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    Published on: April 5, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Two fascinating pieces that I've read recently about how consumer behavior is changing...

    • The Boston Globe wrote the other day about how email is just so yesterday.

    "With billions of e-mails shooting around the world every day," the Globe writes, "clogging Gmail and Yahoo accounts everywhere, many are recoiling from the torrent. It’s either too much of a chore, or just uncool. The young set has bypassed it altogether, seizing on social media tools such as Twitter, or texting, as their primary means of electronic chatter. Some big companies find e-mail outdated, and instead are using more sophisticated internal messaging networks that filter out outside noise. And some busy professionals say it isn’t convenient anymore — a time-waster, in fact."

    Another fact: "More people are finding that they can turn down or turn off e-mail altogether ... the amount of consumer e-mail traffic fell 9.5 percent between 2010 and 2012, and is projected to keep declining for the near future, according to the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif., technology research firm."

    It isn't like email is going away. But its impact may be declining, which could have a significant on many companies' marketing efforts.

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that stuff that used to be important to teenagers just aren't as important anymore:

    "Thirty years ago, nearly half of 16-year-olds had a driver's license, their passport to independence. By 2010 that figure had dropped to 28 percent, according to research from the University of Michigan.

    "The cultural shift is largely the result of technology that keeps teens connected to one another and the coolest new stuff without ever getting into a car. All the adolescent staples - music, movies, clothes, books - are available with a mouse click or smartphone swipe ... (and) nearly three-quarters of millennials, ages 18 to 34, would rather shop online than in stores, according to a December survey by Zipcar, the hourly car-rental company. Given the choice of losing their phone or computer or their car, 65 percent would go without their car."

    The implications are enormous, especially for the automobile industry, which will be faced with marketing to a generation less obsessed with cars and less interested in acquiring cars that define them. And think about the extended implications for magazines, newspapers and broadcast networks that depend on car advertising. Not to mention the companies that have created enormous stores and parking lots ...

    It's all an an Eye-Opener...
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    The Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) is out with its annual U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, concluding that "US families are increasingly embracing organic products in a wide range of categories, with 81 percent now reporting they purchase organic at least sometimes."

    The study goes on: "Not only are more consumers choosing organic products at least sometimes, but the majority of those buying organic foods are purchasing more items than a year earlier. New entrants to buying organic now represent 41 percent of all families – demonstrating interest in the benefits of organic food and farming is on the rise.

    "Produce continues to be the leading category of organic purchases, with 97 percent of organic buyers saying they had purchased organic fruits or vegetables in the past six months. Breads and grains, dairy and packaged foods were also frequently cited (all scoring above 85 percent) among those who purchase organic. Families choosing organic foods are increasingly important to retailers of all types, with organic buyers reporting spending more per shopping trip, and shopping more frequently than those who never purchase organic food."

    And: "Nearly half (48 percent) of those who purchase organic foods said they do so because they are 'healthier for me and my children.' Additionally, parents’ desire to avoid toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers (30 percent), antibiotics and growth hormones (29 percent), and genetically modified organisms (22 percent) ranked high among the reasons cited for buying organic products."
    KC's View:
    I think that these shifting attitudes ultimately mean that people are going to want food suppliers to be a lot more specific about what is in their foods, how they are made, and what those foods' health implications are. Which means total transparency and accuracy.

    People are going to demand it.

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    The Los Angeles Times reports that a coalition of community groups has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, seeking to overturn decisions that permitted Walmart to build a Neighborhood Market in the city's Chinatown.

    According to the story, "The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance L.A., working with the Southeast Asian Community Alliance, said the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board failed to review the Chinatown project before building permits were awarded for the planned supermarket. The nonprofit groups contend that a redevelopment vote was required and are seeking to have the building permits rescinded."

    This is just the latest effort to stop Walmart from opening the store, which currently is under construction.

    "Special interest attempts to block our store have not only been without merit but also proven to be a waste of time and resources," said Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo.
    KC's View:
    The opponents are welcome to spend as much time and money as they want to try to block Walmart. But it remains hard for me to take them too seriously about the whole 'character of the neighborhood" thing since there is a Subway next door and a Burger King across the street. This is politics, pure and simple. Nothing wrong with it, but let's call it what it is.

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    The Environmental Leader reports that "a record-high 71 percent of Americans consider the environment when they shop, up from 66 percent in 2008, according to research from Cone Communications.

    "Some 7 percent consider the environment every time they shop while 20 percent consider it regularly. Forty-four percent consider it sometimes," according to the study, which adds that "nine in 10 respondents say they believe it’s their responsibility to properly use and dispose of these products, but action isn’t aligning with intent: Only 30 percent say they often use products in a way that achieves the intended environmental benefit. Some 42 percent say they dispose of products in a way that fulfills the intended environmental benefit."

    The survey goes on to say that "almost three-quarters (71 percent) of consumers wish companies would do a better job helping them understand environmental terms. Although they feel overwhelmed by the volume of messages in the marketplace, consumers prioritize authenticity over perfection and will punish companies if they feel misled: Some 48 percent say they are overwhelmed by environmental messages."
    KC's View:
    Gee, I'm shocked. People have good intentions but don't always follow through.

    You know what they say about the road to hell...?

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    Marketplace, on National Public Radio (NPR), reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week announced a "surprise corn surplus" - 400 million more bushels that anyone thought the nation would have.

    Last year's drought created an apparent shortage, which, combined with high demand, drove up prices, according to the story. The high prices led farmers to plant more corn. Which means that "this year’s corn crop, more than 97 million acres, is the biggest since 1936."

    Now, corn prices are dropping.

    However, one should not expect the prices of things that contain corn to drop anytime soon, experts say, because "it takes time for market prices to trickle down to the supermarket."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    The New York Times reports that Best Buy, which has Apple boutiques in a number of its stores, now will begin opening mini Samsung stores in some 1400 of its units, "showcasing Samsung smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops, televisions and accessories. It will also include customer support for Samsung products, similar to the Genius Bar at Apple stores."

    The "Samsung Experience Shop," as it is called, is designed to cater to the customers that have made Samsung the biggest maker of smartphones in the world.

    Samsung reportedly is paying Best Buy to create the mini-stores.
    KC's View:
    A smart move by Best Buy, I think. Gotta find a way to get people into the stores, and Samsung clearly is in a sweet spot right now.

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook yesterday "unveiled a new app for Android that greets users with its mobile software each time they check their handsets," essentially "trying to rebuild the mobile experience— around itself."

    The app is called 'Home." The Journal writes, "Instead of displaying a phone's traditional menu of apps, Home takes over a handset's cover screen—the first layer or images that appear when a phone is turned on—populating it with posts from a user's news feed, photos and messages from friends."

    Eventually, the company says, the application also will include advertising.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    • The Phoenix Business Journal reports that WinCo Foods is spending almost $12 million in cash "for a massive west Phoenix lot where it plans to erect an 800,000-square-foot warehouse within the next year and bring about 300 jobs to the Valley ... WinCo plans to break ground on the warehouse next month and expects to wrap up within the next year."

    • Wegmans announced yesterday that it is continuing its policy of creating seasonal price freezes on a range of products. The new list contains more than 65 items, and includes meat, seafood, produce, grocery, dairy, bakery, frozen foods and deli, as well as organics and private brands.

    The price freeze on these items will last until August 24.

    • The Associated Press reports that New York-based Fairway, with 12 stores in the metropolitan area, said yesterday that "it is ready to go public in hopes of raising up to $164 million. Fairway Group Holdings Corp. said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it expects its stock to price in the range of $10 to $12 per share. The company is selling 13.4 million shares and stockholders are selling another 286,436."

    Fairway says it plans to use the proceeds from the IPO for new stores and "other general business purposes."

    • The Sandusky Register reports that unionized employees at 26 Kroger stores along the I-75 corridor in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky have ratified two one-year contracts that "protect livable wages and affordable, quality health care and benefits ... The new agreement includes no increase in weekly co-pay and no change in benefits over the term of the contract; it also introduces a health risk questionnaire program."

    • In the UK, The Grocer reports that Aldi has opened its first convenience store in North London, described as a 7,000 square foot unit that is targeting "a slice of the burgeoning convenience market, which is becoming dominated by Tesco and Sainsbury’s."

    CBS News reports that Wrigley is getting push back from some doctors on its new Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, which "is supposed to pack a big punch of energy," but that could create health problems for people who ingest too much caffeine.

    “Anyone who’s had problems with arrhythmias, rapid heart rates really should not use excessive amounts of caffeine, and this kind of product, I would definitely not recommend,” says Dr. Daniel Hyman, the chief of internal medicine at Cooper University Health Care.

    Wrigley, CBS notes, "says there’s clear labeling about the caffeine so consumers can make an informed decision."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    • Starbucks said yesterday that it has hired Matthew Ryan, most recently Walt Disney's senior vice president of brand, franchise and customer relationship management, to be its new global chief strategy officer.

    Ryan said he made the move because “Starbucks, like Disney, is one of the few companies in the world that has truly authentic connections with their customers that stand the test of time."

    • The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced the appointment of Karin F.R. Moore, former vice president and co-general counsel at he Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), as GMA's new vice president and general counsel.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    Roger Ebert, the longtime film critic for the Chicago Sun Times as well as for number of television programs, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, died yesterday. He was 70.

    It was just earlier this week that Ebert, who had suffered from thyroid and salivary gland cancers for more than a decade and had lost the lower part of his jaw because of various surgeries, announced that he was cutting back on his writing output - a "leave of presence," he called it - because of a cancer recurrence. MNB noted yesterday that "last year, Ebert wrote more than 306 film reviews, a couple of blog posts a week and a bunch of other articles. All this from a man who can no longer speak..."

    Chaz Ebert, his wife, released a statement yesterday saying that "we were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition."
    KC's View:
    Never met Ebert. But I've been reading him and watching him for decades, impressed by his passion, fairness, depth of knowledge and commitment to getting the work done. When I saw the news flash across my smartphone yesterday, I must admit that I was floored ... and immediately, sad. Somehow, the loss was personal.

    In its obituary today, the Sun Times, where he worked for 46 years and delighted in being a newspaperman, described him "a renaissance man whose genius was based on film but by no means limited to it, a great soul who had extraordinary impact on his profession and the world around him."

    And, the paper quotes a passage from his memoir, "Life Itself," that serves as a fitting epitaph:

    “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

    Thumbs up.

    Published on: April 5, 2013

    My thanks this week to the folks at the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, which hosted me at its annual convention in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a talk about "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from The Movies."

    This is a group I'd never heard of before, but they're fascinating - essentially, they're the guys from Armageddon, except that instead of drilling, they use cranes and rigs to lift stuff. Big stuff. Like cruise ships, submarines, bridge pilings. Like every business, the owners that make up this group are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and find a compelling narrative so they can better communicate with employees, business partners, clients and customers. And it continues to amaze and delight me the extent to which the message of "The Big Picture" cuts across so many industries.

    Equally as exciting, at least to me, is the fact that "The Big Picture" continues to sell and people continue to enjoy its message. Along with MNB, it is just a great way to make a living.

    I've said this before here, but if you have not watched "Justified" on FX, then you missing one of the best written, best-performed, most sophisticated TV shows being made today. And this week's season four finale was evidence that this show just gets better and better.

    Based on a character created by the great Elmore Leonard, US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens, who is sent back to Harlan County, Kentucky, as a kind of discipline after a questionable shooting of a Miami mobster; Givens is from Harlan, and his goal has been to escape his past.

    Played by Timothy Olyphant with Gary Cooper-style cool and swagger, Givens essentially faced off with different major villains in each of the first three seasons, while simultaneously dealing with the relatives and friends who navigate either sides of the law. A major character in the series is Boyd Crowder, a childhood friend who walks on the dark side .... he is the flip side of Givens, and played as a kind of cool enigma by Walton Goggins.

    In the just-concluded fourth seasons, there was no major criminal against whom Givens could battle. Rather, there were times when the episodes seemed a little meandering, but as the weeks went on, the writers, directors and producers slowly pulled on the threads, turning the series into a compelling and thoughtful meditation on choices, heritage and the difference between good and evil. Sometimes violent but never thoughtlessly so, "Justified" features some of the best dialogue on TV - which makes sense, since dialogue is what Elmore Leonard does best (though with a few exceptions, TV and the movies often have butchered adaptations of his work).

    "Justified" is available on iTunes, Netflix and from Amazon ... and if you have not seen it, you need to rent or buy the first four seasons and catch up. Season five is on the way.

    Saw Admission - the new Tina Fey-Paul Rudd romantic comedy - the other night, and came away with mixed emotions. On the upside, I'd never seen a movie before about the cutthroat world of the college admissions process, and I thought that the notion of forcing an admissions officer (Fey) who didn't think of applicants as flesh and blood people to consider the consequences of her decisions was a smart one.

    But the path they chose - having her evaluate and influence the application of a young man who may be the child she gave up 18 years before after having him out of wedlock - to illustrate her dawning awareness doesn't entirely work. Fey is good, and Rudd - as a high school teacher mentoring the young man - is a good match for her. For me, the movie felt stylistically a lot like About A Boy, which was co-directed by Paul Weitz, who also directed Admission, but it does not blend the comedy and drama as well. Admission is diverting, but it could have been much better.

    I have no idea if you watch "The Voice" or not. I'm a total addict, though I'll concede I am a little chagrined to be hooked on the show. It is literally the only bit of "reality television" I like, and I think it is because "The Voice" is essentially a positive experience. Many of these shows delight in demeaning the participants and catering to the lowest common denominator, but "The Voice" is about mentoring, encouraging, and celebrating talent.

    And here's what has really caught me by surprise in the current season...

    Two of the judges - Usher and Shakira - are new, joining Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. I'm going to be honest here - I sort of knew the name Shakira, but I don't think I've ever heard her sing nor have I ever seen her perform. But based just on the first few episodes on which she appears as a judge, I have a total crush on this woman - she is funny, charming, sweet and gorgeous. I can't wait to see how she does as a mentor to the singers on her team, and I hope she remains a fixture on "The Voice."

    Two wines to recommend to you this week....

    • the 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Dry Rose, which was absolutely wonderful the other night when I served it with steamers.

    • the 2006 Captain's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, rich and mouth-filling, and perfect with filet mignon.

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

    KC's View: