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    Published on: December 9, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Baseball fans hear the words “Le Grande Orange,” and they think Rusty Staub - one of the best pinch hitters in the history of the game who has the distinction of being the only player ever to get 500 hits with each of four different teams.

    As it happens, Staub, just as a matter of tangential interest, is a notable foodie who enjoys a good glass of wine. (If memory serves, Michael Sansolo and I bumped into a fur coat-clad Staub - who had a gorgeous woman on his arm - at his New York City restaurant more than 20 years ago. Sansolo wanted to talk batting averages. I wanted to talk about food. Staub wanted to talk to the woman. Go figure.)

    Anyway...this is just a long way to getting to this morning’s Eye-Opening story, which comes from the Daily Mail in the UK:

    “Orange wines are the latest in wine jargon - adding a fourth colour to the common red, white and rose varieties.

    “The unusual wines - made with grapes, not citrus fruits - have been creeping into the vocabulary of the trendiest sommeliers of late, with their rarity a sure-fire way to pique adventurous taste buds.

    “Formed by allowing grape skins to macerate with freshly crushed juice for longer than usual, 'orange' wines are in fact a sub-set of white wines - with rusty, copper and bright orange tones imparted to the white wine from the coloured skins.”

    Orange wine may not be in the mainstream, but apparently they have been around for thousands of years, and some of them can get pricey. And more and more vineyards are developing their orange wine capability, believing that this could turn into a trend with legs.

    And, for those of us still trying to wrap our minds around the concept of orange wine, the Daily Mail has another revelation:

    “As exotic as the tipple sounds, it's worth noting that in Portugal, there is a group of wines known as vino verde, or green wines.”

    For the record, I’d try any of them. It is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    Interesting piece this morning in the Wall Street Journal about how different companies have developed Twitter strategies, noting that “companies are adopting a variety of strategies for navigating Twitter's pitfalls. One of the biggest issues is how many people to trust with a company's account, known as its handle. Spread the authority too thin, and the burden can be overwhelming. Authorize too many people, and the risk of mishaps multiplies.”

    Here’s what the Journal says about Whole Foods’ approach:

    “The upscale grocer has put its Twitter account, @WholeFoods, in the hands of a single employee, Michael Bepko, its global online community manager. Mr. Bepko says he spends about a third of his day on Twitter, monitoring mentions of Whole Foods, tackling shoppers' questions and posting recipes ... Whole Foods launched its Twitter account in June 2008 and now has more than 2.1 million followers. Mr. Bepko, who took the reins about a year ago, says his goal is broader engagement with customers. Many of the chain's stores now have separate accounts to answer local questions. In November, Whole Foods began a weekly Twitter chat, for an hour every Thursday, to discuss topics such as holiday menu planning, with its followers.”

    And here is an instructive passage:

    “Mr. Bepko checks the company's Twitter feed many times a day. ‘The online community doesn't recognize office hours—nor should they,’ he says. If a questioner has a request on Friday evening, ‘waiting until Monday is just not good enough’.”
    KC's View:
    One important lesson from this story is the real time nature of social networking. Whether Twitter, Facebook or some other venue, all of these conversations are happening now ... and marketers have to be engaged all the time. Well, maybe they don’t have to be. But if they aren’t, there will be a price to be paid.

    Social media can be a field of roses or a bed of thorns for marketers - sometimes simultaneously. (Just look at the war of words this week between Alec Baldwin and American Airlines, and how it has become viral. You want that to happen to you?) But it does not strike me as being optional these days.

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    Business Insider has an interesting piece about Dwolla, a Des moines-based startup described as “an innovative online payment system that sidesteps credit cards completely” as well as facilitating B2B and person-to-payment cash transactions.

    The company was founded by Ben Milne, a 28-year-old with no financial services background, “yet his little operation is moving between $30 and $50 million per month; it's on track to move more than $350 million in the next year. Unlike PayPal, Dwolla doesn't take a percentage of the transaction. It only asks for $0.25  whether it's moving $1 or $1,000.” Which is appealing to both consumers and retailers who believe that banks are taking far too much in terms of transaction fees.

    Two excerpts from an interview with Milne:

    “We think, in the long term, sending money should be as easy and effortless as finding a friend on Facebook.  That's really a behavior we try to mimic when it comes to peer-to-peer payments.  When someone does not have a Dwolla account, they get a wall post that says, ‘You've got money.’ If a friend sent that to you and it was their name and their face, you would have a different emotional connection to that than an arbitrary email from hellokitten32@aol.com.  It's a totally different interaction and one that's been really helpful for us in converting users into the system.”

    “We do pretty well in B2B; 11% of our business is person-to-person, and the large majority is business-to-business, consumer-to-business, and business-to-consumer.  The platform was originally built for taking in payments through websites, and we have APIs that allow you to do that.  We haven't experienced the scale on those quite yet.  Where we've seen a ton of transactions right now is with people paying monthly rent.  If I'm a landlord and I want to collect it, taking a credit card payment means missing out on 3% of an $1800 charge.  Dwolla is $0.25 cents.”

    The entire story can be read here.
    KC's View:
    One of the likely results of all the attention that has been paid to transaction fees - previously hidden, now on display for everyone to see, which I think is for the better - is that lots of entrepreneurs are going to come up with new business models that will threaten banks’ traditional dominance. Which also, I think, is a good thing.

    Of course, there may be some downsides to all this...

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal has a piece about how “many business owners who sell low-priced goods like coffee and candy bars now are paying higher rates—not lower when their customers use debit cards for transactions that are less than roughly $10.

    “That is because credit-card companies used to give merchants discounts on debit-card fees they pay on small transactions. But the Dodd-Frank Act placed an overall cap on the fees, and the banking industry has responded by eliminating the discounts.”
    KC's View:
    I feel bad about this. But I have to believe that in the long run, this will end up being better for consumers, and that new options will provide alternatives for some of these small business owners.

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    USA Today reports this morning that Coca-Cola announced yesterday that it is “physically moving its secret formula from a SunTrust Bank vault in Atlanta to a vault in a new exhibit at Coke's World of Coca-Cola tourist attraction in downtown Atlanta.”
    KC's View:
    The trick here, analysts say, is that Coke is reminding everyone that it has a secret formula.

    Everybody needs a secret formula. Or a secret sauce. Or something that makes them different from the other guy. And, we all need to remind people of that every once in a while.

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Walmart “has begun an internal investigation into whether some of its workers violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the U.S. law that prohibits bribery overseas.

    “The world's largest retailer said in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday that it had discovered some potential improprieties as part of an internal review begun earlier this year of how it was complying with the law. The company said it had hired outside lawyers and advisors to assist with its review.”

    No details about the possible bribery, such as how much money is involved and what country it took place in, were disclosed.
    KC's View:
    Hope it wasn’t spent on getting India to change it rules on majority investment in retail chains by foreign companies.

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    • Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets yesterday “introduced a new reusable bag featuring the winning design from its second annual Design-A-Bag contest. This new limited-edition reusable bag retails for only 99 cents and joins several other reusable bags introduced by Fresh & Easy in recent weeks. The bag’s colorful design of fresh produce was hand-painted by Las Vegas resident Tonya Jacobsen, who received a year’s worth of free groceries for winning the contest.”

    The Design-A-Bag contest generated more than 800 submissions from customers and 30,000 votes customers who are part of the company’s rewards program.
    KC's View:
    I just love stuff like this. It gets people involved, makes them feel like it is “their store."

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    USA Today reports that a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests “that women who ate the national average of half a cup of cooked rice a day in the two days prior to urine collection, ingested an amount of arsenic equivalent to drinking four and a quarter cups of water a day containing arsenic at the maximum allowable level set by the EPA.

    “The findings are worrisome enough that researchers are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of allowable arsenic in rice.”

    The story notes that “very high-dose exposure to arsenic in places like Bangladesh has been related to infant mortality and low birth weight, but effects at levels more typical of the USA are not known.”

    Stacy Fitzgerald-Redd of the USA Rice Federation tells USA Today that "there's never been a study that showed that arsenic levels in rice were at a level where consumers should be concerned, or where there would be any cause to panic ... There has never been a definitive study that suggests that rice consumption either in the U.S. or parts of Asia has led to adverse health effects.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    Wine Spectator reports that “a team of Dutch scientists has found that resveratrol, the polyphenolic compound that has attracted a great deal of interest in the scientific community in recent years, can improve the metabolism of overweight men, improving their health and possibly extending their lives ... The latest study, published in Cell Metabolism, finds that the red-wine chemical does appear to help increase the lifespan of humans, specifically by counteracting some of the effects of a poor diet.”

    The Tennessean reports that Dollar General plans to “turn its attention to targeting food deserts — areas not served by supermarkets or nearby grocers — in a bid to fill voids in many communities.” CEO Rick Dreiling told investors this week that the company’s food market concept will “play an expanding role in the future of Dollar General.”

    • France-based Carrefour may be having its troubles in its home market, but that doesn;t seem to be slowing it down abroad. China Daily reports this week that Carrefour has opened its 200th store in China, 16 years after it opened its first store there and a decade after the country’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) “opened the floodgates to foreign investment in a variety of areas.”

    • IBM announced yesterday that it is acquiring DemandTec, which delivers cloud-based analytics software that enables businesses to examine different customer buying scenarios, both online and in-store, for about $440 million.

    According to the announcement, “The acquisition of DemandTec will extend IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative by adding cloud-based price, promotion and other merchandising and marketing analytics to help companies better define the best price points and product mix based on customer buying trends.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    Reuters reports that Tesco “has appointed Kevin Grace, a 30-year veteran of the firm, to the newly created post of group commercial director,” with responsibility for group sourcing. “Grace, who has been a property services director since 2006 and has also worked for Tesco in South Korea and Poland, will report to group CEO Philip Clarke and join Tesco's executive committee.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    • Jerry Robinson died late Wednesday night. He was 89.

    And who, you may ask, was Jerry Robinson?

    Well, for one thing, he is credited with creating perhaps the most iconic comic book villain ever - The Joker, Batman’s arch-nemesis.

    For another, Robinson was an enormous advocate on behalf of Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel, the creators of Superman, who in the early seventies found themselves almost penniless as Time Warner-owned DC Comics prepared to make a feature film about the Last Son of Krypton. Robinson launched a high-profile publicity campaign on behalf of Shuster and Siegel, essentially shaming the conglomerate into a financial settlement with the comic book legends and restoring their names on every comic book and film/TV property featuring Superman.
    KC's View:
    Robinson may not have been faster than a speeding bullet, but he apparently was more powerful than a conglomerate.

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    • In Thursday Night Football action, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns 14-3.

    • In Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made two enormously high profile acquisitions on the free agent market. First, the Angels signed Albert Pujols, arguably the best player in baseball, to a 10-year, $254 million contract; the move ends what many had expected would be an entire career spent with the St. Louis Cardinals, where Pujols had earned the Rookie of the Year award as well as three Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors.

    And then, the Angels signed C. J. Wilson, the former Texas Rangers southpaw, to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.
    KC's View:
    I’m sure that Angels fans, with good reason, now think that they are the prohibitive favorite to win the AL pennant and perhaps even the 2012 World Series.

    But I would offer one cautionary note: the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies.

    Published on: December 9, 2011

    If Donald Trump can do it, why can’t we?

    Michael Sansolo and I were discussing this the other day, and figured that if Donald Trump can somehow arrange to moderate a GOP Presidential debate - though it seems likely that whichever of the candidates show up will probably do more listening to Trump than answering his questions - we ought to be able to do the same thing.

    However, we recognize that while MNB has an intelligent and engaged audience, it is unlikely that we would be able to get most or all of the contenders in the room with us. And so, what we’ve decided to do is this...

    We have formulated 10 questions that we are sending to each of the Republican Presidential candidates, and we’re hoping to get answers back from at least some of them. We’ve designed these questions not to pin them down on policy issues, but rather to get some insight into how they think and relevant real-world experiences that they’ve had. And they are, to be sure, a little offbeat. (Except for the last one, which is a question we are dying to hear someone ask in one of the “real” debates.)

    We will share the answers with you if and when and as they come in. (And, if anyone in the MNB audience has some juice with any of the candidates, we hope you’ll be kind enough to encourage them to answer.)

    Our questions are as follows:

    • What was the last thing you personally purchased from Amazon.com, and when did you do it?

    • What kind of cellphone and computer do you use? Do you own a tablet computer, and if so, what kind?

    • What is the favorite regional food that you’ve had while campaigning, and where did you have it?

    • If we went on your computer, what three websites would it reveal that you visit most often? And why do you like and/or use them?

    • Do you check / answer your own email?

    • In your mind, what was the most significant technology-related story of the past year?

    • When was the last time you went to the supermarket to do any shopping, and what did you buy there?

    • What ten favorite food items do you always have in your refrigerator/freezer/cupboard?

    • What is your favorite restaurant meal?

    • What is the one thing you would do as president that would make your base absolutely nuts, and why would it be important to do it?

    That’s it. Let’s see what happens.



    And while we’re waiting....may I heartily recommend the Francis Coppola 2010 Black Label Pavilion Chardonnay, which has wonderful hints of melon, passion fruit and vanilla, and is a terrific white wine that runs about twenty bucks.




    Worth reading....

    Check out this piece on Salon.com about a man and a woman who reinvented themselves during the Great Recession by purchasing an independent grocery store in a small Virginia town. Part of a series of columns called “My Brilliant Second Career,” this piece is a lovely bit of writing. If you’re anything like me, it’ll make you feel good.




    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Slainte!
    KC's View: