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    Published on: November 8, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    Remember the old saying: Smile and the world smiles with you. With that in mind, Janet Riley is going to find the world giggling wherever she goes and she deserves it. Last week Janet delivered a classic lesson on the power of a well timed sense of humor and in the process taught business every where a great lesson about modern day media.

    Although I am not in the proper age demographic, I am a huge fan of Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show.” His cynical, off-beat and yet insightful way of looking at the news and the shallowness of our nation’s political leaders and newscasters makes me both laugh and sigh at the same time. In fact, I’d do most anything to get on that show to talk about the book I wrote with Kevin because I find Stewart also does informative and interesting interviews.

    Yet I know this: back in my trade association days I can’t imagine a phone call I would have dreaded more than one from “The Daily Show.” Sure “60 Minutes” could embroil you in a scandal, but subjects on “The Daily Show” frequently suffer an even worse fate: they are humiliated by their own refusal to listen to what they are saying. They make themselves look ridiculous with their own words, especially when those words are some standard, focus group tested talking points that completely disconnect with the average person and certainly the interviewer’s questions. Believe me, I have done those interviews!

    And that’s why Janet Riley is a hero. Last Thursday’s “The Daily Show” dispatched comedian/correspondent Aasif Mandvi to look into a new marketing campaign comparing hot dogs to cigarettes and claiming they are equally addictive and harmful. Mandvi interviewed the earnest looking head of the campaign who laid out his case. Mandvi pursued his story to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council to get to the truth. At this point I’m figuring that an association president in Washington is about to get clobbered.

    Only Janet Riley was ready with a plan and a smile. Now for full disclosure, I’ve known and worked with Janet for years and I like her. Yet what I saw her do on television made me change. Now I admire her too.

    Riley didn’t sit and give the pat answers or poo-poo Mandvi’s questions, nor did she dismiss the issue lightly. In fact, she handled the substance of the interview extremely well, drawing serious questions about the comparison of hot dogs and cigarettes. Then she went further.

    Riley handled the entire interview with a deft comedic touch. Instead of avoiding any joke about running the Hot Dog and Sausage Association, she dove into it, calling herself “the Queen of Wien” (short for wieners) and donning a chef’s hat with that name. She cooked up some hot dogs for Mandvi and clearly looked to the entire world to be having a blast.

    Janet told me none of this was accidental. Janet, who is also a senior vice president at the American Meat Institute (the hot dog association’s parent), said the group planned for the interview. They knew it would be folly to joke about a topic like cancer, so they didn’t. But they also knew “The Daily Show” likes comedy so she had the hot dogs cooking in the kitchen and ate one enthusiastically.

    Here’s the most important part: the AMI Public Affairs Committee talked about the interview and agreed that the association had to do it. They realized, as so many others should, that the world of communications has changed. No longer are the calls just from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, Fox or CNN. Now they come from “The Daily Show,” The Onion or Yahoo! News, bloggers or countless other new media outlets. AMI recognized that for a key demographic, Jon Stewart is a trusted news source, so his comedy must be taken seriously.

    As Janet said, “while it’s not the comfort zone of those of us in the over 40 crowd, it’s something we need to get comfortable with if we are going to reach the next generation of consumers.”

    So with the right attitude and the right approach, Janet took on “The Daily Show” and won. By the end of the segment, Mandvi was openly making fun of the comparison of cigarettes to hot dogs with the over the top humor that is the trademark of the show.

    Janet told me she watched the late night segment with the “covers pulled up over my head,” which is the only thing she did wrong. With her sense of humor and with her association’s sound understanding of how to handle the new world of news and communications, Janet shouldn’t duck her head for anything. She should hold it high and get a crown.

    She is the queen of wien after all.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . 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: November 8, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The stories are in the headlines. The lessons are timeless.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that “former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, 67 years old, has been charged with 21 felony counts for allegedly abusing eight victims over a period of 15 years, in a scandal that has spread far beyond the state and the world of collegiate sports.” As the Journal writes, the spotlight is not just on Sandusky - who maintains his innocence - but also on two Penn State officials “who were informed about a 2002 incident in which Mr. Sandusky allegedly had anal intercourse with a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old in a shower at Penn State,” but who told the grand jury that they knew nothing about it. “Tim Curley, Penn State's athletic director, and Gary Schultz, vice president for finance and business, have been charged with perjury for their testimony to a grand jury investigating the alleged crimes and failing to alert police or child-protection agencies about the incident.” Both men have resigned from the university.

    Also in the spotlight - but not at present the target of a criminal investigation - is Joe Paterno, Penn State’s longtime and legendary football coach, who reportedly was told about the 2002 incident, informed the dean, but took no other actions. It has been stated to this point that Paterno lived up to his legal obligations ... but the inevitable debate will be whether Paterno lived up to his moral and ethical obligations.

    The other story is taking place in Maryland, where a woman was on trial for murdering a co-worker in a Lululemon Athletica shop in Bethesda - a trial in which, last week, she was found guilty.

    According to the Associated Press, two employees of an adjacent Apple Store have testified yesterday that on the night of the murder, they heard unusual noises coming from the athletic store.

    “I heard noises coming from the right side of the store- something heavy sounding," Apple employee Jana Svrzo said, “like it was being hit or dragging, some grunting and some thudding ... We approached the area of the store where the sound was the loudest. At that point we heard some screaming or yelling. It sounded hysterical.” She added that she heard two female voices, one hysterically, say, "God help me, please help me."

    But, apparently, they did nothing. They behaved in a way that was legal, but it is highly debatable whether they lived up to their ethical and moral obligations.

    There often is a difference between legal and moral obligations. These two cases highlight a pair of dramatic examples, and the sad truth is that the modern news media is filled with cases where people did not do the right thing, or simply did too little. They did not report it when they suspected cases of sexual harassment, or bullying, or, say, pedophilia by a man in a black suit and a white collar.

    It reminds one of what a wise man once said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

    I know this is supposed to be an Eye-Opener. But I cannot help but think that it is worth pointing out that nothing good happens when we keep our eyes closed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    There is an interesting convergence of stories this morning about the online shopping business, painting a picture of what internet shopping looks like as we head toward 2012.

    The Financial Times, writing about various efforts by Walmart (its pop-up stores in two California malls), Barnes & Noble (the new Nook tablet) and Best Buy (closing its UK stores and refocusing “globally on selling internet-enabled devices ranging from phones to televisions”), suggests that these moves underline “the shift of retail to online sales” because they aim “at consumers who increasingly shop by switching back and forth between the internet and bricks-and-mortar stores.”

    Keith Anderson, senior analyst at RetailNet Group, tells FT that “many traditional retailers were beginning to invest substantial capital in their online businesses for the first time. ‘The landscape is moving so quickly that people are changing capital expenditure plans they made just ten weeks ago and saying they were too conservative,’ he said.”

    Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports on the growing belief that the concept of online grocery “may have finally ripened for a wider audience as younger shoppers - accustomed to online everything - have come to view the Web as one of their preferred methods of shopping.”

    The story continues: “In St. Louis, Schnucks has operated a low-profile online grocery delivery service called Schnucks Express Connection for more than a decade, but now is looking to retool and expand the service.

    “And on Friday, a local entrepreneur, accountant Tiffany Glasco, 34, launched a service called Mercado on the Go. She has a fleet of four vans that will deliver groceries for a $7.99 fee including a dozen ready-to-eat items made fresh.

    “Some of the retail heavyweights are also dabbling in this area, including Wal-Mart, which began testing a delivery service — Wal-Mart to Go — earlier this year in northern California. And AmazonFresh, a division of Amazon, has been delivering produce in Seattle for a few years now.”

    Todd Hale, senior vice president at The Nielsen Co., makes the point to the Post-Dispatch that a lot of companies are coming to the conclusion that they need to invest in online grocery offerings because they are “looking over their shoulders” and seeing Amazon getting closer and closer. Hale says that online shoppers are “increasingly going to the Web for mundane items such as cereal and diapers,” so that they can “focus the rest of their shopping trips on things that matter more to them.”

    Finally, Internet Retailer reports that 73 of the top 100 e-tailers “offered consumers some form of free shipping on their orders this week. This is up from 65 retailers that offered free shipping during the same week a year ago.” The offers vary in form, ranging from blanket free shipping on all orders to requiring various sorts of qualifications based on order size, but the trend seems clear - consumers want free shipping, will use that as a determining factor when deciding where to shop online, and are in fact even growing to expect it.
    KC's View:
    Increasingly, companies that are not playing in this area probably are making a big mistake. Momentum is gathering, and it will only move faster as the kids that who have grown up with online shopping being their default choice become the center of the marketing bulls-eye. They have habits, and they have expectations ... and retailers that do not fit into them may well be deemed irrelevant.

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    The New York Times reports that Walmart has become a beneficiary of some of the controversy surrounding hidden and/or usurious fees charged by many of the nation’s banks. The story notes that is some 1,000 Walmarts around the country, customers can pay a flat fees to “cash work and government checks, pay bills, wire money overseas or load money on to a prepaid debit card. At most Wal-Marts without dedicated Money Centers, the financial services are available at the customer service desks or kiosks.”

    The story notes that “four years ago, Wal-Mart abandoned its plans to obtain a long-sought federal bank charter amid opposition from the banking industry and lawmakers, who feared the huge retailer would drive small bankers out of business and potentially conflate its banking and retail operations. Ever since, Wal-Mart has been quietly building up à la carte financial services, becoming a force among the unbanked and ‘unhappily banked,’ as one Wal-Mart executive put it.”

    Daniel Eckert, the head of Wal-Mart Financial Services, describes the moment as “a tremendous opportunity.” Because not only can it handle many of these financial services for people, but they also are a convenient place to go shopping once people cash those checks.
    KC's View:
    Expect the banks to probably spend millions to lobby Congress to try to force Walmart to stop offering even these financial services. That’s SOP for the banks - stop competition rather than actually being competitive. (We also can expect a broadside attacks on credit unions, which also are doing some damage to traditional banks these days.)

    It reminds me of the Francis Ford Coppola movie, Tucker: The Man And His Dream, in which the mainstream auto companies would rather attack entrepreneur and visionary Preston Tucker on legal grounds and force him into bankruptcy, rather than actually competing along the innovative lines that he established. (Though I am more than a little uncomfortable casting Walmart in the role of the embattled underdog entrepreneur...)

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    The Sacramento Bee reports that the Raley’s supermarket chain has decided to stop providing health coverage to its retired hourly employees age 65 and older, saying that its current financial situation makes it impossible to offer it as a continuing benefit.

    "Unfortunately, due to the economic downturn and increased competition we are struggling to sustain our business," said CEO Michael Teel in a letter to employees. "We have … determined that Raley's can no longer cover the cost of this benefit."

    Teel said that “the chain is struggling to maintain profitability,” according to the Bee.

    A subsequent statement from the company said that Raley’s will continue “to provide generous medical coverage for our retirees under the age of 65, which is the most expensive time for individuals to purchase their own plans ... but retired hourly workers...will have to pay for the coverage out of pocket starting July 1, 2012, carving out cash from a fixed income.”
    KC's View:
    The question that this raises for me is what it does to the way that Raley’s is perceived by its existing employee base. Does it suggest a company in trouble, to the extent that people start writing their resumes? Or does it suggest a company that is making the hard decisions so it can be assured some level of sustainability?

    The way that Raley’s is seen by the people on the front lines will affect how the people on the front lines interact with shoppers. And remember...there is nobody more important to a retailer than the people on the front lines.

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that a federal judge has blocked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from “requiring tobacco companies to begin placing images of diseased lungs and cadavers on cigarette packages, saying the health warnings violated the firms' 1st Amendment rights.”

    According to the story, the judge “granted the preliminary injunction because he believed there was a ‘substantial likelihood’ the cigarette companies ultimately would win ‘on the merits of their position that these mandatory graphic images unconstitutionally compel speech’. He also said that the images went beyond disseminating ‘purely factual and uncontroversial information’ and ventured into advocacy.”

    The FDA move had been authorized by the Congress in 2009 and was scheduled to go into effect this year. However, the judge’s ruling is expected only to set in motion an appeals process, as the FDA - supported by anti-smoking advocacy groups - seems unwilling to back down. The argument will be made the the new label requirements are, in fact, scientifically supportable and therefore entirely appropriate.
    KC's View:
    No sympathy here for the tobacco companies. Though I’m sure that they will be emboldened by this decision and perhaps begin a lobbying campaign keyed to the following phrase: “Smoking: Why You Shouldn’t Believe What the Science Tells You.”

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    The New York Times reports that Barnes & Noble is hoping to catch Fire, introducing a $249 color device called the Nook Tablet that is designed to compete with both the new Amazon Kindle Fire tablet and the iPad.

    According to the story, “The new tablet, which is lighter and faster than other Nook devices, offers access to popular apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora.” Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch said that “the Kindle Fire, and they do a lot of things well, is a vending machine for Amazon services. We’re going to partner with the world’s most popular music services. We’re going to let the consumers choose.”

    The story also notes that the new Nook will “have no ads that interrupt the reading experience.”
    KC's View:
    I have to say that I admire what Barnes & Noble is doing - which chiefly seem to be trying not to make the same mistakes that Borders did.

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    • MyWebGrocer, which provides digital grocery solutions to more than 112 retailers nationally, representing more than 10,000 stores, has now expanded their services to Hawaii and the West Coast. Forty-two stores from PAQ, Inc. in California, which includes Food 4 Less and Rancho San Miguel Markets, and QSI, Inc. in Hawaii, which owns Times and Big Save Supermarkets, will now offer their customers a completely integrated digital platform across web and social media channels.

    According to the announcement, both companies “will bring their customers a fully integrated digital shopping platform. Consumers will now be able to search specials, browse coupons, access meal solutions and create a singular shopping list.” And, shoppers “will also have the option to ‘Like’ products and more fully engage consumers in Facebook.”

    Full disclosure: MyWebGrocer is a valued and longtime sponsor of MNB, helping to bring you “news in context and analysis with attitude” each business morning.

    • Big Y Foods and AisleBuyer LLC announced a partnership to provide Big Y's customers with a mobile application for iPhone and Android devices that will allow Big Y to give customers a personalized shopping experience while helping them save money on purchases.

    According to the announcement, “Using the application, customers will be able to compile shopping lists and access a digital store locator that features hours, directions and contact information. The app will also include localized digital circulars, which provide current sale information and targeted coupons based on the nearest store location, ensuring that customers have accurate and up-to-date information for their local Big Y.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    • The New Mexico Business Weekly reports that some product law experts believe that “lawsuits over the outbreak of listeria tied to Colorado cantaloupes could target grocery stores and distributors. That's because the three chief targets of the lawsuits, including the grower, have a combined $17 million in liability coverage.”

    According to the story, “Deaths linked to listeria-contaminated cantaloupes have reached 29, including five in New Mexico, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a total of 139 people sickened in 28 states.”

    • Guiding Stars, the nutrition labeling program that evaluates every product in the supermarket and then assigns one, two or three stores to items that qualify as good for you, better for you and best for you, has announced that it has published its proprietary algorithm for making these evaluations in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

    According to the Guiding Stars Licensing Co., which was created by Delhaize-owned Hannaford Supermarkets to manage the program, “The publication of the algorithm allows the public to fully understand the scientific basis for the nutritional ratings of foods. The publication showcases the research and development that went into the Guiding Stars algorithm, and the important role a transparent program can have in simplifying the process of choosing healthier foods in all areas of the supermarket.”

    • The Associated Press reports that Sara Lee Corp. has completed the $709 million sale of its North American fresh bakery business to Grupo Bimbo S.A.B.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    • Ahold USA announced that Don Sussman, most recently the company’s executive vice president, supply chain, is joining the Stop & Shop New York Metro Division as Division President.

    Ron Onorato, current New York Metro Division President, will be moving to Ahold USA in a new role of Senior Vice President, Operational Initiatives.

    • The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) announced that Deborah White, the former Senior Vice President & Chief Legal Officer of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has joined RILA as Executive Vice President and General Counsel.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, the heavyweight with a devastating left hook who in many decades would have been the dominant fighter of his time, but who had the misfortune of fighting in an era dominated by Muhammad Ali, as well as George Foreman, died yesterday after a brief bout with liver cancer. He was 67.

    The Wall Street Journal this morning notes that, in a scenario repeated too many times in the boxing game, “Frazier served as a celebrity spokesman for many brands and fronted a band. He had health problems, some a result of a car accident, and he lost millions on failed real-estate deals. By the time of his death he was living in a spartan apartment near a gym he had owned in Philadelphia.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 8, 2011

    In Monday Night Football action, the Chicago Bears defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 30-24.
    KC's View: