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    Published on: July 28, 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.

    On Tuesday, Michael Sansolo wrote about how a visit to an aging major league baseball stadium, with its lack of basic amenities - like an out-of-town scoreboard and a dedicated display that tells you how fast pitches are being thrown - taught him a lesson about changed expectations. Sometimes you find yourself wanting or needing things that you didn’t know were important to you; such is the impact of technology, and it raises the bar for everyone.

    I’d also like to look at marketing lessons that baseball can teach us ... but I want to do so from the other end of the scale. Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to the Carolinas Food Industry Council convention, and I was preceded by Mike Veeck, the son of baseball legend Bill Veeck, Jr., who was responsible for many of baseball’s more outrageous stunts, like sending a midget up to pinch it in one game. But he also was responsible for doing things like putting games on the radio and signing Larry Doby, the first black player to play in the American League.

    Mike Veeck is no slouch himself. He currently owns six minor league baseball teams - with partners that include Bill Murray and Jimmy Buffett - and he has his own history of outrageous stunts. When he worked for the Chicago White Sox, for example, he was responsible for Disco Demolition Night, when the crowd was invited to bring disco records that would be destroyed in between games during a double header. The result was a riot, a forfeiture of the second game, and Mike Veeck being fired by ownership and being blacklisted from baseball for a decade.

    Veeck is a big believer that “fun is good,” and he even wrote a book by that title - he believes that joy and irreverence in the workplace almost always leads to a better product, happier employees and more engaged and loyal customers. He makes an excellent case, and I will tell you this - if you can avoid it, you really don’t want to be in the position of following Mike Veeck on the stage.

    The thing is, I’ve long thought that minor league baseball is an excellent template for retailers to look at as they develop marketing and promotion plans. Minor league baseball is different from major league ball because you can’t really market the players - if they’re any good, they’re leaving soon. So you have to market the experience - the ballpark, the employees, the food and drink ... whatever you can to lure people in. That’s what more retailers need to do ... create and market a distinctive store experience that goes beyond the products being sold on the shelves. After all, product is something that most stores have in common. What makes a retailer different is the place in which it is sold, and the people doing the selling.

    One of the things that Mike Veeck seems to put a premium on is his capacity to surprise people - out of surprise comes delight, and out of delight comes satisfied customers.

    That’s a good lesson, I think, for everyone in the marketing business. And like all of life’s great metaphors, it starts on the baseball diamond.

    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 28, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Julia Roberts is having a tough summer.

    First, her movie with Tom Hanks, Larry Crowne, tanks at the box office.

    Now, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a L’Oreal magazine ad featuring the actress because the watchdog agency believed that she looked so good in the ad not because of makeup, but because of airbrushing. The ASA said this amounted to false advertising, and banned the ad.


    According to Advertising Age, “L'Oreal claimed the photographer had used flattering light to reduce the imperfections, but the ASA rejected that. In its ruling, the ASA said, ‘On the basis of the evidence we received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve’.”

    It wasn’t just the Julia Roberts ad that was the target of ASA criticism. There also was an ad featuring model Christy Turlington banned by the agency for being misleading.

    Again, Ad Age writes: “L'Oreal admitted it had used postproduction techniques to improve the image, but pointed out that lines under the eye, crows' feet, expression lines on the cheek and lines and pores near the model's nose were all clearly visible.”

    Double ouch.

    Not sure which was worse for the model’s self-image - the accusation or the defense.

    I’m also not sure it is news that actresses - and actors for that matter - will use any tool at their disposal to make themselves look better and younger. What is news is that ad regulators seem to have discovered that cosmetics ads make promises that are much easier to live up when there is a professional photographer taking the picture and professional makeup artists doing the applications; it is a little tougher in the real world.

    The broader lesson is about transparency - that we seem to live in a world where the bar has been raised on what is acceptable and what is not. And when it is pointed out that some advertising is misleading, the news is flashed across the globe almost instantly.

    That by itself is Eye-Opening.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    Reuters reports that a new study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggests that New York City’s requirement that fast food restaurants post calorie counts on their menus has resulted in one out of six customers noticing the information and acting on it.

    According to the story, “Advocates of the law see it as an important measure to help Americans lose weight, as more than two-thirds of the country's citizens are overweight or obese, conditions linked to health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes ... Restaurant chains have begun to include lighter fare on their menus to help customers cut down on fat, sugar and sodium intake. The report cited examples at sandwich chain Cosi, which began using low-fat mayonnaise in its sauces, while coffee chain Starbucks made low-fat milk as its default and Applebee's introduced a menu with dishes under 550 calories.

    “All of these changes came after the New York calorie label law came into effect, the study said.”
    KC's View:
    Some people think these kinds of regulations are dumb and reflective of an activist government sticking its nose where it does not belong. But I think it is a matter of customers having accurate and actionable information and making informed choices.

    I’m never quite sure why some people are afraid of that. (Actually, I am pretty sure I know why.) But people and business had better get used to this level of transparency, which is the bare minimum when it comes to creating levels of trust.

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    Whole Foods announced yesterday that it will open a 20,000 square foot store in downtown Detroit in 2013, a move that the Wall Street Journal described as “planting a full-scale national-chain grocery outlet in the heart of town and offering a boost to the city's efforts to attract more young professionals.” The store will be in the Midtown district, which the Journal describes as “a bright spot among the city's neighborhoods with its mix of bars, restaurants and apartments, and anchored by a large medical complex, a university campus and arts institutions.”

    According to the story, “The store plan comes at a crucial moment for a city still buffeted by high joblessness, a depressed housing market and lingering effects of the auto industry's retrenchment.

    “While Detroit's population has fallen precipitously in the past decade, officials see more promising trends in the population of young people, who are trickling back into the city.”
    KC's View:

    Detroit has gotten very little in the way of positive public relations in recent years, but it does seem that the tide may be turning. I heard a story the other day about how tax breaks have been responsible for bringing a number of film products to the city, which is positive for the local economy.

    I hope this works out for both Whole Foods and Detroit. I’m guessing that the company probably should do some things to customize the store for the local neighborhood, both in terms of product and prices. And I hope that Detroit’s optimism about downtown is realized in actual growth and prosperity. Because it’d be a doggone shame if it were just a matter of Whole Foods’ love for Detroit making all its lies seem true...

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    The Daily Record reports on how Winn-Dixie has “embarked on a program to ‘transform’ selected stores among the 484 it operates in the five states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana ... The transformation is focused on fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood along with freshly prepared foods and specialty stations, as well as a wine area. The store features higher ceilings, wood and polished concrete floors and improved shelving.

    “There’s also a community seating area with free coffee and Wi-Fi.”

    According to the story, “The stores are renovated floor-to-ceiling at a cost of about $5.5 million, almost triple the average renovation cost of $2 million. The changes result in increased sales, which Winn-Dixie has said reach an average $475 per square foot, a 60 percent increase from the average $300 at its other stores.”
    KC's View:
    According to one Winn-Dixie official, these transformations are seen as a stepping-stone to the future. But I can’t shake the feeling that there are those who hope that improved performance actually will put Winn-Dixie on the fast track to an eventual sale, that it is just a matter of time before the company is either sold or broken up.

    How long has Winn-Dixie been trying to transform itself? It seems like forever ... but then again, maybe I’m just getting old and cranky.

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    Reuters reports that Toys R Us plans to start selling Amazon’s Kindle, plus accessories, beginning next month.

    The announcement came at the same time as OfficeMax said that it would start selling the Nook, the e-reader developed and sold by Barnes & Noble.
    KC's View:
    Everybody is getting into the act. And they should.

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    • Supervalu-owned Shaw’s Supermarkets announced the launch of “nutrition iQ,” described as “an in-store nutrition navigation system ... developed to help customers make better-informed food choices right at the grocery store shelf.” Supervalu has previously used the system in other banners that include Albertsons, Cub, Acme and Jewel-Osco.

    • Walgreen Co. has announced an agreement with a company called PNI Digital Media that will allow the retailer to offer consumers an online stationery service, allowing them to create and customize unique cards, invitations and other printed material, including personalized photo books and photo calendars, wedding invitations and business cards.

    • John L. Davis of A & R Supermarket and Dennis Stewart of Piggly Wiggly Alabama  Distributing Company were presented with the National Grocers Association's (NGA) Spirit of America Award at the Alabama Grocers Association Annual Convention in Sandestin, Florida. The awards, presented by NGA’s Director of Government Affairs, Greg Ferrara, were given in recognition of their involvement in community and civic affairs and in praise of their support and leadership of Alabama grocers. 

    • Delhaize Group announced that it has acquired the 450-store Serbian retailer Delta Maxi for the equivalent of $1.34 billion (US).
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    Yesterday, in Kate’s Take, it was noted that Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” had in this week’s episode used both the Arab-Israeli conflict and battered women as fodder for his politically incorrect comedy. This was inaccurate, and due to an editing error - in fact, this week’s episode targeted the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the previous week’s episode took place in part in a safe house for battered women. It was two episodes, not one.

    Apologies for the mistake.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced the appointment of Heather Garlich as Director of Media & Public Relations, responsible for managing communications outreach and information activities related to FMI’s strategic goals, including government relations, food safety, conferences and events and industry relations. Garlich is a four-year veteran of Porter Novelli Public Services’ food & nutrition practice.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    Lots of reaction to yesterday’s piece by Kate McMahon about an ad campaign developed by the “Got Milk?” folks that positioned milk as a way to temper the effects of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Kate felt - and she hardly was alone in this - that perhaps the campaign pushed the envelope a little far in terms of what is acceptable and what will sell more product.

    Not everyone agreed with her.

    MNB user Thomas Zatkulak wrote:

    This bothers you! As a husband of a beautiful woman, both inside and out, who has the typical symptoms of PMS, I am amazed that anyone would find this offensive, let alone in need of an editorial. Life is a gift along with all that goes along with it and it is too short to focus on attacking a simple marketing plan. Whether their humor struck you as funny or not, I hope we  as a country never lose the will to try something new.

    MNB user Connie Montgomery wrote:

    I loved your column on "Got Milk?".

    I have an opinion (which I believe we all have and are entitled to):

    People have got to loosen up and quit being so offended by the words or actions of others.

    What have we become?

    I think it is very sad that with all of our liberties in this country, people are so offended by the "little" things or take everything personal. These are the things that lead us to the frivolous law suits and the silly way people react in today's world.

    I am from the "olden days" like Kevin. We ate fruits and vegetables right from the plants without washing them. When we dropped a fork or cookie; there was the 5 second rule. You slip on a floor at the store; you get up and move on. When someone said something we did not like; we turned the other cheek. We learned to laugh at ourselves and with others.

    We were happier people then......

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Bottom line - how will that controversial ad topic affect milk sales?  I doubt that it will negatively affect consumption.  This is particularly so since it is generic.  No brand to switch to.  And it just might garner enough attention to increase consumption.

    And, from another MNB user:

    I am a single mother raising 3 kids, business owner, Ford Truck driver, and a Black Belt - I thought the commercial was hysterical. I actually laughed out loud. I was less amused by Always' "Have a Happy Period" but again, not offended. I am actually more uncomfortable sitting next to my 13 year old son when an ad comes on that discusses the benefits of Viagra or the Kotex ads "break the cycle" that just goes on and on about how you feel when you have your period right down to the blue liquid on underwear.

    I think that all of the "outrage" is way over the top. I don't think a PMS commercial, Happy Period commercial or Hooters ad is going to make men view me as less viable in the work place, potentially unworthy of doing business with, incapable of handling stressful situations or making quick decisions during "that time of the month". I think the way a PERSON presents themselves, conducts themselves personally and professionally, communicates, etc. is what most people use in making their decisions on someone - business or otherwise.  A person may try the product, may even become a loyal customer…but radically change the way the feel about a person because of their gender, race, or religion…not so much.

    There is always going to be those that make decisions based on stereotypes and no commercial is going to sway those individuals either way. I also believe that if you are an "equal opportunity" type of person it's not going to sway you to believe otherwise.n You will not have someone watch an ad and wake up the next day saying…gee, I guess all women turn into irrational monsters once a month so I should do "X".  

    That Got Milk ad may sell more milk because it's funny, attention getting and through the humor it's educational. (I had no idea that calcium could reduce PMS symptoms- I may buy a cow!) How is that any different than watching a comic that jokes about politics, race, religion, obesity? …it's not. Nor, unless it's completely "over the top" is it the exception vs. the rule. How many times have you become more aware/informed? Probably often. Have you come away with a radically different opinion on a topic? Probably not.

    Hey ladies, have a glass of milk, laugh, and relax…if we can't laugh at ourselves (let's face it most of us do get PMS) and stop taking this stuff so seriously neither will anyone else.

    Yet another MNB user wrote:

    Regardless of how one feels about the appropriateness of the ad campaign, I think it worked brilliantly. The point of any ad campaign is to generate sales and/or draw attention, hopefully positive, to your product or brand (although, in many cases, negative is happily accepted). People may be offended, and they certainly have a right to be, but if the intent was to garner media attention for milk, it worked. What makes this case brilliant is that there is no company to get mad at – who am I going to hate, the California Milk Processor Board, the advertising company, the dairy farm out in the country? These organizations don’t sell milk, they don’t have stores, or brands, or recognizable labels. I can’t target the ad company and say I’m not going to buy products they advertise. I can’t identify a single manufacturer of milk and say I’m not going to buy their product anymore. It’s relatively easy to target a specific brand or retailer when they make a mistake like this; for a product as generic as milk, it is much more difficult. And, in my mind, milk seems to be a product like gas – we may grumble about how much it costs, our reliance upon it, and the companies that sell it, but we continue to buy it. Why? Because, there is virtually no alternative. Have you ever tried your Raisin Bran with water/juice/soy milk/tea? Somehow, it just doesn’t work..

    Finally, another MNB user wrote:

    I think Kate needs to drink a big glass of milk.  Now.

    I checked with Kate. She says she prefers Pinot Grigio.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 28, 2011

    It had to end sometime. And yesterday, it did.

    The Seattle Mariners ended a 17-game losing streak yesterday with a 9-2 thumping of the New York Yankees.
    KC's View: