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    Published on: July 21, 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.

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, at the very least you have to be aware that last Friday, the eighth and final Harry Potter movie - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two - opened to great reviews and record-breaking business. As you might expect from someone who co-authored a book entitled “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies,” I have some thoughts about six business lessons that I think can be gleaned from the film series.

    The importance of good casting. In the Harry Potter movies, they were extraordinarily lucky to have cast actors for the three central roles who not only managed to mature nicely over the past decade, but also did so without any public meltdowns, misfortunes or misbehavior. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint started off green, but grew into pretty good actors who audiences cared about and enjoyed watching grow up. That’s true in any business - you are only as good as the people on the front lines, and it is critical to “cast” those roles well ... especially because those front lines people will be dealing with your customers a lot more directly than you will.

    It isn’t just the big roles. Over the past 10 years, the Harry Potter movies have provided steady employment for as virtual Who’s Who of British acting talent. They weren’t usually big parts, and sometimes amounted to just a few minutes of screen time in each movie - but they served to support, both through talent and experience, the leads. Back when I was in acting school, the teachers used to say that “there are no small parts, only small actors.” That works in business, too - even the person in the smallest role needs to understand that he or she is critical to success, and encouraged to take ownership in a way that goes beyond their screen time. (By the way, the producers got very lucky here, too. Despite the fact that many of the actors hired were older, over the last decade only one died - Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the first two movies. And as it happened, he was replaced by the slightly younger and more energetic Michael Gambon, who brought a needed physicality that the role needed in the later films.)

    Consistency is critical. I can vouch for the fact that the world of witches and wizards created onscreen, based on the detailed descriptions in the books by J.K. Rowling, was very consistent from film to film. I know this because two weeks before the last movie opened, Mrs. Content Guy said that before she went to see it, she needed to watch all of the earlier films because she’d only seen the first one. This meant that we had to watch all seven earlier Harry Potter films in an eight-day period ... which wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. From film to film, the sense of place was very important ... you knew where you were at any given moment. I always ask retailers if their stores have that same sense of place, of specificity ... or, for example, could their store pass for any of a dozen other stores if someone suddenly found themselves plopped down in the middle of it?

    New perspectives can give an enterprise new life. Chris Columbus directed the first two movies, and he did exactly what you’d expect from the director of Mrs. Doubtfire - he did a good, workmanlike job, established the pace and tone of the films, did the casting, but didn’t offer any visual surprises. It was the director of the third film, Alfonso Cuaron, who brought a whole new sense of visual style to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, giving the series a creative jolt that served it well as the kids got older, evil got scarier, and the stories got darker.

    Success isn’t always related to money. The thing is, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the least financially successful film of the eight, making only about $800 million worldwide. (Only????) But it was an enormous critical success and is generally considered to be one of the best films in the series. And like I said before, without it, the succeeding films might never have been as good as they are.

    Don’t underestimate the importance of a little magic. The Harry Potter series had a lot of things going for it. Great kids in the leads. Fabulous acting talent in supporting roles. Terrific screenplays, based on strong source material. At the end of the day, though, it also had a creative alchemy going for it - as great as the pieces were, the whole ended up being greater than the parts. That’s magic.

    I’ll be back tomorrow in “OffBeat” with my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two. You won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a good one.

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

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Apple Inc. announced this week that its first quarter revenue was up 82 percent to $28.57 billion, with profit more than doubling to $7.31 billion, compared to the same period a year ago.

    At the same time, the company announced that during the first quarter, it sold more than 20 million iPhones and 9.3 million iPads - more than twice the number sold during the year-ago quarter.

    But, as several analysts pointed out, this may not be the most Eye-Opening feat.

    Consider this. Apple’s retail sales growth roughly accounted for one-fifth of all US retail expansion during the quarter.

    Of course, this could speak to either the health of Apple or the overall weakness of the US economy.

    But that’s still amazing.

    And what marketers need to keep in mind is that we live in a culture that is growing up on these technologies, and whose consuming behavior will be shaped to a great extent by how things like smart phones and tablet computers are integrated into their lives.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    The Washington Post reports that marketers “are taking notice that mothers, newly armed with smartphones, are becoming a new kind of shopping force online. A decade ago, these women were single and childless 18- to 34-year-olds who captured the hearts of Madison Avenue marketing executives with their voracious consumer appetites. Now, they are older and often in charge of the household wallet.

    “Moms are the fastest-growing buyers of iPhones, and they are tuning in more frequently and for longer periods than any other group on media Web sites such as Pandora, a streaming music service. Nielsen Research says mothers are far more likely to share photos and news stories on Facebook via smartphones and computers than anyone else ... Between business meetings, in carpool lines and at sports practices, moms are spending downtime on smartphones to update the family calendar, buy soccer cleats, research cheap flights and fit in a few rounds of Angry Birds.”

    According to the story, Nielsen calls these women“power moms,” and says that they “represent one in five online users — a proportion that is growing quickly — and some research shows they are an even greater force on mobile devices ... The number of moms with smartphones is about equal to men of the same age, but they are adopting the technology at a faster pace. The number of moms who purchased iPhones grew 132 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same time last year — outpacing men, who rose by 121 percent, according to NPD. Overall, adult purchases of the smartphone grew 117 percent.”
    KC's View:
    This essentially comes back to the same lesson as our Eye-Opener this morning - that new technologies, which focus on new ways of communicating information, are being adopted by the nation’s most influential consumers. Any retailer with an eye toward creating a sustainable business model has to keep this in mind and start develop strategies and tactics to satisfy these fast-evolving shoppers.

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    The Charlotte Observer has an interesting story about Coca-Cola’s Freestyle soda machines, described as “as the ‘Fountain of the Future,’ a touch-screen, Wi-Fi-enabled, tracking-chip-equipped, soda-dispensing gizmo designed by automaker Ferrari. It uses medication-dosing technology to create some 125 Coca-Cola products, many of which, like Orange Coke and Vanilla Sprite Zero, aren't available in bottles anywhere.”

    Here’s the interesting part, which many folks may not have known: “Besides giving consumers a dizzying array of drink options, the machines provide restaurateurs and Coca-Cola with an unprecedented level of information. They offer statistics on exactly which drinks are being ordered - and how much, and when. The machines display that information to business owners and transmit it to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta every day.”

    There reportedly are 800 of the Freestyle machines in operation at the present time, in 54 markets, and Coke continues to expand their usage and penetration because, as one executive says, "We're selling a lot more soft drinks."
    KC's View:
    Knowledge means everything, and for smart retailers and manufacturers, the push is on to learn as much as possible about the people who are buying their products and shopping their stores. In a competitive battle, I’ll almost always put my money on the business entity that knows who its customers are and what they want, and then actively tries to satisfy defined and specific needs, as well as identify unstated desires and meet those as well.

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    The Oregonian reports that US Bank is testing something called a VitaBand, a waterproof wristband “that carries emergency medical information along with a small chip to -- you guessed it -- transmit payments by radio waves.”

    It is all part of the effort by numerous financial services institutions to find new and safe ways to allow customers to make virtual payments without the use of actual credit or debit cards.

    According to the story, “Some highly touted food carts swipe debit cards on iPhones,” while some parking kiosks in the state also will shortly allow people to pay using smart phone applications.

    The biggest problem with these mobile payment options, the story says, is that not that many retailers are set up to take them. But that is expected to change.
    KC's View:
    One interesting point made by the story is the fact that these virtual payment options seem to be a lot safer than traditional methods, at least for the moment, because their share of the market is so small that thieves - who are interested in big scores - aren’t interested yet.

    But this also is expected to change.

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    Excellent piece from Bloomberg about the imminent demise of Borders, with the following anecdote used to frame the story:

    “Borders Group Inc.’s almost certain liquidation may have begun with a toast a decade ago celebrating its decision to pay Inc. to run its website.

    “At an August, 2001, party near Borders’ headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, then Chief Executive Officer Gregory Josefowicz brandished a bottle of Champagne and said Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos had sent a case to show his gratitude.

    “‘I remember thinking this is the weirdest thing that we’re drinking Champagne bought by Jeff Bezos, and it was the last thing we wanted to do,’ Manish Vyas, who was then a manager at Borders’ online unit, said in a telephone interview this week. ‘It ended up being a customer-harvesting vehicle for Amazon’.”
    KC's View:
    This is sort of the retail version of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. And I wonder how many retailers act in a complacent manner even as new and aggressive competitors are positioning themselves to destroy them.

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    Reuters reports that when it comes to legislation that bans the sale of sugary soft drinks in certain public places, laws that are backed by anti-obesity activists, the soda industry is not going gently into that good night.

    According to the story, “U.S. public awareness campaigns about sugary soft drinks are under legal attack by beverage makers, which have sued New York City's health department and hit local governments with requests for documents on the science behind the initiatives ... The soda industry, which says it is defending its products from ‘baseless’ attacks, and its attorneys have filed at least six document requests with public agencies from California to New York. Anti-obesity advocates say the requests -- which can take hundreds of staff hours for cash-strapped governments to satisfy -- come from the tobacco industry's playbook.”

    The American Beverage Association (ABA) maintains that soda manufacturers are being demonized, and that the science behind the bans is questionable.
    KC's View:
    I would suggest that the long-term impact of being compared to the tobacco companies will not be a positive one, and so the ABA better be careful how it proceeds.

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    • IGA announced the launch of IGALink, described as “a new digital marketing program that provides unique full-featured grocery websites and mobile web apps to each of over 900 IGA USA retailers operating more than 1,200 stores, giving every IGA USA retailer a website for the first time in IGA history.

    “The individual websites are easily customizable, making it possible for each IGA independent retailer to personalize the digital experience for shoppers in their local community. The websites are accessible directly through individual site URLs, or through a store locator on, the consumer-focused website that for the last 17 years has been shoppers’ source for information about IGA.”

    Through the IGALink program, every IGA USA retailer receives: an IGA-branded website with a content management system that allows IGA retailers to easily customize content for their stores and the communities they serve; a fully optimized mobile web app that shares content and features with the store’s website; online registration tools for building a shopper database; an interactive customer shopping list feature; more than 6,000 searchable recipes that link to shopping lists; website analytics for measurable marketing results; access to unlimited email newsletter capability; and access to a fully digital version of their weekly circular, interactive with shopping lists and recipes.

    IGALink is powered by Webstop.

    Full disclosure: Webstop also powers MNB, and is a longtime sponsor of the site.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    • Walgreen announced yesterday that in conjunction with efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America to fight the childhood obesity epidemic and provide better and more accessible food options to under-served communities, it is committing to convert or open at least 1,000 “food oasis” stores across the country over the next five years.

    At the same time, Walmart said that it would open between 275-300 stores serving “food desert” areas - in both urban and rural locations - between now and 2016. The company said that it has, in fact, opened 218 such stores since 2007.

    • Delhaize-owned Food Lion unveiled six new Food Lion stores in the Greenville, South Carolina, market this week, marking their transition from its Bloom banner as the company looks to make the locations better suited to local demographics and economic needs.

    • The Food Marketing Institute announced the release of “Access to Healthier Foods: Opportunities and Challenges for Food Retailers in Underserved Areas,” a research resource exploring the barriers supermarkets commonly encounter when seeking to expand service into areas designated as ‘food deserts.’  The paper also addresses factors that encourage store development in low access areas and cites some of the innovative ways supermarkets are increasing access to healthier food for residents in underserved areas.

    Drug Store News reports that the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. has launched “a new program, Live Better Baby Club, which is designed to help customers save on their baby-related purchases. Members of the Live Better Baby Club will receive an automatic 10% discount on baby products every time they shop at A&P, Pathmark, Superfresh, Waldbaum's and The Food Emporium stores.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 21, 2011

    On the subject of the obesity epidemic and varying responses to it, MNB user Joye Crosby wrote:

    All of these so called “solutions” don’t really take the bottom line changes into the picture.  My family on my Mom’s side were mid-western farmers.  They were mostly over-weight by our current standards.  They all lived into their late 90’s and one auntie made it to 101!  They all ate 3 square meals a day – Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.  All meals consisted of something fried, gravy, bread, dessert, meat, and vegetables.  So, what is different now?  Here are the differences that I personally have observed, whether you think it is of scientific value or not.

    No one spent all of their free time watching TV or playing with electronic devices.

    No one got a “ride” to school.  Everyone walked or rode a bike. (The furthest farms out did have a bus but had to walk to the bus stop.)

    Everyone went outside to “play”.  (TV was a treat right before bed.  Choose one program.)

    Most of the food was grown or raised, not “further processed”.

    “Cokes” were a treat.  Iced Tea and Lemonade were the drinks of choice.  (Real lemons.)

    And even though my family lived in the “City” and we did buy all of our food in the Grocery Store, all of the above rules did apply to us.  My Mom rarely bought anything that wasn’t fresh.  We had snacks, but they were homemade without preservatives or fruit.  Everyone of us still has all of these options before us and it is up to us to make the decisions.  I will say that one big change is that the fresh foods used to be the least expensive to buy making it less enticing to buy the processed foods.  Now the processed foods are cheaper than the fresh foods and we pride ourselves on being able to charge more for “fresh from the farm” foods.  This is a real tragedy.  However, disregarding all of this, if it’s really true that we only need to walk 20 minutes a day to keep fit, then all we have to do is make our kids walk to and from school and half the battle is won!  I don’t know the answer, however, I do believe that we can probably eat and drink whatever we want if we get enough exercise to balance it.  Exercise is not happening in the electronic age where everything we let our kids do for entertainment keeps them sitting still.

    Responding to one specific email on the subject, one MNB user wrote:

    I have stayed out of this for as long as I can. The lady that went to Disney and said she  was absolutely disgusted by what she saw there.  Children between the ages of 10 and 15 should not weigh 200 pounds, period. Her quote.

    Is she just uninformed? I have a 17 year old who 6’1” 260 lbs. He was 5’11 230 at 15. He started varsity football since he was a freshman, never has been off the honor role, took 3rd in the State in shot put, plays in the band, plays in the jazz band and umpires High School Baseball. I guess I should lose my child since he weighed more than 200 lbs.

    Remember she said NO child should weigh over 200 lbs from 10-15 PERIOD. WRONG!!!!!! FAIL!!!!! There are many factors that determine weight including bone structure and height. The comment was irresponsible at best, if not inflammatory.

    Shame on you for not taking her to task.

    You are right in the sense that she probably should not have used the word “all.” But let’s be clear - she wasn’t talking about varsity football players. She was talking about people are morbidly obese. Go to any water park in America and you’ll see them today, and it is a little heart-breaking when you see a little kid who is clearly overweight, and who is being bought unhealthy foods by his or her parent.

    On the subject of speculation that perhaps in certain cases, parents should lost custody of kids who are so obese presents a clear and present danger to their health, one MNB user wrote:

    I understand the angst of government intervention versus parental authority, but how does this differ from cases where children are being undernourished? If we saw on the news a set of parents who, due to neglect, were allowing their children to starve, the vast majority of people would be up in arms. Isn't overfeeding your kids mistreating them in a similar fashion? While I would never want the "government" granted undue authority to begin removing kids willy nilly from their homes, there has to be an avenue where doctors, schools or other authority figures can initiate some sort of intervention for the children. Only when it is apparent that the parents are not modifying their parenting approach in a way that would benefit the child would there begin to be any sort of condition sufficient to remove a child from their home.

    We had a piece yesterday about proposed changes at the US Postal Service, which led MNB user Deborah Feld to write:

    I would just like to make a comment on your comment "They could go to three-day-a-week delivery tomorrow, and nobody under 30 would notice or care."

    As someone under the age of 30, there was only one time that I really noticed and cared when the mail arrived: during college decisions. Yes, I admit that I was very happy to log-on to the college admission's website at 5pm ET on Decision Day and know right then if I got in or not. But there was something magical about getting that large accepted student envelope in the mail the next day and being able to spread all the new student information on the kitchen table. I feel the "large envelope" experience is something that would cause anyone under the age of 30 to notice what day of the week their mail was delivered if it did not correlate to college admission decisions.

    I understand. But I’m not sure that this experience is enough to build a business on. (BTW...they could always send it FedEx. Or via email as a PDF.)

    Another MNB user wrote:

    While I know that the electronic age is changing the postal service, I really hope that it doesn’t go away completely.  Nothing makes me feel better than to open a special card that came in the mail.  I love hearing from friends and relatives that are close and far away.  It is so much more special and meaningful to know that someone who cares about me took extra time to find a card, or write a note and then actually mail it!  It makes the mail seem more like Christmas morning instead of just the place that the bills come to!

    Again, a lovely sentiment. But not a business model.

    I’m with MNB user Mike Franklin on this one:

    I go to my mailbox to pick up my mail about once a month…at that time I immediately throw 95% of the mail into my recycle bin. I occasionally get a personal letter, a book mailed to me, or tax information from the state.  I wouldn’t mind if the post office discarded all my direct mail and only delivered to my house on those 6 or 7 days a year when someone sends me something.
    KC's View: