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    Published on: March 23, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    One of the great challenges to every marketer is maintaining - or recapturing - some level of enthusiasm for products with some age on them.

    But we got a lesson this week in precisely how to do so: Simply get it used as a metaphor in a presidential primary campaign.

    That’s what happened to the venerable Etch-A-Sketch, which originally was introduced in 1960. (That piece of information alone amazed me. I would have guessed 1940.)

    In case you’ve been living in the cave this week, one of Mitt Romney’s campaign aides, responding to a question about whether the candidate would need to become more centrist in a general election, suggested, "It's almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again." Which reinforced notions in some quarters that Romney lacks a philosophical core, or at least is a conservative poseur.

    The Daily Beast reports that “by the end of the day, the Etch a Sketch had become Amazon’s biggest ‘mover and shaker,’ jumping 1,200 spots in rank (it’s currently the 110th-most popular toy on the site). Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both dispatched campaign aides to buy up the popular toy at local stores in order to hold them up at campaign events. Santorum aide Alice Stewart showed up at a Romney event Wednesday afternoon in Arbutus, Md., to distribute the toy to reporters, guaranteeing even more coverage.”

    Now, I’m not sure that this makes the Etch-A-Sketch more relevant to a generation growing up with iPads. (I also wonder if familiarity with the Etch-A-Sketch may reinforce the notion that these are old people running for the presidency...) But it certainly adds some juice to a product that probably had more visibility lately in the Toy Story movies than anywhere else...
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    Bloomberg reports that “more Americans this month said the economy was improving than at any time in eight years as the job market picked up.

    “The share of households viewing the economy as heading in the right direction rose to 34 percent in March, the most since January 2004, pushing the Bloomberg monthly expectations gauge to a one-year high of 1. The weekly Bloomberg Comfort Index was minus 34.9 in the period ended March 18, down from a four-year high of minus 33.7 over the previous seven days ... The best six months of job growth since 2006 is probably behind the increase in optimism, raising the odds that the spending that accounts for about 70 percent of the economy will strengthen. Gains in incomes and employment may be among reasons households have so far been able to weather the jump in gasoline prices.”

    However, experts say that a continuing rise in fuel prices could erode consumer confidence and spending.
    KC's View:
    No kidding. I remain convinced that the whole recovery is a house of cards.

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times reports that several more retailers have announced that they no longer will sell meat with so-called “pink slime,” an inexpensive meat filler made from low-grade trimmings often referred to as “lean finely textured beef.”

    According to the story, “The Kroger Co., the nation's largest traditional grocer with 2,435 supermarkets in 31 states, also said it will stop buying the beef, reversing itself after saying Wednesday that it would sell beef both with and without the additive.”

    "Our customers have expressed their concerns that the use of lean finely textured beef — while fully approved by the USDA for safety and quality — is something they do not want in their ground beef," Kroger said in a statement. "As a result, Kroger will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef."

    Ahold-owned Stop & Shop “said that while the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said the product is safe for consumption, it will stop selling the beef due to customer concerns,” according to the Times.

    Target, Whole Foods, A&P and Costco have said they have never sold beef products with the additive.

    And National Public Radio reports that “Wal-Mart has become the latest food retailer to announce that it's making changes after listening to customer concerns about LFTB. ‘While the USDA and experts agree that it is safe and nutritious, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain LFTB,’ writes Deisha Galberth Barnett, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, in a statement.”

    The Sacramento Bee writes that “Raley's officials released a statement that said it doesn't use the filler in its fresh ground beef products or in its ‘Black Angus’ frozen beef patties. Raley's said it does sell other frozen beef patties with the additive, but will stop.”
    KC's View:
    Yesterday, after running several emails castigating me for buying into the whole pink slime controversy, I wrote the following:

    Pink Slime is now Pink Slime - forever. Deal with it.

    It may be safe. But it does not sound desirable.

    Which led to a whole bunch of other emails...

    One MNB user wrote:

    The problem with perception is perception.  Perpetuating perception with unfounded facts in a media setting is sensationalism.

    I’m sure you don’t eat hot dogs regularly, but I’ll bet you have on occasion, especially at a ball game or when in Chicago.

    Hot dogs, bologna, and other lunchmeats are made from meat slurry.  Safety interventions of different types are in place when making these items as well.  This is done to prevent listeria and other pathogens.  So far, not hype around these items…maybe because they are already low on the food chain.

    Here is food for thought:

    If you took lean finely textured beef trimmings and pumped them into a hot dog casing, guess what you have…that’s right all beef hot dog, 90% lean…pretty healthy actually.

    I’m not saying all beef hot dogs are made from LFTB, but that’s the principle.  Actually most beef hot dogs are probably of lesser quality.

    Deal with it.

    MNB user Jeff Folloder wrote:

    I understand your reactions to the issue.  I also understand the reaction of those who disagree with you.  There are *many* food stuffs that are the result of processes that are quite similar to those that create "pink slime."  Have you ever seen the slurry that creates bologna, liverwurst or other similar lunch meats?  How about hot dogs?  Chicken nuggets, baby food... I'm sorry, but to deride one product of this process while letting others off the hook seems a bit inconsistent, at the very least.  Should we be equally indignant that McDonalds uses "white slime" to create the ubiquitous kiddie pacifier?

    The simple fact is that these processes allow the meat industries to extract even more efficiency out of their rendering process and do it in a way that apparently results in a tasty product.  Unless you do not really think to hard about how it got there.  I make my own sausage, I hunt and I eat.  I have no doubt about where much of what I eat comes from or how it gets to my plate.  I served meat loaf last night and pretty much all of the protein was ground up.  I added veggies and chiles, bread crumbs, seasonings, sauces and eggs.  I can assure you that the texture of the meat loaf to be was rather slimy when it was put into the pan.  And the texture of the finished product was perfect and consistent and delicious.  The only downside was that there wasn't enough left for meat loaf sammiches today.

    My gut tells me that the outrage over the product is misplaced and is forcing folks to make decisions based upon emotion, rather than fact.

    Another MNB user thought I was not totally off-base:

    I was in your USC lecture last week and I suppose it has given me the personal connection needed to reach out and say “well done” with regard to your Pink Slime commentary.  I was thrilled to find you sticking to your guns after the firestorm of commentary you received.  To me, safety is not the key element of the pink slime discussion, it is a matter of integrity.  In the age of the internet, there is no hiding behind terms like “lean finely textured beef.”  Fighting back against consumers demanding full transparency is not only completely wasted effort, it is pathetic. 

    What is truly alarming is the response from the traditional retailers:  “while….experts agree that [pink slime] is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern.”  If you are Safeway perhaps you ought to regard your shoppers as the experts?  Perhaps your public message should tell your consumers you are in their corner rather than you regard them as idiots who believe anything they see on TV?

    Keep fighting the good fight.

    But, from another MNB user:

    Your response “Pink Slime is now Pink Slime - forever. Deal with it” was spoken in true cram it down the throat, in your face, liberal fashion. Despite the sound and logical arguments provided, you chose not to provide any logical defense of your position but rather took the position that everybody should just accept it. It’s your blog, so you’re free to take any approach you choose but IMHO, you’ve tarnished your credibility on this one.

    I don’t mind you disagreeing with me, but I am amused that because I make the point that “pink slime” will have to be avoided by all marketers because it has come to mean something unappetizing, you accuse me of being a cram-it-down-your-throat liberal.

    Give me a break.

    I’m making a marketing point here. Not a political one.

    Fact of life: There are certain words, names and phrases that have come to stand for things that the public sees as intolerable, and that shapes what companies are able to say and do. Like it or not, that’s where we are at on “pink slime.”

    Deal with it.

    BTW...I’m not sure it is a bad thing that people actually know what is in their food. Transparency creates a healthy debate.

    One final thing...

    MNB user Gary Harris, along with several other people, suggests that maybe we need to just come up with another name for Pink Slime. And many of them had the same suggestion:

    Soylent Green.

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    Crain’s Chicago Business has a follow-up to yesterday’s story about the name Kraft Foods Inc. chose for its global snack spinoff — Mondelez International - which it says it chose “to connote worldwide deliciousness. (Monde means ‘world’ in French, and delez, with a long E in the final syllable, is a play on ‘delish.’)”

    Well, Crain’s notes that there may be some global environs where there may be somewhat different reaction to the name.

    “Pronounced ‘mohn-dah-LEEZ,’ the name means something else to Russian speakers, say those fluent in its language and slang. We were tipped off to the double entendre by a reader who braced us with a ‘no offense, but this is bad’ before explaining the name sounds like the Russian term for an oral sex act.

    “We ran the term by a few other people who speak the Slavic language, and more knew it as the insult than not. The offending term, manda, is on Wikipedia's Russian profanity page.”

    And, the story goes on, “It's an unfortunate slip for Kraft, considering its growing presence in Russia with products aimed generally at women. It shows the minefield of potential missteps in applying a single name across a multitude of countries.”
    KC's View:
    Some branding consultant is having a very bad week. It’s about to get worse.

    MNB user Jerry Dinsmore wrote to me yesterday:

    As someone told me many years ago, “If you can’t spell it, you can’t sell it”.

    MNB user Charles Fallon wrote:

    The name “Mondalez” sounds like a certain industrial conglomerate, “Vandelay Industries”.  I am sure you remember that corporate titan: It was the fake company George Constanza pretended to interview with during his stretch of unemployment on Seinfeld.  Maybe Constanza has taken over marketing at Kraft.  At least they didn’t decide to call the snack business, “Kramerica”.

    Wish I’d thought of that one.

    From another MNB user:

    I agree that this (Mondelez) is a bad choice of name.  It always amazes me when companies use a name that can be mispronounced.  Your business name has so much invested in it that an automatic pronunciation should be paramount.  Mondelez may mean something to Kraft, but, I think, not so much to the rest of the world.

    Yup. A real bad week for some branding consultant...

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    The Sacramento Bee reports on how “an unprecedented wave of new grocery competition in Sacramento is tightening the squeeze on longtime industry leaders Raley's and Safeway, suggesting a dramatic reshaping of the local market.”

    According to the story, competition from Fresh & Easy, Walmart, Fresh Market, and Sprouts is creating enormous turmoil in the market: “In 2006, 27.5 percent of respondents identified Raley's or its Bel Air sister stores as their preferred shopping locale. By August 2011, that number had declined to 22.2 percent.

    “Safeway's market share went from 15 percent to 12.8 percent over the same period.

    “Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's share rose to 13.2 percent from 2.3. Also rising were Target, Costco, Food 4 Less and other discounters.

    “An obvious force behind those numbers is the economic downturn that's driven many shoppers to flock to lower-priced stores.”
    KC's View:
    It may not be just price. It may be that some chains are being perceived and/or portrayed as being in the mushy middle, and that is a dangerous place to be. If Raley’s is going to survive, for example, I think they have to establish a firmer image in the marketplace, establishing what they offer - in terms of products and services - that nobody else offers.

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    • CVS has announced that it plans to shut down the 25 Beauty 360 locations, effective May 19.

    The format had been operating for four years, but Erin Pensa, CVS director of public relations, said the company "has made the decision to refocus our efforts on the growth and development of our core CVS/pharmacy beauty business in order to satisfy a wider group of our customers."

    • Shop ‘n Save Pharmacy, a division of Supervalu, is joining UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA), saying that the move will give “Shop ‘n Save Pharmacy customers access to the Alliance’s innovative, community-based Diabetes Control Program, based on curriculum that has been clinically proven to help control type 2 diabetes.

    “Shop ‘n Save Pharmacy is now offering the Diabetes Control Program at 26 locations in the St. Louis metro area.”

    • The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that “about 60 years after it made its first entrance into Jacksonville, 7-Eleven    has officially re-entered Northeast Florida.

    “7-Eleven opened its first Jacksonville stores in 1954, and after a 20-year hiatus in the area, the company plans to open 15 to 20 stores in the area this year and have a total of 80 stores in the area by 2015.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has hired Hannah Walker as a director of government relations to represent food retailers on Capitol Hill.

    Walker formerly was federal policy advisor for the State of Florida Washington Office, dedicated to agriculture energy, tax, trade and environmental issues, and later to Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), who served on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and chaired the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    • Murray Lender, who helped turn a Connecticut bagel shop into a national company selling packaged and frozen bagels, passed away Wednesday following complications from a fall. He was 81.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    Responding to my piece yesterday about the need for parents to do a better job educating their kids about food and broadening their palates, MNB user Richard Lowe wrote:

    So when I was 7 my family moved to Singapore and 9 months later to Bangkok for 3 years . We had a Chinese cook in Singapore and a Thai cook in Bangkok - ate and tried many different foods. I have always been a lover of almost every food imaginable. When we came back in 1955 my mother continued to create a wide variety of meals and loved to experiment trying new recipes. My father's rule in the house was if you do not finish your meal - no desert - and we always had some wonderful desert.

    I am appalled by fussy eaters big and small, for I like you consider food to be one of the truly great pleasures of life!

    I guess that is why I winter in Mexico and travel as much as possible every year for another gastronomic experience.

    From another MNB user:

    Hi. My names is Brad, and I am a “foodie”.

    From the moment my children were born I have seen it as part of my role as a parent to teach my children how to live happy/healthy lives which includes how they view, enjoy and deal with food.

    We have always tried to expose them to new foods. We never made them eat anything they didn’t like, but they were always required to try everything. When dining out we encouraged them to try something they had never had before. As a result, my 17 year old daughter has always eaten just about everything put in front of her, although she isn’t a big fan of tomatoes based dishes or sauces. While my 14 year old son went through what I will call his “Beige Food Period” today he probably enjoys the greatest variety of foods of anyone in our family.

    In addition to making my kids try all kinds of foods from all kinds of cuisines I have taught them to cook. As soon as they were able to stand at the counter or over the stove they were required to contribute to the families meals. This started out very simply with helpful prep tasks and expanded from there. As soon as they were able they were given responsibility for planning and executing one family meal on their own each week. Today my son is a really good cook in his own right and my daughter loves to bake. Tonight my daughter is trying a new meatloaf recipe, which will be ready at about the time my wife and I get home from work. Since my daughter will have cooked the rest of us will be responsible for the clean-up after dinner.

    Don’t get me wrong. We are a very busy family with two working parents and two very active kids. We tend to make larger meals so we have left-over and believe me when I say we eat more than our share of left-overs. We order an occasional pizza for delivery or hit Chipotle on the way home now and again. However, since we prepare more meals at home, when we do go out to eat it tends to be a bit more special. Because it is infrequent we don’t mind spending a little bit more. These become occasions to talk and bond as we enjoy being served and eating a dish we may not have had the time to prepare ourselves or whose ingredients are unusual or harder to keep around the house.

    These meal-times, both at and away from home, become the moments that stick in all of our minds as to what our family is; they become our special memories.

    MNB user Theresa Ruppert wrote:

    My nephew has never eaten jarred baby food.  He is not French, but his parents have put a lot of effort into expanding his palate.  He has always eaten what the rest of the family is eating.  At first they used a blender and later they cut it up into age appropriate bites.  They have also made a decision not to expose him to fast food.  The awesome result is a 2 year old that eats almost everything.  He eats salad, fruit, vegetables, meat, etc.  Sweets are extremely limited.  At his 1 year birthday party he ate cake for the 1st time.  He does eat cake now, but in very limited portions.  The unfortunate part of this story is that I know this story is an anomaly, but I am extremely proud of my brother and his wife.

    MNB user Andrea Atripaldi wrote:

    Love this piece on the fact that chicken nuggets and our belief that all kids prefer them is indeed cultural! I was fortunate to move my family to Belgium for work when they were 8, 10 and 12 years old. During that time they had to learn to live without the "children's menu" at restaurants; there usually isn't one. They had to learn that 10oz of soda (without ice) can last a whole meal.  They also learned that ice cream cones don't have to be three scoops to be good and refreshing; one will do!  We are back now for two years and I can count on my right hand the times they have asked for or said they prefer nuggets over trying something new on a menu.  I believe there is evidence to support the fact that we (our generation of working, frenzied parents) have created this myth that our kids actually want these fast foods without even realizing it because it  served our purpose; convenience. MNB user Jan Fialkow wrote:

    I don't have any kids so I can't speak to the issue of daily food consumption, but I do play Auntie Mame to two nephews. The rule at my house was they had to try everything I served — and I did push the envelope beyond their comfort zones. I made trying new things fun. I had a stepstool by the kitchen sink and if they really hated something, they could go to the sink and spit it out — and make all the gross, disgusting noises they wanted while they were at the sink. When they came back to the table, they had to have good manners — and they couldn't decide they really did like the food. That last part was put in place after one of them spit out something new, made lots of yucky noises and then returned to the table to tell me he was only kidding.

    The older one was a very picky eater and didn't like most of what he tried. The younger one astounded me with the sophistication of his palate —his favorite foods were salad and fish. They're grown men in the 30s now and have completely switched roles. The older one will try anything, the younger sticks to a small group of pretty pedestrian stuff. Go figure!

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 23, 2012

    I have a wonderful book to suggest to you this weekend. Jeff Greenfield, the longtime political analyst and writer, is out with a book entitled “Then Everything Changed,” which carries the descriptive subtitled, “Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics.” And that’s what I would call truth in advertising.

    Greenfield starts with the premise that events often hinge on small decisions, and that with just a minor variation in thought or behavior, the history of the nation might be completely different. Case in point: After John F. Kennedy was elected president, a crazy person went to Palm Beach, Florida, to kill him. He parked in front of the house where Kennedy was staying one Sunday morning - security was a lot more lax then - and was planning to blow him up when Kennedy left for church...and only hesitated when Jacqueline kennedy came to the door with daughter Caroline to say goodbye to him. This guy did not want to kill Kennedy in front of his wife and child, and so he decided to wait - and then was apprehended several days later before he could assassinate the president-elect.

    This, apparently, is all true. But Greenfield constructs a narrative around an alternative series of events - Jackie Kennedy does not come to the door, the assassination takes place, and suddenly the country is thrown into constitutional turmoil, Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president, and the early Sixties take on a very different character. It is fascinating stuff.

    In addition, Greenfield poses two other tantalizing possibilities:

    • What if Bobby Kennedy had not been assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan?

    • What would have happened if Gerald Ford had recovered from a flub he made during a debate with Jimmy Carter and had won the 1976 presidential election?

    In each case, Greenfield spins fascinating and intricate yarns, steeped in a comprehensive knowledge of American politics and politicians, as well as a ton of personal experience. (Greenfield worked for RFK during the sixties.)

    It is a terrific book, and I found it riveting.

    I was less thrilled by a movie I saw last weekend - Friends With Kids. I really wanted to like it - it has been weeks since there had been a movie out that I’d wanted to see, and I was in the mood for a comedy.

    But Friends With Kids ultimately disappointed. The actors are an attractive and talented bunch - especially Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm and Ed Burns. It also featured a reunion of actors (Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Hamm) who were in Bridesmaids, which I loved last year. I like and have some familiarity with the subject matter. And I’m always happy to see films directed by women (Westfeldt wrote and directed it).

    In the end - and maybe I am showing my age on this - I found that whatever charms the movie had were subverted with potty mouth dialogue that was distracting and dismaying. It could have been so much better with crackling, sophisticated dialogue, but instead the filmmakers went for the profane - and they lost me. That’s a shame, because Friends With Kids could have been a first-rate romantic comedy.

    Too bad.

    I do have a lost movie gem to recommend, however - albeit one that you can only see by using Netflix’s streaming service (it is not available on DVD). Check out 1978’s The Big Fix, based on the Roger L. Simon novel about a former Berkeley radical turned seventies private eye named Moses Wine. It is a clever and well-acted update on the old Raymond Chandler oeuvre, with a terrific performance (one of his best) by Richard Dreyfuss as Wine. There’s great supporting turns by Susan Anspach, Bonnie Bedelia, John Lithgow, Fritz Weaver, F. Murray Abraham and, in a tiny little role that you’ll miss if you blink, a very young Mandy Patinkin. Great score by Bill Conti, fast-paced direction by Jeremy Kagan - I cannot say enough good things about The Big Fix. It was not a great success when it came out, but it should have been ... and it should have led to a series of Moses Wine films. As it is, we have to settle for just the one...but it is a terrific one.

    My wine of the week: the 2010 Concertum Albarino, an intense and aromatic white wine that is wonderfully tasty. It is, BTW, one of this month’s offerings from the MNB Wine of the Month Club, powered by Nicholas Roberts Ltd. and available if you click here.

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

    KC's View: