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    Published on: September 6, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    It's Friday, and so I'd like to offer something a little different as an Eye-Opener.

    Take two minutes and watch this video.

    The piece was written by and stars Charlene deGuzman, and considers the implications of our always-connected culture, in which so many of us are tethered to technology, but perhaps isolated from each other to a surprising and maybe even alarming degree.

    I watched it. (I'm one of more than 20 million people who have seen it on YouTube.) And I have to admit that it made me think and reconsider my own behavior.

    See if you have the same Eye-Opening experience.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    Ad Week reports on a new study published in the scientific journal Plos One saying that "McDonald's and Burger King aren't living up to industry pledges when it comes to marketing to kids ... Compared to adult ads in which the food was the star, ads targeting kids emphasized everything but the food. Images of food packaging were shown in 88 percent of kids' ads versus 23 percent of adult ads. Toy premiums were promoted in 69 percent of kids ads versus 1 percent of adult ads and movie tie-ins were used in 55 percent of kids ads, compared to 14 percent of adult ads."

    The argument is that "while the companies are living up to their nutrition pledge as participants in the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative by agreeing to advertise only healthy food like apple slices and milk, the healthier foods may not have been shown in a way that kids might pick up on it."

    McDonald's has responding to the study by saying that its data is based on old commercials and "does not reflect its current advertising nor its commitment to 'balanced choices, nutrition and active lifestyles in 100 percent of our marketing communications to children'."
    KC's View:
    I have no idea if this study is accurate or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. I actually went to a bunch of McDonald's last week while driving cross-country; we could count of them having clean bathrooms. Which, when I think about it, is about all that they're really good for.

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    There is a story on about what could be described as a growing anti-chain sentiment in America, and what it could mean.

    An excerpt:

    "From Juneau to Jacksonville, we Americans share, as much as anything, a common commercial experience, a fractal pattern of retail at once comforting and mind-numbing. It stretches the powers of the imagination to think that eating and shopping options in the American city were once as distinct as fingerprints. The shift from mom-and-pops to chains has been one of the defining shifts in American cultural life, and counter-protests have been largely futile, with opponents pegged as sentimentalists standing in the way of progress and low prices.

    "That is changing. Dozens of American municipalities, mostly small towns with tourism in mind, have passed laws restricting the entry of chain stores. The biggest city to do so is San Francisco: in incremental steps punctuated by a ballot initiative in 2006, the California city famous for liberal activism has enacted the most influential anti-chain legislation in the United States."

    Worth reading. And thinking about.

    You can access the full story here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    Nielsen is out with its latest "Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility," concluding that "the percentage of global consumers willing to reward companies that give back to society grew by 5 percent—increasing to 50 percent from 45 percent."

    From 2011 to 2013, the study says, "willingness to spend more increased in 43 out of 58 countries ... Across demographic groups, social-consciousness is also a growing factor in the purchase process."

    Nielsen says that for the recent study, as it did in 2011, it "used stated willingness to spend more on goods and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society as a proxy for how much consumers care about brand investments in social impact. The results provide one simple gauge for whether consumers care—about cause marketing, shared value, conscious capitalism or other pursuits of corporate social impact—and they help to quantify the growing desire among consumers to reward the companies they view as socially responsible."
    KC's View:
    "Stated willingness" ain't exactly the same as actually spending more on products made by socially responsible companies.

    To me, the bigger issue for companies ought to be what happens if you are proven to be socially irresponsible. Because that kind of information can get around the globe instantly, and recovering from such accusations can be an enormous challenge.

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    • The Associated Press reports that "three people participating in a New York City protest against Wal-Mart have been taken into police custody. About 20 employees, former employees and supporters gathered Thursday outside a Manhattan building where a member of the company's board of directors has an office. They delivered a petition calling for improved working conditions and reinstatement of workers they say were fired for engaging in labor activities."

    The three protestors were charged with disorderly conduct.

    Fox Business notes that "the arrests came amid a nationwide protest, says Making Change at Wal-Mart, a coalition of Wal-Mart worker activists. The group says protests will be rolling out throughout the day in 15 cities from coast to coast, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Miami and New York. The demonstrators are demanding a hike in pay at the nation’s biggest retailer to a minimum $25,000 annually, and the reversal of disciplinary actions allegedly filed against 80 workers due to their involvement in Wal-Mart protests last Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving."

    And MSNBC reports that while "hundreds of Wal-Mart employees took part in demonstrations in 15 cities Thursday," the protest actions have been "somewhat muted."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    • The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that Kroger "is eyeing a $225 million industrial project in metro Atlanta." The company, according to the story, "would need between 1 million and 1.5 million-square-feet for the development, including a distribution center, freezer component and truck maintenance facility. Kroger has considered the campus-like project for months, and it's scouted several properties on which it might develop, according to industrial real estate sources familiar with the plans."

    • The Business Review reports that Golub Corp. has revealed the name of the new concept store that it is renovating out of an existing store in Latham, New York - Market Bistro by Price Chopper, which the company says will be a 87,000 square foot "celebration of food."

    An existing store in Latham has been expanded and under renovation for 10 months to create the new Market Bistro, and should be done by the end of the year. CEO Jerry Golub says that unit will serve as a kind of laboratory where concepts can be tested exported to other units as appropriate.

    • In western New York, the Democrat & Chronicle reports that Tops Friendly Markets is building a new prototype store described as having "a more compact interior design, greater attention to fresh foods like meats, produce and a bakery, along with a gas station on the premises." There are three of the new prototype under construction, with the first scheduled to open next spring.

    • The Milwaukee Business Journal reports that Roundy's is expanding a Pick 'n Save program that includes "new customer service training for employees and new products with an emphasis on fresh meats and produce ... Bob Mariano, Roundy's chairman, president and CEO, said it was making the changes based on the success of the Mariano’s Fresh Market chain it introduced in the Chicago area in 2010. Produce has been a huge part of Mariano’s business model, along with enhanced customer service and higher staffing levels."

    USA Today reports that JC Penney has decided to dump the Martha Stewart products that its previous CEO - Ron Johnson, who was fired in April after consistently poor sales and profit results - believed would be key to its revival. Myron Ullman, the new CEO (who also was the old CEO, because he was replaced by Johnson before he replaced him) reportedly made the decision to drop the line.

    JCP and Macy's are engaged in an ongoing legal battle over a pre-existing contract that Martha Stewart Omnimedia had with Macy's.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    • The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) announced that Kenneth Bengtsson, the former CEO of ICA AB, the Swedish retail group, and a member of the CGF Board of Directors, has been named Interim Director of the organization, pending the hiring of a permanent Managing Director.

    The previous Managing Director, Jean-Marc Saubade, was fired last February in what some members of CGF said was "disgrace" because of what was seen as incompetence in running the organization, including running up costs on things like first class airfares. Since that time, CGF has been searching for a replacement, but to no avail.
    KC's View:
    There are a lot of good people on the staff of CGF, and it must be tough to be working for an organization that essentially has been leaderless for more than six months. It's too bad. When CGF was called CIES and was run for and by retailers, the organization seemed to have a not just stability, but also a point of view. But since it has evolved into an organization for both retailers and manufacturers - and seems to be dominated by big manufacturers - it seems to have lost its intellectual edge to some degree.

    Though, to be fair, I've had some manufacturers and service providers tell me that its annual CEO summit remains a good place to network and sell stuff, whether or not one actually attends the sessions. But that would been anathema to CIES in the old days, when strong sessions and provocative speakers were the draw, not an afterthought.

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    Last night was opening night for the National Football League, and the Denver Broncos defeated the Baltimore Ravens 49-27. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes, tying an NFL record.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    Last week, I had the opportunity to spend seven days driving cross-country with my 24-year-old son, Brian. It wasn't just an opportunity. It was a privilege.

    As our kids get older, the sad truth is that we don't get the chance to spend as much time with them as we'd like to. They have other things on their minds - their social lives, jobs, school, sports, whatever. They don't need us anymore. At least, not in the same way as they did when they were young. There's that great line that Dr. Henry Jones says to his son, Indiana: "You left just when you were getting interesting."

    Brian graduated from college a couple of years ago, and then moved home and worked for a local wine retailer, learning about the business and become knowledgeable about wine and, especially, beer. But as I've said to a number of folks, he never lost his urge to work in sports management, marketing or media, and he kept dreaming of moving to California. And so, having saved some money and with no compelling reason to stay on the east coast, he decided to move to Los Angeles ... and lucky me, he took me along for the ride.

    We spent seven days driving cross-country. Not the speediest route, but one that suited us. We stopped in Ohio so he could visit friends with whom he went to college. To Chicago, so we could visit his older brother. (David, an actor and writer, is studying at Second City and has done a number of plays. I'll be bragging about his latest show in a week or two.)

    And then, north to Minnesota, where we enjoyed an unforgettable evening at Target Field, watching the Twins play the Royals from perhaps the best seats we've ever had, hosted by Phil Lombardo and Kevin Baartman of Lunds/Byerly's. (Thanks, guys. Sometimes it is hard to impress a 24-year-old. But you knocked it out of the park.) On such evenings, I have to pinch myself and remind myself how lucky I am to do what I do and have the friends I have.

    From there, we drove west to South Dakota ... through the Badlands, a tough and forbidding terrain that made us wonder why, when the settlers reached it, they didn't just turn around and go home.

    Then, it was on to Mount Rushmore. I've seen North by Northwest so many times, it would have been foolish not to. I found Mount Rushmore to be the most strangely exhilarating experience ... exactly what I expected it to be, and yet not at all what I expected. There was an intimacy to the mountainside that I found utterly surprising. And while I walked in with a little bit of an attitude - wondering why humans had the gall to essentially deface a mountain - I walked away thinking that it was, at some level, perfect. Those four guys deserved a mountainside, and we'll never see their like again.

    We spent that night in the tiny town of Custer, South Dakota. (Great name, huh?) We found a terrific little brewpub called Bitter Esters, where I enjoyed a delicious Coffee Pub Ale with the breakfast burger. Nothin' could be finer, especially at 9 pm in the middle of the Black Hills. (My experience is that there's almost always a brewpub, and it's generally just about perfect.)

    After that, we drove to Denver and Colorado Springs, where MNB reader Jim Hadley, director of Partnership Marketing with the United States Olympic Committee, gave us a wonderful tour of the USOC training facilities and offered invaluable guidance to Brian about his career choice. I've never been so impressed by the Olympics experience as I was that afternoon, nor as thrilled to have a readership so diverse that it includes someone as nice and smart as Jim.

    The next day, we had the longest stretch of driving ... from Denver through Utah and then through a corner of Arizona and down to Las Vegas, Nevada. It also was the most spectacular ... words cannot possible suffice in describing the fantastic mountain passes, canyons and natural beauty that we observed. I've been to every continent except Antarctica, and in driving these roads, I've never been so impressed with or proud of America.

    I'd didn't feel quite that way about Vegas ... but we had margaritas and burgers at (natch!) Margaritaville ... did some small-scale gambling ... and then the next day drove to Los Angeles.

    We spent a day getting Brian settled in with friends, and then I took them all to dinner before they dropped me at Los Angeles International so I could fly home and Brian could begin his new life.

    I'll admit it. I cried as he drove away. I'm a reasonably tough guy, but I cried. Enough so that he stopped the car and came back to make sure I was okay. Which I was. But I couldn't help shed a few tears for the little boy who has become a man, and in gratitude for a week that we're unlikely to ever have again.

    He drove away. I got on the plane.

    Two nights later, I was flipping around the channels, and I came upon Field of Dreams. I couldn't help myself. I watched it right to the end, when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) has a catch with the ghost of his father, a catch he has yearned to have for decades. I've always loved that scene, but never so much.

    I think next time I go to Los Angeles, I'm bringing my mitt.

    That's it for this week.

    Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

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    KC's View:

    Published on: September 6, 2013

    Jim Kowalski, who co-founded with his wife the upscale Kowalski's Markets in the Twin Cities three decades ago, has been killed in an airplane accident while flying home from a Canadian fishing trip. He was 67, and the death was first reported by the Star Tribune.

    The Pioneer Press quotes Tres Lund, CEO of rival Lunds and Byerly's: "We are in a state of shock and sadness. Jim was a great businessman and merchant, and he is going to be deeply missed by everyone who was fortunate to know him."
    KC's View: