retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our stories about McDonald's marketing travails, MNB reader Monte Stowell wrote:

Mickey D's has tried many times to put out a higher quality hamburger, most recently the Angus Burgers. I am sure they do a lot of focus group tasting etc., but they still have to have better tasting hamburgers. Made with real cheddar cheese, like the Tillamook brand we have here in the NW would be a start.

A chain here in the NW, called Burgerville, has a Tillamook cheeseburger, and they get a good price for it and it the taste is much better than any burger Mickey D's has on their menu. The consumer will pay for a better quality product and for my taste buds, McDonalds has never found that sweet spot for many of us baby boomers. FYI, Consumer Reports had Burgerville burgers rated as one of the top burger places in America.


I've raved about Burgerville many times here on MNB. I agree with you.

I suggested that McDonald's changing its Dollar Menu to a "Dollar Menu & More" menu would result in a watered down message. MNB reader David Mallon disagreed:

I think the Dollar menu has been around for 10 years. Obviously, cost inflation compounded over that period would be significant. Would you prefer the $2 Value Menu?

My guess is that they tested a number of options and found the Dollar Menu & More to be the best option. And, in my opinion that doesn't water down the message or image.


Okay. we can agree to disagree. As for my preferences, I'd actually prefer to eat a salmon burger at home.

From another reader:

McDonald's didn't make a sound business decision to pursue the healthy food initiative.  They made a political decision based on political pressure and the threat of lawsuits from the DOJ.   Similar to how Janet Reno put pressure on banks with the threat of lawsuits for not lending to minorities (the obvious and predictable race component) to lend people money they could not afford to pay back.  These two can serve as classic examples to how when you pervert the free market with liberal "well intended" ideas, you have abject failures to which no one will take credit but will be quick to blame the corporate world for its "lack of judgement".   How come no pressure on Taco Bell?  Maybe they have the "proper" policy leanings and really don't need to demonstrate their good community stewardship.

MNB user Paul Jaeckel wrote:

Why does McDonald’s take the hit for all fast food chains?  Their competitors launch product innovation entirely focused on taste with little regard for nutritional value.  I’m not a big fan of fast food dining, but let’s give kudos to McDonald’s for trying to do the right thing.  They all have shareholders to keep happy.
 



We had a piece the other day about how both the Food Network and Blockbuster were celebrating major birthdays, though I argued that only the Food Network had managed to keep up with the times.

Which prompted one MNB reader to argue:

I actually disagree (somewhat) with your suggestion that the cooking channel has done an effective job of evolving to stay relevant to it's audience. In many ways it's programming is remarkably similar to it's origins, and has benefitted significantly from our culture's dynamic increasing interest in the food world.

Meanwhile consider other channels that evolved much, much more in their content offerings. When ESPN first debuted, we got a mix of Australian Rules Football, Billiards, Bowling and Cricket. Bravo offered a mix of Opera and Uptight "cultural" crap. And A & E's stated intention to mimic PBS and offered loads of serious documentaries. Now those two channels are chock full of reality TV with things like Pickers and Dog the Bounty Hunter. Opera to Dog. That's evolution (of a certain kind).


Back in the mid-eighties, I actually worked on the public relations campaign for A&E back when it was just The Entertainment Channel, and all it had was almost unwatchable BBC programs - the stuff that PBS passed on. To write the press releases, I had to watch all of it. So I get your point.

MNB user Mike Core wrote:

Not to beat the dead horse Blockbuster, but I would like relate a story that foreshadowed the demise of Blockbuster in 1998. I was an early adopter of the DVD format buying my first DVD player in early 1998. There were a few mom and pops video stores that rented DVD’s but with limited offerings. I went to my local Blockbuster to ask why they were not renting DVD’s and was told that they were waiting to see if the format was going to catch on. I am sure that was not the official response but rather the words of an 18 year old “manager”. As I left the store shaking my head I remembered that In the box of the Sony DVD player that I had bought, there were 3 free DVD rental coupons  from a company called Netflix. They were a per movie rental company to start and did not switch to a monthly subscription until 1999, and well, the rest is history.

We all should've bought stock.




Regarding the GMA decision to be transparent about what companies were donating to its campaign to defeat a Washington State referendum that would mandate the labeling of products with GMOs, one MNB reader wrote:

I was also pleased to see GMA agreeing to file reports indicating who contributed, how much they contributed, and how the money was spent to oppose Washington State I-522 on GMO labeling.  GMA has always been a class act.  Who is on that list should be no surprise as the grocery industry generally is opposed to what is essentially a "scarlet letter" that would have to appear on many foods.  If I had known the donor list was going to be published I would have given them $25 myself.  It is already very easy to determine what foods may contain GMO's.  If the food isn't labeled "No GMO's" or an equivalent statement you can assume it may contain GMO's.  Will the next labeling initiative demand be "Contains ingredients that are not natural"?;  "Contains non-organic ingredients"? ; "Made with milk from cows treated with rBST"?";  "Contains preservatives"?.  These labeling statements are actually misleading to consumers as they strongly imply that there is something inferior or unhealthful about such foods though there is no credible evidence to support that blanket conclusion.  This GMO Labeling movement is really not about transparency.  Anyone concerned about GMO's can currently determine what foods are GMO free.  It is about scaring people in a "Chicken Little" manner.  The anti-GMO crowd is hoping that the "Contains GMO's" labeling will cause many food companies to move away from GMO ingredients forcing the 99% of us who "frankly don't give a damn" to pay higher prices for our food.  Transparency would be if the ballot initiative stated "Passage of this initiative may well increase food prices".

Say what you will about the issue, it is worth noting that GMA only agreed to be transparent when threatened with a lawsuit. It is a fairly safe assumption that GMA's attorneys told the leadership there that if they went to court they'd lose. (Which is the same thing as advising leadership that GMA was breaking the financial disclosures law.)

The forces that prefer a lack of transparency when it comes to GMOs in foods also seem to prefer a lack of transparency when it comes to money in politics.

Coincidence? I think not.
KC's View: