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    Published on: January 20, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    MBLM, which describes itself as "the brand intimacy agency," is out with its annual ranking and "comprehensive review of 386 brands across 15 industries in terms of their ability to create and sustain Brand Intimacy." The conclusion is that the top five brands that have achieved the greatest intimacy with consumers are Apple, Disney, Amazon, Harley-Davidson, and Netflix ... each of which, based on the survey, actually improved their connections to customers.

    Netflix saw an enormous improvement in its fortunes - a year ago, it was ranked 25th.

    When seen through the prism of the millennial generation, the rankings are a little different - Harley-Davidson falls off the list (it doesn't even make the top 10), Disney moves to the top, and Nintendo moves into fifth place.

    The top 10 list, cutting across all demographics, consists of Apple, Disney, Amazon, Harley-Davidson, Netflix, Nintendo, Samsung, Whole Foods, BMW, and Toyota.

    The millennial list of top 10 most intimate brands are: Disney, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Nintendo, Target, Chevrolet, Xbox, Google, and YouTube.

    I'm intrigued by how well Disney performs in this ranking ... I suspect this may have something to do with how well it has spread its bets around the table, with the acquisition of businesses like Lucasfilm (which gives it the ability to produce new Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies) and Marvel (which gives it the various Avengers franchises). This has been very smart; its ESPN business has been struggling lately, and these entities give it a hedge.

    And there have been rumors that Disney might be interested in acquiring Netflix ... though analysts have differed about whether this would make economic or strategic sense.

    But all that aside ... it seems to me that one of the things that any marketer should do is examine what the elements are that make these brands resonate with consumers. Not every brand can emulate them, not certainly not every brand can be successful. But I think it is important for brands to think about how they touch people's lives ... and how they should work to sustain those connections over the short-term and long-term.

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

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    Two stories this morning that point to how Amazon is making moves designed to removing any barriers between customers and the products they need and want and are available on Amazon...

    • The Seattle Times reports that a new study from Morgan Stanley estimates that Amazon sold more than 11 million Echo devices during the recent end-of-year holiday shopping season, an "estimate that hints at the sizable territory the e-commerce giant has already staked out in the brewing contest for artificial-intelligence dominance."

    The story goes on: "Amazon says there are 'tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices out there,' but that number includes gadgets made by Amazon that also harbor Alexa, such as the Fire tablet and those made by third-parties that have embraced the platform. At the recent CES conference in Las Vegas, companies from Whirlpool to LG to Lenovo announced a multitude of Alexa-enabled appliances and devices."

    Re/code reports that Amazon has unveiled yet another iteration of its Dash buttons, which were introduced as a way to make it easier for people to reorder products they'd previously purchased. The buttons could be affixed to relevant locations - a laundry detergent button next to the washing machine, for example, or as diaper button next to a changing table - so that when the customer sees supplies running low, a simple push of the button could place an order for replenishment.

    Now, Amazon has come up with a digital version of the Dash buttons - if you go to your Amazon home page (which, it needs to be emphasized, is different for every single person who goes there, based on purchase and viewing history), there now are buttons for previously purchased items on the screen.

    The story says that "the new features are as much about Amazon demonstrating it will continue to come up with new ways to shrink the time between 'want' and 'buy' as it is about actually selling more face wash. From that standpoint, mission accomplished."
    KC's View:
    We've said it here often, but I honestly don't think it can be said enough. It is all about creating an ecosystem in which Amazon is the first, best place for people to check for pretty much everything. That seems to be happening with increasing frequency, and Amazon is certain that it can get a sizable percentage of those transactions. As it does, the competition will get a smaller percentage.

    It is simple math. It is also a matter of what game you're playing. Most retailers are playing checkers. Amazon is playing chess.

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks will expand its parental leave benefits program, saying that "Store employees who are birth mothers will get six weeks of paid leave at 100 percent pay, up from 67 percent average pay previously, and 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Store employees who are non-birth parents (including fathers, spouses and foster and adoptive parents) can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

    "Non-store employees (such as district managers and above) who are birth mothers can take up to 18 weeks of 100 percent paid leave. That’s up from 6 weeks at 67 percent pay previously. In addition, non-store employees who are not birth mothers but who welcome a new child (whether by birth, foster or adoption) are also eligible to take 12 weeks of paid leave at 100 percent pay. Previously, those 12 weeks were unpaid."

    The changes take effect in October. They come as Starbucks finds itself competing for employees in a tightening labor market.
    KC's View:
    This is what progressive companies have to do to compete for the best employees these days ... at least if you believe that great employees are the key to making a business work, that they are an asset, not a cost.

    There was a story out the other day about how Howard Schultz was on Hillary Clinton's short list for Secretary of Labor if she'd won the election. I have no idea if he would've pushed for these kinds of policies to be mandated by the government, but the fact is that they are more effective if they are proposed and embraced by companies, not mandated.

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    There was a blog posting the other day from Bob Wheatley, CEO of Emergent, a marketing and communications agency that focuses on the healthy living space, that I found to be right in synch with one of the broader messages on which we try to focus here at MNB.

    "You can destroy ten years of retail equity and loyalty in five minutes," Wheatley writes. "Failed policies and poor training can set in motion what we affectionately refer to as the spiraling vortex of doom.

    "Retail is experiencing one of the biggest relevance squeezes in history as more demanding consumers grow less tolerant of missteps and violations of the customer-comes-first code. Too many options exist now and choices abound, especially online, waiting in the wings to rescue consumers from bad retail behaviors."


    Wheatley goes on: "If customers are merely walking wallets and the relationship is purely transactional then the future will belong to e-tailing where algorithms remove the human issues. If retail is to be successful, customer relationships must be looked upon with the greatest respect and cherished completely end-to-end in operations and the care and feeding of customer experience."


    It is a very good posting, and worth reading, I think. You can read it here.

    (And he even quotes Raymond Chandler, which is about as good as it gets, since Chandler was one of the great writers of the 20th century.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    The Seattle Times reports that Amazon is working with the US Department of Labor "to create a registered apprenticeship program to train veterans in the high-demand field of cloud computing from within the e-commerce titan’s fold. Participants will undergo a 16-week technical training program land get a 12-month paid apprenticeship with the company. The apprenticeships could lead to full-time jobs with Amazon, the company says, or with talent-hungry competitors."

    The story goes on to report that "the first wave of a dozen or so apprentices will be trained to take up the role of 'cloud support associate' at Amazon Web Services, the Seattle company’s cloud computing unit. They would offer technical support to enterprises and other customers that have migrated their data and computing applications to Amazon’s cloud."
    KC's View:
    Good for them. It is important to be focused on the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past that never will return.

    Published on: January 20, 2017

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

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Whole Foods plans to open one of its "365 by Whole Foods" stores - designed to be lower priced, with greater appeal to millennials - to the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.

    There are three 365 stores open at present - in California, Oregon, and Washington State - but Whole Foods says there are another 20 on the drawing board.

    iNews reports that Tesco is testing what is called a "relaxed checkout" concept at one of its Scotland stores, designed "to give customers who need extra time at the till a chance to shop at their own pace ... The pilot scheme was developed with older people, particularly those living with dementia, in mind and is supported by Alzheimer Scotland."

    This is such a lovely idea. I can imagine that there are a lot of places where the idea could work. We put so much emphasis on speed and efficiency, it is important sometimes to remember that for some people, it makes sense to move in the opposite direction. Good for Tesco.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    • ShopRite Supermarkets, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wakefern Food Corp. that owns and operates 34 ShopRite stores in New Jersey and New York, has named Brett Wing president of the company.

    Wing joined the company in 2015 as executive vice president. He replaces Dave Figurelli, who retired this month after 15 years with the company. 

    Wing formerly was vice president of FoodMaxx, a division of Save Mart Supermarkets in Northern California, and also spent 25 years with Cub Foods.

    • Target announced that it is promoting Rick Gomez, the company's senior vice president of marketing, to the role of executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He succeeds Jeff Jones, who left Target last August to take a job at Uber.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    Miguel Ferrer, the son of actor Jose Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney, and an actor well known for the original RoboCop as well as "Twin Peaks" and “NCIS: Los Angeles," passed away yesterday at age 61. The cause was cancer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    Yesterday, MNB reported that Daymon Worldwide, the retail services and private label company, has been acquired by Bain Capital Private Equity and Chinese supermarket chain Yonghui Superstores for $413 million.

    I commented:

    It has been a long run since July 1970, when Peter Damon Schwartz and Milt Sender created Daymon. I got to know Milt a little bit over the years, and always thought of him as being a disruptor, even before that word became commonplace in business settings.

    I hope that this is a good move for the people who work at Daymon. I know there have been some layoffs, and there are some folks there who have suggested to me that it was a company struggling to find new relevance in a changed business climate.

    It was not long before I hear from Jim Holbrook, the CEO at Daymon:

    I too am a fan of Milt Sender's and have some juicy 'insider' scoop on Daymon!

    First, the layoffs you cite happened almost 18 months ago, and Daymon has been hiring since then.  Why?

    Because, second, Daymon is highly relevant today.  In fact, in 2016, Daymon grew revenues by +15%.  Not many businesses outside of Silicon Valley are doing that these days.   What is causing this?  An energized team of employees, with sharper tools and better insights.  

    Maybe that's why Daymon has added eight new customers in 2016 alone.

    That's what attracted Bain Capital's attention.  And we all know that Bain isn't a bottom fisher. They think Daymon could double and triple in size - through geographic expansion and adding on related retail services.  

    You heard it here first!

    Duly noted.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 20, 2017

    Two admissions I should make about how I view and think about the movies...

    First, I have to admit that when I go to the movies, not only do I want to like them, but I look hard for things to like, or at least appreciate. I'm a little less tolerant of movies that disappoint than I used to be - perhaps this is just a matter of age - but generally I'm a willing, reasonably easy audience.

    Second, I'm not one of those people who is dismayed when movies "based on real events" take liberties with details. They are movies, after all, not histories and not real life ... movies are, by their very nature, a kind of heightened reality. I understand that movies - and plays and TV shows and novels - are designed to get at greater truths and give us the artist's interpretation of events ... to give us less would be to offer us a kind of photocopy, not a piece of art.

    I make these two admissions because of a movie I saw last weekend that I desperately wanted to like, but found disappointing, in part because it seemed to be in touch with the facts of the case without capturing the drama of the moments.

    The movie is Loving, an historical drama that depicts the real-life case of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial married couple in Virginia who, after being arrested in 1958 for the crime of being married, worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to challenge the state's anti-miscegenation law all the way to the US Supreme Court.

    To be fair, I'm pretty much alone in my hesitation to recommend Loving. Most critics have adored it, and I suspect it'll be mentioned in next week's Oscar nominations. But I found it to connect to the movie ... it just seemed flat to me, and I found it difficult to connect to any of the characters.

    The acting is uniformly good, especially by Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving; she has a quiet dignity that reaches out from the screen and grabs and involves the viewer. Joel Edgerton, who plays the taciturn Richard Loving, is good, but I just didn't relate to him because his stoic nature (which apparently is very accurate) made it so hard. And while I was really interested in the ACLU's role and the how the legal case was made, the attention paid to this piece of the puzzle was more more cursory that I would have liked.

    It is a noble subject, and I'm glad I saw Loving, but I walked away wanting to know more and wishing there had been a little more drama in how the story was told.

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    KC's View: