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    Published on: September 27, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    With each passing day, I think I understand people less. Take this example from my local news this weekend. Our area has just endured an incredible rainy period in August and September, so now my lawn has become a field of strange mushrooms. It’s not just my lawn; the entire DC area is sprouting fungus.

    One man in a nearby town saw the mushroom infestation differently. He harvested a few of the mushrooms, tossed them into a skillet for a stir-fry meal and sat down to dinner. Oh yes, he got deathly ill. In fact, were it not for some brilliant doctoring at Georgetown University, this story would be too tragic to tell. When I heard the story on the news all I could think was: really? What did he expect to happen? I find I do that at least once in every day’s news cycle.

    Irrationality seems in the air these days, but the stories aren’t as obvious or easy to understand as a clear lesson in avoiding lawn mushrooms. And while blogger/columnists like me love dispensing wisdom and lessons, some of these get beyond even me. Let’s take two that were in the news last week both of which have been the center of heavy criticism and for that reason, I want to consider a different angle.

    The first was the hubbub over changes to Facebook’s “news feed.” You didn’t have to look or go far to hear the pitched level of complaints as if somehow it was against the law for Facebook to change a website it delivers for free. It reminded me of a quote from a Facebook designer in the insightful book “The Facebook Effect.” He joked that the site’s users absolutely hate every change they single change made on Facebook until the designers make their next change. At that point, they cling to the previously hated change with all the passion they can muster.

    Those complaints pale in comparison to what’s going on with Netflix, the wonderful little company that seems to have achieved the gold medal when it comes to botching announcements. (Quickster/Quixter? Really?) But a news report on the core of the Netflix issue got me thinking also. What exactly has Netflix done wrong beyond trying to build a sustainable and profitable business model? Yes, I understand all the complaints of tone deafness and worse by both companies, but aren’t Netflix and Facebook simply doing things that all good companies have to do: they are evaluating their business models, evolving and hopefully getting stronger. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s not all there is to these stories.

    It may be heresy to say this but the bigger problem these days seems to be a consumer expectation that I can get whatever I want, whenever I want it for never increasing prices or, better off, for free. Changing my completely free Facebook is an outrage. Charging me a fair price for a video delivery service is just wrong. You can extend the argument to anything be it the non-stop irrational budget debate in Washington or the inability to eat wild mushrooms in my garden.

    In short, we want it all. Tell us it has to be another way and we get ticked off.

    For retailers and manufacturers, the challenge is, as always, about value. How can we talk to increasingly frugal shoppers about the real choices they have to make and explain values in a way that convinces them? We will be able to explain that sometimes prices must go up because while economics is confusing, it does have certain laws and they must be obeyed. It’s analogous to our discussions about nutrition: you simply can’t eat all you want whenever you want it, do no exercise and have a healthy weight.

    In other words can logic or rationale really be part of a discussion these days or it is just time for another episode of “Extreme Couponing?” Can we talk about real value or is that simply impossible in the current environment?

    I wish I knew. Really.


    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    So, yesterday was “Family Day.”

    Since 2001, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA* Columbia) have used Family Day as a focal point for a national movement that they say is “encouraging parents to frequently eat dinner with their kids and be involved in their children’s lives. CASA Columbia’s research consistently finds that the more often kids eat dinner with their families; the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. Those kids are also more likely to make better grades in school and to say they have an excellent relationship with their parents and they are less likely to have friends who smoke, drink or use drugs.”

    I buy that. All of it.

    But I would gently suggest that what we need is not so much a Family Day, or even a Family Week, or a Family Month. We need something much bigger.

    The thing is, every once in a while I’ll read a column or see a pundit talk about the importance of families eating together, and it’ll be like this person has discovered the Fountain of Youth, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail all in one convenient location. And that amazes me, since this research has been around for a decade ... and then I remind myself that I’m aware of it because I’ve been writing about this industry and these issues for so long. Other people, not so much.

    I also have a predisposition to buy into this argument because the family dinner has always been a core value in my own household - not just once a year or even once a week, but pretty much every night. (However you feel about Barack Obama, I think it speaks well of him that whenever he is in Washington, he makes it a point to have a family dinner with his wife and daughter. And whatever you think of this country, I don;t think it speaks well of our culture that when this is reported, it is with the subtext that this is some kind of anomaly.)

    I’d like to see the nation’s food retailers and food suppliers join together for a broad, aggressive and ambitious public information campaign that would have as its goal making sure that the family dinner research is top of mind for everyone in the US.

    It should not even be hard to appeal to other businesses - people who make and sell dining room tables, for example - to get them involved. Or enlisting advertising agencies to get their participation. Can’t you imagine the public service announcements? (Betcha you could get the Obamas to do one. And it seems like a pretty good bet that most of the GOP presidential candidates would support this whole notion.)

    We all have a stake in this, and it is time to blow up “Family Day”and make it something even more profound and expansive. At stake is nothing less than the future of the next generation of Americans. This is the right time for what has been the right idea, and now must become a really, really big idea.

    Before it is too late.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    United Press International reports that Technomic's new Lunch Consumer Trend Report suggests that “all US consumers say they want fast, portable and inexpensive lunch options, but baby boomers also want healthy food.”

    "Baby boomers are motivated heavily by value, but other significant motivations include health and quality of food," says Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at Technomic. "The most health-conscious consumers skew 45 and older, so their value equation is different than that of a younger person who sees value primarily as a price issue. Older consumers are less likely to perceive value in dollar menu items because of the broader context of their motivations."

    The report also says:

    • “On the weekend, lunch-time preferences shift and consumers pay more attention to customization and a fresh preparation than other attributes.”

    • “Despite many increasingly bringing lunches from home to work, 35 percent surveyed purchase lunch from a restaurant or other food service location at least twice a week.”

    • “More than half of all consumers indicate they skip lunch at least once a week and about two-thirds say they replace lunch with a snack at least once a week.”
    KC's View:
    Sounds like a marketing opportunity to me.

    BTW...I read lines like “older consumers are less likely to perceive value in dollar menu items because of the broader context of their motivations” as actually meaning that “older consumers are old enough to know better.”

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    The New York Times reports that “consumers at all income levels have been splurging on indulgences while paring many humdrum household expenses, according to industry data for the last year. Many retailers also report that while fripperies like purses and perfumes are best sellers, they cannot get shoppers interested in basics like diapers, socks and vacuum bags.”

    The story goes on: “Many of the products selling briskly are not high-priced, but they could be on a party supply list: premixed cocktails and coolers, cheesecake, cosmetics and wine. Meanwhile, sales of staples like batteries, bleach and fertilizer have declined sharply.

    “The pattern has shifted since the recession, when shoppers stocked up on basics but consumer spending and overall retail sales plummeted. Now, despite persistent consumer pessimism, spending is holding up, retailers have posted consistent profits and some companies that make the fun stuff are reporting especially strong results.”
    KC's View:
    First of all, I’m a sucker for any story with the word “fripperies” in it.

    Second, this seems consistent with past reports, like the one that said that hamburger sales are up because it is less expensive than steak, but that upscale hamburger restaurants are doing well because they are seen as affordable indulgences.

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    Safeway Inc. announced that Dr. Kent Bradley has joined the company as Chief Medical Officer, a newly created position focused on further enhancing and building Safeway's reputation as a health care innovator. He will have overall responsibility for developing and guiding the company's extensive portfolio of health care programs including its employee and consumer wellness and prevention activities. Dr. Bradley will also be assisting the company's Safeway Health Inc. subsidiary on a range of business initiatives.

    Bradley will report directly to Larree Renda, Executive Vice President and President of Safeway Health.
    KC's View:
    I don’t usually go into this kind of length, simply because there are so many “Executive Suite” items and I try to keep the site manageable. But I have to share with you the description of Dr. Bradley’s background, for which I have enormous respect ... and which I feel represents the kind of personal sacrifice that allows people like me to live our lives without making similar sacrifices:

    Dr. Bradley comes to Safeway after a distinguished career in the U.S. Army, where he earned the rank of Colonel and served in a wide of range assignments including Chief Medical Officer (CMO) from the Infantry Division level to CMO-Executive Director for TRICARE-Europe, which supported more than 250,000 Department of Defense beneficiaries in over 95 countries throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Prior to that, Dr. Bradley served in Iraq as Deputy Commander of the 30th Medical Brigade. Earlier in his career, Dr. Bradley led health teams supporting humanitarian and peace keeping efforts in Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Panama, Thailand and Rwanda. After retiring from the military in 2008, Kent joined as a Partner with Martin, Blanck & Associates, a health services consulting firm for clients serving federal and state delivery systems while returning to college to earn his MBA.

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    ClickZ.com reports that on the heels of Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream producing a limited edition “Schweddy Balls Ice Cream,” using an old “Saturday Night Live” Alec Baldwin skit as inspiration, General Mills is running a series of Internet videos promoting Fiber One brownies using the old drug culture comedians Cheech and Chong as spokesmen.

    According to the story, “The videos are clips from a phony film (called ‘The Magic Brownie Adventure Movie’) revolving around the drug-addled pair's trek to ‘Flaming Pole,’ a Burning Man-esque desert festival, to deliver a van full of brownies.”

    One promotional line from the videos: “Chewy, chocolatey brownies that are 90 calories and high in fiber... because now that you're getting older, you need a new kind of magic from your brownie.”

    No word yet on whether One Million Moms, an offshoot of the conservative American Family Association, which is threatening to boycott Ben & Jerry’s because “the vulgar new flavor has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive” is going to offer a similar response to the Cheech and Chong videos.
    KC's View:
    I know this is going to offend some people. Threats of boycotts no doubt will be made. But I have to admit that I find this very funny, and continue to believe that not all marketing efforts have to be acceptable to children.

    That said, I am enormously entertained by all the controversy, which no doubt is good for business.

    I’m trying to figure out how to get Ben & Jerry’s to name a flavor after me (KC Crunch?), my website (MNB Mmmmmm?) or our book (any ideas here?). Or get either Cheech or Chong to write me a blurb that says, “When I really want a different kind of high, I read MorningNewsBeat...”

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    International Supermarket News reports that Walmart-owned Asda Group has lined up backing from Barclays Capital to help it make a bid for Iceland, the UK-based retail chain that focuses on frozen foods. According to the story, “Iceland’s current owner, the resolution committee of collapsed bank Landsbanki, needs to offload the budget chain.”

    However, it is expected that there will be competitive bids - including oner from Malcolm Walker, Iceland’s founder, who currently owns 25 percent of the company.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    • The Sheboygan Press reports that Piggly Wiggly Midwest is selling four of its corporate stores to in Wisconsin to Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly, which, the story says, “currently operates Piggly Wiggly stores in Hartland and Oconomowoc and has run company franchises since 1988. The transaction will be finalized at the end of October.

    “The sale continues Piggly Wiggly Midwest’s move to convert its corporate-owned stores into franchise operations. Following the sale, 89 of the 102 grocery stores in Wisconsin and Illinois supplied by Piggly Wiggly Midwest will be franchise stores.

    “‘We feel the stores will only be stronger with having a local touch,’ said Paul Butera, the company’s CEO and board chairman.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    • The Sheboygan Press reports that Piggly Wiggly Midwest is selling four of its corporate stores to in Wisconsin to Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly, which, the story says, “currently operates Piggly Wiggly stores in Hartland and Oconomowoc and has run company franchises since 1988. The transaction will be finalized at the end of October.

    “The sale continues Piggly Wiggly Midwest’s move to convert its corporate-owned stores into franchise operations. Following the sale, 89 of the 102 grocery stores in Wisconsin and Illinois supplied by Piggly Wiggly Midwest will be franchise stores.

    “‘We feel the stores will only be stronger with having a local touch,’ said Paul Butera, the company’s CEO and board chairman.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    • The Associated Press reports the death of Arch West, described as “a retired Frito-Lay marketing executive credited with creating Doritos as the first national tortilla chip brand.” He was 97.

    • The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Charles Genuardi, the “eldest of five brothers who founded in 1954 what became a chain of suburban supermarkets,” has passed away at age 102.

    Genuardi’s, which grew to 33 highly respected specialty food grocery stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, was sold to Safeway in 2001.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 27, 2011

    In Monday Night Football action, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins 18-16.
    KC's View: