials suspect that the death of an Arizona man earlier this month could be linked to the food poisoning outbreak in Europe. According to the story, the man recently visited Germany. He died in mid-June from kidney failure linked to an E. coli infection.

    The Journal notes that “so far, there have been five confirmed cases in the U.S. - two in Michigan and one in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and North Carolina. All but one had recently been to Germany ... Nearly 3,700 have been reported ill in Germany, including more than 800 with the kidney complication. There have been 42 deaths reported in Germany and one in Sweden.”
    KC's View:
    Sounds like a perfect time to cut back on planned improvements in food safety vigilance here in the US, which is what some in the Congress are proposing.

    Yes, I know that the people affected by the European outbreak probably consumed the tainted food in Europe. But it is arrogance to think that this could not happen here, or that food imports from places like Germany might not hurt US consumers.

    Wonder who the people trying to defund the planned food safety improvements will blame when one of these problems hits home?

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that off all the things that can lead to weight gain, potato-based products like chips and French fries are among the worst.

    According to the story, the study “quantifies how much weight a person is likely to gain or lose over four years based on one additional daily serving of a range of specific foods. Eating more potatoes correlated with a gain of 1.28 pounds, with French fries in particular associated with a 3.35-pound gain.”

    The Journal writes: “This type of study can't definitively say that certain foods cause weight changes. But it found one additional daily serving of potato chips was associated with a 1.69-pound gain; sugary drinks, processed meat and red meat were associated with about a one pound gain. Eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and yogurt correlated with slight weight loss over four years. Big jumps in physical activity w
    KC's View:
    No big surprises here, though the specificity of the numbers is interesting.

    I think everybody knew that people are more likely to gain weight if they consume french fries and sugary sodas than if they eat yogurt and fresh produce.

    The key, as always, is this. There are no bad foods. Just bad habits. Moderation in consumption, plus regular exercise, is the best approach.

    Because if you deny yourself all the good stuff, you may live forever, but it’ll feel like forever....

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the Shopkick online application is going local as it works to generate traffic for brick-and-mortar retailers.

    According to the story, Shopkick “is wooing local retailers from coffee shops to bakeries to clothing boutiques in 10 cities, including Chicago, in a bid to expand its reach.

    “The shopping app, introduced last August, rewards customers with points called ‘kicks’ for entering a store. It is akin to a paper loyalty punch card on a smart phone, but shoppers don't have to purchase anything to get points ... Retailers are eager to attract shoppers into their stores, especially as more consumers make their purchases online. Shopkick rewards increase the more involved a shopper becomes in a store. Typically, customers earn a few points for walking outside the door and more points for going into the dressing room.”

    Among the national chains testing Shopkick are Target, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Macy's, Sports Authority and American Eagle.
    KC's View:
    The larger point is that in all venues, the battle between online and brick-and-mortar is only going to get more intense, and it strikes me as critical that retailers do two things.

    One, they need to have an evolving online presence so that they are relevant to the next generation of shoppers.

    And two, they have to do things to keep their physical stores vital and differentiated.

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    A website called Thrillist.com has a story about a new meal solutions-oriented service called YupEat.

    Here’s how it works. YupEat sends subscribers one dinner recipe a day. If you like it, you go click on the ingredient page. You remove any ingredient you already have at home. You then pay, using a credit card or PayPal. YupEat then sends someone to the store to do the shopping for you and then delivers the food to your home at an agreed-upon time.

    The service is a start-up, with operations, best as can be determined, in San Francisco and Vancouver. The company’s slogan: “Because grocery shopping sucks.”
    KC's View:
    Not sure if this is an idea with legs ... but it certainly points to a demographic that supermarkets need to pay attention to - people who hate supermarkets.

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    Wine Spectator reports that “if current trends continue, the U.S. will surpass France in 2012 to become the world’s largest wine consuming nation by volume.

    “Last year, U.S. wine volume rose 1% to 307 million cases, while France’s volume fell 1.5% to 321 million cases, according to Impact Databank (the U.S. is already the global leader by value, at around $40 billion annually). This development is trending even though France’s average per-capita wine consumption (46.07 liters) was more than five times higher than it was in the U.S. (8.7 liters) in 2010. Wine per-capita consumption was relatively flat in the U.S., while it
    KC's View:
    Call me a patriot if you like, but I’m certainly doing my best to help.

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    Internet Retailer reports on a new Forrester Research study saying that “24% of U.S. adult online iPhone users and 21% of Android users have used a shopping application in the past three months. “ Furthermore, the study says that six percent “of cellphone owners in the United States report that they are already using a mobile shopping app to buy products, with a further 20% expressing an interest in doing so

    That is a significant minority, but it is not enough to warrant a mobile investment on its own, Forrester says. “What matters is revenue, and 6% of cellphone owners in the United States report that they are already using a mobile shopping app to buy products, with a further 20% expressing an interest in doing so,” Forrester says.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    • The Canadian Press reports that Target “has lost a court decision in its battle over naming rights in Canada, where the giant retailer plans to open its first stores in 2013. A federal judge in Canada ruled Thursday against Minneapolis-based Target in its request for an injunction that would have immediately stopped Fairweather Ltd. Form using the name ‘Target Apparel’ in its stores.” A trial date has been set for November 2012; until then, Fairweather can continue using the name.

    • The New York Times reports that Amazon.com has promised the state of Texas that it will invest $300 million “in five or six warehouse and distribution centers in the state, employing 6,000 people, if lawmakers would let the company operate for four-and-a-half years without collecting sales taxes.”

    According to the story, “Gov. Rick Perry wants the deal and has contacted lawmakers to promote it, a spokesman said. And the statutory change that it would require is in the hands of House and Senate negotiators who are putting the last touches on a piece of legislation critical to balancing the state budget.

    “Lawmakers have balked, and what might have been a team effort between the governor and the state’s top tax collector, Comptroller Susan Combs, is complicated by an earlier skirmish over Amazon and Mr. Perry’s veto of legislation that would have moved technology procurements into Ms. Combs’s shop.

    “Last year, Ms. Combs hit Amazon with a $269 million tax bill, saying its distribution center in Irving establishes a legal footprint that requires it to collect sales taxes from Texas customers. The company disagrees, and Mr. Perry, asked about the case earlier this year, took Amazon’s side and said he wouldn’t have billed the company.”

    • The American Medical Association (AMA) has released a statement saying that the question of whether a tax on sugared soft drinks is a legitimate way to help combat the nation’s obesity crisis is one that needs more study before it can be endorsed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that, as expected, Campbell Soup's board of directors has approved the appointment of Denise Morrison as president/CEO of the company.

    According to the story, “Morrison, 57 years old, will take on the roles effective Aug. 1, the first day of Campbell's next fiscal year. She succeeds Douglas R. Conant, who will step down after serving in those roles for more than a decade. Morrison, according to Campbell, will be the 12th leader in Campbell's 142-year history.”

    • Pamela Knous, the former executive vice president/CFO of Supervalu until she stepped down last July, and a former executive at Vons, has been named chief financial officer, chief accounting officer and executive vice president at Chico’s, the women’s clothing store chain.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    Got the following email from an MNB user:

    I think you will be interested in the doings of a major Soft Drink company.  You mention Indra Nooyi our CEO, in your report on the Consumer Goods Forum conference and quote her as "conceding that the food industry has a bifurcated challenge - dealing with a global society in which half the population eats too much, and half eats too little, leading to problems of both obesity and starvation".   And she said that these problems require multi-faceted solutions, driven by leaders who act not just as CEOs, but also as parents and citizens."  Pretty cool for a CEO, really.  She is a fascinating speaker and a major personality.

    I am glad to hear her speak about these issues, although you hit the nail on the head when you point out that she will be judged on whether she can get kids to eat two bags of chips (Fun for You) or baked chips (Better For You) instead of one.  Or how many "Cherished Associates" she can cut by "synergies" in our merged companies.

    We have a mission - Performance With Purpose - that talks about environmental and human sustainability and all kinds of great stuff.  Definitely something an unrepentant commie-hippie-tree-hugging peace creep like me can embrace.  But one of the Performance planks in our mission - "Deliver total shareholder returns in the top quartile of our industry group" threatens all the other stuff.

    So, a few days ago, all of us Cherished Associates got a letter from Indra!  Not her usual bi-weekly missive, in which she shares deep personal and philosophical thoughts, but an urgent one.  I thought you might be interested in seeing it:

    We need your help!  I’m sure you know that our industry and many of our products are under political attack by politicians who are quick to look for scapegoats for obesity and other complex societal problems.  Many are simply eager just to find new targets to tax.

    That’s why I’m writing to ask you to join me in contributing to PepsiCo’s employee political action committee, The Concerned Citizen’s Fund (CCF).  It’s one of the best ways to defend our freedom in the marketplace by helping to elect political leaders who appreciate our products, who care about our business, and who value our good jobs.

    In federal and many state political campaigns, corporations are not permitted to make direct contributions to candidates.  However, through political action committees, employees of a company can organize and support candidates for political office.  It is an effective way to have our collective voice heard in Washington, D.C., and in state houses across the country.

    I take great pride in the leadership PepsiCo has shown through innovation and investment, providing our customers with a wide selection of fun for you, better for you and good for you choices.  But, this is not enough.  We cannot confine our leadership just to the marketplace.  We need to be a part of the public debate where the rules are set, the policy made, and the taxes, restrictions and penalties are imposed.

    In the days to come you will be hearing from others in our leadership team requesting your participation in the Concerned Citizen’s Fund.  I hope you will give this request serious consideration. If every one of us gives something to this effort there’s no doubt we can have a robust political action program and strengthen our collective voice.

    Now, let me be clear, all contributions to the PepsiCo Concerned Citizen’s Fund are voluntary.  Absolutely no adverse employment consequences will result from a decision not to participate.  However, I hope you agree with me on how important it is that our voice be heard in this crucial time.


    And yesterday, we got an email from the PAC...announcing a raffle!  Support our PAC and enter a sweepstakes to win an iPad..or a trip to Washington D.C (to buy a politician?)!  It directs you to the PAC website to "find out more" about the PAC and the sweepstakes..but, you can't find out about the sweepstakes until you fill in/edit the information in the form (it already knows who you are) and choose "Make a Pledge/Donate" or "I do not choose to participate at this time"  Creepy!  Why does the PAC want me to admit that I'm not going to participate if  "absolutely no adverse employment consequences" will result from my decision?  I am thinking that the candidates who might appeal to this PAC have very little in common with a candidate to whom I would donate!  And this is all perfectly legal and aboveboard.  I've always known about PACs, of course, but it makes my skin crawl to see such a brazen campaign.  I'd be most interested to hear your views!


    I may disappoint you on this one.

    It makes my skin crawl a little bit, too. I think it is a fact of life in American politics that we get the best politicians that money can buy. Which also means, by the way, that we get the politicians we deserve, because if money can buy them, they’re not worth much.

    But your company isn’t doing anything that other companies aren’t doing. They’re playing by the rules - as warped and corrupt as those rules may be. As long as your participation is not mandatory, and your involvement has no impact on your employment status, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

    You pick out your own candidates and causes, and give money to the people you believe in. And then try not to be too disappointed when they let you down. Which they almost always will.




    I got several interesting emails yesterday about our story regarding the reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Congress in the wake of the Supreme Court’s pro-Walmart decision in a gender discrimination class action suit.

    I wrote:

    First of all, I thought that we all are constitutionally guaranteed equal rights under the law. At least, that was my impression.

    That said, I have a daughter. There’s pretty good evidence out there that whether implicitly or explicitly, at some point in her career she may be taken advantage of, or discriminated against, simply because she is a woman.

    If it takes the ERA to make sure that this doesn’t happen to her and all her sisters, I’m okay with it.

    Some will say it is unnecessary and redundant. I’d guess I’d argue that since there continues to be discrimination - some of it cultural, some of it official - it can be argued that maybe it is necessary. And things sometimes have to be redundant because there are guys out there who simply don’t get it, who need to have this stuff drilled into their thick skulls.

    I vote with - and for - my daughter.


    MNB user Ben Ball wrote:

    I also have two daughters, both of just graduated college this May. One has landed a great job in Marketing and the other is in “hot pursuit”. Which is simply by way of saying that I completely understand your compassionate wish for their success. My wife is also a professional who had to work her way past the “attentive” bosses while she also worked her way through college as an Office Manager for legal and insurance companies. I get it.

    But I also get being what the late, great Lewis Grizzard often referred to as “the last great minority” – Straight Southern White Males.

    The fact is that all genders and races experience some level of “discrimination” at random points, whether “direct” or “reverse” is all in the perspective of who is writing the definition.

    Re: ERA – you were on the right track the first time. The Constitution is quite explicit in “all men created equal” and I’ll argue to the day I die that this is the non-gender specific use of “men”. It was simply the common language of the time. If we strove to enforce THAT with the same vigor we have pursued “fixes” to that simple statement, we would be further ahead and a lot better off. And we might have avoided an incredibly costly Civil War, race-riots and a number of other nasties.

    Anytime we pursue legislation that calls one group out over others, whether for reparations or otherwise, rather than simply stating ‘’you can’t do that because it is discriminatory and the Constitution forbids all manner of discrimination” we get further away from the original intent of “all men created equal” and simply fuel the fires of divisiveness.

    Not that I feel strongly on the subject.


    I’m okay with a 10-word Constitutional amendment:

    “No discrimination against anybody. Ever. For any reason. No exceptions.”

    Just to make sure everybody gets it.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I couldn’t agree more with your perspective that we are all guaranteed equal rights and it would certainly be redundant to add an amendment to the constitution.  The equal rights amendment wouldn’t inherently change any of the issues that seem to exist, but rather give another (unnecessary) tool to enforce laws that already exist…hence the current lawsuits!

    That said, it is also worthwhile to point out a likely unpopular contrarian view.  We all know the facts….women continue to this day to manage a disproportionate share of household responsibility.  And they do so with many households being two income and often with the women being the primary breadwinners.  Yet, our culture is still structured so as when a child is sick or someone needs to be at a school event, Mom is called into service!  What does that mean?  Voluntary absenteeism is far greater with women than men.  Women are often leaving work on time (which some call early) because someone has to pick up the children at day care!  Isn’t this also a gender bias that should be addressed?  How many men would argue that their company would frown on them leaving early or coming in late?  How many men would state that they would like to be able to have that freedom but they fear it would adversely impact their career?

    So at the end of the day, what is really the definition of equality?  If the measuring stick is same work for same pay, is it not appropriate to take into consideration that the person shirking some household responsibility and spending an extra 10 hours at the office is “doing more”?  In other words, a complete cultural overhaul is likely needed to accomplish the rather simplistic “closing of the pay gap” argument.  If Costco, one of our industries most socially conscious organizations, is being challenged on gender bias, would it not be a more meaningful opportunity to try to understand and address the factors behind it?


    Another MNB user wrote:

    Uh... There is a mandatory sign in every break room in our office that pretty much says discrimination is illegal and there are a host of bureaucrats that you can call  if you think you are a victim. It is written by the government so it is pretty much unintelligible, but the gist is that if you are not being evaluated on the merits of your performance, you can sue. Not sure what else is needed. The Walmart case said that they weren’t doing it. I guess we’ll find out about Costco. Yes , discrimination is bad. There are a lot of protections in place to make sure it doesn’t happen. Do we need to refight this battle again?

    Finally, I even got criticized on the source of this particular story:

    I’m still amazed as smart of writer and intelligent a man as you are you are still quoting the Huffington Post on issues like they are the Times or even the National Enquirer.  Again I compare this to the Limbaugh letter or Perez Hilton.  Ask the Huffington Post when they didn’t even pay their writers’ if any of them were women and, where is the constitutional mandate to pay them?

    Hey, two days ago I quoted Fox News.

    I read a lot of stuff. I try to spread around the sourcing best I can. Just as I try to spend a little time each day listening to either Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell, and Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. I like to think of it as broadening my education, and not only paying attention to the people with whom I agree.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 24, 2011

    Last week’s trip to Barcelona was my fourth or fifth time in that Spanish city, but this one was a little bit different because the venue for the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit was a convention center out by the beach, about a 90 minute walk from downtown. Last Saturday, when I got a chance to take that walk, I was exposed to three very different sides of Barcelona - the area by the convention center, which seems like a planned community with broad avenues and lots of modern, interesting architecture; the beach scene, which has lots of low, bleached-by-the-sun structures, a boardwalk, numerous cafes and bars right on the sand, and its share of nude sun bathers (most of whom, truth be told, probably should have been wearing clothes), and the old city, which has narrow streets and aging buildings that haven;t changed in decades or perhaps centuries.

    One of the great things about it is that, like most cities, it is all eminently walkable - it is the best way to get the flavor of the place, punctuated by the occasional stop in a peaceful park for a glass of sangria to take the edge off the warm sun. I had a chance to do this with two Irish friends of mine, Anne and Fiach, who came over for the weekend and hung out with me on Saturday - just walking and talking about things both profound and trivial. There were lots of reasons that Saturday could have been a bad day, owing to some personal circumstances that I won’t go into here. But it ended up being a grand day, the kind that keeps the mind from going into darker places.

    Thanks, Anne and Fiach. And thanks, Barcelona.




    One of the best parts of last Saturday was our stop at a place called Lonja de Tapas, where we had some amazing food - fried potatoes with spicy sauce, fried egg with lightly spiced sausage, ham croquettes, and octopus Galician-style were just some of my favorites - punctuated with some wonderful wines, especially the Creciente Albarino, which was a wonderful example of what has become one of my favorite wines.

    I could eat like that all the time.




    Once home, I had a chance to try a beer I’ve never had before - the Nut Brown Ale from the Peak Organic Brewing Company of Portland, Maine, which surprised me by being complex enough to go with a hearty steak or hamburger, but not so heavy that one would not want to drink it on a warm summer evening. Excellent beer - and I can’t wait to try some of their other brews (if I can find someone locally who sells it).




    About 20 minutes from my house is a community called Port Chester, New York, which has turned in recent years into a kind of restaurant mecca - lots of small ethnic restaurants have opened there, as well as Mario Batali’s Tarry Lodge (a favorite of mine for the black squid ink pasta). But in recent weeks, I’ve heard a real buzz about a new place called Bar Taco - it seemed that dozens of people that I’ve met have gone there for its tapas-style plates and jugs of margaritas, and almost everybody seemed to rave about it.

    I hate to be left behind, so Mrs. Content Guy and I tried it the other day ... and I found it to be worth the buzz. The margaritas were fresh and more tart than sweet, and I like that in a margarita. And the mini tacos, which were almost like empanadas, were quite good - especially the chorizo, duck and fresh fish varieties. Excellent stuff, and I recommend it.




    Not too long ago, I used this space to rave about the new Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris.” What I didn’t say in that review is that as much as I loved the film, I did not particularly enjoy the viewing experience. The theatre was crowded, so we ended up in the front row, and because at the time it was only being shown in an aging art house cinema, the print was scratched and blotchy - amazing for a movie only released a week earlier.

    “Midnight in Paris” is so good that Mrs. Content Guy said something on the way out that I cannot remember her ever saying about a movie in the three decades that I’ve known her: “I want to see that again.”

    So this week, we did. Except this time, because it has gotten a broader release, we saw “Midnight in Paris” at the AMC multiplex in Port Chester, where we would be assured of stadium seating and digital projection that would assure us of a beautiful print. And let me tell you something - the difference was enormous, and I’m so glad we saw it again. As great as it was the first time, it was a vastly superior experience the second time around.

    I like the idea of patronizing independent theaters when I can, but I have to be honest here. If they want to keep my business, they have to provide a better product. I’m not talking about bells and whistles like espresso and fancy food. But I think I have a right to expect that I’ll get to see a decent print of the film I’ve paid $10 to see ... especially because these days, if I just wait a few months, I’ll be able to see a high-definition DVD on my big screen TV.

    You’d better give me a reason to go out. In the movie business, first and foremost, that means giving me a movie I want to see. Second, give me a print that is actually watchable.




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

    Slainte!!
    KC's View: