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    Published on: October 6, 2011

    Steve Jobs, the co-founder and visionary leader of Apple, died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer, against which he had battled for a number of years. He was 56.

    In his column this morning, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal wrote:

    “That Steve Jobs was a genius, a giant influence on multiple industries and billions of lives, has been written many times since he retired as Apple's chief executive in August. He was a historical figure on the scale of a Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, and set the mold for many other corporate leaders in many other industries.

    “He did what a CEO should. He hired and inspired great people; managed for the long term, not the quarter or the short-term stock price; made big bets and took big risks. He insisted on the highest product quality and on building things to delight and empower actual users, not intermediaries like corporate IT directors. As he liked to say, he lived at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.

    “And he could sell. Man, he could sell.”

    Just a few weeks ago, in the New York Times, columnist Joe Nocera wrote about Jobs in the wake of his decision to step down as CEO because of ongoing health concerns that were, in retrospect, even worse than most people knew:

    “He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their ‘bozo ideas.’

    “The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and ‘insanely’ (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic.

    “The Steve Jobs the rest of the world has gotten to know in the nearly 15 years since he returned to Apple is no different. He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work.”

    And Pixar Animation Studios, which Jobs bought in 1986 and helped nurture through a a series of releases that includes Toy Story and Finding Nemo, released this statement:

    “Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA.”

    It is worth noting - though hardly surprising - that Walter Isaacson’s highly anticipated biography of Steve Jobs, written with his cooperation, is number one on Amazon this morning, with pre-orders reportedly up 41,800% overnight. It is due out on November 21. And Time managing editor Rick Stengel told the “Morning Joe” audience this morning that he literally said “stop the presses” last night, changing the cover at the last moment to bear Jobs’ image and adding stories about the passing of the Apple leader.
    KC's View:
    The tributes to Jobs have been voluminous. Too many to quote here.

    As an enthusiastic user - and verbal endorser in this space - of Apple products, it was interesting how many emails I got yesterday from MNB readers who felt the desire to offer their condolences to me, almost as if I’d lost a family member. And since last night - when, while at Parents Night at my daughter’ school, and the news of Jobs’ passing popped up on my iPad, which I’d brought along to take notes - I’ve been trying to think of what I could add, of how I could “think different” about Jobs’ life.

    And here it is.

    Let everybody else talk about Jobs in macro terms. What I know is that Steve Jobs changed my life. For the better.

    When I write MNB, I do so on a MacBook Pro that I love. I talk on an iPhone that I love. I consume books, movies, TV shows and a wide range of different media product on my iPad, which I love. I’m 56 years old - just three months older than Jobs at his death - and to a great extent, the products he and his company have created not only shape many of the parameters of my life, but have allowed me to extend those parameters to an extent that I find amazing on those rare moments when I think about them.

    And maybe that’s the most insanely great thing. Because Steve Jobs and Apple have enabled me to be me in such a way that I don’t think about those things very often. I don’t have to. I just think different. And act different.

    Me. And hundreds of millions of other people just like me.

    For a moment, let me make a more “macro” observation...

    I would suggest that as brilliant, innovative and forward thinking as Jobs was in life - focused on both design and productivity to an extent that few CEOs are, creating integrated product lines that transcend the generations, as usable and relevant to small children as they are to older folks - we will learn far more about his leadership abilities in the coming months and years. Because great leaders, it seems to me, create sustainable dreams and innovative teams that can exist and grow even without them. Will Apple be the same company without Jobs at the helm? Of course not. But, Apple certainly can continue on the course he set, creating new technologies and products, taking advantage of the winds of consumer change before anyone else has even sensed them, and finding opportunities to tell people what they need and want before even they know.

    No reason to think that this cannot happen, or that this will not happen. It will all depend on the sustainability of what Steve Jobs leaves behind.


    Published on: October 6, 2011

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

    I love William Shatner.  I cannot help myself.  And not just because I am now, and always have been, a huge "Star Trek" fan.

    And the thing is, Shatner is the living personification of a great business lesson.

    He started out as a journeyman actor.  Maybe not the best in the world, but very good, and even underrated.  If you doubt me, try to track down the PBS production of “The Andersonville Trial,” which was directed by George C. Scott - he’s extraordinary in it.

    Over the years, as he built a post-Star Trek career, he’s become a master at self-reinvention, and even self-parody when it was called for.  And built a terrific and sustainable career out of it.Sure, there have been some missteps - some of the toupees from the seventies and eighties, and even “Star Trek V:  The Search For God,:” or whatever it was called.  But he also became a multi-millionaire by doing Priceline commercials for stock.  He’s done a bunch of TV series.  He’s used the internet to communicate with his fans and build demand for future and existing projects.  He’s written and co-written a number of books, and even recorded some albums that people who know a lot more about music than I say are pretty good and even edgy.  Go figure.

    I was thinking about this because he’s out with a new book called “Shatner Rules,” and the Wall Street Journal featured a video interview with him.  I’ve imbedded a link to the interview, which you have to watch, if only to see the pure, unabashed joy in his face.  This is an 80 year old guy who is having a great time, doing what he wants to do, with no plans to stop, and the wherewithal to do another career reinvention if given the opportunity.  I’m not sure that anyone will ever vast him again in a serious drama, but I’d be willing to bet that if they did, he’d knock it out of the park.

    ( can see the interview by clicking on the picture of Shatner at right or by clicking here.)

    This is something we all should be striving for, in our businesses and, I think, in ourselves - the ability to change things up, to keep trying new things, to find sustainable ways to build our businesses, and to enjoy the hell out of it while doing so.  I can’t wait to read the book.

    In some ways, in watching this interview, I am reminded of my mother in law.  She’s 92, but man, is she with it.  She loves reading, going to the theater and movies, trying new restaurants, discussing politics - she’s totally engaged in not acting like a 92 year old.  She’s also pretty computer literate, because she did not want to be left behind. The other day I’m talking to her on the phone because she wants to go see the new High Line Park in New York City and we’re going to take her, and she mentions to me that she had no plans to see Moneyball but after reading my review here on MNB, she’s going to - and then she says she has to get off the phone because she has an appointment with her trainer.  She’s 92!  If I make it to 92, I want to be like that.  Heck, if I make it to 80, I want to be like William Shatner.

    In a lot of ways, despite their age, they both continue to go boldly forward.  Which is the only way to live.

    That’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning.  As always, I look forward to hearing what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Interesting story from Bloomberg about the makers of Jim Beam, who, after 216 years of marketing to guys, have decided that women can make a pretty profitable customer segment. And so, Beam Inc. - which has just become an independent company after splitting from Fortune Brands - is selling “Courvoisier cognac infused with red wine, tart Pucker vodka and low-calorie Skinnygirl cocktails.”

    According to the story, “The focus on women happened almost by accident. In 2009, the distiller introduced a black cherry-infused Jim Beam. Marketers gave the whiskey a masculine name, Red Stag, and signed Kid Rock to pitch the product. As sales took off, Beam discovered women were buying the sweeter concoction at almost three times the rate at which they typically bought bourbon.

    “Beam decided to dig deeper, and research revealed what the company came to call the ‘girlfriend connection’ ... The resulting insights guided new marketing programs targeted to women and led to the development of more flavored spirits. The opportunity was significant. While women make up almost half of spirits drinkers, they consume just a quarter of the volume sold,” according to Global Chief Marketing Officer Kevin George.

    The Eye-Opening point is this. Beam Inc. isn’t abandoning men, but it understands that to grow sales - especially in tough economic times - you have to be willing to expand your thinking, to consider how to reach customers that may not have been the central of the target. That willingness can spell the difference between long-term success and failure ... both creatively and on the bottom line.

    At this morning’s staff meeting, the following questions perhaps ought to be asked:

    • Who are we not talking to that we should be talking to?

    • How do we do it?

    And then, get to work doing it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    Tesco announced that its US division, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets, will begin rolling out its card-based loyalty marketing program chain-wide next week.

    The ‘Friends of Fresh & Easy” card, the chain says, was “incredibly well received” by customers in Bakersfield, California, where the program was tested at seven stores. Plans to roll out the program at the end of the year were advanced by several months, the company says.

    According to the announcement, “The ‘Friends’ card builds on the international success of Tesco’s Clubcard and the ‘Friends of Fresh & Easy’ email program. ‘Friends’ is a digital points-based program where customers can earn one point for every dollar they spend at Fresh & Easy. ‘Friends’ can exchange their points for cash-back rewards and will receive personalized bi-weekly emails with real-time updates on points earned and targeted bonus point coupons.”
    KC's View:
    The expectation here is that Fresh & Easy will also use the program to get a better sense of what people want and need, which will allow it to better target them through savvier selection and more focused promotional programs.

    The only question is whether management will be shaking its collective head wondering why it didn’t do this a lot earlier.

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    The Financial Times has a great piece about the long decline of Eastman Kodak, which has seen its stock price, market capitalization and share of the consumer market plummet over the years.

    The story is framed like this:

    “Received wisdom has it that Kodak is just one more victim of the digital age. That is only half true. The more instructive half has to do with the concept of disruptive technology, which is not quite the same thing.

    “Properly defined, a disruptive technology is cheaper than the existing version and initially not as good. For established players, this poses an acute cultural problem. They got where they are by giving their customers what they wanted at the highest practicable quality. Faced with a cheap and dirty alternative, they may address the challenge, but it goes against the grain to devote resources to it.”

    In this case, the disruptive technology was digital photography.

    In the mid-nineties, the story goes, “Kodak’s then chairman, George Fisher, was in an excellent position to know better. A technologist to his fingertips, he had recently moved from running Motorola. But faced with the stubborn Kodak reality, he took an awkward halfway position.

    “Film would co-exist with digital. If nothing else, he was cheaper. A picture taken with Kodak’s top-of-the-range digital camera would print out on silver halide paper with no loss of quality. But the camera cost $27,000. Even Kodak’s cheapest, with a poorer image than film, cost $1,000.

    “That would change, he conceded. But ‘the popular scientists get carried away with the pace of those things’.”
    KC's View:
    Now, of course, people don’t even need cameras to take digital photos.

    Just phones.

    It is instructive that Kodak, according to the story, did not attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show until 2004.

    And one other thing. Nobody should ever suggest that “the popular scientists get carried away with the pace of those things.” Because if we’ve all learned anything over the past couple of decades, it is that the pace of such disruptive change usually goes faster than we expect, not slower.

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    Entertainment Weekly reports this week that the iconic childrens’ program “Sesame Street” has a new Muppet in the neighborhood, joining Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and Cookie Monster.

    According to the story, “The iconic kids show is set to unveil a new impoverished puppet named Lily, whose family faces an ongoing struggle with hunger issues. Lily will be revealed in a one-hour ‘Sesame Street’ primetime special, ‘Growing Hope Against Hunger,’ which is being sponsored by Walmart.”

    The article goes on:

    “The special will share the stories of real-life families to raise awareness of hunger issues in the United States, as well as strategies that have helped these families find food. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 17 million American children — nearly 1 in 4 — have limited or uncertain access to affordable and nutritious food. Walmart is sponsoring the show as part of a $1.5 million grant toward the initiative and holding screenings in select communities.

    “The special is set to air nationwide on Oct. 9.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    • Kantar Retail is out with a new study saying that based on a survey of 20 categories in the edible grocery segment, Walmart is the cheapest.

    "Our study confirms that Walmart is the least expensive one-stop shop for the cash-strapped shopper," says Leon Nicholas, Senior Vice President with Kantar Retail. "Importantly, Walmart achieved this distinction without the use of any rollbacks. Clearly, the retailer's effort to bolster its value positioning through smaller sizes and an increasing number of value-positioned SKUs is paying off.”

    The Kantar study says that “while Walmart may have featured larger sizes with a favorable price/volume ratio in the past, the retailer can now lay claim to saving the shopper money on an absolute basis in a single stop.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    The Washington Post reports that “Nestle, one of the world’s largest makers of pet food, has created a 23-second television ad that has high-pitched whistles that are meant to be heard only by — you guessed it — dogs.”

    “We wanted to create a TV commercial that our four-legged friends can enjoy . . . but also allow the owner and dog to experience it together,” says Nestle spokesperson Anna Rabanus.
    KC's View:
    Is this the commercial version of jumping the shark?

    Here’s my view. If my dogs start barking at the TV because of a commercial, I’m not buying the product.

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    USA Today reports on a new study from Harvard medical School saying that “teens often are clueless about the number of calories in fast-food meals, underestimating the amount by hundreds of calories.”

    The study says that “80% of young people underestimated the calories in their meals,” “30% underestimated the amount by 500 or more calories,” and that “those who ordered 1,000-calorie meals underestimated the amount by an average of 350 calories,” while “those who ordered 1,500-calorie meals were off by 700 calories.”

    • As expected, Friendly’s filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday. The company said it will close 63 of its weaker locations, while keeping 424 open. Reuters reports that Friendly’s “intends to sell the business to an affiliate of its current owner, Sun Capital Partners Inc. A restructuring expert said the planned sale was a sign of confidence in the long-term business.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 6, 2011

    In Major League Baseball’s National League Divisional Series last night, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the philadelphia Phillies 5-3, bring the best-of-five series to a 2-2 tie...with the final and deciding game to be played tomorrow in Philadelphia.

    In the other National League Divisional Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-6, also bringing their series to a 2-2 tie...and their deciding game will be played tomorrow in Milwaukee.
    KC's View: