business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    It was inevitable, and yet still somehow shocking yesterday when Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc., announced yesterday that he was resigning, effective immediately. While it was not stated overtly, it is presumed that Jobs’ continuing health problems - he had surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004, a liver transplant in 2009, and has had three medical leaves - led to his decision to step down.

    Jobs, who has been on medical leave since earlier this year, will remain as chairman of the board. Tim Cook, Apple’s longtime COO, steps into the CEO’s position.

    It is almost impossible to overstate Jobs’ impact on the technology industry, consumer behavior, retailing, and even popular culture. From personal computers to iPods to iPhones to iPads, marketed so effectively by the company’s iconic Apple Stores, and from Pixar’s motion pictures to iTunes’ streaming technology, Jobs and Apple have gone from being a company in decline to one that has become an arbiter of taste....often deciding, as Jobs famously has said, what consumers want even before consumers know it. To this point, Apple has sold more than 314 million iPods, 129 million iPhones and 29 million iPads ... and there is constant speculation about the next iPhone (probably to be announced next month), the next iPad, and the next....well, who knows?

    In his resignation letter, signed simply “Steve,” Jobs wrote:

    “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

    “I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

    “As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

    “I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

    “I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”

    Needless to say, there is much speculation about Apple’s future - not so much about whether it can survive without Jobs, but whether it is capable of the risk-taking, design-centric, consumer-driven innovation that has defined it, especially over the past decade. The immediate future seems assured - experts say that there are new and improved products in the pipeline that should take the company through the next 18-24 months. And some have joked that Jobs probably has sketched out design and functional improvements for the iPad 20. (We’re currently on the iPad 2.)

    It is all a question of DNA, and whether Jobs - as part of his mission - has infused Apple with the right people, the right attitudes, and the right vision to help the company thrive over the next decade and beyond. As one expert is quoted as saying in this morning’s papers, it is hard to imagine that Apple will be better without the finicky and demanding Jobs in the CEO position; but it is possible that, if Jobs has done his job right, that it will be almost as good.

    It’ll be interesting to watch. Our eyes will be wide open. Don’t start writing the obituaries yet.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 25, 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.

    I’ve been thinking about an email I got last week after I waxed rhapsodic about nice treatment I got from a checkout person at Trader Joe’s, in which someone said, essentially, have we gotten to the point where small acts of kindness are being pointed out as “news” on MNB?

    The more I think about it, the more I need to respond with a resounding “Yes!”

    For one thing, I have a soapbox. A small one, but a soapbox nonetheless. I don’t hesitate to use it when I see people and companies making mistakes, so I think it is only fair to use it to recognize both small and big acts of kindness, especially when they are relevant from a business point of view. These are the “Wow” moments, big and small, that can make the difference in how customers think about companies...and when the moments are good, they share that information with friends, family and co-workers, and become advocates.

    That’s what I call a differential advantage.

    When I wrote about the Trader Joe’s guy, it ended up that there were dozens of people writing in to say they’d had similar experiences when shopping at one of the company’s stores. That’s a “Wow!”

    I wrote the other day about Coca-Cola sending me a sleeve of Diet Coke in the new packaging - and that’s a Wow!

    I’ve been very vocal here on MNB about Graeter’s making the best ice cream on the planet ... and every once in a while, the folks at Graeter’s will send me some freebies. Which, by the way, only encourages me to buy more via the internet, since for the moment you can’t get Graeter’s on the east coast. And I talk about Graeter’s so much to my friends that they’ve begun looking forward to its eventual arrival here, even though they’ve never had it.

    Now, in some cases I may get a little extra attention because of MNB. But it usually is totally unexpected, and I think it suggests a strategy that more companies ought to use to create “Wow” moments. What if a food retailer, for example, used its database to find out who their best cereal customers were ... and then, when a new cereal came out, sent free boxes to those customers and asked for their opinions. I bet that would result in a lot of “Wow” moments.

    There was a great story making the rounds of the internet recently about a guy named Peter Shankman, a blogger and social media entrepreneur, who as his plane from Florida to Newark was about to take off, Tweeted:

    Hey @Mortons - can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. 🙂

    When he got off the plane and went to find the car that was picking him up, he was met by a man who handed him a bag.

    A bag with a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, an order of  Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, one of Morton’s famous round things of bread, two napkins, and silverware.

    Shankman says he was, to say the least, floored. He was just joking, never even expected Morton’s to see the Tweet, and besides, the closest Morton’s to Newark Airport was more than 20 miles away. When he figured it out later, Shankman wrote, he realized that this “meant that in just under three hours, someone at Morton’s Corporate had to see my tweet, get authorization to do this stunt, get in touch with Morton’s Hackensack, and place the order. Then Morton’s Hackensack had to cook the order, get it boxed up, and get a server to get in his car, and drive to Newark Airport (never an easy task, no matter where you’re coming from) then, (and this is the part the continues to blow me away,) while all this was happening, track down my flight, where I was landing, and be there when I walked out of security!”

    Think of all the things that could have gone wrong. Think of all the reasons that Morton’s could have come up with not to do this.

    But they went ahead, and provided a customer with a “Wow!” moment ... which he has shared with thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, and I am now sharing with you, and I’d be willing to bet that a lot of you will now share it with someone else.

    It is always easy to come up with reasons not to work harder to provide the “Wow” moment. The reasons can be logistical or economic. But the reason to do it ought always be cultural - the reason that retailers and other marketers are in business at the end of the day.

    For some folks, it is simple courtesy at a checkout counter. For others, it is ice cream or a diet beverage. For others, it is a steak and shrimp.

    But the thing is, everybody loves a “Wow” moment. Even in tough times, or especially in tough times, providing them out to be job one for every marketer.

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

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    The Chicago Tribune reports that more than 100 senior business executives - including Walter Robb of Whole Foods, Tim Armstrong of AOL, and Scott Griffith of Zipcar - have signed on to Starbucks’ Howard Schultz’s effort to get companies to stop donating to any and all political campaigns until lawmakers in both parties “"stop the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C."

    According to the Tribune, “It's unclear exactly how much of an impact -- if any -- Schultz's CEO pledge might have. But a relatively small number of Americans do wield an outsized influence when it comes to political donations. Only 0.04 percent of Americans give in excess of $200 to candidates, parties or political action committees -- and those donations account for 64.8 percent of all contributions.”

    Schultz has said that the contentious debate over the raising of the debt ceiling - which has been pro forma until this year - was the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading him to announce his boycott and call for other CEOs to join him.
    KC's View:
    When this story first broke, I said that MNB would join the boycott, and one MNB user already has written in to say that he would as well. So there’s at least 102 companies...because I’m guessing that the Tribune may not have counted us.

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    In the UK, the Telegraph reports that online retailer Ocado is testing a a system similar to the one used by Tesco in South Korea, creating a virtual shop window in central London that allows passersby to shop using their smart phones. Shoppers can scan the barcodes of products, creating a virtual shopping basket, and then have the items delivered to their homes and offices.

    In South Korea, Tesco has put the virtual stores in subway stations and has seen a marked sales increase from people using the system. It can be seen by clicking here.

    Ocado says if its test is successful, it could lead to an expansion of the program elsewhere in London.
    KC's View:
    Love this system ... and not surprised that somebody wants it to have a London presence going into the Olympics next year. Though I have to admit, I thought it would be Tesco...

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    In West Virginia, WOWK-TV News reports that “United Food & Commercial Workers Local 23 and the Kroger Co. have agreed to a four-week contract extension, giving them at least until Sept. 21 to negotiate a new agreement.”

    Unionized employees last week rejected a proposed three year-contract would have covered 1,000 workers at 12 Kroger stores in Ohio and West Virginia. The union says the two sides are not in synch on matters of wages and health care costs.

    The employees also have authorized a strike, though both sides they hope to avoid just an eventuality.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    The Detroit Free Press reports that bar and restaurant owners in Michigan, annoyed by a smoking ban that prevents people from lighting up in the workplace, have decided to strike back by banning all lawmakers who voted for the ban from patronizing their establishments.

    The ban on legislators would be implemented by some 500 bars and restaurants, and would take effect September 1.

    According to the story, “Some bar owners say they have lost business because of the ban. Others say decisions about whether to allow smoking should be left to property owners.”
    KC's View:
    Jeez, guys. Join the 21st century. Workplace smoking bans - which prevent the vast majority of people from having to inhale second hand smoke that comes from products specifically designed to kill people - are ubiquitous around this country ... and in my view, represent one of the best cultural shifts to happen in the last couple of decades.

    If I lived in Michigan, I’d probably boycott any establishment that banned the legislators.

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    • Lowes Food Stores announced that it is adopting the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System, which uses a scoring system to rank every product in the store from 1-100; the higher the number, the more nutritious the product.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    • The Associated Press reports that “Mike Flanagan, a former Cy Young winner and part of the Baltimore Orioles' 1983 World Series championship team, has died. He was 59.

    “Authorities found a body outside Flanagan's home in Monkton, Md., on Wednesday afternoon. Hours later, the Orioles confirmed that Flanagan — who served the team as a pitcher, front office executive and television broadcaster — was dead.”

    As the AP writes, “Flanagan was a crafty left-hander who went 167-143 with a 3.90 ERA over 18 seasons with Baltimore and Toronto. He didn't possess an overpowering fastball, but won a fair share of games by depending on a slow curve, a sinker and a changeup.

    “An All-Star in 1978, Flanagan received the Cy Young Award with the Orioles in 1979 after going 23-9 with a 3.08 ERA and five shutouts. The Orioles lost the World Series that year in seven games to Pittsburgh.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    Got some reaction to yesterday’s “Second Thoughts” piece about Winn-Dixie’s new “transformational stores.”

    MNB user Maurine Sticker wrote:

    Well, you aren’t the only one that was skeptical.  We have a test store here in Southeast Louisiana in the city of Covington.  I was out shopping that direction a couple of weeks ago and decided to check out the “new” Winn-Dixie that everyone has been talking about.  First of all, it was very appealing from the outside.  The first thing that grabs you is the “no doors” as you walk in to the produce area before entering the store!  Just as you said the deli section, as I call it, was right in front of you with anything you could think of that you needed…salad…sandwich…pizza, and any kind of hot meal that you wanted.  I wasn’t at the store to shop…I was there to browse.  So, I continued walking through the store to notice just how nice the shopping experience would have been had I been shopping.  The aisles were wide.  The shelves were stocked and in good order.  The meat section was phenomenal!  Same goes for seafood…just awesome!!  My daughter was with me.  She just moved here from SC and was a loyal Publix customer when she lived there.  She commented this format would be major competition to Publix!  I remember visiting Publix with her and did like their stores as well.  We don’t have Publix in LA…but we have lots of Winn-Dixie’s.  The Covington store definitely deserves a stop from the local consumer if you haven’t already decided to check it out!

    One MNB user wrote:

    Kevin, I concur with much of what you wrote about Winn Dixie and applaud their latest store enhancement initiatives.  While I do not have a W-D in my neighborhood, I mostly shop at Sweetbay and Publix. But I can speak from both my experience as a supermarket marketing guy as well as a shopper, that amenities and improvements to the shopping ambiance are  important, but none of those things will dislodge an ardent Publix shopper.  Publix has successfully codified and consistently executes personal interaction between store employee and shopper as well as major operation in the country (with the possible exception of Wegmans).

    For the most part, Publix stores are nice, but not necessarily the most progressive in the way of offerings or services...but they are terribly consistent...which is vital to the maintenance of any brand. They are definitely not the cheapest place to shop...even compared to Sweetbay and Winn Dixie.   But above all, they understand that their brand is nested in the employees and they way the approach their work and serve their customers.

    Publix personnel infrastructure, commitment to detail and their long legacy of employee ownership is a tremendous barrier for any traditional supermarket competitor to break through.  Their formula works very well here in Florida.  Taking share from them will take more that new bricks, mortar and lighting...

    It will take time and an investment in people that most retailers feel they cannot afford to make.

    And another MNB user - a Publix executive, to be fair - wrote:

    Competition is a good thing. But your earlier comments on Winn-Dixie were probably just a bit too harsh for them to take. I can understand their taking offense by it.

    However, if they want to compare themselves to Publix and aim to match what they do, they will never get there because Publix is constantly ‘transforming’ their stores as well. They need to set trends and to define the shopping experience.

    Finally, responding to yesterday’s piece about Pat Summitt’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

    It’s tough when you learn someone close to you has Alzheimer’s.  While it’s true, we have no cure for it yet, there are  treatment programs that slow it’s progression.  My mother died of complications from the disease a little over two years ago.  Over the span of a decade she went from someone who was pretty, smart, self-reliant and very talented to a shell of her former self who required constant care and had to have everything done for her.  In the hallway of my house, I have a picture of Mom and Dad, she is smiling, her eyes sparkle, he looks happy just to be here.  On my dresser I have another picture, she is in the nursing home, he is standing next to her, he is smiling, her face is one of confusion, her eyes are empty of recognition.  That is where I’m afraid Pat Summit is heading, she and her staff know it.  She will do what she can, we do have the means to slow down the progression, but not to cure it.

    I wonder sometimes if and when we learn how to cure Alzheimer’s and what causes it, will it be something we’ve done to ourselves, something we’ve unknowingly put into the environment, or how we’ve processed our food.

    I can tell stories all day long of what  happened with Mom as the disease progressed, of how she would try to leave the house to care for her sick mother and father (mother died in 1972, her father in 1955), or that this wasn’t her home, her home was around the block ( she’d lived in that house she thought wasn’t home for 55 years), of  how angry she would get when we wouldn’t let her leave, because to her, what she wanted to do was all too real.  That I fear is the world Pat Summit is heading for, the only good news is, when she is in it, she won’t know it,  but the people around her will.  When Dad died last year he had dementia, he fretted about money, about  getting to work, he imagined  he’d been places each day, I’d get to the nursing home to visit him and he’d be by the door waiting for the bus to take him to work, but he always knew who I was, always knew my name, the last few years of her life, mom had no clue who I was, or who my brother and sister were.

    Alzheimer’s is divided into three stages, with stage three being the most severe.  I know I’m painting a bleak picture, but for those who make it to stage 3, this is what it’s like for them and those who love them.

    Thank you for sharing.

    I think I speak for a lot of people our age when I say that the prospect of Alzheimer’s may be the scariest disease possibility that I can think of. And there seem to be more cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s...which at the very least seems to be getting more attention lately.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    Talk about future indicators....

    The Detroit Free Press reports that in Portland, Oregon, electric car drivers now will have access to seven charging stations - made by six different manufacturers - located on a one-block stretch, part of a two year test being conducted by Portland State University “that will examine which chargers get the most use and who's plugging in and what they do while cars drink up a charge.”

    And USA Today reports that AAA is introducing a new roadside assistance vehicle - “but instead of fixing flat tires, these trucks will focus on providing fast power to electric vehicles that have run out of juice on the road and are stranded. A service truck can provide 10 to 15 minutes of charge time to AAA members. This will allow a vehicle to be driven three to 15 miles...”

    It is always interesting as these sorts of trends become watch the process of assimilation take place.

    Memo to Whole Foods: The private brand frozen cajun shrimp that you sell is absolutely outstanding - it takes about 30 minutes to defrost, and then mixed with pasta, it makes for the kind of spicy meal that makes my son and me cry.

    The Guard is a terrific new independent movie written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleason as an Irish policeman in County Galway who finds himself involved in an investigation into murder and drug smuggling, and paired with an American FBI agent played by Don Cheadle. Now, in less expert hands this might have turned into another Rush Hour, but with different ethnicity. But The Guard is much smarter than that - the characters are much more subtle, personality tics have payoffs in terms of plot, and nothing is quite what it appears. In fact, the move seems to delight in confounding expectations ... just when you think you know where it is going, there’s a twist or turn that you didn’t see coming, and it is all rooted in character.

    Gleason and Cheadle are both wonderful - while they are physically wildly dissimilar, they both know how to be subtle in how they tell the story, and how to work in service of the movie, rather than making the movie service them. I liked it enormously - with my only warning being that you have to be prepared to hear the f-bomb dropped with great frequency, but to the point where it takes on an almost musical or poetic quality; The Guard may have some rough language, but it is anything but vulgar or gratuitous. Go see it.

    I have to say that I am really enjoying “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO this year. Now, to some extent this worries me - as Larry David )or at least his semi-fictional self) becomes seemingly more dysfunctional, I find myself agreeing with his perspective more and more; he may be socially inept, but he’s saying things I’d like to say.

    This year may not be as funny in total as the last season, which created a fictional “Seinfeld” reunion; and there’s been no episode as individually funny as the finale of the third season, which revolved around a restaurant chef with Tourette’s syndrome (and that may have the funniest three or four minutes of television ever produced). But this year has been steady and funny and politically incorrect to a fault - it is a great way to end a weekend.

    Two adult beverages to recommend to you this week...

    The 2010 Flavium Godello, from Vinos de Arganza in Spain, just feels like summer - bright, breeze, and excellent when served ice cold.

    The Flavium Godello is available from Nicholas Roberts Ltd. which powers the MNB Wine Club. The August wine club selections are still available for limited time, and to get more information, about this new MNB offering CLICK HERE.

    And, my son brought home Kwak Beer from Belgium, which is deep amber and rich and totally mouth-filling. Loved it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 25, 2011

    Okay. So far this week, we’ve had an earthquake. As I write this, the weatherman is saying that in the next couple of days we’re likely to have a hurricane.

    Sounds like a pretty good time to take a little holiday...

    So that’s what I’m going to do.

    It is sort of a tradition around here - the week before Labor Day, I take some time off. You know...

    Knee deep in the water somewhere
    Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
    Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair...

    Now, I may pop up on Facebook or Twitter from time to time, if the urge strikes me. But for the most part, I’m hoping to spend most of the next few days living at 3/4 time.

    I hope you get the chance to do the same ... and that like me, you’ll be back here on Tuesday, September 5.

    Fins Up!
    KC's View: