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    Published on: October 29, 2013

    by Michael Sansolo

    According to the wise old adage, if you build a better mousetrap, the customer will beat a path to your door.

    I hate to tinker with age-old wisdom, but I’m betting you’ll have a lot more success if you make sure the path is easy to find, follow and use. If not, you may get stuck with a lot of unsold mousetraps.

    Success in any business is such an incredible mix of steps, but one simple scene in the wonderful movie The Right Stuff explains it all: A group of the original Mercury astronauts and engineers consider a simple question.

    “What makes these rockets fly?” The engineers say it’s too hard to explain. The astronauts say it has nothing to do with aerodynamics, physics or any science. Rather, it comes down to funding. The equation is simple: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

    It’s a great lesson for any business. There will never be a single shopper who selects a store or product based on logistics, supply chain relations, technology or anything else along those lines. They don’t care if goods came by direct store delivery or got dropped off the International Space Station.

    They come for the produce and meats. Or they come for values and the unique mix of service, selection and price that satisfies their needs and wants. There’s a simple truth for the industry: if you lack a good supply chain you can’t provide efficiencies to make all that happen. No efficiencies, no sales; it’s that simple.

    Today we are getting an incredible lesson on the importance of blocking and tackling or doing the small things right. Luckily, you can’t possibly miss it.

    There’s no chance you haven’t heard of the website woes being experienced by the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare." Forget all the controversy over the program and forget your personal and political feelings about the whole concept.

    Just consider this: people who are trying to use it are not succeeding. I know because I’ve tried repeatedly in hopes that maybe I could actually find useful information for my own health insurance needs as a one-person business.

    My wife and I have both tried and neither of us has found a way to get to the promised point where we can compare different policies that might fit our needs better than what we have today. We are college graduates, veterans of business and experienced users of the web. We are armed with good computers and high-speed Internet connections.

    And we simply cannot get there.

    So even if this is the single best program ever created, if it somehow is a panacea for all of mankind’s needs from health to budgetary woes, it does NOT matter. We cannot get through. Based on what seems to be on every news show, newspaper and website, we aren’t alone. Apparently the vast majority of visitors to are having the same problems we find.

    Now it’s possible the problems will disappear today. Perhaps the government will get Facebook, Google, Amazon or maybe the Content Guy to demonstrate how a website should work.

    In the meantime the rest of us need to absorb this lesson and remember: No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

    Businesses need ensure that your customers don’t ever face barriers or frustrations that damage the experience or ruin the sale. You need to make sure your websites, your phone networks and especially your stores and people don’t throw up obstacles that leave customers shaking their heads and walking away in frustration.

    Plus, it reminds the entire industry of the importance of making sure things work to provide the value customers seek in the end. That means endless attention to the supply chain or all the supporting structures you have to sell products on the front line.

    Remember the customer doesn’t care how it happens, only that it happens the right way for them.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is officially recommending that parents should ban the use of electronic media during mealtimes and after bedtime, suggesting that "excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression and lack of sleep."

    The story says that "children ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day consuming media for fun, including TV, music, videogames and other content in 2009, according to a 2010 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation." The AAP's existing recommendations are that "kids should limit the amount of screen time for entertainment to less than two hours per day; children younger than 2 shouldn't have any TV or Internet exposure. Also, televisions and Internet-accessible devices should be kept out of kids' bedrooms."

    The Journal writes that "families should have a no-device rule during meals and after bedtime, the guidelines say. Parents should also set family rules covering the use of the Internet and social media and cellphones and texting, including, perhaps, which sites can be visited, who can be called and giving parental access to Facebook accounts."

    And here's the real Eye-Opening statement from the story:

    Doctors say parents need to abide by the family rules, too, to model healthy behavior.

    Uh-oh. For a lot of us adults, setting a positive example may be more difficult than setting a few rules.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    The Huffington Post reports that legislation has been introduced in San Francisco that would, if approved in a November 2014 referendum, "would introduce a two-cents-per-ounce tax, increasing the cost on an average can of soda by 24 cents." The tax would affect the cost of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages.

    The revenue would be used to fund school recreation and nutrition programs; the sponsors say that the legislation is designed to address health issues created by increasing obesity rates.

    The story notes that there was "a 2010 UC San Francisco study which found that a nationwide sweetened drink tax of just a penny per ounce would avert nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes and 26,000 deaths over the next decade."
    KC's View:
    According to the story, public support for the proposal has gone up with the assurances that the tax revenues will be used for nutrition and recreation programs in the schools. That's why I love San Francisco … they just believe in stuff that many of us have grown cynical about. (I say this with admiration. Really.)

    In the end, people are only going to do things like reduce soft drink consumption if they decide that doing so is good for their health. Taxes and increased prices may have some small impact, but I'm just not persuaded that this is the best way to change people's behavior.

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    The Washington Post reports that Starbucks is rolling out a beta version of a "tweet-a-coffee" program: "The conceit is simple: send a message to @tweetacoffee to buy a gift card for a friend. In reality, this is a pretty big deal -- think of the potential if every major company monetized Twitter that way."

    The Post notes, however, that the program is more complex - and even invasive - than may be immediately apparent:

    "Both senders and recipients must have an account on Twitter, and the sender must have an account on After linking the two accounts and entering credit card information through Starbucks, users can tweet a “coffee” -- i.e., a $5 Starbucks gift card -- to friends and strangers of their choice, initially using the program’s Web site and then with tweets sent directly from Twitter. The recipient then gets a message from @tweetacoffee, with a link to an e-card she can redeem by phone or print-out.

    "This all sounds very convenient and fun, of course, until you get into the details of how Starbucks benefits. On the most obvious level, it's leveraging social and mobile media to sell more coffees with less friction -- a move not dissimilar to the way you can donate to charity by text.

    "But Starbucks is also collecting lots of user information. Notably, both the sender and the recipient of tweeted coffees have to grant Starbucks broad access to their Twitter accounts, including the ability to post tweets … By going to and creating an account, furthermore, consumers share personal information with the company."
    KC's View:
    For an entire generation - for better or for worse - providing this kind of information won't be a problem, as long as the benefits of providing it are demonstrable. Make my life better, more convenient, more pleasurable … then I'm okay with it. Abuse the privilege, or offer irrelevant benefits, and all bets are off.

    That ought to be the rule for every data-based benefits program.

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that Target plans to open 33 new stores in Canada next month, bringing the total number of Canadian units opened in 2013 to 124 - the largest number of openings in a year in the company's history. "The stores are spread throughout Canada’s 10 ­provinces, with the majority in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Thirty-one of the stores will open Nov. 13 and two stores will open Nov. 22."

    The story notes that "the rapid expansion hasn’t been entirely smooth," and that Target has seen problems with both its in-stock positions, which have been lower than than the company would have liked, and pricing, which has been higher than many customers would have liked.

    The Star Tribune says that Target "expected the Canadian stores to be profitable in the fourth quarter this year. Now the profitability expectation has been moved to the fourth quarter of 2014."

    After this initial push, Target reportedly plans to open five to ten new store a year for the next few years.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    • The International Business Times reports that despite Walmart's decision earlier this month to bail out on its joint venture in India, forsaking the retail business there to concentrate on wholesale operations there, Walmart "continues to lobby with U.S. lawmakers over India’s rules on foreign direct investment, or FDI, and has spent $1.5 million in total in the September quarter on a range of issues including FDI in India, as part of its ongoing efforts to establish a sizable presence in Asia’s third-largest economy."

    Indeed, the story says that even these efforts have proven to be controversial since lobbying is itself illegal in India, and money spent on lobbying is seen as a bribe.
    KC's View:
    Lobbying. Bribing. Actually, when you think about it, it is a distinction without a difference. Maybe India has it right…

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    Interesting piece in Forbes about something that we talk about a lot here on MNB - how the winners in retail almost certainly will be the companies that accumulate the most data and then use it with the greatest amount of intelligence.

    You can read the whole piece here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    Bloomberg reports that "the US Congress is poised to let a temporary increase in food-stamp benefits end later this week for more than 47 million people. The extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were part of the 2009 stimulus law.

    "Unless legislation is enacted before Friday -- and none is scheduled for a vote — benefits for a family of four would be reduced by $36 per month, according to the Agriculture Department. At maximum benefit levels in the 48 contiguous states and D.C., that would work out to 5.4 percent less for that family of four."

    The story goes on to say that Texas Republican Michael Conaway, a member of a House-Senate committee working on farm-subsidy and nutrition legislation, H.R. 2642, said he expects no debate on reviving the soon-to-expire addition to food benefits. The expiration is a settled decision and 'it’s the law,' he said."

    There is an irony in that statement that has nothing to do with food stamp benefits.

    • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that McDonald's will no longer offer Heinz ketchup in its fast food restaurants, and is moving to other vendors. According to the story, the change follows "the appointment of former Burger King Worldwide CEO Bernardo Hees to run Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co. Mr. Hees also serves as vice chairman of the board of Miami-based Burger King.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    • Rick Bendel, the former CMO at Walmart's Asda Group who moved to the parent company last year for what was described as a "broader project-based role," has left the company. No word on where he is going next.

    Advertising Age reports that "Alison Lewis, Coca-Cola's head marketer in North America, is heading to Johnson & Johnson as the first-ever global chief marketing officer of its consumer companies … At J&J, she takes on a global role in which the consumer unit accounted for more than $750 million of the company's $887 million in measured media in the U.S. alone last year … Lewis will oversee the four global franchises -- consumer health/nutritionals, beauty, baby care and over-the-counter drugs -- and a new marketing-services function for the group."

    • NACS announced that it has hired Stephanie Sikorski to be its new marketing manager. She is a former marketing and communications manager at The Vision Council, and director of communications for the City of Tallahassee’s Animal Service Center.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a story in The Olympian about the continued influx of donations to both sides in the battle over mandated labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) - Initiative 522, which is on the ballot on November 5.

    One MNB user responded:

    Wow. Think what $67 Million could buy for schools, for infrastructures, for a host of needed things the communities could use....  Seems the corporate taxes are insufficient to have this kind of Fluff money to throw around…. 

    MNB user Jim Godwin wrote:

    Kevin, just a quick question. Whether or not anyone believes that GMO Labeling should take place or not, shouldn't this be decided on a national level, rather than at the state level? Manufacturers are forced to comply with each individual state's rules and regulations and thus multi-state retailers get caught in the middle. This seems to be a case of good intentions on the wrong stage.

    I actually agree that this would be better dealt with on a national basis, but recent events, I think, make it hard to argue that the federal government is better equipped to deal with such issues than the states.

    I do think that it has been smart for states like Connecticut to pass mandated labeling laws but make them contingent on enough other states also passing them … this is actually an intelligent way to legislate.

    My general position on labeling has more to do with transparency than GMOs, and yesterday I wrote:

    The transparency movement - which includes everything from product labeling to political donations - is only going to continue to gain momentum … and will even be fueled by the big money/big power/big influence efforts to control what people know.

    Which led one MNB reader to chime in:

    This is why I read your column every morning.  A quote like this is inspiring on so many different levels, and it is a battle cry beyond product labeling and political donations.  Because the world is changing so rapidly,  "transparency" standards apply to many things, including the jobs we all do.   All of us should ask ourselves, can we explain the jobs we do each day to our consumer so that they would understand its value?  Because that is what transparency means and better to confront it head on before it "sneaks up" on us!

    And MNB reader Adam Hobbs wrote:

    So true – feel free to add: “…to the advertising business, including placements by channel and property, rates, measurements & KPIs and compensation (be it by fees, commissions or performance-based).  Transparency is becoming less of a service differentiator (not trading our own book, etc) and more of a SOX-compliance type of risk management/legitimacy play.   

    Very interesting stuff, and just to further bring you into our world, the next big arena for us is, obviously, social… how on earth do you measure that animal?  What we do know is that the first person to do so effectively, leaving behind a roadmap for everyone else to follow, will be a millionaire for sure.

    On the subject of Southwest Airlines considering the possibility of charging for checked baggage, a potentially image-changing move, one MNB user wrote:

    I don’t think SW charging for bags will make a difference.  First  there is not a viable alternative.  Secondly and most important people I know fly SW because they offer convenient flight times, they don’t charge for changes, they are reliable, they provide great customer service, have reasonable leg room and perhaps most importantly they are generally the best price.    SW already gets a fee increase by charging to get an A ticket.  That has not chased customers away so I don’t see charging  a few dollars for bags will make a difference.  The only drawback I see is it will encourage more carry-on baggage.  

    I agree charging for bags does decrease some of their allure but not enough to affect their business when you compare the miserable experience you expect on other major airlines like United.   Can’t understand why United works so hard to alienate their customers but that is another discussion.

    From another reader:

    You've hit my sore spot about traveling today. Years ago I avoided traveling on Southwest Airlines because of the cattle chute mentality and not having assigned seating. Once they went to "A" "B" and "C" groups I have come to love it. Mostly because I fly enough to have preferred status and guaranteed an "A" seat. I love them for not charging for baggage. I almost always check my baggage so that I can place my briefcase in the overhead bin without feeling guilty for being a "bin hog."... those annoying people who place multiple bags in the overhead space.

    Anyway, I have always felt that airlines should charge for carry-on and let you check for free. As one of your previous subscribers wrote I think it would speed up the boarding process and if people need to have their roller bags in the over head bin they should have to pay for the convenience. While I am on my soapbox I also think that seats should not recline unless you compensate the passenger behind you. When you fly you are paying for space and why should the person in front of you get to take your space without compensation? Or, maybe create several rows with reclining seats and charge more? Traveling today is a huge hassle.

    Got the following email from MNB user George Denman (who, it should be noted, works for Graeter's, which makes some of the best ice cream on the planet):

    Great article on Disney’s opposition to gambling. I see similarities within the Graeter’s organization with their opposition to selling Wal-Mart. We were just approached by Wal-Mart again last week to sell Graeter’s in the local Wal-Mart stores in our home town where we would likely sell quite a bit.

    But Richard Graeter, our CEO, is opposed to doing so for he does not feel that the two brands align. Call Wal-Mart what you want, but it is a mass merchant selling on price. Graeter’s is a hand crafted local ice cream that is dedicated to delivering quality unmatched in the industry in select retailers where ice cream aficionados expect to find the best of the best, where price is not the number reason for shopping. The two just do not align. There is something to sticking to your guns….

    Intelligent loss of business…

    Finally…I noted yesterday that Michael Sansolo and I were chatting about how Bill Mazer had been born 30 years later, he would’ve been an enormous star on ESPN or WFAN or any of the other all-sports format media ventures out there today. And you’re right … in many ways, he was the father of many of them.

    MNB user Gary Loehr wrote:

    Pretty sure Bill Mazer was on WFAN for a few years. I think he was one of many that was on after Imus and before Mike and the Mad Dog.

    True. He actually hosted a lunchtime show, live from Mickey Mantle's restaurant on Manhattan's Central Park South, in the late eighties.

    But my larger point is by that point - Mazer was born in 1920 - he was approaching age 70. Had he been in his forties when sports radio and ESPN became hugely popular, he might've had a very different career. Which is not to diminish what he did accomplish … because I'm one of those kids who used to listen to his late afternoon show on WNBC-AM in the mid-sixties.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2013

    • In Game Five of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Series now returns to Boston where Game Six will be played on Wednesday night.

    • And, in Monday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams 14-9.
    KC's View:
    Not the best night for St. Louis sports fans…