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    Published on: November 17, 2015

    by Michael Sansolo

    What were they thinking?

    That’s a question that comes to mind far too often in the world of marketing. It’s a question no company wants consumers, the media or the social networks raising these days, yet somehow the question keeps coming up.

    Just a week ago Bloomingdales, the trend-setting department stores known for sharp advertising, ran into a buzz saw of criticism and, no, this isn’t a time of political correctness run amok. This was simply a really bad idea.

    The cause was a holiday ad featuring a well-dressed woman and man and a suggestion that, frankly, cost some folks in marketing their jobs. In the ad the woman is looking over her shoulder away from the man, while the copy directly suggested it was a good time for the man to spike the eggnog.

    As countless groups pointed out immediately, that was a wonderful suggestion for anyone interested in committing date rape. Hardly a marketing winner.

    So questions have to be asked: who approved the ad; were any women among that group; and if so, did they feel their concerns about such a poorly aimed suggestion might matter? If Bloomingdales can’t answer those questions correctly, the problem goes way beyond the marketing department and into the entire company’s culture.

    Simply put, it’s the type of mistake that shouldn’t happen. Ever.

    You'd think they would have learned from a similar misstep by Bud Light, which earlier this year had a label describing it as "the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”

    They clearly were not paying attention.

    Walmart encountered a different marketing problem that also raises the “what were they thinking” point. It was almost impossible to watch television during the past month without seeing the company’s ad urging consumer to buy green light bulbs to honor veterans. Truly that’s a good and noble cause; only here again, we need to think things through.

    As argued—and I’d agree—the campaign managed to come up short.

    First, if you saw the ad, think about the message it sent. Yes, the recognition of veterans is a great cause, but there was nothing suggesting a portion of the bulb sales was going to charities for veterans. Unsurprisingly, that led to social media comments suggesting the genesis of the campaign was the need to move a shipment of green bulbs.

    Forbes said the campaign failed in numerous ways. It found the ad weak and uninspiring and suggested it might have had way more impact showing, and on social media, allowing consumers to show, how they personally made the point of saluting veterans.

    Secondly, Forbes said Walmart actually undersold the bulbs. The magazine checked the chain’s website and found many places to get green bulbs, but poor connection back to the promotion. If the campaign was so important, why not make the sale incredibly simple and obvious. The lack of connection between all the messages, Forbes said, managed to diminish the program rather than play it up.

    In other words: What were they thinking?

    The new world of marketing is anything but simple. Social media challenges us all to connect in ways we never imagined before. Done well, good marketing both sells and builds the brand image you wish to convey. But it is never easy to do it well. You need to think through all the angles and, certainly question that what you are saying really, truly conveys the message you want to bring.

    When you do that you avoid ads that disconnect or worse, give your company a black eye, by suggesting something unsavory. It’s not easy to do all of that, but it beats the daylights out of widespread discussion beginning with, “What were they thinking?”

    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 on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    The BBC reports that haggis may once again be available for sale in the US, if Scotland's negotiations with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) bear fruit ... or in this case, sheep lungs.

    Sheep lungs are a key ingredient in haggis, but have been outlawed in the US since 1971, the story says. (I assume that means outlawed in food ... Im guessing that actual sheep have lungs and are legally permitted to do so.)

    Scotland officials say that haggis producers there are willing to tweak the recipe a but for exported haggis, but that the version sent to the US would be "as close as possible to the real thing."

    And Rob Livesey, vice president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, says that "the opening of this market will be a real shot in the arm for our primary producers, who need every market opportunity available to give much-needed confidence to make positive breeding decisions now in anticipation of an upturn in demand for our top-quality product."

    I have to say that I've had haggis once, and liked it.

    But I also have to admit that I ate it in Paris, at a wonderful little places called Juveniles that happens be owned by a Scot named Tim Johnston ... because if you're gonna eat haggis...

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

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    The San Francisco Chronicle has a piece authored by Pat Wadors, senior vice president of LinkedIn’s Global Talent Organization, in which she writes about the millennials who work for her.

    "I brought 20 years working in various roles and industries in Silicon Valley, a place that leads the country in creative thinking around workplace perks and pay," Wadors writes. "I had experience and passion for what I do. What I didn’t fully anticipate was the bold emergence of the next generation and how quickly they would change the world en masse."

    "In getting to know this generation better," she continues, "I’ve become a huge admirer of Millennials. I’ve learned to dismiss what I’d previously heard about them (that they can be self-serving, lazy, entitled, impatient and starved for frequent praise). In fact, Millennials have consistently won me over by being themselves.

    "When interviewing for a job, for example, they rarely bring up compensation. And when they do, it comes at the end with an insightful question, like 'Do you believe this is fair comp for the position? And what is my opportunity for growth?' They ask about development and company purpose more frequently and earlier in the recruiting process.

    "In fact, Millennials generally tend to value meaning over money. Studies show that 55 percent of them make job choices based on companies’ corporate cause positions."

    Wadors writes, "My prediction is that with their sense of responsibility and acute social awareness, Millennials will change the world for the better. It will be a world where people get equal pay for equal work. A world where problems get crowd-solved by diverse individuals living around the world who never physically meet. A world with greater acceptance, patience and joy for those with different perspectives."

    A better world, indeed.

    You can - and should - read the entire piece here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    The San Diego Union-Tribune reports on how high end Southern California grocer Gelson's is taking advantage of the Haggen bankruptcy and store sell-off to enter the San Diego market for the first time.

    Gelson’s CEO Rob McDougall, the story says, "said Monday that the company has been trying for years to get into San Diego and thinks it will succeed by cornering a niche market. He also has growth aspirations. 'I think we bring an offering down there that isn’t in San Diego, at least not to the level we do,' he said. 'We’re more high-end. We really want to attract that foodie customer that is looking for the best quality'."

    The story notes that "Gelson’s sought eight stores, and was approved by the court for six locations, two of them in San Diego County, on Friday. The two other locations are still in dispute. Gelson’s paid $36 million."
    KC's View:
    One of the advantages that Gelson's has right now is that, since its February 2014 acquisition by investment group TBG, it actually has some money to play with. I don't think this is a small deal for Gelson's - it is looking to go from 18 stores to 26, and that takes a lot of talent, resources, and infrastructure ... and unlike Haggen, which essentially just changed the signs, it will have to make major changes to make these stores live up to its fundamental value proposition.

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Constellation Brands - which already owns Corona and Modelo Especial - will spend $1 billion to acquire Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, a California craft brewery.

    According to the story, "The deal signals that the craft-beer industry, which has a roughly 10% market share in the U.S., has crossed a threshold and become a big business that large brewers expect to continue to grow in the years to come. It is the fourth and largest craft deal this fall and follows acquisitions of California craft brewers by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, MillerCoors LLC and Heineken NV, which bought 50% of Lagunitas Brewing Co."

    The Journal notes that "San Diego-based Ballast Point, which began in 1996, will continue to operate as an independent business reporting directly to Constellation’s management team." It is expected that the brewer will be able to use Constellation's distribution network to dramatically increase its visibility and sales across the US.
    KC's View:
    To be honest, I don't know Ballast Point ... I'm not sure I've ever had their beer. I clearly have some homework to do.

    Dirty job. But somebody has to do it.

    I do think that this reflects a recognition that there is a major shift taking place in the beer business that goes beyond a fad. And I wonder if it also reflects something larger - the growing public distaste for so-called "big food" that is going to impact a lot more companies.

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    • Walmart this morning said that its third quarter revenue on a constant currency basis was $122.4 billion, an increase of 2.8 percent over the same period a year ago. The retailer also said that US Q3 same-store sales were up 1.5 percent, on traffic that was up 1.7 percent and sales that were up $2.7 billion.

    Walmart also said that "e-commerce sales and GMV globally increased approximately 10% on a constant currency basis."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    AFP reports that the Harvard University Chan School of Public Health is out with a new study saying that "people who report drinking three to five cups of coffee per day are less likely to die prematurely from heart disease, suicide, diabetes or Parkinson's disease."

    The story goes on: "Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were shown to have benefits ... The study compared people who don't drink coffee, or drank less than two cups daily, to those who reported drinking 'moderate' amounts of coffee, or up to five cups daily.

    "The study did not prove a cause-and-effect for coffee and the reduced likelihood of certain diseases, but uncovered an apparent link that aligns with previous research, and that scientists would like to probe further."
    KC's View:
    Yippee. I've been drinking three-to-five cups of coffee a morning pretty much every day for at least the last 14 years. I'm gonna live forever.

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The Washington Post that Urban Outfitters, a clothing chain best known for skinny jeans and tunic dresses, is getting into the pizza business by acquiring The Vetri Family, described as "a group of Italian restaurants with locations across Philadelphia, the city where both companies are based."

    "Spending on casual dining is expanding rapidly, and thus, we believe there is tremendous opportunity to expand the Pizzeria Vetri concept,” said Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne, in a prepared statement.

    The story notes that "Urban has previously experimented with building restaurants into some of its Urban Outfitters stores, including in its store in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. If it were to try to incorporate Pizzeria Vetri concepts into its existing stores, it could end up being a way to cultivate foot traffic in stores that sorely need it."

    I have occasionally ventured into Urban Outfitters, usually with a female member of my immediate family. I usually stand around like a rhinoceros at a tea party ... but if they had a place to get a decent slice, it'd be pretty good.

    Next step would be a TV with a ballgame, and maybe a place to get a microbrew ... I'd be all set. Of course, I'm not sure it builds the Urban Outfitter brand with the core customer base, but I'd be happy. And it is all about me...

    • The Associated Press reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is saying that "requirements to register drones will be simple enough that owners will not need to pay a 'drone registration' company to do it for them." The reason for the declaration is that there have been a series of websites advertising that they will handle the registration process for a $25 fee.

    According to the story, "The government plans to require that most owners register drones so that they can be identified if they crash or are caught flying where they should not. A government task force is expected to release plans this week on registration."

    • The Associated Press reports that "McDonald’s is replacing its discount 'Dollar Menu & More' with a feature called 'McPick 2,' which will let customers pick two of the following items for $2: a McDouble, a McChicken, small fries and mozzarella sticks. It is another effort by McDonald’s to revive slumping sales, but also to attract deal seekers after moving away from the Dollar Menu introduced more than a decade ago."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    • Supervalu said yesterday that Janel Haugarth, an almost-four-decade veteran of the company, will retire at the end of the year.

    Haugarth, who has been running Supervalu's wholesale business, will be succeeded by Mike Stigers, who has been running the company-owned Cub Foods chain.

    • As Ahold and Delhaize work toward a merger that they project will be completed in mid-2016, the two companies have named four new members of the executive committee that will run the combined companies.

    Hanneke Faber will become chief e-commerce and innovation officer, the companies said, while Marc Croonen will be chief sustainability, transformation and communications officer. Abbe Luersman will be chief human resources officer, and Jan Ernst de Groot will be chief legal officer.

    The two retailers said that the appointments are designed to "help shape and drive the company’s ambitions as a responsible and innovative retailer."

    As previously announced, the proposed Ahold Delhaize Management Board consists of CEO Dick Boer, Deputy CEO and Chief Integration Officer Frans Muller, CFO Jeff Carr, COO Europe Pierre Bouchut, COO USA Kevin Holt, and COO USA James McCann.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    First of all, a quick note about all the emails I got reacting to my story about the importance of knowing how to drive stick. The volume of emails was enormous, with the vast majority of them essentially offering loving and detailed stories about people's various cars that had manual transmissions. I appreciated all of them, and thank you for sharing them with me.

    MNB yesterday took note of a Christian Science Monitor report that Starbucks has announced that 97 of its stores in the Seattle area have been declared to be official "Safe Places" for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. According to the story, the declaration was made in partnership with the the Seattle Police Department’s “Safe Place” program, which requires employees to be trained “how to respond to and engage with LGBT victims of violence and effectively report hate crimes to police."

    One MNB user responded:

    You are very correct in saying… ”It is a shame that any city has to have a 'safe place' program to protect any of its citizens."

    There are so many other situations happening in the US but yet, everyone has some kind of issue with the LGBT community. I am thankful that I work for a company that accepts and holds high standards for ALL.

    I don't think the Starbucks move suggests that it is only accepting of people in the LGBT community. Far from it. I just think that in this case, there clearly was a hate crime problem that the Seattle Police felt needed to be addressed, and this was one way of doing it.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Don't you find it just a little bit ominous that the government is declaring responsibility for ensuring that nobody's feelings ever get hurt?

    No. Don't you find it a little ominous that you are reducing the serious issue of hate crimes to people getting their feelings hurt?

    I'm guessing that you've never been the victim of a hate crime because of how you look or act or because of who you happen to be. Lucky you.

    From another reader:

    As a conservative Roman Catholic, I think….. Never mind. I’m sure you’ve already formed your non-biased tolerant opinion of what I have to say.

    Never said I wasn't biased. I do try to be tolerant. Sometimes, though, it is hard.

    As for your conservative Roman Catholicism ... I'm reasonably sure that the Bible doesn't sanction hate crimes, even against people with whom it has fundamental disagreements. Then again, it has been a long time since I studied my catechism, so maybe I'm misremembering. (I'm pretty sure the beatings that Sister John Aquin perpetrated upon my second grade self - probably deserved because I've always been a bit of wisenheimer - didn't rise to the level of "hate crime.)

    Responding to our story about the food industry's reaction to final rules issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the dictates of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), MNB reader Jessica Duffy wrote:

    Considering the food industry’s efforts to prevent the labeling of foods made with GMO ingredients, I would be generally distrustful of anything where “Food industry executives were generally laudatory in their responses”. I am thinking it can’t have much in the way of teeth.

    We had one MNB user react to our story detailing the degree to which tattoos are becoming more acceptable to businesses:

    This is fantastic news. I’m 25 and have multiple very large tattoos, none of which are inappropriate, that I have to cover up while in the office (A few months ago I’m pretty sure I sent you a picture of a large Jimmy Buffett piece on my leg). All of mine can be covered by a button up shirt and dress pants. I also have gauged ears that I have been asked to remove while in the office (very small, not the ones that are the size of a saucer or a Frisbee).
    Caution: Millennial mindset ahead… Contrary to popular belief, wouldn’t you know my tattoos and earrings don’t have any impact on who I am as a person or how I perform on the job?! That’s fine if people want to judge others with tattoos, but that is their problem, not mine. I understand presenting oneself in a professional manner, but as more Millennials enter the workforce and begin to hold more prominent positions, expect your grandparents’ idea of “professionalism” to change.

    We had a story last week about a horse in the UK who may have been scared to death by a drone, which led one MNB user to write:

    Interesting story on the horse and the drone…just recently a family in our residential development started flying a drone.  We back up to a golf course, so I can see the fun that would provide.  The problem comes when the operator hovers the drone over my back yard in front of our picture windows, given that I have three teenage girls.

    I asked our HOA to state what their position is on drones in our bylaws.  There response was that legally they cannot take a stance.  As a resident of the HOA, I demand that they have a position.  Personally I would like to  see certain types of camera equipment prohibited from use on a drone in a residential neighborhood.  A camera is fine, but a super zoom lens is not!  Again, the HOA said they are not hearing anything about this in their channels and will not take a stance.

    Obviously, the first course of action is for me to go to the neighbor and ask the simple questions and promote the conversation.  If that fails, then I will expect the HOA to intervene. I say all this to make the example that many, many entities are ignorant to the issue of drones, be it privacy, surveillance , or environmental disruptions.  It will be out of hand and too late to rein in...

    You make an excellent point.

    We had another story last week that quoted an analyst as saying that "Walmart is much better placed to catch up to Amazon online than Amazon is to catch up to Walmart in brick-and-mortar …"

    One MNB user responded:

    I’m wondering if Moody’s investment analysts do much shopping.

    Has the analyst spent time trying to park in the lot at Walmart, made his/her way across the parking lot dodging crazy drivers, stood in front of the shelf to find it empty, picked up a few items only to find the lines at the check stand to be 12 people deep, then arrived back at the car to find a loose cart now perched on the bumper?  I think he/she may find many of the “investor class” more inclined to press the enter key, or better yet, simply ask Alexa, and have purchases magically appear at their door.

    Got the following email from MNB reader Bill Nace, responding to yesterday's Eye-Opener about how some churches in New York are changing the way they teach Sunday school in order to be more relevant and engaging to young people:

    As always, I appreciate your insights and opinions, and that is no less true for what you posted today on Riverside Church.

    I agree that churches and businesses need to be differentiated, authentic and relevant to survive. And many churches conceive of that in the same way businesses do.

    But some churches see it as a problem, because for the church to model itself on business or pop culture is to lose its distinctiveness, which comes from following biblical norms instead of cultural ones.

    I carry no special brief for Sunday School, since it's only been around for a few hundred years. I just see Riverside continuing a departure from traditional Christianity it began almost the moment John D. Rockefeller and Harry Emerson Fosdick founded it.

    I don't know how Riverside is doing, but many mainline churches have been shrinking for generations, and some attribute it to their abandonment of distinctive Christianity.

    I know very little about Riverside Church specifically, and am hardly an expert in theological institutions. But, that won't stop me from having an opinion. (When has it ever?)

    I think there is a difference between parting with core values and parting with traditional delivery systems. This goes for religions and businesses. Also, I think that companies and religions often have to re-examine what they mean by "core values." Sometimes, I think, belief systems are created within the framework of a specific time and/or place, but these beliefs may or may not be in synch with core values. Distinctions need to be be made. And again, this goes for religions and businesses.

    I'd also make another point about the "abandonment of distinctive Christianity." Some would make that same argument about Catholicism - that when they stopped saying the Mass in Latin and turned the priest around to face the congregation, the religion lost some of its distinctive magic, and it has been all downhill from there. But I lived through that change - I went from being an altar boy who had to memorize the Latin mass - Dominus vobiscum ... Et cum spiritu tuo - to one who actually understood the words being said. And my problems with the institutional Catholic Church have nothing to do with that.

    We had a story yesterday that quoted REI's CEO about why the company decided to make the culturally authentic decision to close on Black Friday and pay employees to go hiking ... which led one MNB user to write:

    Thank you for adding this story.
    My wife and I are huge REI fans….Last year we made a good investment in our goal of hiking the PCT (Oregon) over ten years. We started our training over day hikes the grew to long weekend hikes. Getting ready for our first overnight 40 mile trek. Loop around Mt Hood...

    This is when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Needless to say that challenge comes first and foremost. She is in her 4th  stage of Chemo with two more to go. Surgery in January 2016 and healing after that. We think it will be around June when we can hit the trial again...

    Not a day goes by without one of use bringing up how much fun and how rewarding our brief trips were.
    Black Friday means nothing to me but those days trudging, taking selfies and spending the precious time with my buddy, Well I think that says it all.

    Indeed it does. Life, like cancer, is filled with variants of uncertain significance ... but it sounds like the support you are providing your wife, and the way in which you are looking forward to your hike, provide a variant of certain significance. Which, to my mind, is hugely important.

    Good luck. You are in my thoughts.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2015

    In Monday Night Football action, the Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 10-6; it was the Bengals' first loss of the year, and leaves the New England Patriots and Carolina panthers as the last two undefeated NFL teams this season.
    KC's View: