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    Published on: August 11, 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.

    So I recently attended a family wedding down in Charlotte, North Carolina, and aside from the fact that it is great fun to spend time with people you love in an atmosphere of unmitigated joy, I found the experience to be surprising from a couple of perspectives.

    One was the fact that I had no idea that Charlotte turns into New Orleans on Friday and Saturday nights. I mean that almost literally - the Epicentre downtown was rocking and rolling well into the early morning hours, with music blaring, people laughing and drinking and partying (not necessarily in that order). My 22 year old son found it to be enormously attractive, though I think he was a little surprised when he was propositioned by a hooker in the elevator of the Aloft Hotel downtown.

    He told me that he was a gentleman about it - he explained to her that he really wasn’t interested, though he did inquire as to how expensive she was. $300, she told him. Now, I’m not really worried by any of this because he told his mom and me all about it the next morning ... and he explained his interest in the price by saying it was marketing research. Chip off the old block, I’d say.

    On Friday afternoon, before the rehearsal reception, when it was pouring rain - and I mean “build an ark” pouring rain - my son and I decided to go to the movies at the Epicentre, and this was where we ran into the next surprise. The theatre was amazing - not only was it fancy and luxurious, but it featured a couple of full bars, a restaurant, and looked more like an expensive club than a movie theatre. And there was enough space in between the theatre seats to bring your meal into the theatre with you, to enjoy while watching the film. In fact, it was so nice that after the reception, my son and a friend of his decided to go there for a drink ... just because it was incredibly nice, reasonably priced and presented a great opportunity for people watching.

    The ticket cost for the Epicentre theatre - $10. In other words, no more than I usually spend at almost any other theatre I go to.

    And all I could think about while at the theatre - watching a movie I didn’t like all that much - was that the experience was being defined by the place, not by the content. Even if I did not like the movie, I liked the theatre, and would be willing to go back again and again. It made it more than a movie, and that’s a critical distinction.

    It is a great lesson for all retailers. Differential advantages often can be found in the sense of place, not just in the products on the shelves, in the cases or on the racks. I’m not saying it always has to be luxurious or high end, but it has to be distinct.

    To do otherwise, I think, is to give away a potential advantage. And especially these days, nobody can afford to do that.

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

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Okay, so I know this will further the perception that MNB is totally in the bag for Apple.

    But here goes...

    The Associated Press reports that Apple’s “lineup of sleek phones, computers and iPods, irresistible to customers even in tough economic times, propelled it to the No. 1 position by market value Wednesday, surpassing Exxon Mobil. Apple's stock on the open market is now worth more than any other company's.

    “Apple's stock fell for the day, but Exxon's fell more. Apple finished with a market value of $337 billion, beating Exxon's $331 billion. A single share of Apple stock now costs $363.

    “Apple occupies a rarefied spot once held by General Electric and Apple's own rival Microsoft. Exxon had held the top spot since 2005.”

    It was less than 15 years ago that Apple was on the verge of going out of business, deemed irrelevant by consumers and the technology community alike and possessing a market share so small that it was seen as insignificant. Its stock price was low in the single digits.

    Things changed.

    As bad as the economy may seem today, there are no bread lines. If Apple comes out with a new iPhone or iPad tomorrow, it is virtually guaranteed that there will be lines of people waiting at its iconic stores all over the globe. (There’s already a guy camping out in front of a London Apple store waiting for the next iPhone introduction, which hasn’t even been announced yet.)

    In the end, Apple’s climb has been about innovation, imagination and intelligence. And, let’s not forget relevance ... though Apple co-founder CEO often has been convinced the relevance of his products even before the marketplace knew it wanted or needed them.

    It is a lesson to be learned. It is an Eye-Opener.

    And if that means I am in the bag for Apple, so be it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    A couple of days ago, MNB took note of a story from the New York Times reporting that paper receipts seem to be slowly but surely going out of fashion, as more and more retailers “have begun offering electronic versions of receipts, either e-mailed or uploaded to password-protected Web sites. And more and more customers, the retailers report, are opting for paperless.”

    Now, Fox Business looks at the other side of the issue, reporting that there still are a lot of retailers out there that only offer physical receipts, and many “are still staunchly holding to their ‘no receipt, no return’ policies.” Fox writes:

    “Robert Antall, a managing partner and retail consultant at Consumer Centric Consulting, says for some companies it comes down to cost. ‘It's expensive. You've got to create a database and you have to keep every transaction for a long time. It uses up huge amounts of disks pace,’ he says. ‘In a large chain, they'll typically keep a database of purchases in a central location.’

    “Meijer, a supermarket/department store chain with200 locations, accepts items for return within 90 days when accompanied by a receipt, according to its official policy, but the company can also look up credit card purchases within seven days. The short window likely reflects a limited amount of transactions that the company needs to store.
    ‘It's just the way our computer systems are set up to read right now,’ says Frank Guglielmi, public relations director for Meijer. ‘We find that our customers don't have any problems with it’.”
    KC's View:
    I have no doubt that, for lots of reasons, many stores will only offer paper receipts. But I also think that, for lots of reasons, retailers need to start thinking about making the transition and at least offering it as an option. It’ll save on paper. It’ll make them look cool and relevant to a generation raised at the Apple Store and on And, it’ll give them a database from which to work to provide targeted and relevant promotions and communications, creating a sense of community.

    And, as I said the other day, even those that offer paperless receipts should not only offer paperless receipts:

    If people want paper receipts, they can have them. If people don’t want targeted emailings, they should be able to avoid them with little fuss. And marketers ought to be judicious about how they use this opportunity - the emailings should be occasional, relevant and meaningful.

    I also want to make one other point. In the current competitive environment, retailers that are not making every effort to identify, define and then establish open lines of communications to their customers - in as targeted a way as possible - are making a serious mistake. If retailers have learned nothing else over the past few years, it should be that every single customer is in play, and retailers from a wide variety of venues, using a wide range of technologies and resources, are gunning for them.

    Lack of knowledge, and an inability to act in a targeted way on specific knowledge, should turn into an enormous competitive disadvantage.

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    CNN reports that drugstore chain Walgreen plans to begin selling health insurance, beginning this autumn.

    The company does not confirm or deny the story, but CNN says that Walgreen “will sell health insurance products with different price ranges and coverage levels from coast-to-coast through a private health insurance exchange ... By partnering with some of the nation's largest health insurers, selling health insurance is a natural next step in Walgreens' evolution into becoming a one-stop shop for all health care needs.

    “Consumers will be able to shop for a mix of insurance products online, through call centers or in-store. Some will be branded by national insurers and others will be ‘private label’ insurance products sold through Walgreens' insurance exchange.”

    According to the story, “Health reform mandates the creation of federal and state funded public health insurance exchanges by 2014 that will offer subsidized insurance for uninsured and underinsured people.

    “A rush of companies, many not usually associated with health insurance, are also expected to jump into the nascent but lucrative market for health insurance exchanges -- estimated to be worth billions of dollars -- ahead of 2014.

    “Retailers, financial services providers and a large payroll processor are among firms that are actively looking into starting private health insurance exchanges that are separate from public exchanges, industry watchers said.”
    KC's View:
    In this environment, everybody is looking for smart adjacencies, looking for the places where there are needs and opportunities. If you’re not, you’re treading water ... and the sharks are approaching.

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    Fast Company reports that Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and a major proponent of genetically modified (GM) foods and ingredients, plans to make “a move into the consumer market with GM sweet corn, which will be found in a supermarket produce bin or farmer's market near you starting this fall” - the first time that the company has developed a GM product specifically for consumers, as opposed to as an ingredient in processed foods.

    According to the story, “Monsanto, which already controls 60% of the U.S. corn market, is including traits in the new sweet corn that make it resistant to both Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and to insects (through the inclusion of Bt toxin, a trait that disrupts insect digestive systems and eventually kills them).” The story notes that “at least 21 weed species have become resistant to Roundup. And Bt toxin may have negative health effects--a recent study found the toxin in the maternal and fetal blood of pregnant women, though the implications of that aren't known quite yet.”

    Fast Company notes that “the market for sweet corn is smaller than the market for grain corn, and up until now GM sweet corn sales have been dominated by Syngenta, which also uses Bt toxin in its product.” And there remain concerns that with both Monsanto and Syngenta producing GM sweet corn, the likelihood of cross-pollination becomes even greater, and it will become harder for farmers to produce corn without any trace of GM seed.
    KC's View:
    I’ve seen enough of Food Inc. to be totally stressed out by the encroachment of genetically modified organisms on almost everything we eat. And I’m not even philosophically opposed to GM foods - I just think they need to be clearly and accurately labeled so that people can make informed choices.

    I think retailers need to be very specific and very demanding about this. They need to act as the agent for the consumer, and if they are going to sell this stuff, they need to explain what the advantages are. Hiding the facts does not help, at least not in the long run ... though hiding the facts seems to be something that a lot of these companies are very good at.

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has “proposed a new, mandatory system Tuesday for tracking cattle, poultry and other farm animals to pinpoint the origin of diseases that can spread through herds and halt exports.

    “Ranchers and farmers under the rules would be required to affix a unique identification number to animals transferred between states or tribal areas. The tracking system would allow federal officials to more quickly find the source of an outbreak and isolate the diseased animals, reducing the economic and public-health impacts, the USDA said.”

    According to the story, “Trade groups for producers and meatpackers showed initial support for the new program. Yet some ranchers feared the rules would be too costly, increase potential liabilities and threaten current practices such as the hot-iron branding of animals.” And, the story continues, “The proposal would replace a seven-year-old voluntary program that has failed to entice broad participation from producers. Some beef ranchers and small farmers have spurned the program with a variety of complaints, from higher expenses to privacy. R-Calf USA, a group representing producers of calves, said the rules were too invasive.

    “The group also was critical of the new program, releasing a statement that voiced concern about how the proposed rule would shift them away from hot-iron branding in favor of ear tags.”
    KC's View:
    It is about time.

    Voluntary efforts didn’t work as well as they should have; if they had, government “invasiveness” would not have been necessary. Furthermore, the highest possible degree of traceability is required to be successful and competitive in a 21st century global environment.

    Finally, I find it hard to get behind any objection that is keyed to the fact that we’d rather use a hot brand on an animal than piece of modern technology.

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    The Boston Herald reports on a new study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, saying that “the Boston public schools’ ban on sugary drinks has paid off, with high school students drinking fewer even when they’re not at school ... It found sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, inside and outside school, fell from an average of 1.71 servings per day in 2004 to 1.38 servings in 2006.”

    The Herald writes that this is “roughly 45 fewer calories daily, enough to eliminate up to 40 percent of the excess calories blamed for the rising average weight in U.S. children, the study said. By comparison, nationwide there was no statistically significant decrease in teens’ sugary-drink consumption between the 2003-04 and 2005-06 school years, according to the study.”

    Boston banned the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in its public schools in 2004. Earlier this year, Mayor Thomas Menino expanded that ban to all city property with an executive order that takes effect in October. And last month, state officials followed Boston’s lead, banning sugary sodas, artificial sweeteners, caffeine and trans fats from public schools by the 2013-2014 school year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “in a reversal of historic patterns, the price of corn is higher than wheat, an anomaly that is upending commodities-trading strategies and changing what poultry producers feed their chickens ... Wheat usually costs much more than corn, trading at a 31% premium as recently as January. But corn has risen 7% so far this year amid low supplies and rising demand from China. Meanwhile, wheat has tumbled 17% as many countries produce bumper crops.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    • Weis Markets announced it has named Mike Mignola as Vice President of Store Operations and Bruno Garisto as Vice President of Center Store Sales and Merchandising.

    Garisto succeeds Mignola as Vice President of Center Store Sales and Merchandising. Prior to assuming this position, Garisto was the company’s Director of Private Brands.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View: