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    Published on: November 29, 2012

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

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

    Over the years, I've enjoyed focusing on the traditions and items that have gone, sometimes in a fairly short period of time, from being absolutely critical to how we live our lives, to being tangential, irrelevant or even obsolete.

    Like the yellow pages. Or the Rolodex. Or the pink "while you were out" pad. Or the VHS tape.

    It seems to me that the fax machine has entered this territory. I have one, and use it occasionally. But I'm pretty sure that when it breaks down, I'm not going to spend any money fixing or replacing it. And it doesn't seem like all that long ago that I saw my first fax machine and marveled at the technology.

    I recently was talking to a top retail executive about a company retreat I'm going to be speaking at in a few months, and he reminded me that when I did the same event just a few years ago, I did this exercise with the group in which they perused non-food and non-business related magazines looking for interesting marketing ideas. That wasn't that long ago, but now, the idea of using print magazines for such an exercise seems so 20th century...

    Well, the other day I encountered another example. We were driving our son to the airport, and he needed a tissue. There weren't any in the car, and neither my wife nor he had one. They turned to me, but all I had was my handkerchief - and they were amused and a little totally grossed out by the fact that I am some sort of dinosaur that uses a handkerchief.

    Right there in the car, we did a little research online, and I have to admit that in the tissues-vs.-handkerchief debate, my side seems very old and sort of antiquated in its ideas. I've asked a lot of people about this question since then, and pretty much everyone I've talked to goes with the "Kevin, you're a relic of another time" position. Except for issues of sustainability - tissues get thrown out, while handkerchiefs get washed and reused - there seems to be very little support out there for a handkerchief resurgence. And while it is hard to find any numbers to support this, I have to believe that the companies that make old fashioned handkerchiefs have had to diversify to survive. You know, into things like socks and underwear and pocket squares.

    I find this fascinating. When I get ready in the morning, the act of putting a clean handkerchief into my pocket is every bit as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. I'd feel naked if I didn't have one in my pocket, and I cannot even imagine switching to tissues. (Besides, I used to watch "Mannix." Forget blowing your nose - you never know when you are going to need a handkerchief to hold a piece of evidence or wipe the fingerprints off a doorknob or gun handle.)

    Think about this for a minute. There was a time, not that many years ago, when everybody carried handkerchiefs ... it was simply part of their wardrobe.

    I wonder how many people are like my other son, who says that he has a dozen handkerchiefs in his dresser drawer, given to him by his grandfather ... and never unwrapped, because he cannot imagine why he'd use one.

    And I wonder how many people are like me, clinging to the habits of days gone by.

    I'm betting that there are a lot more people like him.

    Things change. Habits shift. Marketers have to be vigilant.

    And that's nothing to sneeze at.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Regular readers of MNB may be aware of the fact that Michael Sansolo and I co-wrote a book a couple of years ago, entitled "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies." (Still available, by the way, from Amazon.com as both a physical book and for Kindle.)

    The book proposed that business leaders need to be able to tell a story in order to more effectively explain their visions - that an effective narrative can help motivate employees, business partners and even customers. And we chose 30 or so movies that we believed offered great business lessons, providing effective metaphors that executives could use to motivate their people and illuminate their goals.

    Well, this week there is yet another example that not only were we right in our theory, but that the effectiveness of the movies in offering lessons goes way beyond business.

    Time has an interview with Mohamed Morsi, who earlier this year became Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected president. And in the full transcript of that interview, Morsi wanted to make the point that people need to be responsible for their own mistakes and their own solutions. And how did he illustrate that point? With a movie reference...

    "I remember a movie," he said. "Which one? 'Planet of the Apes.' The old version, not the new one. There is new one. Which is different. Not so good. It’s not expressing the reality as it was the first one. But at the end, I still remember, this is the conclusion: When the big monkey, he was head of the supreme court, I think — in the movie! — and there was a big scientist working for him,  cleaning things, has been chained there. And it was the planet of the apes after the destructive act of a big war,  and atomic bombs and whatever in the movie. And the scientist was asking him to do something, this was 30 years ago: 'Don’t forget you are a monkey.' He tells him, 'Don’t ask me about this dirty work.'  What did the big ape, the monkey say? He said, 'You’re human, you did it [to] yourself.' That’s the conclusion. Can we do something better for ourselves?

    "I saw it 30 years ago.  That is the role of the art. This is the very important role of art.  Gone with the Wind has been treating social problems.  'Five in Hell.' That was the Arabic title. Five Americans working behind German lines and they were using primitive military devices. I think it was Charles Bronson or something like that.  My hard disk still carries a few things!"


    Now, Morsi's English isn't all that good, and I don't remember Planet of the Apes quite the same way he does. (Also, I have no idea what Five in Hell refers to. Maybe a censored version of The Dirty Dozen?)

    But basically, the new Egyptian president could have written a chapter of "The Big Picture." We didn't use Planet of the Apes, but he's absolutely right about the lesson, and it applies to both government and business - we are responsible for our own successes and mistakes. And sometimes, when we make strategic mistakes, when we do not keep our eyes on the big picture, there can be catastrophic consequences.

    I think I'm going to send him a book.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    Experian Marketing Service sis out with its tracking numbers for online traffic on Cyber Monday 2012, and the top five sites were Amazon (up 36 percent from 2011 Cyber Monday numbers), Walmart.com (up 21 percent), Best Buy (up 10 percent), Target (down four percent), and JC Penney (down one percent).

    In addition, Experian reports that:

    • "The top 500 retail sites received more than 206.8 million total US visits on Cyber Monday."

    • "Cyber Monday online retail traffic increased 11% in 2012 versus 2011 as the top 500 retail sites received more than 206.8 million total US visits."

    • "This past Holiday week of online traffic from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday to retail sites is up 8% for 2012 vs. 2011."

    • "Among the top 5 sites, Amazon saw the biggest year-over-year growth at 36%."

    • "Amazon.com was the top visited retail site on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Walmart was the #2 site each of those days."
    KC's View:
    The big lesson to take from all this is that traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers have to be more aware than ever of the threat that e-commerce presents - that in its ubiquity and dynamism, online retailers may be able to play competitive chess while a lot of traditional marketers are playing checkers.

    This is not to say that they cannot compete. Just that the challenge is extraordinarily difficult ... though the opportunities, if they are successful at offering a robust alternative (and also embracing e-potentials), may also be significant.

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    The coupon marketing service Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Incentive Targeting has been acquired by Google. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    On its website, Incentive Targeting says that it "has created a unique marketing platform that brings together our network of supermarket chains and grocery manufacturers around the shared goals of driving sales and increasing profitability. Our platform enables shopper insights into shopper preferences while protecting shopper privacy, and puts those insights into immediate action through targeted promotional campaigns."

    In a note posted on the company's website, co-founders Ben Sprecher and Joshua Herzig-Marx write: "When we founded Incentive Targeting in 2007, we set out to do for retail couponing what Google had done for online advertising: make it simple, relevant, measurable, and effective. So, it is both humbling and gratifying to be joining the ranks of the company that inspired our initial vision. As part of Google, we will have the resources and expertise to continue the transformation of couponing from a way to give discounts to a way to build business."

    Among the companies with which Incentive Targeting does business: Supervalu, Big Y, and Giant Eagle.
    KC's View:
    If a program is simple, relevant, measurable, and effective for the marketer, it is only because it is simple, relevant, measurable, and effective for the shopper. Google has a long history of being really good at this, and raising the bar on programs it offers.

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    The Chicago Tribune has an interesting story about how "United Continental Holdings has sued a Canadian professor who maintains the 15-year-old complaint website Untied.com, which airs complaints from disgruntled United Airlines passengers and employees ... Two suits filed in Canadian courts allege the complaint site violates the airline's copyright and trademarks. It also alleges the site violates the privacy of senior airline employees by posting contact information for those employees."

    According to the story, United says it is not trying to prevent open discussion of its problems, but merely wants "to protect its intellectual property, such as its logo, and trying to alleviate confusion by United customers who might think they are filing a complaint with the airline on Untied.com."

    United says it is not trying to shut Untied.com down.

    The Tribune reports that Untied.com says it has "collected more than 25,000 passenger complaints against United, along with hundreds of postings from mistreated employees."
    KC's View:
    I've gone on the Untied.com website, and while it may have some design similarities to the United site, those strike me as falling into the genre of satire ... and it seems pretty obvious from the get-go that it is not the airline's site.

    It is ironic that this story appears in the Tribune on the same day as the New York Times reports on how United continues to struggle on a variety of fronts - especially customer service - two years after its merger with Continental.

    Now, let me be clear about something. I'm a United customer, have flown more than a million miles on United during the course of the past 30 years or so, and generally have good things to say about the airline - when I travel, flights are mostly on-time, employees are good natured and helpful, and the planes themselves seem to be in good working order. So I don't have any personal complaints.

    But the decision to sue the folks who created Untied.com is a mistake, in my view. For one thing, the publicity is going to lead to more people than ever checking out the site and registering their views. (I'd never heard of it before reading the Tribune story.) More importantly, I don't think that in this environment you ever want to be perceived as trying to limit open discussion.

    It isn't always easy for a company to see its dirty laundry being hung out for everyone to see. (I'm sure that there are folks at Supervalu, for example, who get really tired of reading company employees being so open about the concerns in emails to MNB.) But that's the way the world works today.

    United should spend less time suing the folks at Untied.com and more time trying to fix the problems.

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    • The Sacramento Business Journal reports that as a result of the collection of sales taxes for purchases made online, the state of California brought in almost $12 million - and that was before the end of October, and does not include the sales made during that Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday period.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    Yesterday, MNB wrote about how Consumer Reports, in its January 2013 edition, has a piece saying that its "analysis of pork-chop and ground-pork samples from around the U.S. found that yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium that can cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, was widespread. Some samples harbored other potentially harmful bacteria, including salmonella."

    The Des Moines Register added a bit of context to the story, writing that "Scott Hurd, an associate professor at Iowa State University and former deputy undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cautioned reading too much into the study. There are many different types of the yersinia enterocolitica bacterium, and just because a piece of meat has it does not mean you will get sick, he said. He also noted that you would need to consume a large quantity to be affected. In addition, the limited sample size makes it hard to reach a definite conclusion. "

    “It is at such a low risk, the USDA’s (Food Safety and Inspection Service) doesn’t even test for it," Hurd told the Register.
    KC's View:
    So maybe I can continue eating pork after all?

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    • The United Fresh Produce Association said yesterday that it will honor Frieda Rapoport Caplan, who founded Frieda’s Finest/Produce Specialties in 1962, with its Lifetime Achievement Award during its 2013 Winter Leadership Meetings this January in Tucson, AZ.

    Bloomberg reports that JC Penney plans to replace its checkout stands with coffee and juice bars, and equip staffers with iPads and iPhones that will allow them to check out shoppers.

    CEO Ron Johnson says that the goal is to make it so "no one has to leave the store if they want to refresh."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    • IGA today announced that Heidi Huff, manager, Marketing & Retail Programs, IGA USA, has been promoted to Director of Marketing for IGA USA, effective immediately. Huff will continue to report to Jim Walz, IGA USA Vice President of Brand Development.

    • PepsiCo said that it has named Brett O'Brien, vice president of marketing for Mountain Dew, Flavors and Amp Energy, to be the new senior vice president and general manager of Gatorade, overseeing the brand in North America.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    Zig Ziglar, who went from being a struggling door-to-door salesman to offering tips for self-transformation as a popular author and motivational speaker for more than a quarter-century, passed away yesterday. He was 86.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 29, 2012

    ...will return.
    KC's View: