retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB took note of a National Public Radio report that while a study suggesting that the artificial sweetener aspartame could be a possible cancer risk was scheduled to be published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was pulled at the last minute by the hospital sponsoring the study. The reason: Brigham & Women's Hospital, which is connected to Harvard University, decided that the research was too weak to be released, and that the findings had been promoted prematurely by the hospital's media relations department.

Experts called the decision a victory for "evidence-based science."

I commented:

Isn't "evidence-based science" sort of redundant?

I'm no scientist, but I seem to remember from my Jesuit education that science was by its very nature evidence-based.

Not that there aren't plenty of people who would like to deny the evidence on a whole range of issues. But that's not science. That's wishful thinking.

One MNB user was skeptical that a Jesuit education would support an evidence-based approach:

Doesn't that contradict everything the Catholic Church stands for?

It would be my experience that Jesuits, unlike say, the Irish Christian Brothers and the Dominican Sisters, actually encourage questions and skepticism. It was my experience that questions to the latter two generally resulted in bad grades and a smack (often a really hard smack). The Jesuits would give me an "A."

Now, to be clear, the Jesuits have a different approach to matters of faith. But they know the difference between religion and science.

Another MNB user wrote:

I have been a loyal reader of MNB for the past 3 years ... Today in your comments on the concept of “evidence-based science” it hit me why I enjoy your writing style so much as you link seemingly unrelated topics through common threads.  It’s the Jesuit education!!  As a graduate of St Xavier H.S. in Cincinnati I was taught, among other things, the value of critical thinking and the rarely found skill of writing.  Although I am a CPA by trade, I had a monthly column published in the Cincinnati Business Courier (when I was in public accounting, way back in the early 90’s) and worked closely with the Media/PR department writing and proofreading souvenir program articles and press releases during another career stage at Kentucky Speedway (a NASCAR race track in Sparta, Ky).  While I have never appeared before the Pope in sandals, jeans and a T-shirt I have remained true to  the benefits of my Jesuit upbringing.  I can only hope that my two boys will follow in my footsteps and become 3rd generation members of The Long Blue Line.

Thanks for giving me a daily reason to think, and often laugh through MNB.

On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

To your point that the industry "develop a strategy for voluntary GMO labeling", why is that even needed?  Any smart manufacturer on the side of labeling should learn from the opponents of High Fructose Corn Syrup and begin labeling their food something like "contains NO GMOs". A truly enterprising manufacturer could even create a logo and offer it for free to other manufacturers who agree to that standard and want to make the same claim. If it's a perceived consumer benefit, they will vote with their dollars.

And from another reader:

It's a shame that large corporations are able to sway important legislation in this country, especially when it concerns the health of its very own customers.  However, consumers do not need a law in order to get GMO labeling accomplished.  All consumers need to do is shop at grocery outlets that promote non-GMO and buy products certified non-GMO.  When these large corporations like Pepsi, Nestle, and Kraft start to see POS data showing a surge in popularity of non-GMO products being purchased, they will get the hint that this is important to consumers.  Even though the physical vote didn't get this passed, consumers can vote with their wallets and choose to support those companies and brands that sell non-GMO.

Finally, I got the following email yesterday regarding something I did not write about yesterday:

You are brilliant for not commenting (yay or nay) on the election... Probably saved you days of going through "Nobama" messages.

I didn't avoid the election because I was worried about emails. (Far from it.) More importantly, I thought it was important to be able to come up with a business lesson from the results.

One occurs to me.

I heard a Republican strategist yesterday make the following comment: "To be frank, we are a 'Mad Men' party in a 'Modern Family' world."

And another GOP strategist said that the Republican Party was going to continue to have problems in national elections as long as it is perceived as being anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant ... and at the very least, Republicans have to craft an approach to issues that seem rooted in the cultural and demographic realities of the 21st century. (A number of people seem to think that the clock is ticking ... that the GOP has to change at least as fast as the electorate does.)

And I thought those were profound statements ... with a lot of business relevance.

Think about it. You can't run a successful business if it seems like you are addressing modern problems with an out-of-touch mindset. Nostalgia has its place, but not if you are trying to run a relevant retailing business.

There will be a lot of sturm und drang in the Republican party as it tries to figure out what went wrong in a year when it thought most things would go its way. Some will say that the party needs to get more conservative, while others will suggest that changing demographics means that a new approach to conservatism needs to be developed.

I have no comment on the election other than to restate the obvious - that the Republican part seems to have a branding problem.

And by the way ... the Democratic Party has its own problem, because it seems to be perceived as anti white male. I would argue while demographics are changing and white men are not as important as they used to be, Democrats cannot afford to just write them off.

Both parties have plenty of work to do.
KC's View: