retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s a news story I know is coming soon. One day we’re going to learn that we’re officially drowning in information and that it’s actually become dangerous to our health. In the meantime, we’re all awash in the world of constant information trying to figure out when and where we should actually pay attention.

There were three recent stories that got me thinking about information overload and each came with a different twist. In one case, I found information that seemed intriguing. One was just confusing and one had me wondering if I should disconnect my smart phone. Seems like a pretty average day…

Let’s start with the worst. Apparently there is a new app that allows me to determine the political leanings of every product I purchase. Called BuyPartisan, it asks me to scan bar codes and promises to give me the skinny on the companies I support.

No doubt there will be those who will jump all over this, but count me out. I fully understand that I buy products from companies whose politics may delight or offend me, but at some point I have to determine what is useful and useless information. I understand the power of partisan politics, but at what point does it stop? Do I really need to determine which peanut butter I’m going to consume based on political donations of the CEO? Do I now have to draw conclusions on my friends based on what they buy?

When it comes to BuyPartisan I find myself asking the Jurassic Park ethics question: did the creators consider whether they should do this or just if they could? I think they answered wrongly.

But the information is now out there and again companies have to decide how to explain it. I think we have a much more serious question of that type with the week’s confusing news. It came from the nutrition front, which never surprises me anymore. Every week it seems that the news contradicts everything I’ve heard before.

This week’s news is that we’ve gone too far with low-salt diets. So after all these years we are only one story away from finding out that buttered and salted popcorn is the miracle food we always hoped we’d find, able to grow hair, increase potency and improve brainpower.

Luckily I know experts who can tell me if this new report is worthwhile. Most people aren’t that connected, which reminds us of the importance of consumer communications.

This is one of those moments when outreach is necessary, useful and desired. Let’s explain the story before others do that for us. Let’s turn this information into knowledge and give our customers one more reason to build relationships with us that in turn builds business.

That’s leads to the best story of the group - the place where information is being turned into useful knowledge, which is really what we all want in business or our personal lives.

The Washington Post reported Monday on how Wendy’s is using new technology for store location decisions. No real news there right, except that this technology, called Esri, is different. It allows Wendy’s to get demographic profiles of locations that help the fast food chain determine if there is both a market for customers and a supply of likely labor in the area.

In other words the technology provides useful information on the two topics Wendy’s most needs - customers and employees. That is the formula for real value and something we should keep in mind as we spill information at our connections.

Remember, information is great, but knowledge is way better. Otherwise I’m left wondering if the hot buttered and salted popcorn I now get to eat will reflect my political beliefs.

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 .
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